Gopal Balakrishnan on Parag Khanna, The Second World. Globe-trotting account from beyond the OECD, surveying the stakes in a coming battle between ascendant China and a West caught in imperial doldrums.
NEWS FROM NOWHERESVILLE
Since the end of the Cold War, controversies surrounding the future direction of American statecraft have often been prompted by the publication of surveys offering an easy-to-follow reconnaissance of the geo-political terrain for Beltway planners and pundits. The 90s were perhaps especially propitious for thinking about current events through the historical and civilizational categories of an earlier Age of Empire. But despite a number of efforts to formulate a grand strategy for a new era of police operations against terrorists and their backers, the post 9/11 fixation on ‘asymmetrical’ forces did not readily lend itself to the terms of this older genre, according to which world history is an eternal struggle of Great Powers for Lebensraum and prestige. Even the more evenly matched Cold War was rarely framed in this way, as the universalistic ideological agendas of the two blocs effectively relegated the language of traditional Machtpolitik to the margins.
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Globalization and September 11
How far might the current conjuncture alter received notions of globalization? Michael Mann considers the pattern of ‘ostracizing imperialism’ and the springs of Islamic resistance to it, amid wider shifts in the sources of social power—military, economic, political, ideological—at the threshold of the new century.
A Calculus of Power
John Mearsheimer’s Tragedy of Great Power Politics disdains liberal-imperial rhetoric for a tough-minded theory of ‘offensive realism’. Peter Gowan argues that, whatever its merits, the behaviour of states in the international system cannot be dissociated from the internal dynamics of the political orders they protect.
In the first part of a major engagement with David Harvey’s New Imperialism, Giovanni Arrighi sets out the interlocking dynamics, spatial and temporal, of capitalist development and imperialism. Should US difficulties in Iraq and the ballooning current-account deficit be read as symptoms of a deeper-lying crisis, a shift from hegemony to dominance presaging the rise of a new East Asian challenger?
Jottings on the Conjuncture
A reckoning of global shifts in political and economic relations, with China emerging as new workshop of the world and US power, rationally applied elsewhere, skewed by Israeli interests in the Middle East. Oppositions to it gauged, along with theoretical visions that offer exits from the perpetual free-market present.
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Conceptions of a revolution from the right in the era of European fascism, and an activist overcoming of conservative dejection at the fate of the West. Political and philosophical imaginings of an alternate capitalist modernity, capable of settling accounts with decadence and Bolshevism.
In the second part of a sweeping reconstruction of the development of Marx’s thought, the ways in which bourgeois society came to be replaced by capitalism as the cardinal object of investigation after the collapse of the revolutions of 1848, and the political lessons of his passage across that watershed for rebellions in the new century.
Opening salvo of a two-part reconstruction of Marx’s intellectual passage through the Hegelian—then Ricardian—conceptual landscape of his early years, taking him to the threshold of his mature architectonics of capitalism as a mode of production. From a starting-point in the philosophical empyrean of the 1830s to a turning-point with the economic upturn of the early 1850s, the development of one sketch of an historical materialism to the brink of another.
The Geopolitics of Separation
Contra Benno Teschke’s critique of Carl Schmitt in NLR 67, Gopal Balakrishnan argues that bourgeois society’s constitutive separation of the political and economic was a central problematic for the strategist of the intransigent right.
The Coming Contradiction
Reflections on Fredric Jameson’s Valences of the Dialectic and its engagement with questions of historicity, narrative and time. Categories and concepts from Hegel, Marx, Sartre and Ricoeur, used to interrogate the impasses of the present—and to envision what lies beyond.
Sermons on the Present Age
Gopal Balakrishnan on Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History. Consoling homilies for today’s liberal imperialists, from the theologian of the nuclear era.
Speculations on the Stationary State
Will the present crisis issue in a new phase of accumulation, or a growthless ‘stationary state’? Gopal Balakrishnan charts epochal trends in world capitalism, and their imbrication with the debt-fuelled imbalances of the long downturn.
Role of Force in History
Gopal Balakrishnan takes issue with an ambitious attempt to apply evolutionary paradigms to human history, which would locate the wellsprings of conflict in the combative make-up of the species. Azar Gat’s War in Human Civilization as an instance of neo-social darwinism adapted to the multicultural spirit of the age.
States of War
Reflections on the challenge of Afflicted Powers, from the Retort collective. How is America’s forward policy since 9/11 best explained, and what does it tell us about the nature of the inter-state system today? Has the age of Great Power rivalry passed, and if so, what kind of geopolitical order is replacing it? Capital, spectacle and war in the vortex of the Middle East.
Future Unknown: Machiavelli for the 21st Century
To which thinkers should we turn in a bid to ground a new conceptualization of political agency—or to determine whether such a move has been nullified by the transformations of the last decades? Gopal Balakrishnan on Machiavelli’s parables of innovation and readings of him from Rousseau to Schmitt, Strauss to Gramsci. The Florentine as strategist of beginning anew, in the context of historic defeat.