Capital and Imperialism

Theory, History and the Present

Utsa Patnaik, Prabhat Patnaik

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Mainstream economics invariably sees capitalism as an isolated and closed system. In this path-breaking book, authors Utsa Patnaik and Prabhat Patnaik argue that this is both historically false and logically untenable. An essentially money-using economy like capitalism is inconceivable unless placed within a pre-capitalist setting which it dominates and modifies for its own purposes.

Colonialism created such a setting. Metropolitan capitalism transferred massive resources from colonie gratis fuelling industrial revolution, and later found external markets, thus avoiding domestic stagnation, by displacing craft producers in tropical colonies. The exhaustion of colonial markets was an important factor behind the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The authors argue that post-war state intervention to boost demand now played the role of colonial markets; but metropolitan inability to extract resources from newly decolonized tropical colonies precipitated the inflationary crisis bringing the post-war boom to an end. Neoliberalism, replacing post-war dirigisme, keeps inflation in check by imposing income compression on third world populations; but it also prevents state intervention for expanding demand, thus engulfing world capitalism in a protracted crisis. Overcoming this crisis requires transcending the hegemony of globalized finance, which will be the first step towards a transcendence of capitalism itself.

Prabhat Patnaik

Prabhat Patnaik retired as Professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is the author of Time, Inflation and Growth (1988), Economics and Egalitarianism (1991), Whatever Happened to Imperialism and other essays (1995), Accumulation and Stability under Capitalism (1997), The Retreat to Unfreedom (2003), The Value of Money (2008) and Re-Envisioning Socialism (2011). He is the Editor of the journal Social Scientist.

Utsa Patnaik

UTSA PATNAIK retired as Professor of Economics at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has written extensively on political economy, capitalism and the agrarian question. She is the author of The Long Transition: Essays on Political Economy (1999), and The Republic of Hunger and Other Essays (2007), and has edited two volumes of The Agrarian Question in Marx and his Successors for LeftWord Books.