Bill Dunn Global Political Economy: A Marxist Critique, Pluto: London, 2008; 370 pp.: 9780745326665, 19.99 [pounds sterling] (pbk)
Bill Dunn 'attempts to provide a Marxist critique of global political economy ... a critical commentary both on the way the world works and on alternative interpretations of this' (p. 1). Perhaps not as clearly stated is--at least, to my eyes--the clear intention for the book to be both an important contribution to the Marxist literature on/critique of global political economy and an indispensable aid for critical scholars teaching international relations and international political economy (IPE) courses, particularly at undergraduate level. This is a crucial intervention in many senses.
For these reasons, this is a hugely ambitious book. It is structured into three parts: 'Theories of the Global Political Economy'; 'The Origins of Global Capitalism'; and 'Structures, Issues and Agents'. The first considers liberal and realist theories, critical approaches (principally constructivist, feminist and green IPE), and Marxisms. The second examines the shift from feudalism to the industrial revolution in Europe, the making of the global economy, and the Bretton Woods period. Finally, the third and largest section contains chapters on production, trade, finance, the 'new economy', the role of the 'non-economic' in capitalism, relations between rich countries and between the global North and South, and the 'new imperialism' debate. Throughout the book, Dunn summarises a huge range of literatures and debates, brings to bear a wealth of empirical evidence, and considers a large number of crucial issues. That he does so in such an accessible and fluid style is testament to his ability to both target students new to the topics and/or Marxism, and to provide new and interesting insights relevant for the Marxist and IPE literatures. It is to Dunn's credit that he often manages to achieve this simultaneously.
For instance, given the way in which the current crisis has unfolded, it would be tempting to see finance as a law unto itself--witness the resumption in summer 2009 of the practices that helped bring the system to its knees less than a year earlier--or at least structurally dominant within the circuit of capital. However, Dunn convincingly argues that finance 'remains socially and geographically embedded and in a dynamic relationship with the wider political economy' (p. 203). Therefore, its current apparent preeminence...