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Contents:
  1. After US Hegemony, Globalization and Empire
  2. Top Authors
  3. Geopolitical Economy
  4. Geopolitical Economy – Fernwood Publishing

Each A-phase is associated with a set of innovations that transform society. In other words, an innovation is not just an economic product but the driving force behind major social transformations. World-systems analysis views social change as occurring at the scale of the historical social system, contemporarily the capitalist world economy.

The periods of growth and stagnation marked by Kondratieff cycles are identified at the global scale and mark an aggregation of processes occurring at other scales; cities, intra-state regions, and state and multi-state regions. The global trends of growth and stagnation will comprise different outcomes and experiences within these scales.

After US Hegemony, Globalization and Empire

Hence, in a B-phase, some countries, or regions of countries, will experience economic growth, and in an A-phase, some parts of the world will face economic difficulties. The theoretical framework is only challenged if there is a broad divergence of sub-global outcomes from expected global trends. The geographic pattern of economic change within a particular phase is an expression of both system-wide changes and how different countries, regions, and cities are able to negotiate those changes.

For example, currently the United States is experiencing economic growth within cities based upon information technology such as San Francisco and Seattle but economic downturn in parts of the country with a tradition of manufacturing such as Wisconsin and Michigan. Domestic politics react to such trends, with support for President Trump in the old industrial areas perceiving globalisation as a threat to jobs, while a more progressive politics has taken root in IT-centred cities. Intra-state differences intersect with global trends, such as changes in work practices that have reduced the number of jobs with security and benefits.

In the post-war, Kondratieff A-phase economic growth created a burgeoning middle class with white, skilled, blue-collar workers gaining health care, home ownership, and pensions. In contrast, the current A-phase is one in which the industries that supported the post-war boom are facing economic challenges as the once core-processes that were their basis have become peripheralised. The manufacturing industries that produced the consumer durables of the post-war boom were, at the time, the manifestation of new core processes and able to support an expensive workforce that drove consumption.

These processes were peripheralised during the Kondratieff B-phase, and the high cost workforce could no longer be supported. Simultaneously, the movement of once core-processes to countries such as China and India, and the growth of new core processes in information technology in certain Chinese and Indian cities, has led to a growth of the middle class in these two countries.

Kondratieff cycles create a global context of emerging core processes and their peripheralisation, creating state and sub-state experiences of economic opportunity or challenge that must be managed by national and regional politicians. The creation of specific contexts within global trends and cycles explains why the political geography of economic diplomacy is complex. For example, the rise of Los Angeles as a manufacturing and cultural centre was a key part of the hegemonic rise of the United States.

Economic diplomacy is enacted by many actors in many settings, 54 and hence they operate within many structural settings—such as cities, intra-state regions, and national political structures. However, to fully understand the possibilities and limits of such actions, we must also fully consider the dynamic nature of the global context. The political economy approach of world-systems analysis allows for a direct theoretical connection between the economic processes of Kondratieff cycles and the rise and fall of great powers or hegemony.

The geographical differentiation in the emergence of new core processes and the broad social changes they create is the basis for competition between states. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see how the beginning of the 20th century was a historical context in which industrial innovations in Germany and the United States led to growing political power. The world-systems approach suggests we are now in a similar historical context, which helps explain the trade tensions between the United States and China, especially the competition over the control of all facets of the emerging artificial intelligence AI technology.

Mining rare earth minerals, computer chip manufacturing, and patents for new apps are all parts of this competition. In the past, the new hegemonic power has been the country that has most effectively captured the high value end of emerging technologies. The past two hegemonic cycles have each spanned two consecutive Kondratieff waves.

Top Authors

Political processes are also a key feature of hegemonic cycles. Of course, hegemony does not mean a complete absence of contestation and conflict. However, in the latter half of the 20th century, the United States was dominant in the spheres of production, trade, and finance and wielded global political power. From the s, a combination of defeat in the Vietnam War and growing economic competition from Japan and European countries marked the beginning of the process of hegemonic decline and a B-phase of economic restructuring.

Rather than dismissing the role of finance in the trajectory of a hegemonic power, we see processes of financialisation as a different moment in the hegemonic cycle. Arrighi 58 is helpful in showing that moments in which capital accumulation through financial instruments becomes a key driver of economic growth have occurred in periods of declining hegemony.

But the cyclical nature of the world economy should not be forgotten. Two specific forms of historical—geographical context are important for understanding foreign policy: geopolitical transitions and geopolitical world orders. The paired-Kondratieff model describes the past years in which two consecutive hegemonic powers have driven the dynamic of changing geopolitical contexts: Great Britain in the 19th century and the United States in the 20th century. The outcome is a series of relatively stable periods of global geopolitical interactions in which rules and norms are largely established.

Such periods are called geopolitical world orders, wherein the global context is understood by individual countries that calculate their foreign policy within the established rules and norms, an aggregation of decisions that, in turn, maintains the world order. However, geopolitical contexts do not completely determine the ability of countries to define their foreign policy. Another instance is that where countries of the Non-Aligned Movement saw the context of the Cold War as an opportunity to form a set of policies that differed from those of the US and the Soviet-led blocs.

Historically, the process of hegemony suggests that the relative ability of a hegemonic power to orchestrate a geopolitical world order will diminish. In that case, one form of geopolitical world order will be replaced by another. Such a period of shift is known as a geopolitical transition.

As a consequence, this situation gives countries greater leeway to change their foreign policies from those defined within the prior geopolitical world order. For example, in the contemporary geopolitical transition, Belorussia not only finds itself in a position where it must still make calculations towards Russia based on the assumptions of the Cold War world order but may also enact more positive policies towards Western European countries while situating itself within the opportunities provided by the BRI.

While its economic transactions span the globe, its political influence is more geographically limited, though its scope of political influence has certainly increased. There was a distinct change in Chinese foreign policy in , when the country regained its seat at the United Nations UN and became a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. For our purposes, it is particularly notable that the change in attitude and policy occurred in the s—a switch from a Kondratieff A-phase to a B-phase and a particular moment in the US hegemonic cycle.

Many Chinese scholars have introduced the idea of phases of PRC foreign policy. The year is relevant in our article since it took place in a transitional period of switching from a Kondratieff A-phase to a B-phase, and in a particular moment of the US hegemonic cycle.

Neoliberalism’s World Order

Although exactly when this new cycle will end is still unclear, we tend to believe that it will continue beyond Each phase spans between 20 and 30 years. Building upon these phases, our goal is to understand them within a global context of the structure and dynamics of the capitalist world economy. We outline the details of the changing context below. Overall, these seven phases occur within a long cyclical process of British and US hegemonic rise, reign, and decline that provided both the opportunities and constraints for China to act within the capitalist world economy, which led to its trajectory in the hierarchy of the capitalist world economy from periphery to core.

As expected, Britain pushed for a global regime of free trade to take maximum advantage of its economic superiority. However, an open world economy enables other countries to emulate the economic practices of the hegemonic power, and competition follows a period of domination. British hegemony was never complete in either of the two periods, and even in the first, it faced challenges from Russia over its dominance in south west Asia, which targeted British India in the so-called Great Game. From —, the global context changed from one of British political and economic dominance to new centres of economic innovation, notably Germany, the United States, and Japan, and the growth of imperial rivalries and blocs.

The competition culminated in WWI, in whose aftermath the United States assumed its role as key financial actor in the world economy. This long phase can be further divided into three diplomatic phases. The two Opium Wars signified a decisive duel between two historical social systems: one the capitalist world economy led by Britain; the other the world empire led by the Qing Empire. The Middle Kingdom regarded Western powers as barbarians and, having no idea of modern diplomacy or international trade, stubbornly insisted on maintaining its traditional values and closed-door policy.

The reason for this war between the two East Asia powers, or between two semi-peripheral powers, rather than between East and West or between core and periphery, is three-fold: first, the European powers were too busy scrambling for Africa to focus on the Far East. Secondly, Western powers constrained each other so that no single western power could monopolise the Far East. Thirdly, the Qing Empire and Japan were two independent East Asian powers that developed strong capabilities in resisting the West.


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The third diplomatic phase — witnessed the fall of the Qing Empire. The final collapse of the decaying Qing Empire in was triggered by the Wuchang Uprising. He later crowned himself as emperor. Efforts to establish a unified Chinese Republic having failed, in , China entered a year-long period of warlordism until, inspired by Dr. Some were specific expressions of protest against the core—periphery relationship, manifest in anti-colonial demonstrations.

Other revolts went beyond the specifically colonial relationship to challenge the capitalist world economy itself. They took the form of various Communist-inspired revolutions that proposed completely new types of social relations. Rather than seeing these twin political movements as actions that led to the transformation of the social system as a whole, our definition of context sees them as moments amid cycles of political and economic restructuring. With regard to economics, the period culminated in the late 19th century challenge to the formal empires of the European powers.

We interpret it as a feature of the growing strength of the US economy based on the adoption of new industrial products and manufacturing techniques that have become known as Fordism. The increasing formalisation of colonialism at the end of the 19th century was a specific expression of the decline of British hegemony amid a geopolitical world order that consisted in the hegemonic transition wherein other powers sought ways to make territorial gains.

As we shall discuss later, this situation is similar to the one China faces today. This is the global economic and political context within which the foreign policy decisions of New China must be understood. The institutions of US hegemony and the ideology of developmentalism underpinning them were being questioned, and the financial arrangements and institutions the United States created after WWII began to be challenged. The status of the US currency weakened after its departure from the gold standard in , and the s also marked the beginning of other geopolitical changes consistent with the decline of US hegemony.

The period of global economic restructuring included the relocation of manufacturing industry from the core to the periphery and semi-periphery of the capitalist world economy. China took advantage of this structural shift in economic activity by reshaping its economy further away from agricultural production and creating a manufacturing sphere focused upon export.

The periphery thus faced economic challenges at a time when the United States and Soviet Union no longer regarded many peripheral states as strategic assets, so leading to a new form of resistance—the rise of Islamic fundamentalist-inspired terrorism. Within this context, China felt the need and sought the opportunity to create the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation SCO as a means to increase its influence Central Asia.

For Chinese policymakers and scholars, these financial crises represented the relative decline of Western powers, in particular the United States and the EU, and the rise of China. However, the broad structural context is far from clear. Western scholars have conflicting opinions about exactly which phase of Kondratieff wave we are situated in. They tend to believe that the fifth Kondratieff started in the early 21st century and, therefore, that we are now in the growth period of a Kondratieff cycle.

In other words, the GFN is a transient phenomenon that will be quickly redressed in the growth segment of a long Capitalist wave. In a nutshell, the world economy has a bright future and promises a decade of good years which may last until Through this framework, we can propose the foreign policy actions that China may be able to conduct in the contemporary period.

The actions of revolution and challenging colonial powers that were at the heart of Chinese nationalism and the growth of the Chinese Communist Party occurred within a context of hegemonic transition. In the process, Chinese Communist forces received a certain amount of military support that enabled their geopolitical actions in the subsequent conflict with the Nationalists.

Within this context, China undertook a fundamental restructuring of its agricultural economy, and with dramatic effect, in order to create an agricultural surplus. China also operated from within a foreign policy attitude of Communist solidarity that involved, initially, subordination to the interests of the Soviet Union and the projection of influence in neighbouring Cold War conflicts, namely, the Korean War. As tension grew between China and the Soviet Union, the United States played a role in what it saw as a fracture in the Cold War geopolitical world order by widening the Sino-Soviet spilt and creating a fundamentally new geopolitical dynamic.

Chinese foreign policy took full advantage of this new context and redefined itself as a country looking to the rest of the world, rather than towards an alliance of Communist solidarity. Chinese relations with the United States, including cooperation over nuclear technology, 85 were one aspect of this new foreign policy that the changing context made possible. Although the new global context made this change possible, it stemmed also from changes in the Chinese economy in the previous period. The restructuring of the Chinese economy continued, and the volume of rural to urban migration expanded into a wave.

This internal dynamic was a continuation of economic changes in the previous two phases and became an important component of foreign policy in the contemporary BRI period. The key foreign policy decision was entry into the WTO. This bold move by China can be placed in the dynamism of the global context. The changes that China has made to its economy over the course of the periods we have discussed have now allowed China to position itself as an advocate of free trade—by seeking outlets for the products it makes and hence keen to promote a flow of commodities that help fuel its industries.

The attacks of September 11, severely challenged US hegemony, and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan was a catalyst for Islamic fundamentalists in the region. Of special concern to China was the potential for trans-national connections that would inflame extremists in Xinjiang. As the world-systems model of hegemony suggests, the foreign policy of China was partially based upon emulating existing models of economic practices. In contrast, those that set themselves against the US are still very poor.

Acknowledgment that China was still a poor country that sought industrial development for a range of activities, including high technology, was a policy to capture core processes, which is an expected development in a period of global economic restructuring. The rise of China to geo-economic preeminence started in the late 20th century, during the B-phase of the Fourth K-wave. China refrained from devaluing its currency despite pressure from other Asian countries that had significantly lowered the value of theirs. China also refused to liberalise her capital account, which helped to ward off the risks of financial speculation and strengthened macroeconomic control, and invested heavily in infrastructure, including transportation and hydro-power projects.

In conjunction with these economic decisions was the temporal context as defined by a decline in US hegemony, notably the reduced ideological power of neo-liberal ideas emanating from Washington DC, and the political space that this created for new ideas and institutions. Of greater interest is recognition of the role of developing countries, or in the language of world-systems analysis, the periphery of the world economy.

The relational component of economic trajectory requires that in order for China to change its position in the world economy by capturing more core processes, it needed to develop economic relations with peripheral areas. Finally, the initiative to engage with multilateral institutions suggests an awareness of the waning influence of US-led organisations and a window of opportunity to create new ones. The BRI is the centrepiece of contemporary Chinese foreign policy. To understand it, along with its likely successes and challenges, we can use our framework to identify the current geopolitical context.

In other words, the BRI is a suite of foreign policy actions within contextualised constraints and opportunities. The end of the US hegemonic cycle suggests a global context in which the dominance of the existing model of international rules and norms will wane and new models may be voiced.

The portrayal of a Beijing consensus, in contrast to the Washington Consensus, is one such example of representing foreign policy. It is a challenge to the US-led Washington Consensus as a form of neo-liberalism that diminishes the role of the state.

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Geopolitical Economy

US prime modernity was based upon the social conditions of suburbia and the class, gender, and racial relations of the suburban lifestyle and urban geography. In addition, the contemporary framing of the Beijing Consensus does not mean that it is part of a hegemonic project. Instead, it shows that the context of declining hegemony provides an opportunity for China to promote an alternative vision. The actions of other states will determine how widely adopted it is or whether the Washington Consensus remains popular. The political changes defined by the hegemonic cycle are based upon global economic change.

The important shift is that of the transition from a Kondratieff B-phase of stagnation and restructuring to an A-phase of growth. It is believed that the financial crisis of marked the transition between the two phases, 94 with growth in the MBNRIC med-bio-nano-robo-info-cognitive sector as the driving force. The expansion of the middle-class in countries across the globe is a further indication of a period of general economic growth that we associate with a Kondratieff wave.

Hence, we would expect some countries to be experiencing relatively lower rates of growth, or even stagnation, even though the aggregate level of global growth reflects an A-phase. Another reason for interpreting the current situation as an A-phase is that we are witnessing many developments we should expect to see in a new A-phase.

These include new innovations that have substantial impact on the organisation of society; the emergence of new cities as key nodes in the global city network; new markets for core products as a feature of increased urbanisation; competition for access to primary commodities to drive an upsurge in economic activity; new forms of global investment due to a declining return on US bonds; and emerging security threats in reaction to reorganisation of economic opportunities. On the whole, such developments are indeed occurring. The biggest question mark hangs over trade.

An A-phase has usually been associated with a global free trade regime. However, that is because an A-phase may coincide with a period of hegemony when one dominant country encourages free trade due to its relative economic competitiveness. The current period is one where economic growth is associated with competition for dominance in the highest-value economic activities, such as micro-chip production and related sectors of AI and robotics. Trade tensions between the US and China are a manifestation of this competition.

These economic activities are based upon the new innovations of the A-phase. The developments of economic growth, urbanisation, new markets, innovations, and the search for market access to commodities that we are seeing, consistent with an A-phase, provide a context within which we can interpret the different forms of geopolitical actions in the BRI.

Primarily, the BRI is an attempt to manage the over-production problem facing China and the need to maintain, and increase, access to commodities. Creating a GPN requires investment that creates a variety of new geographies.

Geopolitical Economy – Fernwood Publishing

Such a complex strategy requires a global presence that enables flows of goods, commodities, services, investments, and people; such is the means and ends of the BRI. Constructing the BRI requires another set of constructions—the institutions to enable a new China-centric regime of investment and free trade. Furthermore, the rhetoric of President Xi suggests an ambition to build on past actions to institutionalise free trade in a move that constitutes both the means and ends of the BRI.

There is one set of foreign policy actions that we can expect within the current context. Security measures are one aspect of the BRI. In addition, attacks on Chinese personnel running various projects that are part of the BRI, such as port facilities in Gwadar, have entailed a security response. We have, in our interpretation of the geopolitical context framed by Kondratieff waves, followed the interpretations of the contemporary periodisation that Western scholars largely accepted.

However, it is difficult to interpret current or recent changes through the historical perspective of world-systems analysis. Hence, it is not surprising that an alternative interpretation of the current situation exists. Regarding the transition from Kondratieff cycles, Chinese scholars tend to believe that we are now in the B-phase of the fifth Kondratieff cycle.

IT is the symbolic innovative technology for this new cycle. Specifically, this long cycle consists of four phases.


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It seems that the Chinese leadership is also convinced that the current world economy is in a B-phase. If this is the case, the BRI is an example of how the Chinese state takes advantage of a global situation of improved economic conditions to promote Chinese economic growth. For Chinese scholars and policy-makers, the emergence of trade wars among major industrialised economies, including the United States, the EU, Japan, Canada, and China, is a form of restructuring that may occur in a B-phase.

The United States is waging a trade war against China on steel, intellectual property, and trade deficit issues while at the same time imposing duties on exports of steel and aluminium from traditional allies like the EU, Japan, and Canada. The fundamental root cause of the increasingly bellicose trade relations on a global scale is the cyclical world economy. These global trade tensions might have serious spillovers into security realms and may even lead to wars. Furthermore, the only state initiating trade tariffs is the US other countries are considering retaliation.

Hence, the current threat of trade war is a function of US hegemonic decline rather than a system-wide reaction to a global economic downturn, or B-phase. Trade tensions between the US and China highlight the underlying economic processes that drive the world economy, and are not just a simple empirical question of whether we are in a period of global growth or stagnation.

The tensions between the two countries are over future control of the most advanced, and therefore profitable, economic sectors, such as AI and robotics. The emergence of these new technologies, which is a feature of an A-phase, drives the competition manifested in trade wars. It is also true that trade wars are to be expected in B-phases. Hence, the picture is admittedly unclear. Yet trade war is a bilateral issue that draws other countries in, albeit reluctantly, if at all.

The analysis focuses on developed countries and treats them individually. The merit of this approach, distinctive in the literature on international reserves, is that it reveals the above-mentioned pattern which is blurred when Japan is included. The results imply that current international monetary arrangements reflect and promote multipolarity and competition on the geopolitical scene, the evolution of which is historical.

I am grateful to Costas Lapavitsas for useful comments in previous versions of this paper; Juan Pablo Painceira, Duncan Lindo, and Jo Mitchell for useful discussions and provision of data; Susan Newman, Radhika Desai, and two anonymous referees for their valuable comments on the final manuscript. Labrinidis, G. Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Please share your general feedback. You can start or join in a discussion here. Visit emeraldpublishing.