Volume 2, Number 2 (2009)

The Question of Hegemony and Capital’s Global Crisis

Kevin Cox

Department of Geography, Ohio State University


Marxists commonly see the current global economic crisis in terms of overaccumulation: crisis results from capital’s tendency to overproduce. Every capital speculates on future demand for its product through the anticipated advantages that its competitive strategies will provide. In other words, each capital produces at a level that assumes that it will push the opposition to the wall and rapidly take advantage of their competitive failures. But since all competitors are doing the same thing, overcapacity is the inevitable outcome. This is complemented by the other side of the competitive coin: downward pressure on wages, thus limiting the size of the market. Wage depression has been aggravated through the construction of a New International Division of Labor in which wage costs are reduced still further by off-shoring; the so-called ‘race to the bottom.’1 This is to adhere to Simon Clarke’s (1990) view of overaccumulation crises.

I do not want to take issue with this explanation. It exists, however, at a very high level of abstraction. After all, it is not as if capitalist production has been vigorously expanding. On the contrary, it experienced a sharp brake in the early ’seventies and has yet to achieve again the levels of performance experienced during the so-called ‘golden years’ of the ’fifties and ’sixties. What therefore is the more concrete configuration of forces that has given expression to this more abstract tendency to overaccumulation at the present time? One line of thought is that it has to do with the fading global hegemony of the US. How it might be connected has yet to receive careful scrutiny.