As we have seen, the law of uneven development as it manifests itself under capitalism is rooted in the fundamental laws that rule capitalist production.
The law of the uneven development of capitalism means that capitalist production in one country will develop with a vigor that far exceeds the development of other countries engaged in capitalist production. But in the next historical period, the country that was developing its capitalist production with exceptional force begins to decay while another country—or group of countries—develop their capitalist production with great vigor, which in turn will be doomed to decay in the following historical period.
At the very dawn of capitalist production, the Italian city state of Venice was the leading capitalist power. Then came the turn of the Netherlands, followed by Britain and now the United States. During the 20th century, the United States evolved into a world-spanning empire with military bases around the globe.
The American empire commands military power that dwarfs any potential competitor. As Mao-Zedong bluntly put it, (political) power grows out of the barrel of a gun. And indeed, America’s unchallenged military power—the gun—translates into unprecedented political power. This is what we mean by the American empire, or “the Empire” for short. But “the gun” depends on the ability to produce “guns,” and the ability to produce guns reflects the development both relatively and absolutely of the productive forces.