Mercantilist origins of capitalism and its legacies: from birth to decline of Western hegemony

Kari Polanyi Levitt, McGill University
2011 Estudios Críticos del Desarrollo  
In this paper we trace capitalism from its origins in European expansion by commerce and conquest to the financialization of Western economies and the unraveling of Anglo–American hegemony. We emphasize continuities in the domination of metropolitan capital over peripheral production from the slave plantations to the outsourcing of manufacturing to cheap labor locations by multinational corporations. But the subordination of production to powerful agglomerations of commercial and financial
more » ... al has now penetrated the Western heartlands of capitalism, where rampant financialization is destroying productive capacity and has precipitated the most serious crisis since the 1930s. This predatory style of capitalism is more concerned with the accumulation of wealth by financial manipulation, mergers and acquisitions, privatization of public assets, and dispossession of peoples in distant lands than with investment in productive capacity. In this sense we may regard contemporary Western capitalism as a return to its mercantile commercial origins.
doi:10.35533/ecd.kpl fatcat:uhfsxidhhvablmpqteeuvihjqa