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New Left Review I/85, May-June 1974

Philip McMichael and James Petras and Robert Rhodes

Imperialism and the Contradictions of Development

As a reflection of the direction of some socialist scholarship away from stagnationist theories of underdevelopment, Bill Warren’s article, Imperialism and Capitalist Industrialization [1] New Left Review 81, September/October 1973. addresses an important issue. The ambiguities and lack of theoretical sophistication of such concepts as ‘underdevelopment’ and ‘dependency’ indeed beset current Marxist analyses of the world capitalist system. However, Warren’s recent contribution to this subject, rather than advancing analysis of international political economy, mystifies and misdirects it. Warren’s argument bases itself upon the proposition that some capitalist industrialization in the Third World has been realized and prospects for sustaining this process are indeed quite good. The most significant phenomenon responsible for this, Warren asserts, is the loosening of ties of dependence as national capitalisms develop in the Third World—evening out the distribution of power in the post-war capitalist world economy and promoting autonomous industrialization. Any obstacles to this industrialization process are internal to the Third World countries, no longer residing in imperialist relationships. In fact, according to Warren, ‘imperialism declines as capitalism grows’. That is, the original ‘international system of inequality and exploitation called imperialism’, has ‘created the conditions for the destruction of this system by the spread of capitalist social relations and productive forces throughout the non-capitalist world’.

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Philip McMichael, James Petras, Robert Rhodes, ‘Imperialism and the Contradiction of Development’, NLR I/85: £3

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