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Neoliberal Global Capitalism and Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century

In this chapter, I examine the issues of capitalism,globalization, neoliberalism and globalization and global environmental destruction both conceptually and materially. I then relate these issues to globalization and the US Empire. In the course of the chapter, I assess some comments on globalization from two leading Critical Race Theorists, and some perspectives from transmodernism and postmodernism, before outlining my preferred Marxist analysis.1 I conclude the chapter with some comments on the imperial occupation of Iraq five years after the occupation. There is also an Interrogation Log of a detainee in Guantanamo Bay as an Appendix to this chapter.


Capitalism is, from a Marxist perspective by definition, a system in which a minority (the capitalist class) exploits the majority (the working class) by extracting surplus value from their labour power (this is developed in the next chapter). It is a system without morality and without shame. It is a system of intense and relentless exploitation. As Michael Parenti (1998, pp. 84-5) has put it:

Capitalism is a system without a soul, without humanity. It tries to reduce every human activity to market profitability. It has no loyalty to democracy, family values, culture, Judeo-Christian ethics, ordinary folks, or any of the other shibboleths mouthed by its public relations representatives on special occasions. It has no loyalty to any nation; its only loyalty is to its own system

© The Author(s) 2017

M. Cole, Critical Race Theory and Education, DOI 10.1057/978-1-349-95079-9_7

of capital accumulation. It is not dedicated to ‘serving the community’; it serves only itself, extracting all it can from the many so that it might give all it can to the few.

Capitalism has an inbuilt tendency to constantly expand. Marx and Engels recognized its pre-eminent global character over one hundred and fifty years ago. As they put it in The Communist Manifesto, when describing capitalism’s development:

The markets kept ever growing, the demand ever rising ... The place of manufacture was taken by the giant, Modern Industry, the place of the industrial middle class, by industrial millionaires . Modern industry has established the world-market. The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe.

It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere ... In one word, it creates a world after its own image. (Marx and Engels (1847) [1977], pp. 37-39)

Glenn Rikowski (2001, p. 21) has clarified what is entailed in this expansion, a process which takes three main forms: first, spatial (globalization), as capital occupies all known sociophysical space (including outside the planet)—this is extension; second, capital expands as the differentiated form of the commodity, creating new commodities—this is differentiation; third, it expands through intensification of its own production processes (Rikowski 2001, p. 21). Capitalism is thus a thoroughly dynamic system.

In its inherent need to extract more and more surplus value, capital is also out of control. As Rikowski has argued,

Capital moves, but not of its own accord: the mental and physical capabilities of workers (labour-power) enable these movements through their expression in labour. The social universe of capital then is a universe of constant movement; it incorporates and generates a restlessness unparalleled in human history ... It is set on a trajectory, the ‘trajectory of production’ ... powered not simply by value but by the ‘constant expansion of surplus value’ (Postone 1996, p. 308 [Rikowski’s emphasis] ... It is a movement out of control. (Rikowski 2001, p. 11)

Chris Harman (2008, p. 11) has described twenty-first century global capitalism, which rests on the unplanned interaction of thousands of multinationals and twenty or so nation states, as resembling ‘a traffic system without lane markings, road signs, traffic lights, speed restrictions or even a clear code that everyone has to drive on the same side of the road’.

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