How do you define the economic, political, and cultural system named capitalism that organizes the world? A system contested and imposed through media, policies, laws, and forgeries of memory.and meaning.
Consider, as mentioned in a previous post, "capitalism is a political and cultural system; it is domestic and foreign policy; it is a historical narrative, an origin story, and a social system that makes a profit from war, labor exploitation, and extraction while claiming to fight for peace, equality, and sustainability. Capitalism is a way of thinking, feeling, dreaming, categorizing, and organizing life."
A new book by Ethan B. Kapstein, Exporting Capitalism: Private Enterprise and US Foreign Policy, is a comprehensive history of America's attempts to promote international development by exporting private enterprise, a story marked by frequent failure and occasional success.
Foreign aid is a primary tool of United States foreign policy, but direct financial support and ventures like the Peace Corps constitute just a sliver of the American global development pie. Since the 1940s, the United States has relied on the private sector to carry out its ambitions in the developing world. This is the first full account of what has worked and, more often, what has failed in efforts to export American-style capitalism.
Kapstein draws on archival sources and his wide-ranging experience in international development to provide penetrating case studies from Latin America and East Asia to the former Soviet Union, Afghanistan, and Iraq. After World War II, the Truman and Eisenhower administrations urged U.S. companies to expand across the developing world. The Cold War made exporting capitalism more important than ever, even if that meant overthrowing foreign governments. The fall of the Soviet Union brought new opportunities as the United States promoted privatization and the bankrolling of local oligarchs. Following the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States believed it had blank slates for building these economies, but ongoing conflict eroded such hopes."
While the historical reckoning that this book provides engages with foreign policy and capitalism as a tool of imperialism, it fails to recognize that the first "foreign policy" was the genocidal politics of extermination toward Native American nations. In 1763, King George III signed the Royal Proclamation Act, guidelines for European settlement that recognized the sovereignty of Indigenous nations, entering into treaty negotiations and recognition of the rights to self-determination. This was anathema to colonists who believed they had a diving right to the land, and dominion over the plants, animals, and other beasts. This is one of the reasons that the landowners and slaveowners rebelled, to continuing working the stolen land with kidnapped enslaved labor, the freedom to exploit, plunder, and accumulate as a group of individuals that believed in the Englightenmenet — for (some) Europeans only.