Samir Amin and Contemporary Capitalism in China

Ekonomi Aug 29, 2017

China, now, was one of the strongest countries in terms of economy. It was doubted “the emerging power” by Samir Amin.


Topics: Capitalism, Political Economy, Marxism, Economic

Theory ~ Places: China

Samir Amin, The Implosion of Contemporary Capitalism, (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2013), 160 pages, $15.30

Samir Amin has always been an outstanding thinker, he was an observer of The South, a man of great ideas. A Marxist by thought since six years old, his works and thoughts are influenced by Marx and his colleagues. He is the director of Third World Forum in Dakar, Senegal (a testimony of his Marxist thoughts). He was the author of numerous book and some of his books have influenced me to review it and have been the source for my essays and papers. This is one of my favourite book, which I review it in English, entitled “The Implosion of Contemporary Capitalism”.

So what is Contemporary Capitalism? Amin wrote in the preface of this book that contemporary capitalism is a system based on false premises in which the Markets are self-regulating and by their very nature are explosive. but the forces contending one and another inside are unbalanced so that stupid idea could succeed (the stupid idea he means was contemporary capitalism). He believed that this system is not viable therefore makes up the subject of this book are the contradiction between a growth policy and the requirement of a financialization. In the next chapter, he said that Contemporary Capitalism is a capitalism of generalized monopolies in which companies are no longer autonomous, but are constitutive of an integrated system. The small, medium enterprises and large corporations are not talking about oligopolies anymore, they are nothing more than subcontractors for monopolies now. This system of generalized monopolies is a product of centralized capital of the country of The Triad: The United States, The Central and Western Europe, and of Japan in the 1980s to the 1990s. “Globalization” is the name given to set the demands by which they controlled over the productive systems of the periphery of the global capitalism.

Contemporary capitalism can be found in a post-industrial society which he criticizes because the prefix “post” usually signifies an inability to give a precise characterization of the phenomenon under some considerations. Some post-industrial societies like the central countries (ex. United States, Europe and Japan) are declining, whereas the emerging the emerging peripheral countries with similar manufacturing industries are growing at an accelerated rate. Some of this countries (the emerging peripheral countries) are also written inside this book, for example, China.

China, now, was one of the strongest countries in terms of economy. It was doubted “the emerging power” by Samir Amin. Emergence here is not about measuring the rate of GDP growth or obtained a higher level of GDP per capita. Emergence involved a sustained growth of industrial production in a state and strengthening of the capacities of these industries to be competitive on a global scales, but China has chosen a capitalist road and has the intention to accelerate its integration into contemporary capitalist globalization. Their return to normality which capitalism being the “end of history” is being accompanied by development toward Western-style democracy (no longer using autocracy), a condition which I think that China has lost his idealistic way of their Communism, or Maoism to be precise. Others have called this as the name of the values of a “betrayed socialism”. Is China capitalist or socialist is a question badly posed because it is too general and too abstract for any response to make sense, said Samir Amin. I can conclude that he made that statement because of the massive confusion in Chinese ideological state apparatus. But he argued that China has actually following their original path since 1950, perhaps even since the Taiping Revolution in the nineteenth century.

Some writer like Minxin Pei thinks that China is following Crony Capitalism, I think that this is one of the examples of contemporary capitalism held by China. This kind of capitalism that doubted Chinese State Capitalism and it is indeed a capitalism which the workers are subjected by the authorities who organize production is similar to the one that characterizes capitalism: submissive and alienated labour and extraction of surplus labour. Even brutal forms of extreme exploitation of workers exist in China, for example, in the coal mines and in the furious pace of the workshops that employ women. Discrimination on working class still exist in China and will always be continued to exist when China is still a state capitalist.

This first phase of state capitalism exists when China nationalize all of the companies during 1954 to 1980, followed by an opening to the private enterprise, liberalized rural and urban petty production. It has succeeded in building a sovereign and integrated modern productive system on the scale of this gigantic country that cannot be compared with the United States. It has succeeded in leaving behind the technological dependence through the development of its own capacity to produce its technological inventions. The success of the first phase required an alteration of the means for pursuing accelerated development project. The second phase of accelerating development is socialism of the market or to be precise, socialism with a market.

China as an example is indeed an emerging power in the global capitalist system, a socialist country with economic management of capitalism, and Samir Amin doubted socialism in China as “Socialism in with Chinese characteristics” some would say Maoism. China goes through capitalist development before the question of its possible socialist future even considered. China’s emergence is completely the result of its sovereign project and is the only authentically emergent country (along with Korea and Taiwan). China has been in this form since 1950, every day, the constantly battling between the left and the right in China. The Chinese right comes from the former comprador and bureaucratic bourgeoisie(s) of the Kuomintang that excluded from power. While the left always comes from The Communist Party of China (Kung Chang Tang), the dominant power of China from a few decades ago until now is still The Communist Party.

The challenge that brings about the emergence of China is no longer a fighting between the two factions, but rather comes from the conflict between China’s sovereign project and the imperialism of North America (with Europe and Japan—The Triad), whereas China is continuing to gain the upper hand. The area of conflict is China’s command of modern technology, access to planet’s resources, strengthening of China’s military capacities and the objective of constructing internal politics on the basis of the sovereignty of the people to choose their own political and economic system. All of these objectives are in direct conflict with the objectives pursued by the imperialist Triad. But yet, this is still capitalism versus capitalism, a state capitalism (represented by China) versus market-driven capitalism (represented by The Triad).

There are lots another example of contemporary capitalism held in other countries even in the emerging peripheral countries in The South, but the major example is China that was written in this book. We can be agreed that capitalism or contemporary capitalism has pushed their own self-destruct buttons for sowing confusion around the world, all this is an omen and precondition for the rebirth of the radical left. This kind of critique can only be served by an avant-garde thinker in the 21st century like Samir Amin. This book is an exceedingly enlightening in terms of capitalism nowadays.(rez)

Reza Maulana Hikam

Undergraduate student of Public Administration in Airlangga University. Founder of this book review website, Kedai Resensi Surabaya. Free writer in Geo Times.