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The ‘E’ and ‘I’ words, empire and imperialism, are back in fashion. Their return is not due, pace John Ikenberry, to the advent of the ‘American unipolar age’ in which ‘[f]or the first time in the modern era, the world’s most powerful state can operate on the global stage without the constraints of other great powers’.  That age had begun with the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989, yet throughout the 1990s the buzz-word was ‘globalization’, not empire or imperialism; and as Ikenberry himself notes, the unparalleled global power of the United States was generally discussed under the rubric of ‘hegemony’. Even critical thinkers—including many Marxists—found the concepts of empire and imperialism of little analytical use.  In the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, Bruce Cumings claimed that it would have taken an electron microscope to detect the use of the word ‘imperialism’ to describe the United States’ role in the world.  Hyperbole, of course; but the exaggeration contained an important element of truth.
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- Giovanni Arrighi: Hegemony Unravelling-2 In the conclusion to his major two-part essay on the new US imperialism, Giovanni Arrighi situates the contradictions of the current American ‘spatial fix’ for the problems of overaccumulation in the context of a longue durée of systemic cycles. Have Washington’s attempts to secure its world role through the invasion of Iraq instead hastened the rise of China?