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Perpetual decline or persistent dominance? Uncovering Anglo-America’s true structural power in global finance

  • Jan Fichtner (a1)

The prediction of America’s decline is a regularly recurring phenomenon; this also pertains to the pivotal field of global finance. This article argues that, first we have to consider the United States together with the other Anglophone countries. The English-speaking countries and territories – Anglo-America – have deep common political and socioeconomic roots, of which the unique global Five Eyes intelligence cooperation is merely one manifestation. In finance, New York and London (NY-LON) constitute the decision-making core of this transnational formation. Second, to analyse the highly complex phenomenon of structural power in the globalised international political economy we have to dig deeper to uncover truly meaningful data. Thus, this article evaluates data for nine central segments of global finance from around the year 2000 to 2014. Contrary to the assertions of many declinists, these data show that Anglo-America’s dominant structural power has been persistent during this period. Moreover, four novel visualisations show that the US-UK axis is the fulcrum of the international financial system. However, contemporary global finance is characterised by a high degree of latent fragility; significant imbalances, inequalities and contradictions persist and are even likely to grow, potentially undermining the legitimacy and the stability of the whole system.

Corresponding author
*Correspondence to: Jan Fichtner, University of Amsterdam, Department of Political Science, CORPNET Project, P. O. Box 15578, 1001 NB, Amsterdam, NL. Author’s email:
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33 Ibid.

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37 Ibid.

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40 Cohen Cf. Benjamin J., ‘Money, power, authority’, in Germain (ed.), Susan Strange and the Future of Global Political Economy. Cohen discusses two other important dimensions of power: influence and autonomy.

41 Strange Susan, States and Markets (London: Pinter, 1994 [orig. pub. 1988]), p. 24 .

42 Strange, ‘The persistent myth of lost hegemony’, p. 565.

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48 Strange, States and Markets, p. 90.

49 Necessarily, a broad study such as this one cannot provide a deep analysis of every segment – future studies need to uncover Anglo-America’s specific power positions in more detail.

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59 Cf. Wójcik, ‘The dark side of NY-LON’.

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69 Nitzan and Bichler, Capital as Power, p. 153, emphases in original.

70 Ibid., p. 182, emphasis in original.

71 Ibid., p. 312, emphases in original.

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76 BIS, ‘Locational banking statistics’.

77 Note that in the cross-border segments of banking, direct investment, and portfolio investment, the shares of Anglo-America, the eurozone, and China & HK always involve a degree of intraregional holdings, for example, US bank deposits in the Cayman Islands or direct investment from HK into China.

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81 IMF, ‘Where investment goes’, Finance & Development, 48:3 (2011), available at: {} accessed 1 April 2016.

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83 The US is one of the few countries that publishes inward direct investment data both by country of foreign parent and by country of ultimate beneficial owner. Measured in the latter way the value of the Netherlands drops by half while the value of Luxembourg decreases by almost 90 per cent (BEA 2014). This extreme discrepancy supports the argument that these two conduits seriously distort IMF direct investment data and thus can be excluded from this analysis.

84 Schwartz, Subprime Nation.

85 US Treasury, ‘Treasury International Capital (TIC) System’.

86 Prasad, The Dollar Trap; Hager Sandy Brian, Public Debt, Inequality, and Power: The Making of a Modern Debt State (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016).

87 Starrs, ‘American economic power hasn’t declined’.

88 Schwartz, Subprime Nation.

89 IMF, ‘CPIS Notes and Definitions’ (2013c), available at: {} accessed 1 April 2016.

90 Shorrocks Anthony, Davies James, and Lluberas Rodrigo, ‘Global wealth databook 2014’, Credit Suisse, available at: {} accessed 1 April 2016.

91 Ibid.

92 Starrs, ‘American economic power hasn’t declined’.

93 Schwartz, Subprime Nation.

94 Heemskerk and Takes, ‘The corporate elite community structure of global capitalism’; Haberly and Wójcik, ‘Regional blocks and imperial legacies’.

95 Kirshner, American Power after the Financial Crisis.

96 Mead Walter Russell, ‘America’s sticky power’, Foreign Policy, 141:3/4 (2004).

97 Helleiner Eric, The Status Quo Crisis: Global Financial Governance After the 2008 Meltdown (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

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