10 Scholarly Critiques of Capitalism and Imperialism
10 Scholarly Critiques of Capitalism and Imperialism
By Glen T. Martin / radford.edu

1. “Capitalism is the accumulation of resources by means of exploitation in the production and sale of commodities for profit. Capitalist exploitation is an unequal exchange wherein capitalists extract income from economic exchanges solely because they hold legal title to productive assets. There are two types of exploitation – primary and secondary. Primary exploitation, which takes the form of profit, is an unequal exchange with labor wherein capitalists appropriate all the “value added” in production, net of wages, because they own the business in which production takes place…. Secondary exploitation, which takes the form of rent and interest, is an unequal exchange between the capital-rich and the capital-poor, including between wealthy and poor countries…. As a result, at all points of exchange in production, capitalists have institutionalized coercive power as employers, bosses, lenders, and landlords. Both Adam Smith and Karl Marx considered exploitation to be the application of coercive power in markets to obtain an unequal exchange.

(Boswell, Terry and Chase-Dunn, Christopher The Spiral of Capitalism and Socialism, 2000, pp. 20-21)

2. “Capital that has extended its influence over these new territories knows its own interests, works together in its common interests even while individual capitals compete [and] coordinates its goals and its strategies in its common interest…. There will always be social inequality, because that increases profits; winners win more because losers lose more. Keeping the Third World in dependence and poverty is not an accident or failure of the world capitalist system, but part of its formula for success.

(“Letter from the German Democratic Republic,” Monthly Review, July/August 1990, p. 61)

3. “Developed countries claim to be financing the developing world, but actually the poor countries are financing the rich through the wealthy world underpaying equally-productive developing world labor, paying far less than full value for natural resources, and through primarily investing in commodity production for the wealthy world. In this process, between 1980 and 1990 – when measured against the dollar…”wage levels in Mexico declined by sixty percent…in Argentina by fifty percent and in Peru by seventy percent” and again that was before the 1997-98 collapse of developing world currencies reduced wages on the periphery of empire by half. The above appears to list IMF/World Bank/ GATT/NAFTA/WTO/ MAI/GATS/FTAA failures. However, they are not failures; they are the successes of financial and economic warfare. The prices of developing world commodities are lowered while the prices of developed world products are retained, siphoning every more wealth to the corporate imperialists.

(J.W. Smith, Economic Democracy, 2006, p. 20)

4. “The Monroe doctrine of 1823 “announced to European empires that Latin America fell under Washington‟s exclusive sphere of influence.” “By 1930, Washington had sent gunboats into Latin American ports over six thousand times, invaded Cuba, Mexico (again), Guatemala, and Honduras, fought protracted guerrilla wars in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Haiti, annexed Puerto Rico, and taken a piece of Columbia to create both the Panamanian nation and the Panama Canal.”

(Greg Grandin, Empire’s Workshop, 2007, pp. 82 & 3.)

5. “U.S. leaders profess a dedication to democracy. Yet over the past five decades, democratically elected reformist governments in Guatemala, Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Syria, Indonesia (under Sukarno), Greece, Argentina, Bolivia, Haiti, and numerous other nations were overthrown by pro-capitalist militaries that were funded and aided by the U.S. national security state. The U.S. national security state has participated in covert actions or proxy mercenary wars against revolutionary governments in Cuba, Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Portugal, Nicaragua, Cambodia, East Timor, Western Sahara, and elsewhere, usually with dreadful devastation and loss of life for the indigenous populations. Hostile actions also have been directed against reformist governments in Egypt, Lebanon, Peru, Iran, Syria, Zaire, Jamaica, South Yemen, the Fiji Islands, and elsewhere. Since World War II, U.S. forces have directly invaded or launched aerial attacks against Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, North Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Libya, Iraq, and Somalia, sowing varying degrees of death and destruction.

(Michael Parenti, Against Empire, p. 38)

6. The world consists of Center and Periphery nations; and each nation, in turn, has its centers and periphery. Hence, our concern is with the mechanism underlying this discrepancy, particularly between the center in the Center, and the periphery in the Periphery. In other words, how to conceive of, how to explain, and how to counteract inequality as one of the major forms of structural violence. Any theory of liberation from structural violence presupposes theoretically and practically adequate ideas of the dominance system against which liberation is directed; and the special type of dominance system to be discussed here is imperialism.

(Johan Galtung, “A Structural Theory of Imperialism” in Approaches to Peace, David P. Barash, editor, p. 43)

7. Historically, warfare has been an instrument of economic conquest. U.S. foreign policy and the Pentagon‟s war plans are intimately related to the process of economic globalization. The Pentagon is not only in liaison with the State Department, it also has informal ties to Wall Street, the Texas oil giants, not to mention the IMF and World Bank, which have played a key role in the process of destabilizing national economies. High-level consultations are held between the Bretton Woods, the U.S. State Department, NATO, and the Pentagon with a view to coordinating military operations with various forms of policy intervention including monetary reform and the outright privatization of entire national economies. From the Truman Doctrine formulated in the late 1940s by George Kennan to the Bush Junior and Obama Administrations, there has been a constant thread: the neo-cons have described it as “The Long War”, a military blueprint for global economic and political domination, a “war without borders”…. U.S. foreign policy supports the expansion of U.S. corporate capital. Successive Democratic and Republican administrations, from Harry Truman to George W. Bush to Barak Obama have contributed to carrying out this military agenda for global economic conquest…. The economic objectives are acknowledged but rarely highlighted as a justification for waging war. The “Global War on Terrorism” supports U.S. corporate and strategic interests. It builds a consensus that America is being attacked by terrorists. It obfuscates what is tantamount to a profit driven military agenda which directly serves the interests of Wall Street, the oil giants, and the U.S. military industrial complex…. The Neo-Cons‟ Project for a New American Century (PNAC), formulated in 2000, was the culmination of a broad military and strategic design geared toward establishing U.S. military hegemony and global economic domination, as initially formulated under the “Truman Doctrine” at the outset of the Cold War. The PNAC is a neo-conservative think tank linked to the Defense-Intelligence establishment, the Republican Party and the powerful Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) which plays a behind-the-scenes role in the formulation of U.S. Foreign Policy. The PNAC document posits the need to wage major, simultaneous theater wars in different regions of the world… The Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars”, not only includes the controversial “Missile Shield”, but also a wide range of offensive laser-guided weapons with striking capabilities anywhere in the world. The SDS also includes the instruments of weather and climatic warfare under the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP). Recent scientific evidence suggests that HAARP is fully operational and has the ability of potentially triggering floods, droughts, hurricanes and earthquakes. From a military standpoint, HAARP is a weapon of mass destruction. Potentially, it constitutes an instrument of conquest capable of selectively destabilizing agricultural and ecological systems of entire regions. Also contemplated is the Pentagon‟s so-called FALCON program. FALCON is the ultimate New World Order weapons system, to be used for global economic and political domination. It can strike from the continental U.S. anywhere in the world. It is described as a “global reach” weapon to be used to “react promptly and decisively to destabilizing or threatening actions by hostile countries and terrorist organizations”…. The “emergency”, “homeland security” and “war on terrorism” buzzwords have since then been used to mold U.S. public opinion into accepting a massive redirection of the nation‟s resources towards the military industrial complex. In turn, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, “love of country”, “allegiance” and “patriotism” increasingly pervade the media as well day-to-day political discourse. The hidden agenda was to create a new legitimacy, opening the door for “revitalization of the nation‟s defense” while also providing a justification for direct military actions by the U.S. in different parts of the world…. Meanwhile, as the Western war economy flourishes, the relocation of the production of civilian manufactured goods to Third World countries has increased at a dramatic pace. The global economy is characterized by a bi-polar relationship. The rich Western countries produce advanced weapons systems, whereas poor countries produce manufactured consumer goods. In a twisted logic, the military capabilities of the U.S. and its NATO allies are used to threaten and/or wage war on the developing countries, which supply Western markets with large amounts of consumer goods produced in cheap labor assembly plants.

(Michel Chossudovsky, “War and the Economic Crisis” in The Global Economic Crisis – The Great Depression of the XXI Century, Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall, Editors, pp. 181-190.)

8. This form of structural violence, through the international economic order‟s systematic generation of human insecurity, has led to the death of countless hundreds of millions of people, and the deprivation of thousands of millions of others. Most of the literature on human security, development, and genocide fails to see this phenomenon of global mass death and marginalization – a consequence of structurally-induced deprivation – as a form of genocide.

(Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, “Structural Violence as a Form of Genocide: The Impact of the International Economic Order,” Entelequia: Rivista Interdisciplinar 5, 2007, p. 4.)

9. Today, the richest two percent of adults own more than half the world‟s wealth, while according to Times writer, David Brown, the richest tenth own 85 percent of the world‟s assets. Within this small elite, a fraction embedded in financial capital owns and controls the bulk of the world‟s assets and organizes and facilitates further concentration of conglomerates…. The roots of finance capital are embedded in three types of intensified exploitation: 1) labor (via extended hours, transfer of pension and health costs from capital to labor, frozen minimum wages, stagnant and declining real wages and salaries); 2) manufacturing profits (through higher rents, inter-sectoral transfers to financial investments, interest payments and fees and commissions for mergers and acquisitions); and 3) state fiscal policies (by lowering capital gains taxes, increasing tax write-offs and tax incentives for overseas investments and imposing regressive local, state, and federal taxes).

(James Petras, Rulers and Ruled in the US Empire, 2007, pp. 21-22.)


10. The international structures under neoliberal globalization ensure that nations of the global South are perpetually „developing‟ and that they never actually become „developed‟. Under neoliberal globalization, the imperialist nations in the global North have ensured capital‟s continued dominance over the peoples of the global South in what sociologist William I. Robinson has called a world war being waged by a rich and powerful minority against the global poor in which „casualties already number in the hundreds of millions, and threaten to mount into the billions … the level of social conflict and human destruction is reaching bellicose proportions‟. Consequently, claims Amin, „The dominant class at the world level … have become the enemy of all humanity.‟

(Garry Leech, Capitalism: A Structural Genocide. Zed Books, 2012, p. 40.)

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10 Scholarly Critiques of Capitalism and Imperialism