Renowned Marxist Economist Prabhat Patnaik: Capitalism Cannot Exist without Imperialism

What is imperialism? Is it a stage of capitalism, as Lenin described it, or was it always essential to capitalism? Can capitalism exist without imperialism?

Prahbat Patnaik, professor emeritus at JNU, joins Rania Khalek on her program Dispatches to discuss the argument he lays out in his book A Theory of Imperialism, which argues that capitalism was always a function of imperialism. But today’s imperialism takes a subtler less visible form than during colonialism , keeping large parts of the world in poverty through mechanisms like income deflation so that the wealthy nations can maintain access to the cheap commodities only tropical regions can produce. Imperialism also requires an army of unemployed people in the third world that are even more essential to capitalism than the army of reserve labor in the global north.

Patnaik also addresses the democratic socialist ideal of turning America into Denmark but that too cannot happen without imperialism. The Scandinavian countries, he says, need imperialism to thrive because they are not self-sufficient and owe their prosperity to the imperialist system created and maintained by western colonialist powers.

Also, is China imperialist? How do sanctions and war fit into this? Is this system planned or is it spontaneous and on autopilot? Are we forever doomed to this system? How do we resist?


0:50 What is imperialism?
28:06 Can we be like Denmark without imperialism?
31:39 India, neoliberalism, Modi, rising fascism and the farmers strike
48:07 Is China imperialist?
51:04 Sanctions and regime change wars
1:01:44 Class politics vs identity politics
1:19:23 Not all third world nationalism is bad
1:23:43 Capitalism is the biggest ally of covid’s killing spree

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