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New Left Review I/59, January-February 1970

Ernest Mandel

The Laws of Uneven Development

Before answering Martin Nicolaus’s critique of ‘Where is America going?’, the origins and intended function of that article should be explained. It is the transcript of a speech given to a seminar of Finnish students at Helsinki, in the framework of a symposium on ‘American imperialism today’. It was not intended to be a global analysis of the contradictions of American imperialism, still less a broad outline of American or world perspectives, in the coming decades. I do not consider myself an expert on us capitalism; there are Marxists who are much better equipped to tackle such an analysis, among them close friends of mine in the usa. It is sufficient to recall the origin of this transcribed speech to understand the limitations of the subject with which it dealt, arising out of the needs of an elementary division of labour. Other speakers, in the first place Perry Anderson, dealt at that same symposium with the phenomenon of American imperialism, its industrial-financial-military infrastructure and its repercussions at home and abroad. To myself fell the task of outlining trends inside American society which were slowly eroding its previous relative social and political stability. It was taken for granted that the worldwide activity of American imperialism, and its contradictions, had been analysed by previous speakers and assimilated by the audience. For this reason I mentioned them only in passing. [1] In the first paragraph of ‘Where is America going?’—nlr 54, p. 3. Surely, even the harshest critic could not believe that I ‘underestimate’ the stupendous effects of the Vietnamese war on social political and ideological developments in the usa.

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