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American Hegemony and Alternatives

Madhu Bhalla

By Samir Amin. Translated by James H. Membrez
Aakar Books, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 128, Rs. 300.00

Edited by Riyaz Punjabi
Brunei Academic Publishers, UK, 2004, pp. 290, Rs. 750.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 2 February 2007

The twentieth century ended as it began, amidst the rout of two intellectual worlds. Intellectuals at the beginning of the century were unable to distinguish between the cynical objectives of powerful elites and the absence of a meaningful agenda for universal social progress. As a result the century set the record for what have now become permissible levels of violence, notwithstanding the selective proceedings of the World Court. Intellectuals today lend their support (very rarely qualified) to neo-conservative agendas of global governance and regional control, quite missing the impact on the objects of that governance— conditions of servitude that will far surpass that in any other epoch in history. Any genuinely critical perspective on global agendas has been limited and is barely in a position to influence the logic of neo-conservatism, more often because dissenters have uncritically built on the assumptions that permeate the current politics of globalization and its corollary, American style democracy.   As we pick our way through the neo-liberal intellectual rubble of the end of the century---Fukuyama, Huntington, Mearsheimer—it would be well to remember Julian Benda’s requiem for the intellectual class after the First World War—a requiem that went unregarded as the Second so disastrously indicated. By repeating itself unerringly at each point of crisis the “treason of the intellectuals” makes tragedy monotonous, disaster mundane. It is no wonder then that Samir Amin offers The Liberal Virus as a wake up call to a world numbed by dreams of riches and the dull roll call of the marginalized. Riyaz Punjabi’s collection of papers provides us a complementary understanding of the practical implications of current Americanisms.   Amin writes with a directness, urgency and critical incisiveness that has become rare in the post 9/11 world. His small book is big on the most significant issue of our times---the nature and impact of the American ascendancy in this century, and the surrender to the ideology of liberalism which is not to be confused with the extension of democracy in any real sense. America’s global ascendancy, Amin argues, rides on the spread of American liberalism as an exemplary idea and programmatic force. But little do states or people understand that the origins and the career of American liberalism are solely oriented to the interests of American capital. This is the basis of a politics that is socially conservative, militarily brutal and economically imperialistic, the objective of which ...

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