Giovanni Arrighi talk in Dublin

I went along with a few friends last night to hear Giovanni Arrighi the author of The Long Twentieth Century and Adam Smith in Beijing give at talk at the national gallery titled 'Hegemony Unravelling: American Imperial Decline and the Ascent of China'. This was organised by something called Irish Seminars 2008 under the title 'Republics and Empires'.

Somewhere I've a souvener of my last political visit to the National Gallery back in the 1980's when with about 150 other students we occupied the foyer to prevent the then Taoiseach (equiv to US president) Charles Haughey for cutting the ribbon to open a new wing. The Irish Times has a fine picture of my in it the next day been dragged along the ground by a load of cops with me in 16 hole Doc Martins and an ankle length Russian army coat clinging to a guy who went on to become a poker millonaire and a woman I have since lost contact with.

It was subsequently 'discovered' that Haughey was robbing the country blind while in office all the time ebgaged in cutting health and education because there was supposadely no money available. It wasn't my only run in with him, somewhere there is some RTE footage of me sprawled across his car bonnet as he made his getaway from another disrupted opening.

Anyway the talk was somewhat interesting although as with a lot of academic talks it flet like a relatively small amount of content had been padded out a good deal. Giovanni recommended a book 'The pursuit of power'
William McNeill which I'll follow up. In point form what I found worth noting was

That History of capitalism sees location shifts so can't be understood by looking at just one location (eg Britain) and that as it has progressed there has been a growth in the size of the driving core (City states - Netherlands - Britain - USA)

For first time the emerging financial powers in Eastern Asia are not also significant military power. Incidentally I've always thought China was Central Asia and tended to confine Eastern Asia to Japan and Korea.

Britain declined economically without losing any wars, it pretty much won all the wars it was involved in (I guess he was excluding the colonial ones)

Turkey is the only IMF customer remaining - this is interesting and perhaps true, in which case perhaps another victory in part for the globalisation movement.

There were national states in east Asia long before their emergence in Europe but with a big imbalance in power between them and no overseas expansion

China could have discovered Portugal but what was the point? That point got a laugh but is an interesting way to view the lack of interest of the Chinese ruling class in developing external markets and colonies as opposed to those of Span and Britian.

The East Asian market system was not based on disposession of the peasantry nor on subsequent deskilling the way that western capitalism was. This is the link with today as it means China has huge reserves of small entrepenurs emerging from peasantry and party cadre along with relatively high health and education.


high health and education.

WORDS: Andrew Flood (Follow Andrew on Twitter )


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