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Tariq Ali's 2011 Robb Lectures: Empire and its futures -- Islam, US hegemony and China

Lecture 1: Islam and its discontents, March 17, 2011. Lectures 2 & 3, below.

A series of three lectures by Tariq Ali.

Renowned Marxist and anti-war campaigner Tariq Ali presented these three lectures as part of the University of Auckland's annual Sir Douglas Robb Lectures, delivered March 17-23, 2011. The videos have been made available to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal courtesy of the University of Auckland library.

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In a changing world with US military power transcending US economic weaknesses, the amazing rise of China and the continuing occupations in the Arab world and South Asia, what are the likely outcomes? Is it the case, as many argue, that the US empire is now in irretrievable decline? Will China flex its military muscles one day?

London-based and published on every continent, Tariq Ali has been a leading figure of the international left since the 1960s. He is an editor of New Left Review and has written more than 20 books on world history and politics as well as seven novels. Born in Pakistan he attended Oxford University where he became involved in student politics and the movement against the Vietnam war. He is a critic of neoliberal economics and his book The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity was a response to 9/11. His latest book is The Obama Syndrome: War Abroad.


Lecture 1: Islam and its discontents, March 17, 2011

As US-backed dictators crumble and fall in the Middle East, heralding a new Arab reawakening, what is the likely impact of all this on the region and elsewhere? And how will these changes affect the jihadi groups that have been active in the region? The Saudi Kingdom is the refuge not just for retired dictators but is also the area that has provided al-Qaeda with most of its early recruits. Arab democracy will become effective only if it deals with the economic problems that confront most of its citizens. Political solutions are no longer enough.

Lecture 2: US power today: The global hegemon, March 21, 2011

Iraq and Afghanistan, Japan and South Korea are still occupied -- in different ways -- by the US and its allies but imperial overstretch is beginning to set in. Nonetheless US politico-military hegemony, while weakened, is still in place. The EU, Australia/New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea remain loyal satraps with occasional voicing of discontent. How long can this last?

Lecture 3: The rise of China, March 21, 2011

The emergence of China as the world's economic powerhouse has shifted the centre of the global market eastwards. Its growth rates are the envy of elites everywhere, its commodities circulate even in the tiniest Andean street markets, its leaders are courted by governments strong and weak. These developments have ignited endless discussion on the country and its future. The mainstream media are essentially concerned with the extent to which Beijing is catering to the economic needs of Washington, while think-tankers worry that China will sooner or later mount a systematic challenge to the political wisdom of the West.

Academic debate, meanwhile, usually concentrates on the exact nature and the mechanics of contemporary capitalism in China. The optimists of the intellect argue that its essence is determined by the Chinese Communist Party's continued grip on power, seeing China's pro-market turn as a version of the Bolsheviks' New Economic Policy; in more delirious moments, they argue that China's leaders will use their new economic strength to build a socialism purer than anything previously attempted, based on proper development of the productive forces and not the tinpot communes of the past.

Others, by contrast, hold that a more accurate name for the ruling party would not even require a change of initials: Communist is easily replaced with Capitalist. A third view insists that the Chinese future is simply not foreseeable; it is too soon to predict it with any certainty. Whatever the evolution, what is the likely global impact 30 years from now?

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