The New Hegemon? Contingency and Agency in the Asian Age

Jennifer Bair


Adam Smith in Beijing is an ambitious sequel to the work that is widely regarded as Giovanni Arrighis most important, The Long Twentieth Century. Much like this earlier book, Adam Smith in Beijing is a long, sweeping and provocative exploration of capitalisms past, present, and future. In The Long Twentieth Century, Arrighi analyzed the 700 year history of the modern world system as a series of cycles of accumulation, each of which occurred under the auspices of a hegemonic power, and each of which included a period of material expansion followed, late in the cycle, by a shift in the locus of capital accumulation to the financial sector. Arrighis analysis of four successive regimesthe Genoese, Dutch, British, and U.S.drew on Braudels concept of the autumn of a hegemonic system, which refers to the period of financial expansion marking the maturation of a particular regime of accumulation and its eventual displacement by a new one. This perspective enabled Arrighi to understand the financialization of the world economy, proceeding apace at the time under then-President Clinton, in the context of the longue durée in which one (declining) hegemons autumn is another (rising) hegemons spring.

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