The post-Second World War period has given rise to events that are significant to the understanding of the connection between capitalism and empires. Additionally, how this relationship influences not only the understanding of global history but also how they have shaped the outlook of society today. This essay will be comprised of two main sections, the first will introduce empires, capitalism and their relationship, as well as answer the question why is the period after 1945 significant.
The second section will use three major events, including the social, conomic, and political structures of both empires and capitalism lead to the fall of the Soviet Union, the Iraq War, and the Financial Crisis of 2008-2009. PARA1 Empires are politically powerful structures that have the ability to exert their will and beliefs on a conquered societies. Empires have the ability to influence the culture, economy, and social system within the society they choose to conquer (Laxer, p. 9). Although there is some debate, and the Americans certainly disagree, the American empire is the most powerful in the world today.
The American Empire dominates economically, both in ndustrial output and in wealth, this has allowed them to have substantial political power over other nations. Additionally, they are able t perpetuate their culture into other societies and make them “more American” and they do this by exporting goods and services to other nations. Finally, they have military bases located all over the world and they ensure that it is the largest and that it will stay that way (Laxer, p. 61 – 66). Although the American Empire is considered to be the most influential in the world there is another empire that may surpass the Americans n power; the Chinese.
While the rest of the globe depends on the American economy and is at the mercy of their power in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank the Americans are becoming increasingly financially dependent on the Chinese. According to Laxer, the United States is dependent on foreign investment, most comes from China, through treasury bonds to fund the difference between what they spend and what they collect in taxes. Thus this allows China to check the power of the United States because if they ceased to purchase treasury onds then it would cripple the American economy (Laxer, p. 98).
PARA2 Capitalism as a social and political system that constantly reinvents itself due to crises in a given society (Class Notes, Feb 21). Fulcher defines the economic system of capitalism as involving the investment of profits to generate more profits (Fulcher, p. 13 – 14). One of the defining characteristics of capitalism is that everything is made into a commodity, for example, labour is commodified when we sell it an organization in exchange for money (Class Notes, Feb 23). As evidenced in he Graphic Outline of Capitalism, the capitalist class developed during the industrial revolution.
In order to be considered a capitalist one needed to own the means of production and have access to wage labour, in order for a capitalist society to occur most people within the society must be completely dependent on a wage to live. While capitalism takes different forms in various nations because of the influence of the United States more are accepting, or being forced to accept, the American definition of capitalism. Laxer describes the American economic alues as operating on the prickle of free trade to allow access to both resources and labour for American organizations.
Additionally, they believe in a deregulated market and the privatization of public services (Laxer p. 69). These policies allow them to spread American culture and influence the policies of other nations because they have the power to impose rules and policies on nations that need to do business with them. PARA3 Early empires physically occupied an area and used their influence to change the social, political, and economic structures found within that society (Laxer, p. ). These empires would use the conquered people as slaves to harvest resources that could be transformed into goods for the empire (Class Notes, Jan 24).
Although the empires of today don’t often physically occupy land they still bring other societies into their empire but making weaker nations financially dependent on them and using that power to influence the political and economic environment. The reason that the empires seek to control these weaker nations is so that they can have access to cheap resources and labour which allows them to increase their profits and create new arkets. Essentially they use the weaker nations people as wage slaves so that they can increase their bottom line (Fulcher, p. 83 – 84).
The emergence of capitalism easily flowed from the structure of empires because of the development of the wealthy merchant class. When industrial production began two things were required, more resources, including labour, and a market to sell the product to. The merchants in this era had a lot of economic power that they used to influence political policy. As a result of the drive for increased profits, or people gaining the apitalist mentality (Class Notes, Feb 28), they wanted more profit and influenced the empire to seek out new places to colonize or open the borders for free trade.
Similarly, capitalism today is controlled by the large corporations and they have massive amounts of control over government policy and therefore the direction of the empire on things like free trade. As presented in Laxer, the big corporations still have control over the economy and the power to influence public policy. In an example provided by Laxer, in 2004 Presidential candidates turned down federal funding of their campaigns because it ould limit the amount that they would be able to spend.
The large American corporations disliked this idea because many of them had a vested interest in who won the election in terms of their ability to influence policies and regulation that would impact them (Laxer, p. 94). After the period of 1945 is when the conflict between capitalism and communism intensified along with two world superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union (Fulcher, p. 98). Although the time after the end of the Second World War has been significant both in terms of capitalism and empires the vents leading up to the Second World War were equally as significant.
By the time 1945 came around many people, who should have been in the prime of their lives, had suffered tragedy after tragedy and had lived in a constant state of crisis. In between the two world wars where many had lost loved ones was the Great Depression were they had lost their homes, businesses, and income. Additional to that was many people were petrified that a Third World War would erupt and it would be the end of world wars because it would involve nuclear weapons. As a result, millions of people were questioning if apitalism was the best system because it seemed to only work for the elite few.
During this time was also when people demanded that the government have more control over the economy and to fund public programs to protect the people, one of these developments was employment insurance. Politically, it was the rise of the socialist parties and the anarchic capitalist who questioned both the role of government and the need for it. In short, the time leading to the end of the Second World War was a time marked by a constant crisis between empires and capitalism (Class Notes, March 14 & April 6).