James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer: Imperialism and Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century: A System in Crisis, Ashgate: Surrey.

Author:Grocott, Chris
Position:Book review

James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer Imperialism and Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century: A System in Crisis, Ashgate: Surrey, 2013; vi + 247 pp.: 9781467328, 65 [pounds sterling] (hbk)

James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer have set out to write a book that analyses the current state, and future prospects, of capitalism and imperialism. They believe that the current global economic crisis represents a turning point in the history of capitalism, one which will lead us to a new global economic dynamic. Petras and Veltmeyer argue that at present this dynamic is too nascent to fully grasp, and suggest that further critical study is needed in order to understand it. They offer this volume as a basis for such work. However, there are a number of drawbacks to this book which suggest that the foundation offered is not solid.

Unfortunately, Petras and Veltmeyer do very little to define their concepts. This leaves the reader to question a number of the arguments advanced. 'Socialism' appears simply to mean economic planning (an oddly Hayekian view of socialism, given that the authors claim to be writing from a Marxist perspective). 'Imperialism' appears to be synonymous with anything that US business or the US state does outside of its own borders. 'Globalisation' is taken as being imperialism in action (its agents, apparently, being non-government organisations and the Vatican [p. 52]).

The wooliness of the concepts employed by Petras and Veltmeyer is not helped by their refusal to properly identify who or what comprises the various class and interest groups they discuss. Thus, we are left to wonder what it is that comprises the 'imperial mass media'. This powerful group besmirches Vladimir Putin, so we are told, not because of his authoritarian government but rather for his refusal to be a vassal to the USA (p. 110). Space precludes a treatment of further examples of this lack of precision, though it is evident in reference to the analysis of the 'imperial ruling class', identified in the introduction, and in the treatment of the state throughout. Suffice it to say that David Harvey and others might feel somewhat aggrieved by the charge that they provide only 'the crudest sociological analyses of the class and political character of the governing groups that direct the imperial state' (p. 207).

None of the above is helped by poor publishing and editing. The book contains many repetitions, and many more grammatical errors. One paragraph, questioning Hardt...

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