Silent City

This is an archived version of the PW Sources newsletter from Saturday, April 22. Sign up to receive PW Sources directly to your inbox here.


Italian scholar Giovanni Arrighi (1937-2009) was one of the foremost proponents of the discipline of World Systems Theory. His research subjects included decolonization in Africa, industrial and agricultural change in Italy, and state capitalism in China—all developments he analyzed in the light of global economic relations. 

Arrighi’s classic 1994 study, The Long Twentieth Century, charts the development of capitalism from the seventeenth century to the present.

From the text:

“The successful development of formally organized and regulated Venetian capitalism called forth as a countertendency the formation of informally organized and regulated Genoese diaspora capitalism. The full expansion of Genoese capitalism, in its turn, called forth the Dutch revival of formally organized and regulated capitalism through the formation of powerful joint-stock chartered companies. And as the expansion of these companies attained its limits, informal capitalism triumphed once again under British free-trade imperialism, only to be superseded in its turn by the formal capitalism of US big government and big business. The structures that have emerged out of the successive swings were larger and more complex than earlier ones. Each one of them combined features of the structures which it superseded with features of the structures which it revived. Moreover, the speed of each swing has increased steadily with the scale and scope of the leading agencies of systemic processes of capital accumulation.”

+  “The failure of the Project for a New American Century and the success of Chinese economic development, taken jointly, have made the realization of Smith’s vision of a world-market society based on greater equality among the world’s civilizations more likely than it ever was.” From Arrighi’s Adam Smith in BeijingLink

+  “Unlike Britain, at the height of its industrial supremacy the United States did not play the role of global financial entrepôt.” By Arrighi and Beverly J. Silver. Link. And a 1968 paper about economic development in tropical Africa by Arrighi and John S. Saul. Link

+  “Building Gramsci’s ideas outwards from the national plane of classes to the international system of states, Arrighi transformed Gramsci’s legacy more radically and creatively than anyone.” By Perry Anderson. Link. And a special issue of Journal of Agrarian Change focuses on Arrighi’s agrarian political economy. Link


Groundwater commons

JONAH ALLEN is a research fellow at the Jain Family Institute. A recent paper co-written with Steven M. Smith examines how collective action can drive market-oriented solutions for groundwater commons.

From the abstract

“What drove stakeholders in Northwestern Kansas (NWKS) and San Luis Valley, Colorado (SLV) to adopt local groundwater policies, and why were different management pathways chosen? Further, why is more heterogeneity observed between local management organizations in SLV as compared to NWKS? To investigate these questions, we employ grounded theory to interpret the rules in reference to local hydro-agro-economic statistics and interviews with stakeholders in each region selected by expert sampling. We find that the additional goals of groundwater rules in SLV, partially driven by key contrasts in the resource system compared to NWKS, and higher resource productivity in SLV, creates both the need for and efficacy of a price-centered policy. Furthermore, variation in the resource systems and associated farm characteristics between subdistricts drives higher heterogeneity in rule design between local management districts in SLV compared to NWKS. More generally, we find the local flexibility afforded through the collective-action process as critical, even if it were to arrive at alternative, non-economic based incentives.”

+ + +

+  “The sanctions applied against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine signal a new era of economic coercion.” New on The Polycrisis, Frankie Bond on the emerging geopolitical order after the Russia sanctions. Link

+  “Austerity does not cut debt-to-GDP ratios or help meet climate goals. It is costly and deadly.” From the latest Polycrisis newsletter on the IMF and austerity. Link

+  Phenomenal World is seeking applications for a full-time Publishing and Operations Associate associate, with fluency in Spanish or Portuguese strongly preferred. Please share widely! See details on how to apply here

+  JFI’s affiliate initiative, the Center for Active Stewardship, has launched a newsletter about shareholder proposals at public companies, which have become a venue for activists to challenge the private sector on climate change. Sign up for weekly updates. Link

+  Pablo Carlos Rojas Gómez on neoliberal democracy in Mexico. Link.

+  Two on debt in Africa. A Tricontinental Institute dossier on Africa’s debt crisis. And Tim Zajontz, Ricardo Reboredo, and Pádraig Carmody on the growing exposure of African economies to Chinese debt. Link and link.

+  Marcelo Paixão on racial discrimination in Brazil’s credit markets. Link

+  “Potential investors and people who used to do business with the Afghans are reluctant to send their money into the country again for fear of the sanctions and the difficulties involved in international transfers.” By Lina Golestani. Link.

+  Saibal Ghosh on zombie state-owned banks in India. Link.

+  “While executive compensation is still overwhelmingly based on financial performance, we do observe a rise in bonus payments contingent on meeting social and environmental objectives.” By Raghuram Rajan, Pietro Ramella, and Luigi Zingales. Link.

+  “Prior to the 15th century, pepper was regarded as a rarity. In Europe it was literally worth its weight in gold, and was often used for the payment of customs duties, rents, taxes and even court fines. In China it was as highly valued for medicinal purposes as ginseng and cassia bark are today. During the T’ang dynasty, in the 12th year of Ta Li (777), Prime Minister Yuan Tsai was executed for the crime of collusion with foreign countries and bribery committed by his sons. His property, when confiscated, turned out to include 500 liang (ounces) of stalactites, and as much as 800 tan (piculs) of pepper. That we find pepper mentioned side by side with stalactites, one of the most valuable drugs of the time, is an indication of how highly the spice was valued. From that time, the expression “800 piculs of pepper” came to be synonymous with riches and luxury. Among the poems of Su Tung-p’o the following verse is to be found: ‘One ounce of pepper will season many a plate; / What should we do with eight hundredweight?'” By T’ien Ju-kang. Link

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