Global Capitalism and the Great Crisis
It is commonly believed that the world has left the classical capitalism of the 19th and 20th centuries behind, and is now ordered by the forces of globalisation. Governments are primarily enablers of business, a project which subsumes their other roles. Keeping the peace domestically, policing borders, performing welfare functions like the delivery of health and education, are all restricted to the goal of maintaining the bankability of the nation. When we speak of reform these days, we refer to economic reform, not the social and political interventions of the past, like the banning of sati.
In the world according to Ernesto Screpanti, who teaches political economy at the University of Siena in Italy, every element of this picture remains in place, but globalisation, which is held to be responsible for the wave of growth in nations the world over, is a smoke screen for capitalism in a new avatar. In his view, this is a phase in which corporations are trying to break free of national markets. Their objective is the free flow of capital across borders, through global imperialism: “a system of international relations in which state policies are forced to remove the obstacles that national agglomerations place in the way of the process of accumulation on a global scale.” Indeed, a consensus exists to support such a goal, composed of new middle classes and highly paid cosmopolitan professionals. The political changes sweeping the world, and India, bear witness to the compelling force of these groups.
The book attempts to explain the failure of numerous countries, both in the North and the South, to prevent the exacerbation of domestic strife, as they interact with Big Capital: “The global empire needs no emperor; nonethless, its imperium is becoming ever more effective, and this effectiveness is guaranteed by objective mechanisms against which populations seem defenceless.” Echoes of this defencelessness may be found in the great refugee migrations that have been in progress for years, and in the angry cacophony of Twitter in the US and India, which number among the two biggest markets in the world.
Screpanti’s work would be interesting to the lay reader because he follows his arguments logically and transparently, as he traces the history and changing functions of capitalism. He uses academic strategies like deconstruction, but his account is not difficult to follow, if the reader is armed with even a passing acquaintance with Economics for Dummies.