Saturday, April 7, 2012

Is Imperialism a Useful Concept in the Age of Financial Globalisation?

On 6 March 2012 I attended a panel debate at the New School focusing on the question: 'Is Imperialism a Useful Concept in the Age of Financial Globalisation?' Prabath Patnaik started off by saying:
To me, imperialism is immanent in the money-form and I want to argue that in the era of finance capital far from its becoming less relevant, it becomes more relevant.
This was a significant rebuff of the position put by David Harvey in 2011 that the concept 'hegemony' was more appropriate than 'imperialism' for analysing contemporary global financial circumstances. To explain his defence of the concept of imperialism, Patnaik continued:
As we know, in a capitalist economy the bulk of the wealth-holders will hold their wealth not directly in the form of claims on physical capital, not directly in the form of physical capital, but indirectly in the form of financial assets, which constitute claims on physical capital, in the form of money, which again is an indirect claim on physical capital.
And, sometimes, there is a layering of claims: you hold claims upon claims upon claims upon claims upon the physical capital. Now, all these claims have certain money values. And its absolutely essential for the system that the money value of these claims in terms of command of commodities must not deteriorate, must not fall.
Now, of course, you can have situations in which the values of financial assets, in terms of money, falls, like we have had with the collapse of the bubble. But that may affect very specific financial assets. But, far more important, is that the value of money in terms of commodities must not fall.
There is a very long remark by Keynes in The Economic Consequences of the Peace where he says that Lenin is aid to have declared that the best way to destroy capitalism is to debauch the currency. Lenin is certainly right. So the idea that the value of money in terms of commodities must not be allowed to fall is essential for the stability of the capitalist system...
I heartily recommend that you watch Patnaik's talk now on UTube here.

It is Part 1 of 7, of which I also liked Anwar Shaik's contribution (Part 4 of 7).

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