Presentation to the Fifteenth Forum of the World Association for Political Economy on ‘Rethinking Economic Analysis: Perspective of Political Economy’, 18-19 December 2021, Shanghai International Studies University, China
‘Not the Thucydides Trap’ is a full refutation of the popular thesis of Graham Allison which erects an historical analogy between Athens-Sparta conflict known as the Pelopponesian Wars, and the burgeoning conflicts between China and the USA. Allison seizes on a single quotation from Thucydides’ History of the Pelopponesian War in which he claims that the conflict was inevitable given the rise of Athens, and from this deduces that the US-China conflict is inevitable given the rise of China.
This is dangerous, since if war is inevitable then there is no point preparing for peace, and misleading, since it the only way to avoid war is for China to cease its path of development. But it is also false in two respects: it misunderstands the origins of the Athens-Sparta conflict and it misunderstands the origins of the US’s relative decline. The cause of the Athens-Sparta conflict was in fact Athens’ conversion into an Empire; the cause of the US’s relative decline is its absolute decline from 1974 onwards, in turn a function of the prolonged crisis of its neoliberal economic system.
This post contains the slideshow, the text of my talk, and the details of the event