There is much debate around whether or not the existence of the global market constitutes theories on the concept of international capitalism. Some, like Ellen Wood, may argue that each state has its own capitalistic system which operates in partnership with other states for their own benefit to form a global capitalist system but, there is also the argument, seen in Immanuel Wallerstein's work, that all capital is the same capital regardless of currency which processes through the same system. Though there are differences in approach in explaining the international capitalist system, both Wood and Wallerstein argue that there is indeed a need for theorization on international capitalism as it has produced a number of socioeconomic and political issues in the wake of its global presence. In order to understand how there is an international force of capitalism, the ideologies which aided in the implementation of capitalism on a global scale must first be understood.

The conceptualization of international capitalism, according to Wallerstein in his book After Liberalism, began with the exploration of the evolution of liberalism since the French Revolution in 1789 and ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, what he notes as the end of the humanist era of liberalism itself. Though liberalism was created by John Locke in the late seventeenth century, Wallerstein marks the French Revolution as the first step towards a global liberal political hegemony. This impacted politics by transforming political attitudes and establishing the normalcy of political change on a global scale or, as Wallerstein states, established modernity. With this new concept of the fluidity of politics came the panic of the ruling class who were concerned about who would manage these constant political changes and, more importantly, who would still hold the power within this newly evolved system and reap the most benefit. This panic resulted in the emergence of three different ideologies which played major roles in the transformation of the political world from 1789 onward; conservativism, liberalism, and socialism. Each of these relatively new ideologies sought to approach the fluid political system with different tactics. Conservatives attempted to fight this fluidity by implementing regressive policies which would hold off change for as long as possible so those in power could keep their power while finding ways to transform it along with the evolving system. The liberal political ideology, created as a sort of counter to the conservative approach to change, believed in the perfection of the modern world through reforms which would adapt to the changing system efficiently. Socialism was a bit different though, with proponents of this ideology rejecting the individualism present within liberalism, preferring a manually constructed social harmony which could only be achieved through, what they believed must be, revolutionary means. Wallerstein argued that each of these responses were representative of the different core beliefs within the ideologies; conservativism representing caution and prudence, liberalism representing constant rational reform, and socialism representing accelerated transformation. Though all of these differing approaches to a newly changing global political system were present after the French Revolution, there was one which became more dominant after the 1848 revolution; liberalism. The question as to which ideology would become the dominant manager of this ever-changing global political system was only the first of many issues to arise following the 1848 revolution.
Wallerstein argues that after the 1848 revolution, a series of revolts which led to liberal reforms, there was a sort of global triumph of liberalism which resulted in the creation of different subsets of the liberal ideology itself. These liberal subsets included classical liberalism, contemporary liberalism and socialist liberalism. Classical liberalism centered the concept of the private sphere including property rights and market operations. Contemporary liberalism focused on progressive policymaking, the welfare of the public, and the circulation of money within the market. Socialist liberalism focused on the promotion of social harmony and state responsibility to the welfare of the public. Most importantly, each of these categories of liberalism mainly focused on promoting the good of the public with proponents of this ideology believing its implementation into all facets of society was necessary for human progress as a whole. Within the Wallerstein piece it is argued that there has been a phenomenon occurring for the last fifty or so years which has been eroding this ideology though, most clearly seen in the 1980's and 1990's with the beginning of the Gulf War.
The erosion of liberalism's humanist ideology can quite clearly be seen with the rise of political positions like the Alt-Right, or neo-nazis for a more accurate labeling, within contemporary society and the astounding tolerance modern proponents of the liberal ideology seem to have for it. This is what Wallerstein called a return to a Neo-Bismarkian world. In this world, radicals on the right would no longer use outwardly bigoted speech to justify their regressive stances but instead use subliminal language about "the right of the strong" to protect what is theirs within their own states as well as to pacify liberals into believing their stance was a legitimate ideology and not just a more effective attempt at dividing the working class. A sort of classical case of the haves versus the have nots, which has entered the political sphere once again. This once humanist ideology was now being dominated by power politics through militarism and retrogressive politics. Wallerstein alludes to the cause of this issue being the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. Without the competing governmental ideology of communism being present in a large superpower to contest the legitimacy of liberalism in other superpowers, liberalism lost its humanist characteristics, resorting to regressive tactics to assert its dominance as the hegemon of the global political sphere, which only resulted in the collapse of the core of the ideology itself; "the year 1989 represented the agonizing end of an era. The so-called defeat of antisystemic forces was in fact a great liberation. It removed the liberal-socialist justification of the capitalist world-economy and thus represented the collapse of the dominant liberal ideology." In short, without communist states creating competition among the political ideologies of the world, commitment to public welfare gave way to greed both domestically and internationally in the liberal community. This newfound wearing away of the liberal ideology has affected its humanist efforts within the international community in more ways than just regressive politics. With the erosion of humanist liberalism in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has also been the issue of international mobility which has only fueled the fires of reactionary politics, specifically on the right with radicals being vindicated by the government outwardly and loudly. The response to these migrations by reactionary states are somewhat laughable given the reasons behind these movements. These reasons primarily being famine and domestic conflict; byproducts of the global capitalist market. For example; drug crime in Latin America being a force for migrants to make their way to the United States to escape violence, while most of the demand for the drugs comes from the United States itself. The reactionary politics most commonly seen in response to this international mobility are mostly bigoted reactions which eventually evolve from nationalism to white supremacy and, in some cases, neo-nazism. The global system itself is broken due to its development over the last fifty or so years being based in retrogressive politics from the fallout of the global capitalist system, meaning the global community cannot fix itself because it is so deeply entrenched in foundational issues which are only being further exacerbated by the international system. Although this is quite a comprehensive conceptualization of the international capitalist system there are others who have taken different approaches to explaining this issue.

Unlike Wallerstein's theorization of international capitalism, Ellen Wood focuses more on the origins of capitalism, how it has evolved with the emergence of nation-states, and the effect it has had on these states. In the beginning of her piece "Unhappy Families: Global Capitalism in a World of Nation-States," Wood specifically notes two important factors within the global system; every capitalist economy exists only in relation to other capitalist economies and the fact that there is technically no official global economy. Both of these factors largely contributed to issues present within Wood's conceptualization as global capitalism tends to only operate via numerous elements of national economies and nation-states. It is important to first examine the origins of capitalism in order to understand its development within the international system. According to Wood, the first signs of capitalism were more present within Europe, Western Europe specifically, than other regions of the globe due to the nature of division of regions into nation-states in the early years of European governmental development. This division of regions into nation-states only aided in the creation of trade across these regions, which led to the promotion of trade-based divisions of labor. Though present all over Europe, Wood argues this can be most clearly seen in the English region of the United Kingdom, specifically where the conditions necessary for capitalism's emergence were most prominently seen; "The point is not only that England gave rise to capitalism but also that England produced a distinctively unified and sovereign nation-state. In other words, the social transformations that brought about capitalism were the same ones that brought the nation-state to maturity." Pre-capitalist systems also played a role in the eventual development of capitalism with feudalism being largely based in the consolidation of economic and political power in the roles of feudal lords. Unlike contemporary capitalism not all of this power was centralized but was instead fragmented with feudal lords utilizing their political, judicial, and military powers to extract surplus from the peasantry for their benefit. This fragmentation was also present within economic systems with the existence of separate markets rather than a consolidated market like those present today. These markets were primarily operated by merchants who could buy cheap from one market and sell high to the next. These two divided sectors of governance, sovereignty and the markets, were practically the same issue; an issue which was most definitely unsustainable in the grand scheme of history. Eventually, these two sectors were consolidated within centralized political power after the threat of peasant revolt became more of a reality, which gave way to centralized monarchies. The earliest accounts of this consolidation were most prominently seen in the English region with the development of a unitary national parliament, a single dominant legal system, and economic unification present as early as the seventeenth century. Though other states also integrated these characteristics into their systems of government there was something distinctive about the English system. It not only operated under a unified economic system but also had: "specialized division of labor among interdependent regions… interaction between agricultural and industrial sectors [and] … it traded not just in luxury goods but in cheap everyday goods for a mass market." This new concept of a unified market, in which merchants traded with others also in the market, is where capitalism was born and the foundations for international capitalism were laid.
It is not within the nature of capitalism to stay within one area but rather to spread in order to maximize accumulation, which is how the global capitalist system emerged. This new economic system eventually expanded outside of England and created various imperatives of expansion, specifically, imperialism. Obviously, imperialism existed in the global sphere before capitalism's emergence, but capitalism aided in setting new precedents for imperialism which had not been as widely seen before its expansion into the international community. Capitalism set the stage for slave labor as well as the further oppression and exploitation of colonized peoples vis à vis its need for resources, labor, and markets in order to maximize its global profit. These new needs also called for the creation of an official international market so different states could trade slaves and stolen resources more efficiently. The creation of the international market resulted in the reproduction of England's national organization in other states around the world, with national economies and nation-states now being commonplace among many states. The emergence of capitalism in the seventeenth century in England has most certainly evolved and ingrained itself in the foundations of many communities and societies today and has only continued to negatively impact the majority of those within the societies it is present in.

Modernly, capitalism has fully expanded itself across the globe with nearly every state on the planet incorporating some form of capitalist economics into their system of governance. Within this overarching capitalist, global empire there are, quite obviously, some differences in how it operates in more advanced states versus less advanced states. In highly developed states, capitalism has entrenched its principles into the foundations of societies' social, institutional, and cultural spaces. In less developed states, it has a more outwardly harmful impact through the marginalization and impoverishment of regions. This economic system seeks the commodification of everything in existence; "every human practice, every social relationship, and the natural environment are subject to the requirements of profit-maximization, capital accumulation, [and] the constant self-expansion of capital." The universalization of capitalism has also meant a universalization of the nation-state with global capitalism being a global system of nation-states, which is presided over by hegemonic states within the system. The existence of this system has made way for the creation of globalization itself, which must be understood as a product of national economies and nation-states that include aspects such as competition among national economies, national state policies promoting international competitiveness, maintaining domestic profitability, promotion of free movement of capital while confining labor domestically, creating and sustaining global markets, and the implementation of national policies designed to forfeit national sovereignty. The global capitalist system also aided in the evolution of imperialism from an outwardly violent concept to a subliminally violent one vis à vis new forms of domination. These forms of domination are much sneakier and easier to slip unnoticeably by those within highly developed nations who may think they are more socially and globally aware than they actually are. This is indicative of Wallerstein's argument focused on the pacification of humanist values within liberalism today. New forms of domination over colonial states may include issues such as unpayable debts, financial manipulation on the hegemonic states' part, and foreign investment all of which are options for hegemonic states to enter national boundaries in a subliminally imperialist fashion. The goal of the actions taken by highly developed states against less developed states is no longer a colonial hegemony but rather a global economic hegemony because there is, modernly, more power in economics than in land. In closing this piece, Wood remarked that due to the pervasiveness of this system no one solution could be made to remedy it; the only seemingly effective way to solve this issue would be a concerted effort to do away with the attachment of capitalist logic in every facet of social life.

Wallerstein and Wood had quite comprehensive approaches to the development of capitalism within the world system, which both contradicted and supported each other in various ways. On the one hand, there is the issue of what ideologies aided in the creation and promotion of a global capitalist system and how those ideologies have developed and collapsed in the modern world. On the other hand, there is the question of capitalisms' origins, how it has evolved, and how it has negatively impacted collectives around the world. Both conceptualizations go hand in hand when attempting to understand the international capitalist system from a broader, more globalist perspective. It becomes clear that capitalism has historically been a burden upon the majority of society, created multiple layers of oppression for already marginalized folks, preyed upon previously colonized states for the economic benefit of already rich states, upheld regressive ideologies with increasingly harmful impacts on society, and commodified nearly everything in existence.


Immanuel Maurice Wallerstein. After Liberalism. New York, NY: New Press, 1995. . /163588/mod_resource/content/1/Wallerstein - The Collapse of . Accessed 28 November 2019.

Wood, Ellen Meiksins. "Unhappy Families: Global Capitalism in a World of Nation-States." Monthly Review 51, no. 3 (January 1999): 1–12. . /163589/mod_resource/content/1/Wood%20-%20Unhappy%