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The state of the empire?

In the first part of his interview with Pepe Escobar, David Harvey talks about competing capitalist blocks, the US-China relationship, the neoconservative global project and Barack Obama as the new face of US neoliberalism.


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PEPE ESCOBAR, SENIOR ANALYST: David Harvey is distinguished professor of anthropology here at the City University of New York. He’s also a geographer, historian, and an acute political scientist. We meet with Professor Harvey to talk about imperialism, Iran, Iraq, and the US presidential elections.


ESCOBAR: Americans, they don’t like to see the US as an empire. They’re [reflexively] against it, maybe because they’re not sufficiently informed about the imperial activities of the US. But what we had with the Bush years was ultra-empire. And I think you also used this term "ultra-imperialism." But what next? You think that the next stage would be violent competition between capitalist power blocs.

DAVID HARVEY, PROFESSOR OF ANTHROPOLOGY, CUNY: At the moment, as I see it, there are certain power blocs emerging, but they’re heavily dependent upon each other. For example, the United States is very nervous about China and would like to really push China around, but, frankly, it can’t, because China owns a good deal of the American debt. And at the same time, the Chinese can’t stop funding the American debt, because this is their main market. So, actually, the interdependence which now exists between these potential power blocs is really very, very strong, and it’d be very difficult to break that. So I’m not so sure we are headed there. What I think we’re headed towards is a sort of slow degradation of relations across different geo-economic configurations in the world, between, for example, China, India, Brazil, that kind of configuration.

ESCOBAR: The brick countries.

HARVEY: The brick countries on the one hand. And on the other hand, I think the whole kind of the general category of capitalist powers, which would include Japan. But, again, there’s some fragility there between, for instance, the United States and Europe, between Europeans and Japanese. So there’s a lot of breaking up going on. The power still lies very much with the major capitalist powers—Europeans and North America. So I think it still lies there. But there’s an undermining going on. It’s become more porous, a little friable at the edges, as it were.

ESCOBAR: If you were in the Forbidden City in Beijing, you know, with all the leaders of the Chinese system, would you be, you know, throwing fireworks about the fact that the US is completely bogged down in Iraq with no way out?

HARVEY: I think I’d be very grateful, yes. But I think, frankly, the Chinese are very, very concerned with their internal situation. I don’t see them as being kind of aggressively pushing the United States around. I think it wants a quiet life on the international stage, as much as it can, in order that it can deal with the potential turmoil that exists inside of China.

ESCOBAR: Do you see the imperial neoconservative project as ultimately a war against Asia? Because they want to control sources of energy in the Middle East, specifically Iraq, and probably Iran. And this, in terms of provision of energy for China, would be a tremendous struggle.

HARVEY: I think there are elements of that, but, frankly, I think the neoconservative project was a global project. It wasn’t against Asia in particular.

ESCOBAR: Imperial domination, global, imperial domination.

HARVEY: It was global. It was get the whole globe in order so that the globe can develop in a capitalistic way, which is going to be favorable to, in some respects, US development, but actually capitalist development, which is not necessarily—you know, what’s good for capital is not necessarily good for the US, as I think we’re seeing in the current situation in the United States.

ESCOBAR: How do you place the Iraq War five years from 2003? What was it, basically?

HARVEY: Well, beyond the fact it was a grossly misguided project and a real serious mistake—I mean, I think everybody in the United States would probably now admit that, even though they were 100 percent for it when it occurred. I think that there was an idea that this was going to lead to oil at $20 a barrel, and now [crosstalk]

ESCOBAR: That’s what Rupert Murdoch was saying at the time.

HARVEY: That was what Rupert Murdoch said, yeah. He said, "Twenty dollars a barrel? That would be great." So I think there was a strong oil component, but the oil component was not simply about the US; it was about global oil prices. But it was also about using the oil, having control over the oil spigot, which would be a way also of controlling Chinese development and to some degree European ambitions. So I think it was a neoconservative kind of push for global domination, which seriously failed.

ESCOBAR: So you think that the ruling class in America now has come to the conclusion that the neocon project is bad for business, so let’s go back to some kind of neoliberal agenda again?

HARVEY: I think it’s a little more sinister than that. I think one of the reasons many of them are backing Obama is because I think he can kind of project a kind of Kennedy-type image to the rest of the world. So it’ll be very difficult, for instance, for Latin Americans to start to preach about, you know, oh, those imperialist pigs to the north kind of thing. They won’t be able to say that if Obama is president, you know, because he will be a heroic figure. I think the ruling class here is probably going to get behind Obama [crosstalk]

ESCOBAR: They already are in Wall Street. They got $10 million so far [inaudible] get much more in the next three or four months.

HARVEY: Yeah. So I think they see him as a figure who’s going to help them, in terms of the image of the United States as being a good guy.

ESCOBAR: So it’s basically a question of rebranding in your opinion?

HARVEY: Rebranding is very important. Yeah, rebranding the image of America as the good guy rather than the bad guy on the world stage. That’s what they want.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.