UNEQUAL EXCHANGE: A Study of the Imperialism of Trade by Arghiri Emmanuel

UNEQUAL EXCHANGE: A Study of the Imperialism of Trade

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This ponderously written study of imperialism is intended to update and expand Marxist theory; it bowdlerizes Marx, victimizes the classical economists, and cannibalizes recent bourgeois theorists. Emmanuel identifies Marx with Ricardo's labor theory of value, although the later parts of Capital are one long polemic against it; Marx is presented as a chartered accountant calibrating ""equilibrium prices"" based on labor inputs: price, in a wholly un-Marxian way, is said to coincide with value. While these trite and mistaken views represent the main thesis of the book, there are excursions into marginalist theories, ""factor of production"" schools of thought, and other ""up-to-date theories."" Marx, who ""did not have time to work out the theory of international trade,"" is charitably supplemented with equal doses of Ricardo, Paul Samuelson, Walras, and Paul Sweezy. Aside from discovering that an inequality exists between the industrialized and underdeveloped countries -- a ""discovery"" furthermore attributed to the wrong cause (""comparative costs"" of production and ""equilibrium prices"" rather than a drain of capital resources) -- Emmanuel advances no original theories, nor does he bother with the Lenin-Luxemburg debate about imperialism. Despite the radical-sounding argumentation, the book concludes with a call for standard reforms: "". . . set up internationally at least such mechanisms of redistribution [of wealth] as already exist on the national scale. . . . It will be necessary to have an incomes policy on the international scale,"" etc. Even these liberal recipes take on an ill-favored cast when Emmanuel decries the high wages being paid in the industrialized countries. In sum, the book will disappoint its quite specialized potential audience.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1972
Publisher: Monthly Review Press