The transition to the long XNUMXst century



Considerations on the crisis of neoliberal globalization and the ongoing systemic chaos


In this article, we seek to contribute to bringing Braudel and Marxist perspectives of world-systems analysis closer together based on the discussion of the concept of systemic chaos and the 2020 world crisis. Marxist theory of the capitalist world-system. We maintain that the modern world system enters a period of transition to systemic chaos between 2015-2020, when the expansive Kondratiev cycle started in 1994 ends. its main supports and sources of propulsion, such as international trade, international capital flows, political liberalism and the hegemony of the United States.

The crisis we are witnessing will probably be broader and deeper than that established in previous periods of systemic chaos: it will have to call into question not only a hegemony in decline, but the capitalist world system itself and the foundations of its civilization. This means that the bifurcation that will be established will have to be driven not only by interstate struggles, but mainly by intrastate ones, which will probably assume protagonism and articulate the first ones. Class struggles between capital and labor will tend to assume the centrality of national and international conflicts, conditioning interbourgeois disputes. Periods of systemic chaos are times of brutal historical acceleration, which last approximately thirty years, and the current one is just beginning.

In the opening section, we discuss the concepts of systemic chaos and the interpretations of the crisis for the XNUMXst century, as elaborated by Giovanni Arrighi, Immanuel Wallerstein and Beverly Silver. Subsequently, we analyze the Marxist readings of Samir Amin and Theotonio dos Santos on the capitalist world-system and its crisis, establishing our own formulations, in a dialogue that also incorporates the contributions of Christopher Chase-Dunn and Ruy Mauro Marini. In the third section, we analyze the crises of capitalist civilization and neoliberal globalization, articulating the concepts of scientific-technical revolution, systemic cycles, Kondratiev cycles with global geopolitical analyzes and their implications for Latin America, a path that we consider key to advancing towards the construction of a Marxist theory of the capitalist world-system. In conclusion, we highlight the main contributions of our article.

In this article, we partially follow the nomenclature developed by Immanuel Wallerstein (2000), and we use not only the concept of world-system, but also that of world-system, to refer to the world-system that has become unique, that is, the modern world-system. , capitalist, after its expansion across the globe in the XNUMXth century, even though important contradictions have arisen within it, such as the emergence of socialist States, and other systems may take its place in the future. We will use world-systems in the plural to designate the plurality of world-systems that coexisted largely independently before capitalism imposed history as global.

Braudel's analyzes of world-systems

Some of the most important Braudelian theorists have highlighted the depth of the crisis affecting the contemporary world-system and the high probability of rupture and inflection in its structural and organizational patterns in the XNUMXst century.[I] This postulation has been based on long-term studies and formulations that, despite convergences and complementarities, present expressive analytical differences. Taking stock of the potentialities and limits of these interpretations seems to us of great relevance to advance towards the understanding of the crisis of the long twentieth century and the perspectives of the transition towards a new long century. We understand that this transition calls into question the capitalist world-system itself and its proper understanding requires greater integration of the Marxist instruments to the analyzes that interpret it.

Immanuel Wallerstein (2000 and 2002) supports the thesis that the modern world system, structure of historical capitalism, will disappear between 2025-2050, a period in which systemic chaos will be established and a power bifurcation where antagonistic forces will fight to reinvent the world-system under new foundations. The author mentions three scenarios: the reestablishment of the world-empire through global neo-fascism or regionalized neo-feudalism that fragments it; and the affirmation of a socialist world-system, with a high level of equality, freedom, diversity, fraternity and democracy.

He bases his proposition on the combination of secular cycles and wear that would determine the terminal crisis of historical capitalism as a system. The modern world system would present two great cyclical oscillations which are the logistic or centuries-old trends and those of Kondratiev. For the former, it designates the slow process of emergence, establishment, erosion and collapse of a hegemony, which it associates with the 300-year price fluctuations, defended by François Simiand (1932) and Fernand Braudel [1986], divided into phases A and B, of 150 years. Each phase A or B would imply, in general, the slow process of rise, affirmation and collapse of a hegemony, understood by the author as a quasi-monopoly economic situation, corresponding to much shorter periods of protagonism, specifically, 1625-1672, 1815 -73 and 1945-67. It claims, then, a temporal scheme initiated in 1450-1600, when the transition from the feudal world-empire to capitalism would have been established, implying the affirmation of the modern world system, which constitutes its specific institutional architecture (WALLERSTEIN, 1974).

This was consolidated in 1600-1750, when the hegemony of the United Provinces developed and ended; expands in 1750-1900, around the start, imposition and erosion of British hegemony; and would conclude in 1900-2050, with the emergence, apogee and collapse of US hegemony (WALLERSTEIN 1980, 2000 and 2011). The decline of US hegemony, from 1968 onwards, would be linked to a very long phase B of the Kondratiev cycle, outside of its 25/30 year patterns. Wallerstein even mentions the possibility of the emergence of a new phase A, but in 2010, he considered that this long phase B was still in force (WALLERSTEIN, 2010).

These cyclical fluctuations would articulate with an advanced level of structural wear of historical capitalism, establishing an arrangement that since 1968 would engender not only the decline of US power, but of the modern world system itself. This erosion would be the consequence of the high level of development achieved by capitalism and would be expressed: in the de-ruralization of the world, which would restrict the conquest of new frontiers to exploit locational advantages of labor force costs, given the exhaustion of social spaces for expansion on the planet ; in exponential ecological costs, which would increase the risks of environmental catastrophes or pandemics, typical of the exhaustion of civilizing processes, and would generate social pressures for their internalization by capital, reducing their profit rates; in the disconnection between liberalism and democracy, resulting from the reduction of the middle classes and the increase in migratory pressures from the South to the North, provoking the aggregation of broad social forces with redistributive claims that would exceed the co-option capacities of the system; and in new international rivalries, creating two poles of power in dispute, one that would associate the United States, Japan and China, and the other that would link Russia and Europe, negatively pressuring profit and increasing social conflicts within the States.

Antisystemic movements would assume a diffuse form, expressing themselves more in the confrontation of the spirit of Porto Alegre against the spirit of Davos, than in the connection of revolutionary processes with States and world geopolitical disputes. The success of the transition to a new, more egalitarian system would depend on social movements imposing their demands for higher wages, increased public spending, environmental protection, and democratization beyond the limits of liberalism, creating a world government to establish new rules and regulations on the world-economy.

Em Chaos and governance in the modern world system (1999) Giovanni Arrighi and Beverly Silver comparatively analyze the transitions to systemic chaos established in crises of previous hegemonies to build analytical instruments for interpreting the current one. They start from the concept of systemic cycles, developed by Arrighi, in his classic, The long twentieth century [1994], and already outlined in his Geometry of imperialism (1978). Unlike Immanuel Wallerstein, who restricts hegemony to the period of a State's brief, almost absolute productive, commercial and financial dominance over its rivals, Arrighi understands hegemony as a much broader and more complex process. This involves the combination of the political and moral leadership of a State in the world system, ultimately based on its economic role.

Hegemony is constituted in a historical, dynamic, multifaceted arrangement of heterogeneous dimensions, which includes institutional, ideological and military aspects, in the political sphere; the productive, commercial and financial, in economic scope; and the leadership of the bourgeoisie and its most dynamic fractions over classes and state power, in the social sphere. During the exercise of hegemony, contradictions develop between its multiple dimensions that lead to inflection points and its division into two phases: phase A, of expansion, and phase B, of crisis. In phase B, the productive, commercial and military strength of the hegemonic State tends to deteriorate in relation to the emerging powers, but it still relies on its financial power to maintain its international political leadership. The passage from crisis to systemic chaos would be marked by the collapse of its financial and political leadership, by the rupture of the international consensus in favor of centrifugal tendencies and by the development of a bifurcation of power for approximately thirty years, which unfolds in wars to reorganize the world system.

However, Giovanni Arrighi and Beverly Silver do not limit themselves to proposing a general and abstract model of systemic transition, but link it to the construction of a historical theory of transitions. They argue with Immanuel Wallerstein claiming an endogenous model, which internalizes the changes because in it the properties of the system not only act coercively on the actors, but are also modified in the process of their affirmation. The theoretical effort must be enriched and expanded by the permanent combination between the cyclical patterns of repetition and the individualized and singular historical processes, arising both from the structural and irreversible movement of the arrow of time, as well as from the indeterminacies inherent to dynamic interactions, which involve contingent dimensions ( ARRIGHI, 1996[1994]) and (ARRIGHI and SILVER, 1999).

Arrighi points to the tendency towards increasing scales and reducing the number of actors who dispute power in the modern world system, further indicating the pendular oscillation between corporative and cosmopolitan regimes. It describes four cycles of hegemony (Iberian-Genoese, Dutch, British and American), moved, respectively, by city-states, national proto-states, national states and continental states, and measures their extensions from the interval between the signaling crises of successive hegemonies, which mark the beginning of the decline and the emergence of new configurations of power. Cyclical periodicities are shortening due to the acceleration of interaction between the parts of the system, which would result in the temporal reduction of subsequent hegemonies, stipulating the US at approximately one hundred years, corresponding to the interval between the British signaling crisis, in 1870, and the North American, in 1970 (ARRIGHI, 1996[1994]). Arrighi and Silver state that in the current transition a bifurcation develops sui generis because while economic power is transferred to East Asia, mainly to China, military power remains concentrated in the United States, establishing an exception to the prevailing forms in past transition periods.

in O Long XNUMXth century, Arrighi predicted three possible outcomes for the systemic bifurcation: the conversion of US power into an imperial power that extracts value from charging the world protection costs; the emergence of a new pattern, centered on East Asia, based on the disconnection of companies from Braudelian monopoly capitalism; and the entropic acceleration of systemic chaos. However, this formulation is deepened and re-elaborated in later works to include phenomena such as Japan's stagnation and China's immense projection in the world economy. In Adam Smith in Beijing (2007), China appears as the great state power that challenges the US role in the world system, replacing decentralized network capitalism, with coverage in East Asia, and anchored in Japan.

The Chinese challenge is to present itself as an articulator of new relations between East and West that replace the clash of civilizations, imposed by Western colonialism and imperialism against the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania. Its mission would be to organize a new spirit of Bandung and the project of a Global South that would reverse the formula, enunciated by Andre Gunder Frank, of the development of the underdevelopment of the peripheries in favor of the centers, to the underdevelopment of the latter in favor of the development of those . For this, China should be able to offer an ecological alternative for the development of humanity, replacing the predatory and devastating Western model that it would have sought to imitate in its ascension trajectory.

Giovanni Arrighi and Beverly Silver point out that unlike previous transitions, when interstate and intercapitalist competition shaped social conflicts, in this one the conflicts between capital and labor and between imperialism and national sovereignty tend to assume protagonism, articulating the intrastate and international levels. Arrighi sees the beginning of the signaling crisis of US hegemony in the combination of class struggles within the United States and anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist struggles on the periphery. It was the pressures of the working class within the Fordist-Keynesian regime, led by the industrial-military complex, articulated with the struggles for the socialist revolution and for sovereignty in Vietnam, which imposed the economic and military defeat on the dominant bourgeois coalition in the United States in the second half of the 1960s, leading the most dynamic fractions of its great capital to reinvent the pattern of accumulation and the ways of organizing its hegemony internally and in the world (ARRIGHI, 2007). The authors see in the offensive of social movements in the world, which tends to become radicalized during systemic chaos, the possibility of making a relatively peaceful transition viable, limiting the risk of war and catastrophe (ARRIGHI and SILVER, 1999).

The reinvention of hegemony through neoliberal globalization was the result of the inability of credit expansion policies and the corporate business pattern of vertical integration to contain pressure from workers and students for higher wages, increased social spending and democratization, as well as the failure of military intervention policies to deter conflicts between the South and the North. They resulted in capital flight, rising inflation, the depreciation of the dollar, the breaking of its peg with gold, the devaluation of financial capital and the strengthening of interstate and geopolitical rivalries.

In addition to the defeat in Vietnam, the Iranian Revolution, the Sandinista Revolution, OPEC's role in raising oil prices and modernization projects in Latin America, Eastern Europe and East Asia financed with negative interest rates. Provider of liquidity to the world system through current account balances, which provided ballast for unilateral transfers for its hegemony policies, the United States sees its international regime enter into crisis due to the loss of competitiveness of its industrial sector , its growing trade deficits and the impossibility of earning rents through a formal empire, as Great Britain did. Faced with this scenario, they put their industrial policy on the back burner, prioritize high finance and start capturing international liquidity through a policy of overvaluing the dollar and public debt, becoming the epicenter of the generation of fictitious capital, with which they consolidate the phase B of its hegemony.

Arrighi mentions the historical links of China and its ancient Sinocentric system with a peaceful order, which resulted in the construction of five hundred years of peace. It points out as its determinant the fact that this system, balanced by a high level of centralization and low interstate competition, established an endogenous orientation that promoted a model of accumulation without dispossession, boosted agrarian reform, the occupation of the countryside and infrastructure works to guarantee the territorial sovereignty. China in the long XNUMXst century is faced with a great question: to imitate the US model, reproducing the pattern of oligarchic and unequal wealth of historical capitalism, but politically subordinating itself to a North American empire of exploitation; or articulate the creation of a pattern of democratic wealth.

The alternative of democratic wealth would be embodied in the re-emergence, in new forms, of the old Sinocentric system, which, hybridized with socialist ideas and dimensions of the modern world system, could create an original systemic alternative, detaching the market from the Braudelian upper floor and linking it much more to competition than to private monopoly.[ii] Such a possibility would find its bases in the articulation between the forces that direct the Chinese Communist Party, in the strong regulation and control of the Chinese State over the market and capitalist accumulation, in the formation of a gigantic and predominant urban working class that adds to a great mass of peasant society and, still, in the anti-imperialist struggles against the US power, which would push towards a great global horizontal concertation.

Growing inequalities within the US and European countries would strengthen the anti-imperialist mass base and weaken the transitional alternative to imperial world power. The contradictions and vulnerabilities revealed in the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan would deepen the wear and tear of US imperialism, isolating it more and more worldwide, due to evidence indicating that although it has uncontested military leadership, US power would be quite insufficient to guarantee the costs of protecting the world it intends to control (ARRIGHI, 2007).

In conflict with his general model of systemic transitions and his previous predictions of a hundred-year hegemony – which, taken from its consolidation in 1945/50, would take us to 2015/20, if we discount the thirty years of systemic chaos – Arrighi states in Adam Smith in Beijing that since the intervention in Iraq, US hegemony would have been extinguished, transforming itself into pure domination. The author mentions that the seigniorage gains of the United States with the dollar tend to weaken due to its high indebtedness, its productive decline, the limits of its capacity to offer protection and the economic strengthening of competitors. Alert, however, indicating the British case, that the pound sterling continued as an international currency, even decades after the end of its hegemony. Giovanni Arrighi's early death prevented him from continuing his acute reflections on the ongoing transition.

Marxist interpretations

Among the authors who most claimed to bring Marxism closer to the analysis of the world-system are Samir Amin and Theotonio dos Santos, however, their differences are substantial.

Samir Amin denies that a capitalist world system has existed since the 1800th century, attributing its emergence from XNUMX onwards to the affirmation of the industrial revolution, the spread of salaried work in the United Kingdom and the leadership of this State in international relations. Although he recognizes inflections, the author refuses to accept long cycles, in the name of autonomy and the indeterminacy of social struggles, attributing oscillations to contingent historical factors. For him, the theoretical formulation of cycles would demand the empirical counterpart of their monotonous repetition in social reality. Amin discards the long-standing Braudelian conceptual instruments in his interpretation of the history of capitalism and thereby greatly restricts the power of his theoretical analysis.

It also proposes a controversial double law on capital accumulation: the one that operates on an international scale, relying on the interstate system, and is based on restricting the circulation of the workforce, driving global polarization; and the one that operates on a national scale and can establish controls to balance the circulation between capital and labor force, expressing the pure dynamics of the capitalist mode of production, limiting polarization, as during the Keynesian pact (AMIN, 1997).

For the author, contemporary capitalism would have entered a senile phase, based on five monopolies: technology, financial flows, natural resources, communications and means of destruction. Such monopolies would redefine capitalism, which would come to be directed by the collective imperialism of a triad, the United States, the European Union and Japan, with centrality in the former. Amin points out as senility features of capitalism the parasitism of the new imperialism, which would no longer promote the development of the periphery, and the contradictions imposed by the scientific-technological revolution on the accumulation of capital (AMIN, 2007).[iii]

Theotonio dos Santos claims dependency theory as the first step in the elaboration of a theory of the world system (DOS SANTOS, 2000 and 2016). It comes close with ambiguities to Immanuel Wallerstein's thesis on the existence of a capitalist world system since the 2000th century. If since XNUMX, he claims the proposition of a modern world system, the author does not abandon the thesis exposed in Imperialism and Dependency (1978) that until the 2000th century a regime of transition to the capitalist mode of production prevailed, a position similar to the one he developed on socialism, seen as an intermediate formation and not as part of the communist mode of production (DOS SANTOS, 1971). Dos Santos claims the concept of scientific-technical revolution and Kondratiev's cycles, accepting the concept of systemic cycles formulated by Giovanni Arrighi. For the author, the scientific-technical revolution, a concept that Radovan Richta (1969 [XNUMX]) incorporates, represents a new structure of productive forces that opens a revolutionary era and puts capitalism on the defensive.

The scientific-technical revolution would have started in the post-war period, in more advanced sectors of the world economy, and reached a second stage from the 1970s onwards with the microelectronic paradigm, boosting the automation process with the increasing substitution of physical work for application from technology and science to production. Although he proposes the fruitful path of analytical connections between the scientific-technical revolution, the systemic cycles and the Kondratievs, the author does not establish them. It analyzes neoliberalism as an ideology of the Kondratiev phase B, established between 1967-93, and its continuity over the Kondratiev phase A that emerges in 1994, a result of the ideological terrorism that it exerted on social democracy, and not an effect of the distortions produced by systemic cycles or by the advancement of the scientific-technical revolution, movements of longer duration that condition smaller ones (DOS SANTOS, 1993, 2000 and 2004).[iv]

However, the author notes the expansion of financial capital, states that the vacillations of social democracy open the space for a fascist offensive, and indicates that the crisis of hegemony of the United States, which points since the 1970s, in Imperialism and dependency (1978), would give rise to the emergence of continental powers, the main one, China. His expectation, however, was that the strength of a new Kondratiev phase A would enable a more or less orderly systemic transition through the construction of a period of shared hegemony between the declining United States and the emerging powers, guaranteeing a process of global management that would impose relative power adjustments and limit the risks that conflicts would evolve into chaos, paving the way for the construction of a post-hegemonic world and a planetary society with a strong democratic character and growing socialist orientation.[v]

in our book Dependency, neoliberalism and globalization in Latin America (2020)[vi] we set out to advance on the path opened by Theotonio dos Santos of building the foundations of a Marxist theory of the capitalist world system. We understand Marxism as a dialectical and holistic theoretical field, capable of integrating related formulations into a unique perspective. We start from Immanuel Wallerstein's concept of the modern world system, which we consider to offer the fundamental elements of the architecture of the political superstructure of the capitalist mode of production. It was from the strategic control of the State that user and commercial capital created a capitalist world-economy and began the construction of its mode of production. During this period, the imposition of a capitalist accumulation mode was subordinated to pre-capitalist forms of production, without the corresponding creation of capitalist production relations.[vii]

Only with the spread of the industrial revolution and wage labor in the 1800th and 1870th centuries, pre-capitalist economic forms were largely replaced. This occurred, however, slowly, long after XNUMX, the date when Samir Amin established himself, with the United States only formally abolishing slavery during the Civil War, when it began its trajectory of ascension to hegemony, and the Kondratiev cycles , with a strong industrial technological base, only incorporated into the world economy at its pace after XNUMX.

We consider, like Marx, in the Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy, that in each type of society there is a form of production that is superior and modifies the others, constituting its center of gravity (MARX, [1859] 2008). In capitalism, this role fell to the industry, corresponding to its ascension and apogee of the convergence between the modes of accumulation and capitalist production. However, when industry is being overcome by the scientific-technical revolution, the divergence reappears in new concrete forms. The scientific-technical revolution only becomes a dominant reality in the world economy from the 1970s onwards, with the emergence of the microelectronic paradigm, when the relative decline of industrial strength in central countries begins.

The value of the workforce begins to be linked to the exponential growth of education and knowledge, which threatens the rate of surplus value, which leads, on the one hand, to the progressive displacement of capital circulation from the productive sector to the generation of jobs. fictitious capital through public debt, exchange rate overvaluation, financial assets and real estate; and on the other, the relocation of production processes to the periphery and semi-periphery in search of a cheaper workforce with similar qualifications. This double trend increased inequality in central countries and led authors, such as Ruy Mauro Marini, to defend that the super-exploitation of workers was spreading to central countries, whereby a price below its value, established by conditions, is paid for the workforce. productivity, intensity and skill averages, increasingly determined by transnational monopolies to the detriment of strictly national bourgeoisies.[viii]

Financialization is thus linked to two long-lasting movements: the emergence of the scientific-technical revolution, which drives the decline of secular trends in capitalism, whose epicenter are its most advanced centers, and phase B of the American systemic cycle. Neoliberalism became the answer of the monopoly bourgeoisie of the imperialist countries to contain wage pressures and the expansion of social spending, arising from decades of full employment and the transition from Fordism to a new paradigm of productive forces, intensive in information and knowledge, which brought together students and manual workers in the 1968 demonstrations. Class struggles in the United States and Northwest Europe, as Giovanni Arrighi and Beverly Silver have pointed out, become decisive in establishing the neoliberal turn that will cement the decline of US protagonism and the Atlanticist axis in the world economy, linking up with the Viet Cong resistance to impose a strong defeat on imperialism.

The financialization strategy has limits, as the capitalist world-system is based on the generalized production of goods and on business and state competition. It was provisionally successful during phase B of the Kondratiev that was established between 1973-1993, but with the emergence of phase A of a new cycle, the dynamism of the world economy shifted in an accelerated way towards China, passing the United States and the Northwest Europe growing below the average of the world economy. The Kondratiev cycle that emerged in 1994 did not have the strength to alter the neoliberal turn, as imagined by Theotonio dos Santos, which corresponds to much deeper structural movements. Our hypothesis is that this phase A is coming to an end between 2015-2020 and opens a new period of systemic chaos, which coincides with Arrighi's initial measurement, whose turning point is the collapse of the neoliberal consensus, of which the environmental crisis in course, which manifests itself in the COVID-19 pandemic, was the trigger.[ix]

Os secular trends Braudel's and Wallerstein's logistic cycles, with their rigid oscillations of 150 years and measurement based on price oscillations, do not have empirical evidence, nor sufficient theoretical elaboration to justify them. Nor is Samir Amin right to discard the concept of cycles when they do not meet a rigid repetition. Cycles refer to significant oscillations that are repeated in a complex whole, where other long-term trends that influence their rhythm are at work. They also have acceleration factors, such as technological diffusion and the exponential increase in workers' organizational capacity with the development of productive scales, in the case of systemic cycles, which act to reduce its extension, as detected by Arrighi and Silver. Kondratiev cycles must be measured by international indicators and articulate economic phenomena with political inflection points of global impact. Faced with the difficulty of measuring it through the world rate of profit, we must take into account the oscillations in the growth of the world GDP per capita, the variations and the composition of the rate of profit of the hegemonic country.[X]

The current Kondratiev cycle began in 1994, with the start of the profit rate in the United States and the increase in economic growth rates. per capita world, associating itself with a set of phenomena that imposed the hegemony of neoliberal globalization, such as the end of the USSR and socialism in Eastern Europe, the Gulf War, the imposition of the Washington Consensus on the peripheries and the signing and entry into force of NAFTA. The expansion phase presented three crises, namely, 1998-2001, 2008-2009 and, now, from 2019 onwards. foreign trade, international capital flows, political liberalism, economic growth and the debt capacity of the State and private corporations, as well as the exponential progression of the environmental crisis. The emergence of a unilateral imperialism, since the Donald Trump government, its international articulation of emerging neo-fascist forces, and the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on a weakened neoliberal globalization put it in collapse, from which it will have many difficulties to recover.

The systemic chaos will call into question not only the hegemony of the United States, but the capitalist system itself. Neofascism and socialism will dispute the reorganization of the world system with a weakened neoliberalism that will seek to resume its offensive. Contrary to what Theotonio dos Santos wagered, the paths to a planetary civilization will hardly be established by consensus around the shared hegemony of the United States with the emerging forces of the world economy, in a process of permanent adjustment, led by the forces that directed the Kondratiev that closes. We argue, with Giovanni Arrighi and Beverly Silver, that social and political struggles will play a key role in defining the process of systemic reorganization that will be established.

Unlike Immanuel Wallerstein, we believe that the process of replacing the modern world system with another will involve global projects that will start from the articulation of class struggles with interstate and geopolitical disputes. There tends to be a bifurcation between, on the one hand, China and its leadership with Russia in boosting the projects of the Global South and Eurasia, and on the other hand, US imperialism and its leadership in the articulation of a neo-fascist global project. A power project involves the great continental masses and the internal markets of the hinterlands; and the other, the maritime powers based on private monopolies and the oligarchic appropriation of value.

As Arrighi points out, the roots of the bifurcation appear during the beginning of the crisis signaling hegemony and refer, in the case of the United States, to its defeat in Vietnam, which was much more political than military. Such historical and analytical precedent places the unity of the class struggles of the peoples of the South and of the central countries, as a key to defeating the imperialist machine and moving towards a socialist world system, taking the defense of peace as a central value. We consider that the Braudelian market is unlikely to be an alternative in itself, becoming much more part of the construction of a socialist world system, whose emergence, if it occurs, will necessarily be hybridized, in a similar way to the modern world system that promoted historical capitalism.

Crisis of neoliberal globalization and systemic chaos

The Covid-19 pandemic hits a neoliberal globalization in the process of exhaustion, synthesizing a set of crises, and putting US hegemony in a terminal phase. We can highlight three major crises: (a) the environmental crisis, (b) the crisis of neoliberal globalization and (c) the end of Kondratiev's expansive phase.

The environmental crisis expresses the mismatch between the driving forces of historical capitalism in the XNUMXst century and the development needs of a new stage of the scientific-technical revolution, aimed at building a biotechnological paradigm, based on the generation of public goods such as preservation and regeneration environment, health, education, culture and science. The predominance of oligarchic wealth, super profit and the transformation of men and nature into merchandise, on scales never seen before, increase deforestation rates, carbon emissions, global warming, the expansion of the circulation of people and goods to the detriment of of life preservation systems, which are sidelined by capital's refusal to incorporate the environmental limits and the increase in the value of the workforce demanded by the new stage of the productive forces.[xi] The vulnerability of the United States and European countries in relation to the effects of the pandemic demonstrates the high cost of inequality and the prevalence of private interests over public ones in the management of the new emerging paradigm based on productive forces with a high degree of socialization.

The crisis of neoliberal globalization is linked to the contradictions between the financialization strategy, with its epicenter in the United States, and the production of value to sustain it. The expansion of the mass of financial assets in greater proportion to the generation of material wealth weakens the real economy and puts in tension the macroeconomic arrangements that make it viable. The exhaustion of the expansive Kondratiev accentuates these contradictions.

If China acted between 1994-2013 articulating the dynamics of its economy to exports to the US domestic market, using part of its trade balance to buy US public debt securities and help finance the US current account deficit, since 2008-2013, with the inflection in its economic growth, it has reoriented its dynamics towards the internal market, the Eurasian projects of the Silk Road and the BRICS, freezing its stock of US public debt securities, whose growth was overwhelming between 2000-2013. Thus began the decline of collaboration between China and the United States, through which the former could maintain high growth rates, sustain US parasitism and boost the spread of expansive Kondratiev to the peripheries, in particular to Latin America and Africa, through the purchase of raw materials, the expansion of investments and the international aid that supported the tree its commodities. Accelerating export-based growth significantly raised inequality in China, even as it combined with marked poverty reduction. Its interruption opens the risk of a deep social crisis and puts pressure on the Chinese political leadership to reorient its priorities towards social spending, welfare and the containment and reduction of inequality.

The election of Donald Trump expressed the domestic reaction to the growing vulnerability of the US financialization strategy. However, Trump does not intend to deny the overvaluation of the dollar, but to use the strength of the US State to reverse the displacement of US production chains, impose sanctions and threaten competing companies and states, making China and Russia his preferred targets. This split reveals the fractures in the dominant classes in the United States between an internationalist and dominant fraction that concentrates and centralizes capital to the detriment of nationally based business segments and workers, affected by the strong growth of inequality.[xii] The 2007-09 crisis and the ensuing drop in growth exposed inequality, raised poverty, and established the loss of hegemony of liberal centrism that drove neoliberal globalization, opening the space for the far-right offensive and neofascist.

The acute depression generated by COVID-19 highlights the vulnerability of the US financialization strategy in the world economy, while accelerating social and political conflicts in the world. The drastic drop in GDP, profit rates, international trade, rising unemployment and the action of social movements pressure for a strong increase in the levels of state intervention, particularly in the most affected countries. The demand for increased social spending in the United States and the European Union collides with the high levels of government indebtedness, of private corporations, the requirements of sustaining their fictitious assets and the restrictions of big capital to increase taxation. The moderate level of public debt in China and its state-owned companies, as well as the central role played by the State in the pattern of Chinese development, enables it to perform much better in a new context of long recession where profit rates will be low. .[xiii]

On the other hand, the spiral of social conflicts in the world tends to call into question the role of the dollar. The dollar-flexible standard, by which the United States began to compete and absorb a large part of the world's circulating capital, was based on a set of assumptions that began to be challenged: the low level of indebtedness of the US government; its high capacity to borrow in the short, medium and long term; the strength of its capital markets; and the spread of neoliberal and deflationary policies that created vulnerability in countries' balance of payments, deregulated their capital accounts, required a high volume of reserves deposited in the Fed, and restricted state intervention and social spending as inducers of economic growth.

Unlike the 2007-09 crisis, when, between June 2008 and December 2012, US$ 2.587 trillion entered in the form of purchases of public debt securities, accounting for 37% of its expansion in the period (COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS, 2020, p. 425), the weight of the intervention will probably fall on the US government, which still runs the risk of suffering reserve withdrawals in the period that opens[xiv]. The US capital market is likely to be weakened by the Chinese advance on the technological frontier, which will hardly be impeded by the escalation of sanctions due to the deterioration in the economic performance of US companies. Attempts at a commercial and financial blockade by China will probably backfire in the medium term against their drivers, similarly to the continental European blockade imposed by Napoleon against the United Kingdom. China should continue to advance in the field of communication technologies, green and health technologies, as well as space, military and basic science technologies, deepening the contradiction between the immediate business interest of US transnational corporations and that of the US state. American, which seeks to restrict its transactions.

It is very likely that we are facing a new leap in the levels of State intervention in the economy which, since 1880, has been increasing with each new regulatory standard that is established. If we enter the Kondratiev phase B, government spending in the world will probably settle at another level, possibly jumping from 37% in the United States and 47% in the Eurozone countries to something around 50 to 70% in the coming decades[xv]. Three political forces will compete for this expansion of spending:

(a) Universalist neoliberalism, which seeks to organize a consensus around the hegemony of Atlanticism, led by the United States, with the support of the European Union, incorporating compensatory social and environmental policies. Such an alternative will be oriented towards sustaining financialization and the role of the dollar, but will be challenged by the emergence of China, by the pressure of social movements against inequality, by national-popular movements in the peripheries and by the ecological deterioration that will weaken the neoliberal consensus and its democracy formal limited;

(b) Neofascism, whose epicenter is the US extreme right, will seek to reestablish the centrality of military spending on capital accumulation, due to the growing exhaustion of the bases of financialization. Such a project moves towards a territorialist politics of empire and war as the foundation of a world economy of exploitative domination, dispossession and dispossession. It tends to take the Doctrine of Manifest Destiny to a new level, which boosted the policy of annexation of the United States in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Asian islands between 1846-1933. His bet on the repatriation of the productive chains in the western imperialist centers can only be carried out under strong repression on the workers so that they obtain the profit rates that they achieve abroad. Such an alternative will find strong limitations to impose itself due to the decline of the US military leadership, the exponential increase in the costs of protecting the world, the growing inequality and the increasingly multicultural and multiethnic character of the working classes in the central countries; It is

(c) Socialism, whose challenge will be to promote and coordinate three fronts of struggle in the world-system. In central countries, where it will seek to establish an advanced welfare state, centered on participatory democracy, which prioritizes the generation of public goods associated with the new stage of the scientific-technical revolution – such as health, education, culture and environmental preservation and regeneration – and eradicate gender, ethnic-racial and sexual orientation oppression. Such redirection of the State would imply strong control of the market, subordinating it to social objectives. In peripheral countries, where struggles for development, democracy and sovereignty would assume a strong anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist character, breaking with dependence to promote it in articulation with the geopolitical axis of the Global South.

In China and Russia, pillars of a new global geopolitical axis, where it will be necessary to consolidate the establishment of a clean development pattern, capable of reversing structural asymmetries, and an internationalism that can block the performance of Western imperialism and lay the foundations of a new world consensus. This internationalism should establish a dissuasive military capacity and a consensus based on the articulation between anti-imperialist struggles, for participatory democracy and for a new pattern of development. However, for that to happen, it will have to overcome a set of limitations such as the imperialist culture in the central countries, the state centralization of politics in the socialist countries and the anti-imperialist governments of the semi-peripheral and peripheral countries.

The period of systemic chaos we are entering will call into question the foundations of US liberal democracy, strongly linked to racism due to its ties with imperialism and internal colonialism, manifested in the historical links with slavery and the laws of Jim Crow, in the use of labor force by Latinos and immigrants in precarious conditions, or in military intervention, hybrid wars and articulation of coups d'état in strategic geopolitical areas. Its success depends on the functioning of the ideology of prosperity of a white Caucasian majority and the expectations of social mobility that it provides for workers, middle sectors and ethnic minorities. Such an ideology should be threatened by the structural recession, by the growth of ethnic diversity among the Caucasian population in the United States and by the advance of the super-exploitation of work.

It is possible that in the coming years there will be an inflection in China that reorganizes its political power, in the same way that the rise of the United States provoked the New Deal which renegotiated relations with workers. It should be driven by the action of its gigantic working class against the high levels of inequality reached in the period of rapprochement with the United States and in favor of the socialization of political power. This pressure will face, however, resistance from the party bureaucracy that intends to maintain its political monopoly and from the local big bourgeoisie that seeks to expand its relative power vis-à-vis the State. The result of these struggles will reorganize the relationship between these segments and will be decisive in defining China's trajectories in the world system, articulating with global geopolitical disputes. The more these deepen, the greater must be the strength of workers and other peoples together with the Chinese party bureaucracy in the construction of a historic bloc opposed to US and Western imperialism, given the need to have a broad popular and international base for this. The possible success of China, in the coming years, in building a monetary alternative to the dollar may expand the structural margin for flexibility and socialization of political power, by reducing the need for centralized exchange control and the risks on the balance of payments.

In Latin America, the dismantling of the foundations of neoliberalism in the world economy, due to the decline in international capital flows and the reversal of the tree its commodities, places this pattern of accumulation in a deep social and political crisis, which explains its approximation to neo-fascism and US unilateral imperialism. The polarization expressed to the right – in the coups d’état in Paraguay (2012), in Brazil (2016), in Bolivia (2019), in the siege and intervention attempts in Venezuela and in the election of Jair Bolsonaro – or to the left – in the emergence of mass movements against neoliberal policies in Chile and Ecuador, in the election of Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, Alberto Fernandez and Luis Arce, in the plebiscite for the exclusive Constituent Assembly that will put an end to the Pinochet Constitution, in the drastic fall in popularity of Sebastian Piñera, Ivan Duque , or, to a lesser extent, Jair Bolsonaro – reveals the deep ongoing dissension due to the emptying of centrism and the abandonment by capitalism dependent on the minimum tasks linked to economic and social development.

The region will have to be divided into two blocs: one, centered on US imperialism, on internal bourgeoisies, on sub-imperialism subservient to US foreign policies to which the Brazilian and Colombian extreme right are applying, on the super-exploitation of workers and the environment; and another, based on the defense of sovereignty, development and democracy and on the emancipation of popular movements that tend to be articulated to the construction of a geopolitical force articulated to China and Russia and to the establishment of transitional economies towards socialism. The regional hegemonic power, which reduced geopolitical conflicts by imposing dependency, is in an accelerated decline in favor of an environment in dispute that involves states, classes and historical power blocs. This context becomes conducive to revolutions, counter-revolutions, further increasing the risk of wars.


In this article we seek to analyze the trends that are opening up in the modern world system since Covid-19. We used long-term conceptual instruments integrating prospective and retrospective analyzes by combining secular and cyclical trends. We defend the construction of a Marxist theory of the capitalist world-system from the dialectical integration between the concepts of modern world-system by Immanuel Wallerstein, systemic cycles and hybridization of world-systems by Giovanni Arrighi, scientific-technical revolution and cycles of Kondratiev, claimed by Theotonio dos Santos, overexploitation of work by Ruy Mauro Marini and accumulation mode by Christopher Chase-Dunn.

The concept of mode of accumulation sheds light on the links and contradictions between capitalism and the productive forces on which it has historically sustained itself, and that of the scientific-technical revolution marks the structural time of its crisis, which opens a period of social and political struggles in around its preservation and transition to other forms of existence. The extension of the superexploitation of the workforce from the peripheries to the western centers indicates the decline of relative surplus value. The articulation between the long durations represented by the scientific-technical revolution, the American systemic cycle and the Kondratiev cycle, started in 1994, illuminates a unique historical individuality in motion. And the concept of hybridization of world-systems under socialist direction becomes an indispensable instrument in the construction of a post-hegemonic and post-capitalist world, where wealth is linked to the dialectical unity between diversity, equality and solidarity.

The results we arrive at are therefore inevitably heuristic and provisional. They leave the comfort zone of interpreting the past and take the risk of projecting trends and anticipating scenarios. We maintain that the covid-19 pandemic marks the transition to systemic chaos and points to the contradiction between the capitalist mode of production and the need to develop a new biotechnological paradigm. The establishment in 2015-2020 of the recessive phase of the Kondratiev cycle, which began in 1994, puts US hegemony and neoliberalism in a terminal crisis, opening up a dispute over the reorganization of the world system that will articulate geopolitical conflicts and class struggles.

On the one hand, US imperialism and the western powers articulated with the peripheral bourgeoisies, oscillating between neo-fascist and neoliberal projects; on the other hand, China and the continental powers such as Russia, the governments and national-popular movements of the periphery and semi-periphery and the social movements of the central countries seeking the difficult path of building identities between market socialism, state capitalism, anti-imperialism, the emancipatory projects of social movements and a democracy in transition from liberalism to socialism, in search of the formation of a global historical bloc.[xvi]

However, concrete life is full of dynamic interactions and unpredictability and it is in this complex scenario that these trends will be able to act in the coming decades.

*Carlos Eduardo Martins is a professor at the Institute of International Relations and Defense (IRID) at UFRJ. Author of Globalization, dependence and neoliberalism in Latin America (Boitempo).

Originally published in the magazine reorient, flight. 1, no1, 2021.


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[I] We call Braudelian world-systems theorists those who gathered around the Fernand Braudel Center, under the direction of Immanuel Wallerstein, from 1976-2005, and created a new paradigm of world-systems analysis that, starting from the work of Braudel , far surpassed it in several aspects, embracing the influence of Marxism more intensely. Among the most notable concepts elaborated are those of modern world-system, by Immanuel Wallerstein (1974, 1980, 1989, 2011), and by systemic cycles, sinocentric system, or hybridization of world-systems by Giovanni Arrighi (1996[1994] and 2007). In addition to these authors, Terence Hopkins and Beverly Silver (1995) stand out who, together with the former, undertook a broad theoretical, analytical and empirical renovation in studies on the world economy and its systems of power.

[ii] Arrighi hesitates to call this alternative socialist, preferring to define it as non-capitalist in order to associate it with the Braudelian market zone. In Adam Smith in Beijing he points out: “The outcome of China's immense modernization effort remains undetermined and, as far as we know, socialism and capitalism, understood on the basis of past experience, may not be the most useful notions for following and understanding how a situation evolve”. (ARRIGHI, 2007, p. 39). A similar position is taken by Andre Gunder Frank, in ReOrient (1998), seeing the ongoing Asian recentralization as the reestablishment of capital accumulation systems under state dominance; or Samir Amin (2013), who uses the concept of state capitalism to claim a transition process that could result in socialism

[iii] The observations on the scientific-technical revolution in Samir Amin's work are very punctual and summary. The author limits himself to mentioning the reduction in the amount of work per material production as a negative impact on capital accumulation, without deepening the analysis. (AMIN, 2003, p. 157). Much more prominence and structure in his works have the reference to the five monopolies and the collective imperialism of the triad to characterize the senility of contemporary capitalism (MARTINS, 2019).

[iv] Em World economy, regional integration and sustainable development (1993), under the influence of Eco-92, in Brazil, Theotonio dos Santos states that “Reagan, Thatcher and Bush should disappear from the world map with their authoritarianism, their sectarianism, their particularisms and their narrowness. The world needs a new leadership that is more open, more global and more planetary (…) The imperialist form of the world economy still present in the law of uneven and combined development of the capitalist world economy enters a serious and definitive crisis. In the coming decades, this economic form will have to give way, at least in part, to a new global vision of planetary management based on the coexistence of diverse and even antagonistic economic, social, political and, above all, cultural regimes (DOS SANTOS 1993, p. 13-39)” . In Dependency theory: balance and perspectives (2000) points out that “a return to economic growth that has occurred since then in the United States – 1994 (CEM) – and more recently in Europe created a more favorable international political context, a rearticulation of the forces interested in solving the great problems of extreme poverty, illiteracy, extremely unfavorable living conditions of the great majority of the world's population (DOS SANTOS, 2000, p 111) In From Terror to Hope: The Rise and Decline of Neoliberalism (2004) points out that “The weakness of European social democracy and North American liberalism associated with the most varied forms of center-left populism in Latin America, Africa and part of Asia does not necessarily have to do with the depth of the social wave. -politics that put them back in power in the second half of the 90s. As we will see, the imposition of the single thought had the character of a colossal ideological terrorism (...) The so-called “pink wave” was a victim of this ideological situation and the governments it generated were left limited in their economic policies trying to reconcile a neoliberal economic policy (the only scientific one, that is, acceptance of a single thought) and a purposely socialist social policy” (DOS SANTOS, 2004 p. 204-205).

[v] Em Development and civilization: homage to Celso Furtado (2016), Theotonio dos Santos points out: “In this transition phase, the doors to increasingly creative political experiments will open, until a new negative phase of long cycles begins, which will lead to world capitalism and its imperialist domination. to a long-term, extremely serious crisis. We hope that, this time, the leaps towards superior economic and social solutions, post-capitalist or openly socialist, will be strong enough to inaugurate a new world system, consolidated in a planetary, plural, egalitarian and democratic civilization. We also hope that this new system stops the brutal long-term effects that will unify the structural crisis of capitalism with a new depressive conjuncture (this one, yes, in the long term, when combined with a phase (B) of the Kondratiev cycle, characterized by a long-term depression (…) We can expect that the next ten years will be one of social and economic advancement with greater or lesser political advancement, depending on the awareness of emerging social forces and the capacity of their political leadership to express and synthesize their needs and aspirations. (DOS SANTOS, 2016, p. 486)

[vi] The English version, published by Editora Brill, updates and expands the original published in Portuguese, in 2011, by Editora Boitempo, reaffirming its fundamental theses.

[vii] We consider the mode of accumulation the central dimension of a mode of production, which can, however, enter into contradiction with its relations of production and productive forces. Typical cases are during the assertion of a new mode of production, when these are embryonic and have not been developed or disseminated, or during the decadence and terminal phase, when they are obsolete and this must be partially supported by new ones. On the subject, see Marx ([1859] 2008) and Chase-Dunn and Thomas D.Hall (1997)

[viii] Between 1980-2016, the poorest 50% in the United States and Canada captured 2% of economic growth in these countries and had an increase in income of only 5%, and those in Europe increased their incomes by 26%, capturing only 13% of the increase in total income in this region (World Inequality Lab, 2018, p. 46). On the debates regarding the concept of overexploitation and its extension to the core countries, see our article The Marxist Theory of Dependency in the Light of Marx and Contemporary Capitalism (2018)

[ix] We do not agree with the thesis supported by Giovanni Arrighi, in Adam Smith in Beijing, that US hegemony ended with the military intervention in Iraq, transforming itself into domination since then. Although he claimed the Doctrine of preventive action and selectively applied against countries on the periphery that he named the “axis of evil”, George Bush Filho did not break with the foundations of neoliberal multilateralism established since the 1980s. He was succeeded by Barack Obama, who sought to broaden the liberal consensus, through the articulation of the Trans-Pacific Agreement, the Transtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement, the Paris Agreement, the nuclear agreement with Iran, and the negotiations for the end of the embargo on Cuba.

[X] Based on fluctuations in GDP per capita, we can affirm the presence of Kondratiev cycles in the world economy since the 1870th century and, notably, from 2000 onwards, when industrialization in Northwest Europe, the United States and Japan articulated a leap in scale of the international division of labor. Contrary to what Immanuel Wallerstein (1998) and Andre Gunder Frank (XNUMX) assume, who claim that it is possible to extend the Kondratiev cycles to past periods, the stabilization or slowdown of per capita growth until the XNUMXth century does not support this proposition, even though major changes in terms of product expansion and geospatial occupancy have been generated. In our Dependency, neoliberalism and globalization in Latin America (2020) we seek to periodize the Kondratiev phases since the XNUMXth century based on Angus Maddison's data.

[xi] On the inability of capital to assume the costs of environmental and labor reproduction, see Crises of world hegemony and the speeding up of a social history (2020) by Beverly Silver and Corey Payne, translated into Portuguese and published in this issue of Reoriente: studies on Marxism, dependency and world-systems.

[xii] Between 1997-2016, the manufacturing sector reduced its share of the US GDP from 16,1% to 11,2% and the financial sector increased it from 18,8% to 20,8%. (COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS, 2020, p. 375)

[xiii] In China, corporate indebtedness is concentrated in Joint-Ventures, where the presence of US foreign capital and the influence of the State is strong, which opens the way for the increase of the State's participation in the productive sector. On the subject, see China Institute (2018) and Ling, Karen Jinprong; Lu, Xiaoyan; Zhang, Jusheng; and Zheng, Ying (2020)

[xiv] Contrary to what Giovanni Arrighi claims, the pound sterling did not play the leading role of currency for a long time after the end of British hegemony. The gold-pound standard suffered a first collapse in 1914, being reestablished by the hegemonic rise of the United States until it suffered a definitive collapse in 1931. dollar role.

[xv] See Angus Madison for a historical series of the expansion of state spending over the 2020th century and the OECD database (XNUMX) for its XNUMXst century update.

[xvi] According to Samir Amin (2007 and 2017), this challenge and task would be at the basis of the construction of a V International capable of launching a global socialist project

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