Whatever Happened to Imperialism?


  • Prabhat Patnaik






An outsider cannot help noticing a remarkable transformation that has taken place in the Marxist discourse in the United States over the last decade: hardly anybody talks about imperialism any more. In 1974, I left Cambridge, England, where I was teaching economics, and have now returned to the West, this time to the United States, after 15 years. When I left, imperialism occupied perhaps the most prominent place in any Marxist discussion, and nowhere was more being written about and talked about on this subject than in the United States—so much so that many European Marxists accused American Marxism of being tainted with "third worldism." Herbert Marcuse had written that advanced capitalism had manipulated its internal class contradictions to a point where the only effective challenge that could be launched against it (other than from students and marginal groups within) was in the "periphery." Monthly Review had a more or less similar position. And there was a veritable flood of books and articles written on the role of U.S. imperialism in the third world. Many of these were no doubt somewhat naive, and some almost subscribed to a conspiracy theory; but they had vigor, and Marxists everywhere looked to the United States for literature on imperialism.

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