Marxism-Barnettism (TPBM’s Marxist Roots)

The Pentagon’s New Map,” by Thomas Barnett, Esquire, March 2003,

Immanuel Wallerstein,” Wikipedia, last updated 20 October 2005,

When I first heard Dr. Barnett I immediately remembered the very Leftist A Short History of the Future, which described states struggling to enter the Core. Fortunately, Prof’s seminar on Marxism clarified some things for me (as well as giving me some interesting ideas!)

Barnett and Wallerstein: Seperated At Birth?

Compare, the Karl Marxism-Wallersteinism

The capitalist world-system is, however, far from homogeneous in cultural, political, and economical terms–instead characterised by fundamental differences in civilizational development, accumulation of political power and capital. Contrary to affirmative theories of modernization and capitalism, Wallerstein does not conceive of these differences as mere residues or irregularities that can and will be overcome as the system as a whole evolves. Much more, a lasting division of the world in core, semi-periphery and periphery is an inherent feature of the world-system. Areas which have so far remained outside the reach of the world-system, enter it at the stage of periphery. There is a fundamental and institutionally stabilized division of labour between core and periphery: While the core has a high level of technological development and manufactures complex products, the role of the periphery is to supply raw materials, agricultural products and cheap labour for the expanding agents of the core. Economic exchange between core and periphery takes places on unequal terms: The periphery is forced to sell its products at low prices, but has to buy the core’s products at comparatively high prices, an unequal state which, once established, tends to stabilize itself due to inherent, quasi-deterministic constraints. The statuses of core and periphery are not, however, mutually exclusive and fixed to certain geographic areas; instead, they are relative to each other and shifting: There is a zone called semi-periphery, which acts as a periphery to the core, and a core to the periphery. At the end of the 20th century, this zone would comprise, e.g., Eastern Europe, China, Brazil. As Naomi Klein has recently demonstrated with the example of “sweat shops” in developed countries, peripheral, semi-peripheral and core zones can also co-exist very closely in the same geographic area.

with the Adam Smithism-Barnettism

But just as important as “getting them where they live” is stopping the ability of these terrorist networks to access the Core via the “seam states” that lie along the Gap’s bloody boundaries. It is along this seam that the Core will seek to suppress bad things coming out of the Gap. Which are some of these classic seam states? Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Greece, Turkey, Pakistan, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia come readily to mind. But the U.S. will not be the only Core state working this issue. For example, Russia has its own war on terrorism in the Caucasus, China is working its western border with more vigor, and Australia was recently energized (or was it cowed?) by the Bali bombing.

And the similarities don’t end there… Dr. Thomas Barnett and Dr. Immanuel Wallerstein publish electronically!


Two World-System Thinkers

16 thoughts on “Marxism-Barnettism (TPBM’s Marxist Roots)”

  1. Yup, yup. A fellow Papist 😉

    One thing you have to understand with any profile, or really with any TV appearance: not only are you only as good as your interviewer (and CSPAN's Brian Lamb was the best), but you really are at the mercy of however they want to angle your book or you. So, when I get profiled in the Wall Street Journal, Greg Jaffe really wants to run with the “odd couple” theme between Art Cebrowski (my old boss in the Pentagon) and me. Because Art's so famously military and Catholic, I get to be the atheist Marxist. Now, I'm Catholic too. In fact, that's a fairly strong bond between Art and I, and I told Greg I liked “The Passion of the Christ” just like Art, but because he represented convention and I was cast as ultra-unorthodox, I got painted into a corner a bit, and the story, for example, goes out of its way to ignore the fact I have a PhD in political science from Harvard, which doesn't exactly make me counterculture in most people's minds.

    “I saw “The Passion of the Christ” today when work day ended. It is an amazing film, which moved this Catholic greatly.

    I must say I am quite baffled now by most of the stinging criticism I heard before, and am seriously considering taking my two oldest kids to see it—I think it’s that good and that important a message.

    IMHO, the movie is the story of Christ’s suffering, crucifixion and death quite faithfully rendered, at least as far as I can tell after a lifetime of teaching and going to church. But in all my years of Catholic education, I never heard a word about who was “guilty” of Christ’s death other than me, myself and everyone around me. So when I looked into the faces of hatred and violence in this film, I recognized only my own failings as a human and Christian, not somebody else’s.

    But one thing I did think of during the film disturbed me greatly. Seeing Christ’s suffering at the hands of mobs in several scenes made me think of those three Delta and one Ranger (all formers) who died in Iraq recently, only to have their bodies dismembered and put on display in front of cheering crowds. That thought didn’t make me want to hate Iraqis or Muslims, but it did make me think these four were somebody’s begotten sons, and that their deaths better have more meaning than who wins this national election, or who can be fingered for this or that failure on the Hill.”

    “Barnett's professed Catholic faith shows as compassion and humanity in his description of life in globalization's 'Gap' — those countries sidelined by the globalization trends of the 1990s. Life in the Gap is Hobbesian (nasty, brutish, and short), and data backs him up: countries disconnected from the global economy experience diminished life expectancy, overpopulation, and low incomes. The Gap is 'where the wild things are.' Anything can happen. Like ethnic cleansing by chainsaw (Sudan).”


  2. Ahem…. …Barnett…on Wallerstein:

    “COMMENTARY: That is a neat extension of the material that I had always wondered about how best to express, but never got around to in PNM. Hard to believe, but even at 150k, I was constantly fretting about how to get out of this G.D. paragraph without triggering another 2k in text! So the PNM's absurd ambition in trying to explain just about everything meant that even at this serious length, the book remains an outline of sorts. The “implicit villains” argument here is one I did not get to in the book, perhaps because I feared sounding too neo-Marxist and once you go down that road you can find yourself turning into Immanuel Wallerstein or worse. But I think T.M. nails the description on the head. “

  3. Mark,

    “you can find yourself turning into Immanuel Wallerstein or worse” lol! 🙂

    The reason I posted this was a private email from someone who had seen Barnett on Fox Saturday. She was pretty balanced on him, and has more of a political than theoretical interest, but said that he sounded somehow “communist.”

    A case of “fingerspitzengefuhl” in blogospheric critical analysis?

    Indeed, she may be reading these words now… thoughts?

  4. hi Dan,

    I think there are a couple of reasons that your friend received that impression from Tom Barnett:

    a) He's a dialectical thinker ( for that matter,to give you another example, so was Ayn Rand) and the best known example of that kind of reasoning comes out of Hegelian-Marxist philosophy. Form can be confused with substance. Given the American cultural tradition of pragmatism and our Cold War experience, ” system-builders” stick out in our society and they are likely to remind us of the Marxists.

    b) Former USG Sovietologist with a degree in Marxist studies. Sometimes the Shepherd starts to look like the sheep ;o)

    I'm not sure if Tom will laugh or cringe at this one. Perhaps Critt will wander by and comment ?

  5. ….and of course I should have added, the preponderance of economic forces in Barnett's analysis ( not determinist like Marxism but a major driver).

    You see this as well with historians like myself who come out of ” The Open Door” school, even though I'm way to the right of most historians. I always try to look at where the money is going in a given situation

  6. Mark,

    Two quick questions.

    1. To what degree was Marx an economic determinist? I had always assumed absolutely, but those students who gave reports on him in Prof's seminar presented him as a near-constructivist. Is this a case of just a constructivist writing the textbook, or was Marx like Barnett a economic materialist with a respect for ideology?

    2. I haven't heard of '” The Open Door” school' before… A reference to the Open Door policy? From how you use the term, is TODS an economics-centric approach to history?

  7. Interestingly enough, Karl Marx was not a “Marxist” by his own statements he made late in life as his ideas began to spread in Eastern and central Europe. His followers whom Marx could not control- and Marx was a control freak about his ideas- caused him some dismay.

    Economic determinism was a useful political claim to make on behalf of the Soviet state and its satelite parties in the West that they had discovered the laws of history and were fighting for a ” scientific socialism”. It is more a Leninist-Stalinist addition to the philosophy. Easy to do because 99.9 % of the people who quote Marx never read Das Kapital. (I myself have only read parts of it and I have little desire to read more).

    The Open Door School is a minority viewpoint among diplomatic historians from the 1950's, most of whom later became better known as New Left revisionists in the 1960's and 1970's, associated with the late William Appleman Williams of the U. of Wisconsin. The most prominent of these historians today is Walter LaFeber.

    LaFeber, like my grad advisor, was trained by Williams ( same cohort actually) who emphasized the role that economic interests played in driving the expansion of American power abroad, the Open Door policy being the cardinal example. Even today, that period of time – McKinley/Roosevelt/Taft/Wilson/Coolidge – is a favorite area of emphasis of study in their seminars and books.

    My adviser liked the fact that ” I got it” analytically even though I usually celebrated as good what he bemoaned as the evils of capitalism. Being already familiar with Hayek, Mises, Friedman etc. I understood his argument even though I disagreed with the conclusions he drew. I think he found it ironic that most of his leftist students didn't really get him while I did.

    On the other hand, he was enough of a realist (IR sense) and pro-Democracy guy to admit that LeFeber and Kolko's cheerleading admiration for Leftist revolution abroad and rote condemnation of the U.S. was so much political fantasy-B.S.

    Basically a good guy, old school scholar, long since retired.

  8. I good quick read on Marx _Karl Marx_ by Wheen. Puts his ideas in the context with his political activities at the time and personal foibles. Wheen is a bit breezy and I wouldn't rely on him as the last word on Marx but it is a decently concise popular bio.

    Problem with pure Pol Sci approach – ideas do not form ex nihilo – there's a real context there for which you need some history to understand correctly.

    Historians, on the flip side, should be less averse to horizontal thinking and use some Pol Sci and Econ tools in their analysis more often. They sometimes get so lost in the woods of detail they miss the significance of the event.

  9. I have an image of isolated North Korean children learning the “Connectivity Ideal,” Chinese Red Guards brutally enforcing “Correct Tom Barnett Thought,” a “Core Pact” invasion of Seam states to abort establishment of “Connectedness with a Human Face,” and “Four Flows Factions” assassinating politicians in states with “Disconnectedness Doesn't Define Danger” sentimentalities. “I'm not a Barnettist!” pleads the Old Strategist, as his name is besmirched by History…

    But at least TPMB will stear clear of that path by avoiding a Cult of Personality (


    Was Capital an ideology so much as a study in support of it? I noticed, in my failed attempt to get anything out of Volume III, that it seemed more like case studies from which a conclusion was supposed to be infered than anything coherent.

    (The only other person I read who was as incoherent was Kant. I try never to give up on authors — spending years on Black Lamb and Grey Falcon prove that determination can be worth it – but Marx/Engels and Kant are both terrible.)

    I had heard the “Marx was not a Marxist” statement before. Was part of it that Marx's thought underwent significant changes during his professional career?

    Thank you for the introduction to Open Door History.

  10. Mark,

    As always, wise words on horizontal thinking. Geography and aesthetics especially are largely absent from political science. Vertical thinking can take us so far, but with new generations growing up in very info-rich worlds, spending the late-teens, early-twenties on fact-memorization and closed-system thinking is less than wise.

  11. Good question

    Marx was trained by Hegel whose formative life experience was the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. From Hegel Marx picked up dialectical thinking and received his degree in the German educational system that is responsible for so much bad writing. Marx the journalist is more readable and sometimes, amusing. Look at _18 Brumaire_.

    I found Kant unbearably turgid and among the worst writers even from the Germans – and that is saying something.

    Capital was Marx's analysis of history and an explanation what he conceived as the driving motive forces. He was not content to folllow Rankean methodology but to have a ” scientific” explanation which is why he is a considered a classical economist like Ricardo and Smith or as a philosopher and not a historian.

    In this sense Marx very much represents a synthesis – of embracing the spirit of his age – materialism and science – while also a reaction against its romantic political culture both Metternichian conservatism as well as bourgeois liberalism. This rejection preceded,indeed it drove, the very laborious writing of Capital, it was not the result of intellectual inquiry though it served to harden Marx's convictions and justify them.

    Marx was also an activist in the Socialist movement and over time, as his basic ideas flowered in complexity, he became more rigid, dogmatic and intolerant of rival thinkers. At one time Marx could productively exchange ideas with Bakunin, later in life small disagreements over ideology could provoke vitriolic torrents of abuse, both verbally and in print. Real apoplectic tirades.

    So, there's an underlying psychology at work here as well.

  12. “but with new generations growing up in very info-rich worlds, spending the late-teens, early-twenties on fact-memorization and closed-system thinking is less than wise.”


    But too often, that is all that their teachers themselves are capable of.

  13. Mark,

    Thank you for the details on the background of Marx. I know his life in an outline sense — facts picked up and a documentary watched — but having specifics is valuable, thank you.

    Zazan… eh, can't we all. I was in an unfortunate incident, my fault, Saturday morning owing to confusion, ambiguity, and a fellow student's limited English ability. *sigh* I think a card like this ( is in the immediate future…

    Teachers don't only learn facts, concepts, and models during their education — they learn teaching style through social cognition. It is hard to change this. For instance, when I started teaching I was surprised how much my teaching style resembled the last few instructors I had. I didn't plan on this — but the “natural” way to teach suspiciously resembled them.

    CoolProf would say we need to teach more meta-cognition ( and break out of the cycle, but I'm suspicious about that. The more humans recognize something, the more likely they are to think they understand it and immediately mess it up. The economy and the international political system being two great examples from the 1860s for a century on. More appropriately, we need some faster way to reward horizontal teachers, so the system will churn more of them out on its own.

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