Giovanni Arrighi in Beijing

  • Ganesh Trichur Bates College
  • Steven Sherman


Giovanni Arrighi's Adam Smith in Beijing (ASB) subverts the temporality and conceptual vocabulary employed by most writers working in a Marxist tradition. In this view, capitalism is a mode of production which eventually encompasses the entire world. Perhaps it began in England and expanded from there. Perhaps its expansion through colonial empires should be seen as part of its constitution, rather than an after effect (i.e. the perspective of Wallerstein). In any case, it eventually dominates the world and every place that is a part of it through such phenomena as, multinational corporations, wage labor, and international capital flows. The particular class relations, political systems, and international relations that held before the spread of capitalism are only of interest to the extent that they leave a residue which may be reclaimed by actors seeking to reinforce or undermine the rule of capital in particular places. For Arrighi, Chinese development neither is, nor ever was, simply capitalist. Rather, it was, and continues to be Smithian, devoted to the maintenance and expansion of a market society (the obvious irony here is that China is seen as more Smithian than those places which most heartily celebrate the Scottish political economist).
How to Cite
Trichur, G., & Sherman, S. (2009). Giovanni Arrighi in Beijing. Journal of World-Systems Research, 15(2), 257-264.
Book Review Symposium: Giovanni Arrighi's Adam Smith In Beijing