International Corporate Responsibility Series

Volume 3, 2007

Controversies in International Corporate Responsibility

Walden Bello
Pages 1-24

The Capitalist Conjuncture
Overaccumulation, Financial Crises, and the Retreat from Globalization

This article argues that the key crisis that has overtaken today’s global economy is the classical capitalist crisis of over-accumulation. Reaganism and structural adjustment were efforts to overcome this crisis in the 1980s, with little success, followed by globalization in the 1990s. The Clinton administration embraced globalization as the “Grand Strategy” of the United States, its two key prongs being the accelerated integration of markets and production by transnational corporations and the creation of a multilateral system of global governance, the pillars of which were the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The goal of creating a functionally integrated global economy, however, stalled, and the multilateral system began to unravel, thanks among other things to the multiple crises created by the globalization of finance, which was the main trend of the period. In response partly to these crises, partly to increasing competition with traditionally subservient centre economies, and partly to political resistance in the South, Washington under the Bush administration has retreated from the globalist project, adopting a nationalist strategy consisting of disciplining the South through unilateralist military adventures, reverting to methods of primitive accumulation in exploiting the developing world, and making other centre economies bear the brunt of global adjustments necessitated by the crisis of over-accumulation.