Volume 44, Number 174,
July-September 2013
The Decline of the United States:
Global Historical Context*
Alejandro Dabat** and Paulo Leal***
Date received: December 14, 2012. Date accepted: March 15, 2013

The current crisis in the United States and its major global consequences have culminated in a process of economic decline and reduced global hegemony for this nation, from the double perspective of its domestic regression and the loss of international power in light of the overwhelming advance of China and other much more dynamic and productive developing countries. This situation is evident on various levels of the economy, the technical-scientific and political-social development of the country and the most common social science indicators. Within this perspective, this article assigns great importance to the enormous difficulties this country must face in order to reverse these conditions of deterioration, given the structure of its financial and business system, the unfortunate state of its public finances and its domestic socio-institutional upheaval.

Keywords: Decline of the United States, New Financial System, Global Competitiveness, Productive and Social Regression and Economic and Social Prospects for the US.

This article contemplates the decline of the United States from a historical-analytical perspective, while also discussing ongoing processes that have led to significant losses in economic, scientific-technological and even militaristic terms. Although the decline is thought of as a phenomenon that began at the start of the new century (Wallerstein, 2007; Marichal, 2010), it can be traced back to factors that date to before its short-term national capitalistic model (Albert, 1981; Porter, 1998) and the subsequent extreme variety of neoliberalism (Anderson, 2003; Harvey, 2007). The decline may be considered an organic and historical set of factors, well documented and explained by numerous reports and authors cited throughout this text. Regarding the theoretical side of this topic, for reasons of space and unnecessary repetition, this work has opted to refer to works published prior to the authors, with the inclusion of new proposals only when it seemed unavoidable. This work consists of an introduction, three sections and a brief conclusion, which situates the topic with a historical perspective (introduction), provides specific analysis of the US financial system given its current significance (first section), details the features pertinent to US capitalism with regards to the topic of the work (second section) and the global context and consequences for the country (third section).


As has been proposed in other works, the current global crisis is the outcome of three interdependent, yet not always concordant, processes: a) the global crisis itself, as a capitalist crisis originating in the US and its speculative financial system, currently spreading to Europe; b) the historical decline of US capitalism, a result of both internal factors as well as international competition from China and other developing countries, and c) the current world crisis, or the crisis of neoliberal globalization. Although this work delves into the latter two, it aims to consider the first point.

In order to study these questions and their reciprocal relations, this work shall begin with the restructuring of the US and global economies in the last quarter of the century following the collapse of Fordist-Keynesian capitalism and the bipolar global order (Dabat, 2002). This gave rise to a new type of capitalism that we call informational, given its global techno-economical infrastructure resulting from the Information Revolution (Castells, 2002; Dabat, 2002) and special configuration (globalization). These find their base in productive phenomena, such as network corporate organization, new communication, information and knowledge networks, the new global division of labor and new global types of international competition.

Linked to these productive factors are other financial, political and sociocultural elements, such as: a) the ideological and institutional international predominance of neoliberalism among governments, organizations, academic consensus and business paradigms (Anderson, 2003; Dabat, 2002); b) the speculative financial system of bank disintermediation, the securitization of credit and financial globalization (Minsky, 1987; Dabat and Toledo, 1987; Mishkin, 2008), and c) the US recovering its global hegemony that was lost in the 1960s (Ugarteche, 1991) due to its leadership in the Information Revolution and other aspects (Dabat, 2002).

In the framework of US world hegemony and globalization, the changes listed here spread very unequally on the international level, due to different preexisting national conditions and internal power relationships.1 However, this pattern was determined by the general international trends imposed by information technology (computers, internet, new communication systems, etc.), the global spread of the world market, capitalism and the new financial system (with unequal scopes and modalities that would appear later) or global competition.

*  This work is part of the unam research program called Globalization, Knowledge and Development (www.proglocode.unam.mx),
        in which a variety of organizations participate, and the papiit-dgapa-unam Project, “The United States, International Crisis
        and the Knowledge Economy Outlook. A Mexican Point of View,” led by Alejandro Dabat. The authors would like to express
        their gratitude for support from Balam Cervantes;

**    Researcher from the unam Institute of Economic Research, Mexico. E-mail: dabat@unam.mx;

***  Professor at the School of Economics, unam, Mexico. E-mail: phleal77@gmail.com

1 For a global explanation of this question (relationships between the world economy and national economies), see Dabat, 1991 (introduction, section 2) and Dabat, 1993 (chap. V).

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PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 195 October-December 2018 is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
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