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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb history of capitalist development and systemic change, 23 Jun. 2011
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This review is from: The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power and the Origins of Our Time (Paperback)
This book is an impressive history of the origins and development of capitalism especially so when you read that it was published in 1994 prior to the bank crisis of 2007/8. The book presents case studies, ranging over 700 years, discussing the major centres of capitalist enterprise - Florence, Genoa, Dutch, England and US. Each of these identified as the hegemonic centres for their time.
Arrighi explains their role in world trade, their relationship to the major powers of the day and offers a study of their rise and decline. Essentially in each case their activities developed from trade and manufacturer to financiers resulting in the hegemonic role passing to the next form of capitalism.
Based on impressive studies of capitalist accumulation dating from Italian City states thru' to today. Arrighi has identified what he describes as the hegemonic centres from 15th century Florence, Venice and Genoa thru' to the 20th century UK and US. In doing so he reveals "cycles of accumulation" that indicate a pattern of development in each case that leads from trade and the manufacture of commodities to a "final" stage of finance capitalism.
The "final" stage signals the period when due to a wide range of events the position of leading capitalist, state or nation, passes on to another group bringing new technologies, geographies, materials, markets or commodities to the world. The processes by which this occurs are varied but Arrighi points out the essence of the change which make for a general model that may be applicable to all "cycles of accumulation".
This is particularly pertinent given that today we are living thru' a major crisis within Western capitalism with the ruling "hegemon", the US having exported its manufacturing capabilities to Mexico, Latin America, South East Asia and finally to China, while concentrating on Finance Capitalism. Has the US made that "final" move that allows the rise of a new "hegemon", all bets seem to be on China emerging as the new model for capitalism. Worryingly one not interested in covering itself with ideological declaration of "freedom" and "democracy".
Given that this book was published in 1994, it looks like Arrighi highlighted the systemic nature of today crisis. The current version contains a 2009 postscript that posits likely scenarios by which the crisis will be "resolved". Read the book; appreciate the subtle complexities of capitalist development and of Arrighi's compelling insight.
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