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The Nation State, Core And Periphery: A Brief Sketch Of Imperialism

2354 words - 10 pages

At the dawn of the 20th century large colonial powers had carved up the world between themselves. ‘Core’ zones were marked by their level of economic development and the ‘peripheral’ zones their level of economic underdevelopment. The political organization of economic dependencies in the form of colonies and semi-colonies was established by a small number of nation-states. This domination of the periphery by the core nations is known as Imperialism. Imperialism in this overt political form, with directly administered peripheral zones is a salient feature of the first half of the 20th century. By the second half of the 20th century there began a process of decolonization, whereby the direct ...view middle of the document...

Joseph Schumpeter put forward a conceptualization of Imperialism which dissociated it from Capitalism. Schumpeter (1951, p. 98, 128) believed that imperialism was a vestige of pre-capitalist expansionism and incompatible with the rationality of a capitalist free market economy. In this sense imperialism was seen as a social and political phenomenon contrary to the overall economic logic of the capitalist system. In contradistinction, numerous authors have attempted to elucidate the economic logic of imperialist policy. They orient their conception imperialism firmly within the logic of capitalist economic systems. Marx (1986, p. 703) wrote that a key element in the development of capitalism, the primitive accumulation of capital, was accumulation by dispossession.

Later Marxist theorists tried to map the relationships between core and peripheral zones within more advanced capitalist formations. Theories to this effect were formulated by Rosa Luxemburg and Vladimir Lenin (Brookfield, 1975, p. 17). Each building on Marx, to the effect that capitalism was marred by structural contradictions which left it unstable, continually needing to re-constitute its arrangements on an ever larger basis. Lenin and Luxemburg disagreed on the exact dimension of this necessary expansion; the former emphasized capital exportation, while the latter the importance of foreign commodity markets (Brookfeild, 1975, pp. 16-18). Both stressed the importance of economic relations in constituting imperialism; the dynamic of economic subordination of peripheral zones to the economic concerns of capitalist core.

This economic understanding of imperialism, allows for a continuing understanding of the exploitive core/periphery relations which have persisted after the decline of official political subordination and dependency. WWII marked a crucial point in this transition from direct colonial rule to indirect forms of imperial domination. By 1980, 100 new nations had been inducted into the United Nations established in 1945 (Goff, Moss, Terry, Upshur, 2002, p.282). Representing a huge influx of newly formed nations who had either been given independence peacefully (India, Pakistan, etcetera) or achieved independence through violent conflict (Algeria, Angola, etcetera). This decline in the power of traditional European empires also heralded the ascension of the United States of America (U.S.A) to the position of world hegemony, contested only by the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.).

A conflict over spheres of influence ensured between the U.S.S.R and U.S.A., the division and re-division of the world was at stake. The Marshall Plan of 1948, which committed $4 billion at first and $13 billion by 1951, can be seen as an attempt to limit the influence of the Soviet Union in Western Europe (Goff, Et el, 2002, p. 298). This policy quickly reinvigorated the economy of Western Europe, creating new Markets for U.S. exports, ensuring effective demand. This symbiotic relationship between...

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