World Capitalist Market

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

World Capitalist Market


the system of commercial, economic, financial, and credit relations among the countries that constitute the world capitalist economic system, a system based historically on the international capitalist division of labor. Over its lengthy course of development, the world capitalist market has passed through a number of stages, each characterized by the specific extent to which social production had become internationalized.

The world capitalist market originated in the 16th century, when capitalist development was at the manufactory stage. This market became one of the major contributing factors in the victory of the capitalist mode of production over feudalism. Unequal trade relations and colonial exploitation were among the decisive elements contributing to the primitive accumulation of capital during this period.

The shift over to large-scale mechanized production by the leading capitalist powers during the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries marked the onset of a new and higher stage in the development of the world capitalist market. Large-scale industry virtually created the world market of pre-monopoly capitalism at the same time that such industry’s dependence upon foreign trade rose enormously. Crises of overproduction, which occurred regularly from 1825, caused world capitalist production and international trade to develop un-evenly and spasmodically.

The final stage in the formation of an all-encompassing world capitalist market came as capitalism entered the phase of imperialism. V. I. Lenin wrote that “at a definite stage in the development of exchange, at a definite stage in the growth of large-scale production, namely, at the stage which was attained toward the turn of the century, exchange so internationalized economic relations and capital, and large-scale production assumed such proportions that monopoly began to replace free competition” ( Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 27, p. 95). The determining factor in the development of international trade during the monopoly stage of capitalism was the export of capital, which was inseparably connected with the struggle among the great powers over the economic and geographic partition of the world.

World War I, with its worldwide historical consequences, had an enormous influence on the entire subsequent course of development of the world capitalist market. The war brought about a deep and prolonged disruption of international trade; only in 1924 did the actual volume of trade on the world capitalist market regain its prewar level. As a result of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia, the world capitalist market could no longer exist as the sole comprehensive system of world economic and trade relations. Within the situation defined by the general crisis of capitalism, trade development within the world capitalist market became markedly more unstable and spasmodic.

World War II shook the structure of international capitalist economic relations to its foundations, but after 1945 the reestablishment of these relations took place with relatively greater speed than after World War I. By 1947 trade turnover in constant prices on the world capitalist market had exceeded the level of 1937, and by 1955 it was more than 60 percent greater. In the postwar period, factors associated with the steady deepening in the general crisis of capitalism began to have an increasing effect on the tendencies and specific features of the functioning of the world capitalist market. The breakaway of a number of European and Asian countries from the capitalist system caused a significant constriction in the scope of the world capitalist market. The rapid growth of trade and economic relations among the socialist countries led to the formation of the world socialist market. Trade among these countries, as well as their trade with the capitalist and developing states, has tended to increase rapidly.

Postwar production growth, along with the accelerated internationalization of such production within the shrunken boundaries of the world capitalist economy, led to further development of the international division of labor. Significant shifts occurred in the structure of international trade under the impact of the scientific and technological revolution. These shifts primarily reflect the increasing disproportion between development in certain basic industries and in agriculture. Industrial goods, which had made up some two-fifths of total trade on the world capitalist market for the first half of the 20th century, came to constitute some two-thirds of this trade by the early 1970’s. Uneven development among the basic categories of goods had intensified in the extreme.

One of the most important trends in international trade at the present time is the gradually weakening role of the developing countries in the world capitalist market. Their relative weight in postwar capitalist trade declined by nearly half, falling from approximately a one-third share in the late 1940’s to roughly one-sixth in the early 1970’s. These figures reflect not only the worsening position of the developing countries on the world capitalist market, but also fundamental shifts in production technology and foreign trade within the leading capitalist powers, whose large-scale industries continue as before to dictate the main directions for development of the international capitalist division of labor.

The importance of the international capitalist division of labor has grown especially as the pace of scientific and technological advance has increased. Such advance primarily affects the main branches of modern industry such as chemicals, machine-building, energy, electronics, and precision instruments. The growth of these branches of industry has brought about a significant expansion in capitalist international trade and increased the relative weight of the industrially developed countries within that trade. The total volume of trade among these counties increased by more than five times between 1953 and 1973; their trade in machinery at the same time increased by almost eight times, and in chemical products by more than ten times. Such long-term trends reflect major changes under way in the international division of labor on the world capitalist market.

A crucial role in this process of change is being played by international specialization and industrial cooperation, especially in the context of increased state-monopoly regulation of foreign trade and of steps toward integrating the economies of a number of the advanced capitalist countries. Capitalist integration manifests itself on the world capitalist market in the form of rival trade blocs such as the European Economic Community and the European Free Trade Association, as well as through international alliances among the financial oligarchies for the purpose of attacking the position of the working masses and exploiting the developing countries. The economic basis of such blocs and alliances is found in the objectively advancing process of internationalization of social production in tne world capitalist economy. At the same time, tendencies toward economic integration and cooperation in foreign trade on the*world capitalist market arise among certain groups of developing countries as part of their struggle to achieve economic independence. Monopoly capital seeks to subordinate this particular process of integration to its own interests.

Since World War II, the imperialist states have significantly increased their activity in such areas as state-monopoly regulation of foreign trade, export of capital, international currency problems, and price formation on the world capitalist market. The entire course of postwar development shows that the strengthening of state-monopoly tendencies on the world capitalist market has failed to stabilize the market or to reduce any of the antagonistic tensions that flow from the basic contradictions of capitalism; such contradictions are instead intensifying. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the world capitalist market was more than once shaken by severe foreign exchange crises that affected the entire complex of international economic, commercial, credit, and financial relations of contemporary capitalism. The early 1970’s also saw the outbreak of the energy crisis. Human progress requires not only the most rapid possible elimination of all the destructive consequences of imperialism and colonialism in the realm of the international division of labor but also the creation of a truly all-inclusive world market in which all countries can participate on an equal basis. The struggle of the world’s progressive forces for the development of such a market is becoming one of the most urgent international issues.


Marx, K. Kapital, vols. 1–3. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch. 2nd ed., vols. 23–25.
Lenin, V. I. “K kharakteristike ekonomicheskogo romantizma.” Poln. sobr. soch. 5th ed., vol. 2.
Lenin, V. I. Imperializm, kak vysshaia stadiia kapitalizma. Ibid., vol. 27.
Materialy XXIVs’ezda KPSS. Moscow, 1971.
Mezhdunarodnoe soveshchanie kommunisticheskikh i rabochikh partii: Dokumenty i materialy. Moscow, 1969.
Manukian, A. A. Problemy poslevoennogo razvitiia ekonomiki kapitalisticheskikh stran. Moscow, 1966.
Rymalov, V. V. Raspad kolonial’noi sistemy i mirovoe kapitalisticheskoe khoziaistvo. Moscow, 1966.
Bunkina, M. K. Tsentry mirovogo imperializma: Itogi razvitiia i rasstanovka sil. Moscow, 1970.
Politicheskaia ekonomiia sovremennogo monopolisticheskogo kapitalizma, vol. 2. Moscow, 1970.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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