Marxist theories of imperialism and US “pivot” to Asia: the making of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Zeno Leoni


The global relations of space and power have changed dramatically with the entrance into the post-2008 era, to the extent Barack Obama called it a moment of transition in the NSS 2010. The uneven development of capitalism has shacked the balance between states and produced structural changes that outweigh those of 1989 or 9/11. Major novelties in the 21st century world order are the rise of Asia as an economic powerhouse and market on the one hand, and the increasing old-fashioned geopolitical assertiveness of China in the Asia-Pacific on the other hand. This paper investigates the drivers of the Obama administration’ participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a mega-regional trade agreement signed by 12 Asia-Pacific countries in February 2016 after seven years of negotiations. The contribution of the paper is two-fold. Theoretically, the paper adopts a Marxist perspective on state-capitalist ruling class relations exploring the interactions between industry representatives and policymakers and how the latter group filters socio-economic pressures in pursing long term national security interests. This is also part of a contribution to the recent debate on imperialism and the attempts to recover the classical Marxist thesis. Empirically, the paper explains why the Obama administration invested much of its political capital in finalizing the TPP. It concludes that US commitment to the agreement sheds light of the intertwining of security and economic logics at play in the “pivot” to Asia. It shows how of the revolving door between businesses and government officials, lobbying efforts by IP and information technology companies, and a general will to overcome the Doha Round inconclusiveness have shaped the administration’s economic considerations in the TTP. In its security dimension, the agreement is driven by China’s expansionism, which US policy makers seek to tamper by maintaining a Western-fashioned rule of law in Asia-Pacific and by fighting China both on classical spaces of rivalry – territory – and on new spaces of rivalry- cybersecurity.

Imperialism - IPE - pivot to Asia - TPP  
This article is part of Working the Phones: Control and Resistance in Call Centres (Wildcat series) - Book launch (A booklaunch on 'Working the Phones: Control and Resistance in Call Centres (Wildcat series) - Book launch')