A global metamorphosis? A theory of evolution of a digital capitalism

Abstract

One of the reoccurring phenomena of hegemonic transitions is the inability of the existing leader to establish a similar leadership position in a newly emerging and structurally different commercial and organizational arrangement. This shift in the geographical and political location of power has been explained as the outcome of the leader’s experience of success in the current setting, creating an entrenched institutional setting (in a broader sense) that proves adaptive in defending its turf but less so in fostering the rise of new leading sectors. The rise of digital technologies and subsequent development of a truly globalized world economy have further cast doubt on any single hegemonic state to emerge in the future. Furthermore, it is argued that the digital capitalist mode differs substantially from that of previous, capitalist modes of development and power. However, the case of Britain’s continued leadership over an extended period of time (and separate long waves) has shown that hegemonic leaders are able to play host to two separate developmental logics as part of the ‘metamorphosis’ (Beck 2016) with the disruptive new system being dependent on the old for its emergence. This paper builds argues that the extension of leadership from an old to a new commercial and organizational arrangement is dependent on the systemic nature of the world system and thus on the predominant form of capitalism: industrial or digital. It concludes that the shift from an industrial phase to the new digital commercial phase puts the current systemic leader, the United States, in a position of continued leadership over two long-waves. Using currently available data, the paper traces this leadership role empirically, proposing different possible scenarios of future world system development and possible leadership roles therein.

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Delmenhorst
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