The Persistence of American Economic Power in Global Capitalism: From the 1960s into the Twenty-First Century
Kenji Starrs, Sean
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This dissertation intervenes in the more than four decades-long debate on the decline or persistence of American economic power. It argues that we cannot move forward without reconceptualizing the nature of economic power in global capitalism, especially by moving beyond national accounts (such as GDP). Too many commentators from across the diversity of perspectives assume that the relative rise and decline of national accounts approximates the relative rise and decline of national economic power. In contrast, this dissertation argues that in the era of globalization, national accounts are an inadequate measure of national economic power. Rather, we must investigate the transnational corporations themselves in order to encompass their transnational operations, and analyze the matrix of inter-linkages now characteristic of global capitalism in general, and American power in particular. Therefore, this dissertation draws upon extensive original empirical research, including the following: 1) the first aggregation of the national sales-shares of the world’s top 200 corporations from 1957 to 2013; 2) the first aggregation of the national profit-shares of the world’s top 2,000 corporations across 25 broad sectors from 2006 to 2013; 3) the first aggregation of the top 50 national acquirers and targets of all cross-border mergers and acquisitions worth $1 million or more from 1980 to 2012; and 4) the first national aggregation of the ownership structures of the world’s top 500 corporations. The results from this empirical research, among others, will illuminate a number of facets concerning contemporary global capitalism. First, the nationality of capital remains very relevant despite several decades of intensifying globalization at the turn of the twentieth century. Following from this, the persistence of American economic power from the 1960s into the twenty-first century is astounding, particularly at the technological frontier. Indeed, in advanced technology and even Wall Street, American dominance has actually increased since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. There are no foreseeable contenders, including China. Therefore, this dissertation will demonstrate that far from relative American decline, in certain respects American economic power has never been stronger — and will conclude with a number of important implications from this analysis concerning the future of world order.