Home > Uncategorized > Global inequality from 1960 to 2017

Global inequality from 1960 to 2017

conceived by Jason Hickel   visualization by Huzaifa Zoomkawala

  1. John deChadenedes
    April 16, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    How elegant! How beautiful! The global capitalist system working exactly as it is supposed to work.

  2. April 16, 2019 at 11:36 pm

    The graph is not legible

  3. Helen Sakho
    April 17, 2019 at 1:38 am

    That is perhaps the key point!

  4. Ikonoclast
    April 17, 2019 at 3:30 am

    I’d like a link to an original of this animation. It would be particularly interesting to be able to view it;

    (a) in a larger version with better resolution;
    (b) with the ability to vary the cycling speed and to pause it at any point;

    Of particular interest are those pauses or hiatuses where the “north” circle halted temporarily in its progress and even slipped backwards slightly. What economic conditions or crises do those pauses correlate with?

    Also, the animation is of interest in possibly debunking Steve Pinker style techno-optimism and capitalist booster-ism along with possibly debunking the general idea that progress (so-called) is reducing inequality.

    At the same time, we have to be very careful of GDP measures as such. Blair Fix has published a paper on the CasP (Capital as Power) site titled “The Aggregation Problem: Implications for Ecological and Biophysical Economics”. This paper shows, in clear empirical terms, how the GDP measure is fundamentally fallacious. Thence, any claim that the GDP measure actually measures real things including human well-being is also fallacious. On the other hand, following CasP theory and method, we can say that the GDP measure, in its nominal dollars does accurately reflect real power to order and re-order the world. I would say it reflects all power of the types oligarchic, plutocratic, kleptocratic, corporate and generally, capitalist.

    On this last CasP measure, the differential (relative) capital power of the global north has increased over the period in question. However, differential capital power only prevails while it is not challenged in its own terms and also importantly while it is not challenged by any other form of power. The older and still underlying form of power, before and underlying the power of capital, is the power of brute force. This is true even when brute force or brute power is technologically applied.

    While the global north has outstripped the global south in capital power, the picture with regard to real power, real force, may be different. The global south continues to outstrip the global north in the growth of raw demographic numbers. Real bodies and real brains exert their own kind of power, en masse, on the course of global events. The global south, mainly under the aegis of China but also of other regions, continues to amass the loci of real production, to industrialize and concentrate technological production.

    The real quantities of industrial and technological production (and the real quantities of raw material inputs into real production) are now so massively in the favor of China and some other parts of the Global South, that it begs the following question. Of what use is the possession of capital as power in the face of the possession of real production for power? To exaggerate matters, where does the power lie when China makes everything and the rest of the world makes nothing? This may be an extreme characterization but it is indicative of the current real trend. Of course, this trend will have limits but where are these limits?

    This position surely is not lost on China’s geo-strategists. Indeed, if Marxists understood capitalism well enough to understand that the natural processes of capitalism themselves would support the relocation of industrial and technological production to the global south (China in particular) because of global labor arbitrage, then the natural decision would be to become capitalist for a duration for the purposes of furthering domestic industrial and technological development. Then, when that process was substantially complete, the natural decision would be to revert to statism and protectionism (some form of non-capitalism basically) to prevent the outflow of real industrial and technological production in the long term; i.e. to continue with the statist monopoly on global real industrial and technological production.

    To further this strategy, the creation of the basis for an alternative security and financial system would also be pursued. This is the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, or Shanghai Pact; a Eurasian political, economic, and security organization. To go along with this is the OBOR (One Belt, One Road) policy to bring raw materials and resources into China by multiple paths, land as well sea, ina manner intended to make China’s trade routes as non-interdictable as possible. Coastal, China Sea and other defenses are implemented to extend the controlling range and cover of land, island and islet based air and missile defence assets over ports, coastal seas and coastal trade routes.

    All of this is in response to the US and Nato containment policy of China. It is a natural reaction to such pressure. It is a brute fact of geostrategy when seen in the light of theories such as “offensive Realism”. Of course, ultimately there is the strategic stalemate enforced by nuclear weapons and the logic of MAD (mutually assured destruction). Within that stalemate, there is room for secondary and subtle moves. A subtle move, if China so planned it, would have been to turn capitalist to become the center of global industrial and technological production, and then to revert in a planned manner to statism and protectionism to fix industrial and technological dominance in China. Any great power, if it knew what it was doing, would do this. Great Powers are amoral and self defending. It’s a realpolitik and offensive realism fact, however lamentable the fact might be.

    Thence, the issue is one of brinkmanship. The pressure on the US, NATO and the rest of the world basically has to be less then that pressure which would provoke direct open war, likely escalating to nuclear war. The most patient and far-sighted power would be prepared to run ten year, hundred year and five hundred year plans to further these ends. China certainly has the history and civilizational depth to think in such a way.

    Of course, there are many limits, natural and geostrategic, to this kind of strategy. But certainly, we cannot assume that the capitalist ordering of the global economy is somehow naturally or algorithmic-ally predestined (via autocatlytic sprawl of its formal system algorithms) to be interminable. Nor can we assume one particular form of formal power (conferred by the formal system of capital) will continue to rule over other formal forms of power which can reorder real power in parallel to or in manners subverting and then supplanting capital power, as the China example illustrates is at least theoretically possible for a Great Power to execute.

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