To better reflect the persistence of these more subtle dynamics of imperialist domination, I propose to approach the problem from a somewhat different angle, namely from the vantage point of “the new debt colonies” themselves.
In the second half of this piece, I will briefly outline the contours of an alternative, state-theoretical approach to the study of imperialism, centering on the state’s structural dependence on foreign credit and investment.
If so, how far can the classical Marxist theories of the phenomenon take us in elucidating the asymmetric power relations at the heart of the contemporary global political economy – and what, if anything, can be done to revamp existing theoretical frameworks to better reflect the enduring relevance of imperialism in our time?
In the absence of profitable investment opportunities at home, capitalists began to look for other outlets for their excess savings, leading to the export of capital abroad.This in turn generated strong pressures for the leading capitalist states to annex foreign territories in order to pry open new markets and safeguard existing investments.The fiscal autonomy of Greece and Puerto Rico, in particular, has now been abolished in all but name, although similar processes have long been afoot elsewhere as well.This contemporary experience in turn carries strong historical echoes.The lasting contribution of the classical theorists was to anchor their critiques of imperialism within a broader critique of political economy, highlighting the central role of finance in driving imperialist relations of domination.
This, I argue, should remain the starting point for any contemporary analysis of imperialism.
What are the continuities and discontinuities between the two periods?
And can the hotly debated and polemical notion of imperialism still serve as a useful analytical tool to help us make sense of the current conjuncture?
A century and a half ago, Karl Marx already observed how the emergence of the national debt in early-modern Europe constituted one of the “most powerful levers of primitive accumulation,” leading to the “alienation of the state” by private financiers and “giving rise to stock exchange gambling and the modern bankocracy.” These dynamics intensified during the Age of Imperialism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the export of European and U. capital to the newly independent countries of Latin America and the Mediterranean added an international dimension to this long-standing process of dispossession through debt.
During this period, the dominant creditor powers regularly subjected distressed sovereign borrowers to external financial control – often under force of arms.
– Thomas Sankara (1987) God save us from the debt, and we shall be content. housing bubble and the onset of the worst capitalist crisis in living memory, governments around the world continue to bear the burden of historically unprecedented public debt loads.