Eli Zaretsky

The Place of the Global South in the World Capitalist System

Sanjay Ruparella’s lucid and compelling talk on the global South can help us to clarify what we mean by capitalism. If the “global South” implies a global capitalist system or project, what was that project? We can think of it as unfolding in two waves: the first began with the discovery of America in 1492 and took the form of the great trading empires; the second began with industrial capitalism in the nineteenth century and continues today. In the first wave, specialization, the division of labor and trade are crucial; in the second, the capital labor relation per se. To be sure, we can think of the two waves as continuous, building on one another. In both cases, capitalism implies increased productivity and growth, as well as increasing inequality.