In the new book The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire, Canadian socialists Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch make the argument that globalization in the second half of the 20th century was in fact just Americanization. Their main point: The globalization of capitalism was not something that happened because markets have a natural tendency to expand and search for new opportunities; it happened because, after the war, the American state had the economic and military power to build the financial networks and impose the policies that established a planetary-scale market system. And because there are many different types of capitalism (British capitalism, South African capitalism, Singaporean capitalism), the type of capitalism that became universal was American.
This brings me to two films, Mamma Roma and 8½, by famous postwar Italian directors Pier Paolo Pasolini and Federico Fellini. Pasolini's Mamma Roma was completed in 1962 and Fellini's 8½ in 1963. The first film is a part of Seattle Art Museum's series Viva Italia; Grand Illusion is screening the second film to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Mamma Roma is about a former prostitute (Anna Magnani) who is doing her best to raise her 16-year-old son, and 8½ is about a director who, as an artist, is going through a crisis. What we always find looming in the background of these films and others of their moment (La Dolce Vita, Rocco and His Brothers) is America's cultural and economic power. In 8½, it takes the form of the American journalist; in Mamma Roma, it's the construction of new apartment buildings. The older Italy is in the front and still vital, but we get the sense that it's gradually being transformed or soon will be absorbed by the new order being imposed by the American state. This new order is what we now call globalization. Mamma Roma, Seattle Art Museum, Thurs Feb 14 at 7:30 pm; 8½, Grand Illusion, Feb 15–21.