The key ideological notion that underpins the neoliberal system today isthat there is no alternative. To speak of reforming capitalism is acceptable but only dinosaurs discuss socialism.
Samir Amin sweeps away this enervating narrative. Capitalism is just a parenthesis in history, and moreover, is already an obsolete system whose destructive effects have eclipsed its constructive aspects. While capitalism has adjusted, and can still adjust, to many requirements, it cannot overcome its fundamental contradictions.
These contradictions include, as Amin argued in a 1992 essay, its inability to respond effectively to large scale environmental challenges. For example, the economic method would have to abandon the concept of discounting the future, even to apprehend environmental problems, many of which (such as the greenhouse effect) are long term consequences of economic activity. He emphasizes an even more serious problem: the widening gap between the centre and periphery of the capitalist system. So, the real question is not whether capitalism will pass butAmin concurs with Rosa Luxemburgwhether we will substitute it with socialism or choose to selfdestruct.
This conclusion immediately raises several questions. How is one to view the experience of the erstwhile socialist countries? How has capitalism evolved in the past few decades? Most importantly, what is the revolutionary agency that will bring about this transition to socialism? The answers to these questions depend crucially, on the role one assigns to imperialism. Is capitalism simply a juxtaposition of geographically localized capitalist systems and imperialism the consequence of unequal development or, as Amin argues, has imperialism been a central input to the capitalist project from the start?
Eric Hobsbawm provides an illustrative contrast. Analysing the collapse of the Soviet Union, Hobsbawm concluded that rarely has there been a clearer example of Marxs forces of production coming into conflict with the social, institutional and ideological superstructure which had transformed backward agrarian economies into advanced industrial onesup to the point where they turn from forces into fetters of production. So, one reason that the Bolshevik revolution could go no further is that it occurred on the periphery of the global capitalist system. It is hard to separate this from Hobsbawms, sometimes frustrating, underemphasis on the impact of colonialism on the European transition from feudalism to capitalism.
Amins perspective is different and he continues to place great store by the South. He, of course, acknowledges the conflicting requirements of catchingup ... and the transformation of social relationships to the advantage ...
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