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By Sam King
Victoria University, Australia


The income gap between rich and poor countries has increased since 1980, despite the rapid growth of capitalist commodity production in parts of the Third World. However, contemporary Marxist writing rarely acknowledges this and can’t explain how the imperialist core has maintained its dominance. Over the same period, academic Marxism has come to reject Lenin’s theory of imperialism, but not replaced it with another Marxist theory. Academic Marxists instead accept some version of the popular narrative that Third World nations (especially China) are ‘catching up’ with the imperialist core. It is shown that Lenin’s Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism and its key theoretical concept—monopoly finance capital—provides a Marxist theoretical framework that can successfully explain the principle concrete developments in the international economy during the neoliberal period. These are: the growth of capitalism in the Third World yet lack of convergence with the imperialist core, how the global division of labour that developed during the neoliberal period concretely manifests and reinforces imperialist monopolistic dominance and how, on this basis, the imperialist core usurps the labour value created in the Third World. Much of essential conceptual framework developed in the thesis was explicit in Lenin’s Imperialism but is lacking from contemporary discussion. It is argued, the most essential form of monopoly—and that which is the key to long-term reproduction of imperialist core dominance—is monopolistic dominance over the labour process. The latter is maintained by monopoly over the highest and most sophisticated labour. Monopoly capital develops in this way alongside and in connection with the parallel development of non-monopoly capital—much of which is based in the Third World. For this reason, the usurpation of value from Third World societies—i.e. Third World exploitation—is shown to be an integral and inevitable feature of international production and trade and underscores the longevity of the imperialist system.

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