Volume 7, Number 3 (2014)

Interview: The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire


Book by Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin; interviewed by Peter Brogan and David Hugill

Canadian political economists Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin have long held that states are not the unwitting stewards of capitalism but key actors in its maintenance and reproduction. With The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire (Verso 2012) they make this case more explicitly than ever by forensically tracing the decisive role that the American state has played in establishing the foundations of the contemporary global capitalist space economy. Their weighty tome – which was more than a decade in the making – is a comprehensive account of the rise of American empire. It details the proximity between prescriptions devised and favored in Washington and the shape of contemporary capitalism. Panitch and Gindin’s crucial contribution, however, is not simply that they record the emergence of a Pax Americana but rather their revelation of the historical uniqueness of this new form of imperial rule. The authors demonstrate that
the post-war American state was uniquely placed to “relaunch” global capitalism after the mid-century bloodletting, but through strategies that were far more “informal” than those of its predecessors. They show  that in promoting the interests of American capital and attempting to maintain an accumulation-friendly generalized rule of law the American state took the lead in “creating the political and juridical conditions
for the general extension and reproduction of capitalism internationally” (Panitch and Gindin 2012: 6). Much of the book’s twelve chapters are committed to telling this story, chronicling the convoluted process by which the American state became the central force in the emergence of a truly global post-war capitalism.
Peter Brogan and David Hugill sat down with Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin in late November 2012 to discuss The Making of Global Capitalism and its reception. What follows are excerpts from that conversation.