The literature on imperialism suffers from a fundamental confusion about the relationship between capitalism and imperialism. The aim of this paper is to remove this confusion.
The paper is organised in three parts. In Part I we state our own position of the capitalism-imperialism relation. In part II we discuss some major points at issue in the Marxist debate on imperialism. And in Part III we review the changing forms that imperialism has taken in Latin America in the course of the capitalist development process. The main focus of the paper is on the form taken by imperialism in the current conjuncture of capitalist development, namely extractive capitalism. This conjuncture is characterised by the demise of neoliberalism as an economic model and a growing demand on the world market for energy, minerals and other “natural” resources—the political economy of natural resource development (large-scale investment in the acquisition of land and entailed resources, primary commodity exports). The fundamental dynamics of what we term “extractivist imperialism” are examined in the context of South America, which represents the most advanced but yet regressive form taken to date by capitalism in the new millennium. Our analysis of these dynamics is summarized in the form of twelve theses.