Tag Archives: imperialism

The East India Company: Capitalism and Colonialism Hand-in-Hand

6 Mar
For the corporation – a revolutionary European invention contemporaneous with the beginnings of European colonialism, and which helped give Europe its competitive edge – has continued to thrive long after the collapse of European imperialism. When historians discuss the legacy of British colonialism in India, they usually mention democracy, the rule of law, railways, tea and cricket. Yet the idea of the joint-stock company is arguably one of Britain’s most important exports to India, and the one that has for better or worse changed South Asia as much any other European idea. Its influence certainly outweighs that of communism and Protestant Christianity, and possibly even that of democracy.
Companies and corporations now occupy the time and energy of more Indians than any institution other than the family. This should come as no surprise: as Ira Jackson, the former director of Harvard’s Centre for Business and Government, recently noted, corporations and their leaders have today “displaced politics and politicians as … the new high priests and oligarchs of our system”. Covertly, companies still govern the lives of a significant proportion of the human race.
The 300-year-old question of how to cope with the power and perils of large multinational corporations remains today without a clear answer: it is not clear how a nation state can adequately protect itself and its citizens from corporate excess. As the international subprime bubble and bank collapses of 2007-2009 have so recently demonstrated, just as corporations can shape the destiny of nations, they can also drag down their economies. In all, US and European banks lost more than $1tn on toxic assets from January 2007 to September 2009. What Burke feared the East India Company would do to England in 1772 actually happened to Iceland in 2008-11, when the systemic collapse of all three of the country’s major privately owned commercial banks brought the country to the brink of complete bankruptcy. A powerful corporation can still overwhelm or subvert a state every bit as effectively as the East India Company did in Bengal in 1765.

H/t 3QD.

Because: Imperialism! — Crooked Timber

4 Apr

Some very interesting comments by someone identified only as Z:

Graeber posits that actors buy T-bonds because the US has a central role in the world system and also notes that this central role is being contested; both by other industrial powers in the conventional economic sense and by a world movement in the political arena (I am not necessarily endorsing those claims, just trying to present Graeber’s thesis accurately). Confronted to these challenge to its central position, and seeing that its central position is crucial to the functioning of its economy (because it is in massive debt), the US has to maintain its predominance in one way or another. Now think about it as an economist: what is the one comparative advantage that the US has on the rest of the world? Obviously military power. So, on the short term, it might be tempting to US elites to try to organize the world around military power as a way to maintain their quite surprising position within the world economy. This, as I understand it, is Graeber’s thesis: not we buy T-bond because we fear we will be bombed but as long as the world is organized around geo-strategical lines, the US will be able to live off the rest of the world.

via Because: Imperialism! — Crooked Timber.