Theory of Unequal Exchange

Communist Working Group ‘Unequal exchange and the prospects for socialism

A relatively short and very concise summary of the Emmanuelian approach to the theory of imperialism and the division of the world into rich and poor nations. We recommend this as the first book to read on unequal exchange, especially for those with relatively little background in political economy.

Brolin, Josh, The Bias of the World: A History of Theories of Unequal Exchange from Mercantilism to Ecology

A detailed history of various theoretical approaches to unequal exchange preceding, including and succeeding Emmanuel’s work, from the 16th century mercantilists to modern ecological theory of unequal exchange. Includes by far the most detailed and objective presentation in existence of Emmanuel’s economic theory, as developed throughout his books and articles. Includes valuable discussion and citation of some Emmanuel articles which have not been translated and are difficult to find. One of, if not the only detailed exposition of Emmanuel’s theory of capitalist crisis and its relation to the drive for trade surplus by imperialist nations given in his book ‘Profit and Crises’. This book is quite detailed and extensive, we do not recommend reading all of it if you are new to the theory of unequal exchange. Reading the section dedicated to Emmanuel’s theory is recommended however, it is the best secondary literature on Emmanuel’s work

World-Systems Analysis

Dunaway, Wilma A., Book: History of Development Theory

Survey of theories of development from a scholar following radical world-system analysis. Major theories included in the survey are: the modernisation, neo-institutionalist, orthodox Marxim, neo-Marxism, ECLA’s school of thought, dependency, articulation of modes of production, theory of dependent development, and World-Systems Analysis. Essential textbook to provide basic knowledge of competing paradigms and how they relate to each other.

Clelland, Donald. Surplus Drain and Dark Value in the Modern World-System

As per Donald Clelland’s words, his concept of surplus drain is often used as a synonym for unequal exchange, although the originator of the term and subsequent analysts have intended a more narrow usage. Surplus drain uses the neo-Marxist concept of surplus (as theorised by Baran and Sweezy) within the world-systems analysis, and expands it with notions of “bright” and “dark” value, arguing that the value accounted for via capitalist accounting methods (“bright” value) constitutes a minor part of the value transferred from the periphery to the core. “Dark” value being invisible part of it.