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The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power and the Origins of Our Times (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 16. Februar 2010

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“A vivid, fact-filled expose of the cyclical monetary forces that surge through human society.”—Observer Review

The Long Twentieth Century has the grandeur of a sprawling epic and the schematic grace of a Richard Neutra blueprint ... It is the single most useful text on offer for anyone who wants to narrate the story of world capitalism—from its nascent form on the rim of the Mediterranean to the current reach of the United States’ empire, and beyond.”—Los Angeles Review of Books


"The Long Twentieth Century" traces the epochal shifts in the relationship between capital accumulation and state formation over a 700-year period. Borrowing from Braudel, Arrighi argues that the history of capitalism has unfolded as a succession of "long centuries" - ages during which a hegemonic power deploying a novel combination of economic and political networks secured control over an expanding world-economic space. The book concludes with an examination of the forces which have shaped and are now poised to undermine America's world power.

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This is the kind of wide-ranging historical synthesis that will change some people's way of looking at the world, while others will dismiss it as an overly ambitious simplification. I tend to side with the former...
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HASH(0x8bfb82f4) von 5 Sternen Contours of the 21st Century 8. Dezember 2004
Von Global Machine - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
Giovanni Arrighi's text is the most under-rated as well as the most brilliant of all theoretical works on historical capitalism and its futures. Unlike the claims of recent scholars like Hardt and Negri, the text is NOT about one historical cycle succeeding another. Such a claim is one of the worst examples of intellectual misrepresentation that I have ever come across. Their own work ('Empire' and then 'Multitude') are vain and failed attempts to come to terms with Arrighi's work. As a student of Marx, Braudel, and Schumpeter, Arrighi knows better than most that no two systemic cycles are ever the same. Each one not only ruptures the world system, it also creates conditions for its own supersession, in what Arrighi, drawing upon Braudel, calls 'financial expansions', and what David Harvey following Arrighi, calls 'accumulation by dispossession'. By drawing insightful comparisons between four long systemic cycles starting with the medieval Genoese financial expansion, Arrighi demonstrates the novelty of the cycle underlying the long twentieth century as well as pointing to what lies ahead. This is an absolute must read for anyone interested in capitalism, the interstate system, the social movements (though here the text is somewhat deficient), and the possibility of a future different from the lackluster present. Arrighi's work is simultaneously historical and theoretical (theory after all comes from a deep grasp of historical currents). Although much misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misrepresented, and often appropriated without adequate acknowledgement, The Long Twentieth Century is destined to become the classic work of the 21st century. Ten years after it first came out, almost all of Arrighi's predictions are turning out to be accurate, so much so that his school of imitators is becoming as vast as his train of never-ending admirers. To those who like large meta-narratives that combine spatial dynamics with temporal rhythms - and there are only a few out there (Marx, Weber, Braudel, Schumpeter, Perry Anderson, Michael Mann, Immanuel Wallerstein, and Charles Tilly)- Arrighi's work will be the unsurpassable horizon of our times. Arrighi is a master-synthesizer. One of the challenges he raises is the question of synthesis itself. What is entailed in the act of synthesizing without distorting particulars, is the capacity to give each particular its due (as if that were ever possible!). Arrighi's deep compassion for the struggles to bring about a different global future guide much of his architecture. Unlike many who call themselves socialists, Arrighi carries none of their presumptuous and often ridiculous baggage. To read this text is like experiencing a breath of fresh air after so many sterile polemics on the Left. It is a tall order to go beyond the Long twentieth century. Future attempts will invariably find themselves repeating an insight already developed in some obscure page of the Long Twentieth Century. It is the challenge of the 21st to come up with something at least as good as the offering of the Italian maestro.
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HASH(0x8bfb8348) von 5 Sternen The History of Capitalism 7. September 2010
Von Joseph Martin - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
Why is this edition "new and updated"? Apparently, because of the 15 page Postscript at the end of the book (pp. 371-386). (I had read the first edition back when it first came out in the nineties but no longer seem to have a copy of it so I cannot compare the earlier edition with this one.) Here in the Postscript Arrighi attempts to sum up what he understands were the three main propositions of his book.
Firstly, according to Arrighi, a Capitalist Epoch (there are more than one!) comes to an end when the financial (intermediation and speculation) overwhelms trade and production. This happens because the "possibility of continuing to profit from the reinvestment of capital in the material expansion of the world economy has reached its limits." But this 'financialization' of the world economy is only a temporary respite for the current 'dominant regime of accumulation'; historically, according to our author, it is the harbinger of its end.
Next, these occurrences are not recurrences. That is, the transition from one 'regime of accumulation' to another is not merely cyclical. A new regime (I mean the historical examples of the specific regimes of accumulation that our author identifies and elucidates) is always a fundamental reorganization of the capitalist world. Each regime has been (thus far) stronger, militarily and financially, than its predecessor.
And lastly, and perhaps most ominously, "the financial expansion of the late twentieth century [is] anomalous in key aspects". Most worrying, for Arrighi, is the bifurcation of military and financial power. The three possible results he foresaw from this were: "the formation of a world empire; the formation of a non-capitalist world economy; or a situation of endless systemic chaos."

What follows are merely some notes to (and impressions of) the postscript, not a review of the whole marvelously detailed book. All quotes are from this postscript unless a page number is given.

"[M]aterial expansions eventually lead to an over-accumulation of capital, which in turn leads capitalist organizations to invade one another's spheres of operation." Financial expansions occur only when profit margins in trade and production fall to a degree that forces capitalist agencies to attempt to remain as 'liquid' as possible. This "consolidates [...] the 'supply' conditions of financial expansions." Now, one of the things I enjoyed when I first read Arrighi is his love of the sources. He is unsparing in finding examples to support his argument and conceptualizations that anticipate it. For instance, he here continues his thought on financial expansions by saying:
"Historically, the crucial factor in creating the demand conditions of financial expansions has been an intensification of interstate competition for mobile capital - a competition that Max Weber has called 'the world-historical distinctiveness of [the modern] era'." Indeed, while even in pre-modern times there was capital not controlled by state or empire, its ability to freely go wherever it pleased was severely curtailed.

Our author is quite often either admired or dismissed for being a Marxist. But, as Arrighi indicates, he has also learned a great deal from Fernand Braudel:
"The concept of financial expansions developed in 'The Long Twentieth Century' builds on Braudel's observation that financial expansions are a sign of maturity of a particular phase of capitalist development."
What exactly are these 'phases'? In this book Arrighi delineates four 'Systemic Cycles of Accumulation': the Genoese, the Dutch, the British, and, lastly (and currently but falling), the United States. Besides Marx and Braudel, Joe Schumpeter (the Schumpeter of Cycles and 'Creative Destruction') is another important influence. One sees evidence of all three of these influences everywhere.

Now, in "Empire" Hardt and Negri (mis-)understood Arrighi to be indicating that these systemic cycles are repetitions:
"What concerns us more is that in the context of Arrighi's cyclical argument it is impossible to recognize a rupture of the system, a paradigm shift, an event. Instead, everything must always return, and the history of capitalism thus becomes the eternal return of the same. In the end, such a cyclical analysis masks the motor of the process of crisis and restructuring. Even though Arrighi himself has done extensive research on working-class conditions and movements throughout the world, in the context of this book, and under the weight of its historical apparatus, it seems that the crises of the 1970s was simply part of the objective and inevitable cycles of capitalist accumulation, rather than the result of proletarian and anticapitalist attack both in the dominant and in the subordinated countries." (Hardt & Negri, Empire, p. 239.)

Now, our author maintains that what returns, of course, are merely these recurrent financial expansions. And again, that they are always the forerunners of systemic change. As we saw earlier each regime is financially and militarily stronger than its predecessor. So, what does Arrighi mean by systemic change? There have been four regimes of capitalist accumulation according to our author. The first, Genoa, was defenseless and had to 'buy' protection from the Spanish Empire. Each regime has to compete for mobile capital but the next regime "the Dutch was able to do so without having to 'buy' protection from territorial states..." So you see, there has been Systemic change; the "Dutch regime, in other words, 'internalized' the protection costs that the Genoese externalized." How was the next regime of accumulation (the British Empire) different from the Dutch? The British "did not need to rely on others for most of the agro-industrial production on which the profitability of its commercial activities rested."

So you see, the Dutch 'internalized' the protection costs that the Genoese had to purchase from others, while the British internalized production costs that the Dutch had to externalize. Okay, how does the current American regime differ from the British? Thanks to its continental size the US was able to largely internalize various market transaction costs. The US policy of "keeping the doors of the domestic market closed to foreign products but open to foreign capital, labor, and enterprise, had made it the main beneficiary of British free-trade imperialism. (p. 62)" Now, in another area, there has been a pendulum swing, back and forth, from regime to regime. Arrighi calls this the 'extensive' and 'intensive' regimes of accumulation. This is an alternation "between 'cosmopolitan-imperial' and 'corporate-national' organizational structures. Each step forward in the process of internalization of costs by a new regime of accumulation involved a revival of governmental and business strategies and structures that had been superseded by the preceding regime." Thus, according to Arrighi, the first regime, the Genoese were extensive (that is, "cosmopolitan-imperial"), the Dutch were then intensive ("corporate-national"), the British were extensive, and the US intensive.

So, although each regime has internalized costs that no previous regime could, there is a swing back and forth between 'cosmopolitan-imperial' and 'corporate-national' types of regimes. A third point Arrighi makes is that there is a "successive shortening of the duration of each systemic cycle of accumulation. While the government and business organizations leading each cycle have become more powerful and complex, the life-cycles of the regimes of accumulation have become shorter." It would thus seem that more power only leads to less stability. At this point in the Postscript Arrighi quotes Marx approvingly saying: "that 'the real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself' and that capitalist production continually overcomes its immanent barriers 'only by means which again place these barriers in its way on a more formidable scale'." Arrighi takes this insight regarding the internal contradictions of capitalism from Marx, who really only applied it to the British System, and argues that it applies to all four Capitalist Epochs, but in different ways. Arrighi explains that "the essence of the contradiction is that in all instances the expansion of world trade and production is a mere means in endeavors aimed primarily at increasing the value of capital, and yet, over time, it tends to drive down the rate of profit and thereby curtail the value of capital."

So here we are today in the midst of another period of 'financialization'. Does this mean that the US System is about to be surpassed by another? Well, we shall see...

But how would this new regime, if it rises, differ from the US system? According to Arrighi,
1. "the leading governmental organization of the new regime would approximate the features of a world-state more closely..."
2. "the new regime would be of the extensive (cosmopolitan-imperial) rather than of the intensive (corporate-national) variety."
3. "the new regime would internalize the costs of reproducing both human life and nature..."
I have no problem with the first two points. They follow the pattern that, in our author's analysis, capitalism has followed. Point three, however, is an attempt to predict something entirely new. That is to say, it attempts to predict the exact shape of a a break in the pattern. Of course, if we follow Arrighi's analysis of the four capitalist systems it is certainly uncontroversial to say that the next regime will internalize a cost that the US regime would or could not internalize. However, ahead of time, I would argue that it is impossible to say exactly what that cost will turn out to be. And it is not at all clear to me, again staying within the parameters of Arrighi's analysis, why it is necessary that both these costs (the reproduction of 'human life and nature') are internalized. - Why both of them?; why not only one of them? I frankly found this prediction that the next capitalist regime will "internalize the costs of reproducing both human life and nature" surprisingly utopian in this otherwise very realistic analysis the history of capitalism. Let us let the future make its own propaganda. And finally (and hopefully not beating this point to death) why not an entirely different cost internalization - like, oh say, a revolutionary new energy technology available to all (i.e., internalized by all) that lowers the cost of energy to unprecedented levels?

But why is Arrighi concerned that this new regime might not rise at all? After all, if his analysis of these four capitalist regimes is correct then how could a new regime not arise after the present 'financialization' of the world economy passes? Well, the "patterns that we observe ex post, in other words, are as much the outcome of geographical and historical contingencies as they are of historical necessity." That is, the question on the table is are we here seeing in Arrighi's delineation of these four Capitalist Systems a structurally necessary historical pattern or merely a record of contingencies that happened to happen?

Assuming the former, what Arrighi would now expect is the rise of China/East Asia as the next capitalist regime. But "the kind of bifurcation between US military power and (East Asian) economic power that we can observe since the 1980's has no precedent in the annals of capitalist history." Thanks to this bifurcation the West, after several centuries, is losing "control over surplus capital". This is indeed unprecedented. So now you see, the 'new' does happen even in the midst of the cycles that Arrighi identifies and elucidates. But how can the new capitalist regime, that must rise according to the understanding of the current financialization of the world economy that Arrighi here puts forth, become globally hegemonic if it does not possess the greatest military power?

It can't... So, in light of this bifurcation of US military power and East Asian economic power, what exactly happens? Arrighi envisions three possibilities:
1. "The United States and its European allies might attempt to use their military superiority to extract a 'protection payment' from the emerging capitalist centers of East Asia. If the attempt succeeded, the first truly global empire in world history might come into existence."
2. "If no such attempt was made, or if it was made but did not succeed, over time East Asia might have become the center of a world market society buttressed, not by superior military power as in the past, but by the mutual respect of the world's cultures and civilizations."
3. It is "also possible that the bifurcation would result in endless worldwide chaos."

The first edition of this book appeared in 1994. This Revised and Updated Edition came out in 2010. For those fifteen odd years the world, for our author, has only been treading water. "All three of the scenarios sketched out in the Epilogue remain possible alternative historical outcomes to the terminal crisis of US hegemony." Arrighi will not know which scenario actually occurs, he died in June, 2009. The Postscript that we have been following in this review is dated March, 2009.

This is a superb book; in following the outline our author provides in the Postscript I have ignored the details of the main text. The richness of the argument is in these details. Do not deny yourself this richness...

Four and a half stars for a wonderfully detailed, realistic history of capitalist regimes marred only, albeit rarely, by a surprisingly utopian vision of the future under the next regime.
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HASH(0x8bfb8624) von 5 Sternen Brilliant - but where to next? 22. September 2012
Von Amrit - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
The origins of the twentieth century and in particular the economic system under which we live are described in this work by one of the foremost economic historians of recent times. Arrighi traces those origins to the Late Middle Ages beginning with the rise of Genoese merchant capitalism. He argues that the development of capitalism over the 700 years or so he covers represents cycles of growth and accumulation with the role of hegemon passing from Genoa to the Netherlands, from the Netherlands to Britain and finally from Britain to the United States. Each hegemon has not only been larger and more powerful than its predecessor but takes the process to a qualitatively different stage.

Medieval Genoa was a small Italian city state in competition with others such as Venice but is able to tie its economy to that of Imperial Spain of the sixteenth century. Though bankers and financiers to the Spanish Hapsburgs, it had little control over the political forces on which its mercantile success depended, relying on Spanish power to make its markets and ensure the flow of new world silver in huge quantities (which Joseph Schumpeter sees as the beginnings of modern capitalism). It thus externalised the cost of protection which was both a weakness and strength. Nor was Genoa a producer (unlike Venice which responded to the challenges to its trading networks by Portugal by becoming a manufacturer). The only assets that a Genoese merchant carried sometimes were just his skill and his networks. The French looked on in amazement at the Genoese merchant who turned up with nothing more than a ledger and a bench by knowing what to do and by buying and selling, made his money.

The rise of Dutch power and its successful overthrowal of Spanish rule in the Netherlands in the end results in the replacement of Genoa with Holland as the new hegemon. During the seventeenth century, the Dutch operating off the resource base of a "nation state" rather than a city State are able to operate on a larger scale. Importantly, the Dutch unlike the Genoese depended on their own very substantial military forces on land and especially at Sea and also acquire large overseas territorial holdings in Indonesia and South Asia. The Dutch therefore could internalise protection costs.

The British eventually surpass the Dutch and during the eighteenth century assume the role of hegemon. Like the Dutch they depended on their own substantial military forces especially the Royal Navy and acquire an even larger territorial empire (in India) that towards the end of the nineteenth century proves crucial through the utilisation of its surplus capital and manpower in buttressing Britain's own position. Unlike the Dutch, the British go on to internalise production so that an important underpinning of Britain's nineteenth century wealth becomes its industrial capability.

The United States by the mid twentieth century replaces Britain as hegemon. Like Britain, the US depends on its own military forces and also internalises production. By 1950, about half the world's manufacturing belongs to the US. Unlike Britain, the US is a vast continental State that controls directly a huge resource base whereas Britain depended for the same scale on an Empire which in the end it was unable to hold. The United States also unlike any of its predecessors internalises transaction costs. That is, unlike the disparate and loose links between diverse (usually family owned) businesses found in the British model, the US pioneers large vertically integrated businesses. The result is that "the internalisation within a single organisational domain of activities and transactions previously carried out by separate business units enabled vertically integrated, multi-unit enterprises to reduce and make more calculable transaction costs".

Arrighi's narrative over the longue duree considers in some detail the operation of each system, the Genoese, the Dutch, the British and the American - as well as the transition from one hegemony to the next. Importantly, in that transition, conflict (such as the Anglo-Dutch naval wars) between the losing hegemon and the new hegemon could and did co-exist with co-operation and even the facilitation of the rise of the new hegemon by the old. When Dutch merchants saw that the Amsterdam exchange did not produce returns as good as what they could get on the London exchange, that is where they sent their capital thereby facilitating the rise of the new hegemon. Similarly, when British investors found in the nineteenth century that they could do better by investing in the US, that is where they went. After the First World War, the UK had moved from being a creditor to a debtor of the US, unable to compete with the bigger and more efficient producer. Arrighi argues (one of his main theses), that each cycle ends with an over-accumulation of capital where finance capital replaces real capital as the dominant part of the hegemon's economy. The resulting crisis forms part of the process for the transfer of hegemony. Each transition also involved the deployment of military force.

Arrighi also sees a back and forth swing between cosmopolitan capitalisms spanning the globe (Genoa and Britain) and "national" type capitalisms that depend far more on their own resources and are less prepared to open themselves to global forces (Holland and the US).

But what will happen next? Arrighi canvasses a number of future scenarios including a resurgent West combining the US and Europe which uses its military power to force the outcomes it wants (resembling sixteenth century Portugal perhaps). He also considers a peaceful rise of Asia eventually to occupy the centre. A third possibility is chaos. The first two scenarios assume Asian military weakness in the foreseeable future. This view may be thrown into question by unfolding developments such as reduced defence budgets in the US and Europe and increasing defence budgets in Asia as well as the development of a serious indigenous defence capability in China (and India).

What the future prospects are is a subject also covered in some detail by Arrighi in his later work "Adam Smith in Beijing; Lineages of the Twenty First Century". In this later work, Arrighi explores the possible transition to the next hegemony, an Asian hegemony of some kind, against the backdrop of the of dominance finance capital typical of the late part of a hegemonic cycle and a crisis of that capital, a resurgent China and a situation paralleling that at the end of the British cycle where the old hegemon finds itself severely indebted to the rising hegemon China. That ouctome resembles the second scenario described in the earlier work.

Whether China will replace the US as the new capitalist hegemon is of course one of the significant questions of our times. Like the US, the Chinese State occupies a vast continental land mass holding even larger demographic resources and as the US once did controls the world's largest manufacturing capability. It also has an ever widening military capability - although not yet sufficient to match the US. These similarities alone may on the face of things allow a compelling case to be made for a future Chinese succession. However, India too holds similar advantages (though economically smaller than China at the present time), as well as having produced long established vertically integrated mega-businesses with a global reach following the US model. Brazil and a resurgent Russia as well as Indonesia and a host of important smaller states (eg South Korea, Turkey, Iran, Thailand and Mexico) may also play a key role as centres of power in their own right. It is also easy to forget the substantial resources that Europe commands despite its current problems. We also see the beginnings of serious industrialisation in Africa. A linear progression to a new hegemony led by China therefore may face challenges, other than simply resistance by the US to this outcome.

The evolving pattern of diffused economic power rather than an overwhelming concentration of that power in China (and in the US and Britain in previous economic cycles) may suggest a fourth possible scenario - with a historical precedent - that could be added to Arrighi's three. Perhaps, a return to a pattern of connected but largely self referential economic circuits of the Later Middle Ages of the kind described by Janet Abu Lughod in her seminal work on the era (Before European Hegemony) may offer an alternative prospect for what lies ahead. If the best technologies and ways or doing things can spread across the world in the rapid and perhaps unprecedented ways in which we are now seeing, one might guess that the advantages that some parts of the world hold over others reduce rapidly producing a 21st century version of the kind of world system described by Abu Lughod. But who knows.
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HASH(0x8bfb851c) von 5 Sternen Short review 10. März 2000
Von Prof. Elson E. Boles - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
Anyone interested in Paul Kennedy, McNeil, Braudel, Frank, Chase-Dunn, or Wallerstein's work must read this! It's simply among the most brilliant analyses of the origins of capitalism as a historical social system, uncovering the changing logic of its political-economic contradictions. Arrighi very lucidly and tightly brings together the relation of military power and capitalist accumulation through an insightful examination of the long waves of capitalist expansion of the world-economy since the age of Venice and Genoa. He explains how the system repeatedly recontructs itself through successive world-hegemonies (UP,UK, US) and shifts in the center of the world-economy that entail new forms of global rule and regimes of production which build upon each other, each being world-scale solutions the success of which nonetheless generate world-scale contradictions. He ends with an interesting discussion of the recent break with all past cycles tied to the shift in the center to East Asia.
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HASH(0x8bfb8b64) von 5 Sternen A must read 20. März 2001
Von Jackie R. East - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
If you are a student of the international system or international relations this is a must read. It should be considered the second part in a five volume set. The first should be something about world systems theory by Wallerstein, a reader will do, then Fernand Braudel's Perspective of the World, followed by Hopkins and Wallertein's Age of Transition. For the final book I recommend Robert Gilpin's response to these works, The Challenge of Global Capitalism published in 2000.
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