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Capitalist Imperialism in Contemporary Theoretical Frameworks

New Theories


Filip Ilkowski

This book analyzes the controversy surrounding imperialism associated with capitalist development. The last dozen years passed under the shadow of two momentous events: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan conducted in the framework of the broader «war on terror», and the economic crisis. They occurred against the backdrop of global economic integration, but also against the contradictions in its development. Those events and processes are explained in the theory of contemporary capitalist imperialism that the author attempts to reconstruct.

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III. Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch: the informal empire of the United States


Two Canadian thinkers, Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch, are leading contemporary representatives of the trend in thought convinced as to the unipolarity of imperialism. They set for themselves the task of “a new theorization” of the concept, that “will transcend the limitations of the old Marxist ‘stagist’ theory of inter-imperial rivalry, and allow for a full appreciation of the historical factors that have led to the formation of a unique American informal empire”239. We may observe that this sentence contains a certain contradiction, as the informal American empire emerges here as a sort of “phase” in the historical development of capitalism. However, Gindin and Panitch declared that the essence of capitalist imperialism remains unchanged throughout the entire past, present, and future existence of the system.

1. Separation of capitalist economy and imperialism

The foundation of Gindin and Panitch’s theory is the view that capitalism is not inevitably imperialist, at least not in the sense of an imperialist competition among states. What is more, they stated that imperialism cannot be reduced to an economic explanation. The attempt at understanding the phenomenon of capitalist imperialism should therefore not be undertaken from the perspective of “the theories of economic stages and crises”, but rather from a theory of the capitalist state240. In this context the Canadian authors invoke the conception developed at the turn of the 1960s and 70s by Nicos Poulantzas. He claimed that the state becomes an active factor in the drive for investments...

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