Monday, December 29, 2014

As we enter 2015, it is not useless to look backwards in order to try to guess the trends of the future. I would argue that the age that we are, to some extent exiting now, and which extended from the early 1980s, can be called the “second age of imperialism”--the first one, in the modern history, having been the age of high imperialism 1870-1914.

I will focus here on some of its key manifestations in the ideological sphere, in the areas I know, history and economics. But it should be obvious that ideology is but a manifestation of the underlying real forces, which were twofold: (i) the failure of most developing countries by 1980 to become economically successful and self-sustaining after decolonization and the end of Communism as an alternative global ideology, and (ii) the relatively solid economic record of Western countries (masked by the expansion of borrowing for the lower classes), and regained self-confidence of the elites in the wake of the Reagan-Thatcher (counter-) revolutions and the fall of Communism. The violent manifestations of the second age of imperialism were invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, brutal war in Libya, and the defensive imperialism of Russia in Ukraine and Georgia. But here we are concerned with the superstructure.…
In economics, the second age of imperialism was best reflected in many doctrines and concepts that became discredited during the Great Recession (efficient markets, rational expectations, costless transactions, representative agent, “trickle-down” economics), but even more so in the Washington consensus. While the Washington consensus, the list of ten desirable economic policies to be implemented in the Third World, drawn by John Williamson and reflecting the views of the Washington establishment, had valuable insights, it provided a template for mindless imposition of policies that often, within the context of countries that were forced to implement them, were counterproductive. The Washington consensus was a perfect complement to Fukuyama’s “end of history” because it offered the ultimate economic policies to go together with Fukuyama’s ultimate political organization.
Milanovic broadly summarizes his view of the history, geopolitics, and political economy underlying the rise of the global economy under liberalism.  Outlook? Pessimistic.

Global Inequality
The second age of imperialism
Branco Milanovic | Visiting Presidential Professor at City University of New York Graduate Center

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