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Back in college I was exposed to the theories and writings of sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein who perfected a complex theory of “world systems analysis;” a revisionist school of Marxism which basically attempted to recategorize existing socio-economic systems by placing them into the context of what he called the “world capitalist system.” He rephrased the first, second, and third world concepts as “core, semi-periphery, and periphery” in order to describe individual nations and their place in the world system. Whereas classic Marxists defined a system according to the “mode of production” and held that there remained quasi-feudal systems as well as socialist or socialist aspiring nations, Wallerstein rejected the distinctions arguing that each played a role in the structure of the world capitalist economy. The core was of course the industrial center towards which the bulk of the resources flowed and where the commerce was centered. The periphery consisted of those countries whose primary role was natural resource extraction and export to feed the core. The semi-periphery was hybrid, focusing on the textile industries no longer applicable to the core but still primarily geared towards exports towards the core.
In the scheme the US is of course in the core. We take in the resources to create durable goods primarily for our own economy, though some of them dribble out towards the semi-periphery and periphery. Then came the trade agreements.
Break off to my trip to the mall today. I had some long overdue clothes shopping to do. Honestly, but for the requirements of my profession, I wouldn’t own a tie nor a collar shirt, let alone a suit. My uniform clothing has begun to fray at the edges, and so today I’m in the mall wandering in the daze I experience anytime I set foot there or any other mall. I think it’s the first time I’ve been in Kohl’s since the other place that used to be there shut down. Looks like the same stuff actually, with the addition of giant photos of sweaty women exercising – which was fine because sweaty exercising women are cool.
So I found and bought a pair of shoes for work. I think I’ve been using my old pair probably well beyond their intended life, and our new overgrown puppy probably did me a favor by doing one in last week. A pair much like them was on sale. Cool. Mission accomplished relatively painlessly.
I then moved back to the sock area and found some sales, and then noticed something amazing. All of the socks, regardless of the label, were made in China, with a few exceptions from Korea (presumably south), Vietnam, and Pakistan. I then took it upon myself to find a single pair of socks made in the US. Not one pair. Curious, I grabbed some socks (from Korea – call it sentimental since my kids come from the country and maybe some blood relatives would benefit economically on some tiny scale). I was then directed around the corner to a check-out counter and decided to randomly check labels of items of clothing along the way. Seriously. Not one article of clothing made in the U.S.
So as we’re talking “jobless recoveries,” I’m wondering what this means for our future. This Five-Thirty-Eight analysis suggests that the U.S. really isn’t in industrial decline. We’re producing as much as we always have, or close anyway. We’re just more productive and we don’t need workers anymore.
So what happens to the output? If we don’t have a workforce to buy the goods it generates, then aren’t we essentially an export economy? By definition, that takes us out of the core as out goods go out – I don’t know – to China? We’re sending natural resources there as well.
On the other hand, we’re still importing textiles obviously. But now we’re importing more of our durable goods as well. We clearly don’t make clothing anymore.
Maybe it’s moving towards more global equity, and I guess that’s not a bad thing in theory. But it’s probably going to hurt here for a long while. Any sign of an independent union movement in China?
As for the chart above, I found it here. I can’t vouch for its accuracy. In fact, I would suspect that at least one or two items from from a country other than China and the US. But it is probably one of the greater social ironies that the thrust of corporate policies and right wing politics ensures that we spend to prop up what is ostensibly a communist dictatorship.
Although one wonders why we need 50,000 troops to stay behind now that it’s over.
Heard on the radio this morning that the month of July was the bloodiest month in over two years in terms of Iraqi deaths in excess of 500. The US military is disputing the numbers, but I”m not sure what the motive would be for the Iraqi government to inflate them.
Obama says that 90 thousand troops are being “brought home,” which is good news; but are they coming home or being redeployed to Afghanistan?