Empire of capital / Ellen Meiksins Wood.

by Wood, Ellen Meiksins [author.]Looking glass.

Publisher: London, England : Verso, 2003.Description: x, 182 pages ; 19cm.ISBN: 9781859845028; 1859845029 ; 9781844675180; 1844675181.Subject(s): CapitalismLooking glass | GlobalizationLooking glass | Imperialism -- HistoryLooking glass | ImperialismLooking glass | International relationsLooking glassNote: Includes bibliographical references.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

In this era of globalization, we hear a great deal about a new imperialism and its chief enforcer, the United States. Today, with the US promising an endless war against terrorism and promoting a policy of preemptive defense, this notion seems more plausible than ever.

But what does imperialism mean in the absence of colonial conquest and direct imperial rule? In this lucid and lively book Ellen Meiksins Wood explores the new imperialism against the contrasting background of older forms, from ancient Rome, through medieval Europe, the Arab Muslim world, the Spanish conquests, and the Dutch commercial empire. Tracing the birth of a capitalist imperialism back to the English domination of Ireland, Wood follows its development through the British Empire in America and India.

The book brings into sharp relief the nature of today's new capitalist empire, in which the political reach of imperial power cannot match its economic hegemony, and the global economy is administered not by a global state but by a system of multiple local states, policed by the most disproportionately powerful military force the world has ever known and enforced according to a new military doctrine of war without end, in purpose or time.

Includes bibliographical references.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Publishers Weekly Review

Readers who make it past the musty jargon of academic Marxism that announces itself in the introduction will proceed to a thought-provoking genealogy of empires throughout history. Wood, a professor at York University in Toronto and an orthodox economic determinist, argues that the source of an empire's wealth drives its military, administrative and ideological practices. She distinguishes between the Roman "empire of property," a land-based system that stimulated unending territorial conquest; the Arab, Venetian and Dutch "empires of commerce," dedicated to the protection of trade routes and market dominance; and the British "empire of capital," marked by the imposition of market imperatives on conquered territories. The book culminates with a study of what Wood describes as the "new imperialism we call globalization." Challenging those critics of globalization who emphasize the role of corporations and international institutions like the World Bank, Wood says that the capitalist system is more than ever reliant on nation-states to maintain order, with the United States acting as the great imperial enforcer. Wood believes that the inevitable end of a system of universal capitalism is a system of universal war, which is how she sees the new doctrine put forth by the Bush administration in the name of fighting terrorism. Wood's dense analysis would have benefited from more historical evidence and engagement with alternative theories. The connections she draws between economic and imperial systems are intriguing but incomplete explanations of geopolitical dynamics. A worthwhile study for leftist academics, Wood's book is not written to appeal to a broader audience. (Aug. 7) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Marketed as a critique of American imperialism, this book offers fragments. Part comparative history of empires, part treatise on political economy, part analysis of globalization, and part polemic against the Bush administration's war on terrorism, the parts do not add up to a coherent whole. Using odd categories, Wood (York Univ., Canada) compares "empires of property" and "empires of commerce" with the British colonial empire, originating in Ireland. She asserts throughout the book that the coercive power of state always undergirds economic relations, a familiar theme to students of hegemony. Toward the end, she turns abruptly to the issue of globalization, arguing that antiglobalists are not radical enough: they oppose "capital's global reach rather than ... the capitalist system itself." The final chapter asserts that the Bush doctrine attempts to protect global capitalist interests. The war against Afghanistan "was undertaken with an eye to the huge oil and gas reserves of Central Asia." The war against Iraq, impending at the time of publication, was to control oil. Like many in the Marxist tradition, Wood reduces political or security concerns to economic ones. The analysis is unconvincing and adds little to previous knowledge. ^BSumming Up: Not recommended. S. Waalkes Malone College

Author notes provided by Syndetics

Ellen Meiksins Wood, for many years Professor of Political Science at York University, Toronto, is the author of many books, including Democracy Against Capitalism and, with Verso, The Pristine Culture of Capitalism, The Origin of Capitalism, Peasant-Citizen and Slave, Citizens to Lords, Empire of Capital and Liberty and Property .