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Capitalism and International Relations

Westminster 1INR410 Week 10 2014

Jamie Allinson

on 27 November 2014

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Transcript of Capitalism and International Relations

'Historical Materialism'
capital and capitalism
Capitalism one of several ‘modes of production’ (not an inevitable or natural state)
Modes of production: made up of ‘forces’ and ‘relations of production’
Modes of production: usage unclear but “primitive communism”, slavery, feudalism, capitalism, communism
Dominant ideas are those ruling class: point is to change world, not just interpret it
Capital Vol.1, 2,3
2 basic classes: workers


Labour is source of value, profit
Workers have labour power but no means of production
Sell labour power to bourgeoisie, who compete to profit from this labour power
Lenin and Bukharin
'State and Revolution' 1917
'Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism'
2 contradictory tendencies: Capital increasingly financial, centralised, statized

But also increasingly internationalized
‘State capitalist trusts’ compete militarily: capitalism identified with war

To divide non-capitalist world amongst them in order to export capital (Lenin)

Why were there states in the first place?
dependency theory
Marx-ish, rather than Marxist
Explanation of ‘under-development’
Expansion of exchange/ market
Since C.16th Euro-Atlantic ‘metropolis’ extracted surplus from Afro-Asian/Latin American “satellites”
world systems theory
'World-economies then are divided into core-states and peripheral areas. I do not say peripheral states because one characteristic of a peripheral area is that the indigenous state is weak, ranging from its nonexistence (that is, a colonial situation) to one with a low degree of autonomy (that is, a neo-colonial situation...semiperipheral areas...are in between the core and the periphery on a series of dimensions, such as the complexity of economic activities, strength of the state machinery, cultural integrity, etc.

Some of these areas had been core-areas of earlier versions of a given world-economy. Some had been peripheral areas that were later promoted, so to speak, as a result of the changing geopolitics of an expanding world economy'

Immanuel Wallerstein, "The Modern World System" Vol.1
n ir
Robert Cox, Stephen Gill
Draws on Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) for role of
and ‘hegemony’
Reality is always theorized, contested

Distinction between problem-solving and critical theory

Hegemon constructs own interests as universal ones

At level of both states-system and of class conflict (‘neo-liberalism’)
And International Relations
The 'Value Form'
"The consumption of labour-power is at one and the same time the production of commodities and of surplus-value. The consumption of labour-power is completed, as in the case of every other commodity, outside the limits of the market or of the sphere of circulation. Accompanied by Mr. Moneybags and by the possessor of labour-power, we therefore take leave for a time of this noisy sphere, where everything takes place on the surface and in view of all men, and follow them both into the hidden abode of production, on whose threshold there stares us in the face “No admittance except on business.” Here we shall see, not only how capital produces, but how capital is produced. We shall at last force the secret of profit making" Capital, Vol. 1, Chapter 6
but... problems arise in IR
- Globalization = ‘smooth space’ of ‘Empire, not state rivalries
-Capital de-territorialized, de-centered: so is resistance of the ‘multitude’
Capital is a conscious abstraction
Trying to understand the essence of a process
that exists in actual time and space, history and
Does capitalism need states?
Answer given indicates degree of independence of spatially embedded states from 'materialist' mode of production analysis
Different positions
'Political Marxism'
Capitalism inherently flattens space
Hardt and Negri 'Empire'
Contradiction between capitalism and the
states system
Capitalism creates a
certain kind of space
Henri Lefebvre, David Harvey
State is functional to capital: fuse with each other
'Unity of Logics' between capitalism and state competition, war etc
Nation-state and 'territorial fix'
, 'accumulation by disposession'
is part of that 'spacialization'
Alex Callinicos, (Ellen Meiksins Wood)
Comes from 'autonomia operaia' : everywhere is a factory, the 'multitude' is the revolutionary subject, not the working class
'Political' in that class struggle drives history, not modes of production
Only under capitalist relations are
'economic' and 'political' separate: anarchy
is capitalist anarchy
Benno Teschke , Hannes Lacher - state system is a
pre-capitalist hangover
'[Social] space
is a [social] product...the place thus produced also serves as a tool of thought and action...in addition to being a means of production it is also a means of control, and hence of domination, of power' Henri Lefebvre, The Social Production of Space
Jamie Allinson
University of westminster 27.11.14
Is capitalism relevant?
Or do economic and political systems follow different logics...

Sovereign power



Compete to accumulate power

Conflict of interest/ 0-sum

Use of force
Bear in mind
There are many 'Marxisms'
Marxism in IR
theory DOES NOT
equal the foreign policy of the
Leads to two interlinked questions:
1. How did capitalism begin and expand into other areas?
2. Can capitalism be used to explain inter-state relations - or are there logics contradictory?
Dynamic, inherently expansionary system
But also brutally exploitative, crisis-ridden : ‘a hideous pagan idol
The problem of many states
If capitalism comes after states and war,
what is the relationship between the two?

How can the former possibly account for the latter?

Is the tendency for capitalism to overcome, or
exacerbate inter-state rivalry and competition?
Christopher Chase Dunn, 1981 'Interstate System and Capitalist World Economy, One Logic or Two?' ISQ 25:1
Competitive actors
Spatial irrelevance
Compete for profit
Potential harmony of interests/+ve sum
Co-ordination of freely willed contracts
the relationship between capitalism and ir
Existence of states system seems to precede capitalism (depending on what 'capitalism' is...)

Usually means free-markets, and absence of state control in economy
What is the relationship between the two?
Some Liberal Positions
Some Realist (Mercantilist)
Capitalism a good thing:
better the more the state system is
subject to it
World market not state, is unit of analysis

Market leads to harmony of interests

Comparative advantage in trade benefits all

Late developers catch up through markets
E.g. Robert Keohane, Joseph Nye, Kenichi Ohmae
Economic prosperity subordinate to
state interest

Manufacturing = State Power

Commercial Rivalry =>War

Zero sum world

Robert Gilpin (1980) 'War and Change in World Politics':
uneven development of capitalism gives incentive
and means for war to change hegemony
Marxism in IR
Marxism about history and historical transition

Economics & Politics part of power relations of social whole

‘Economic’ structures vary with history, place, are changeable

These structures and their changes are the main things, not state system
A revival?
'I argued that a remarkable consensus concerning the legitimacy of liberal democracy as a system of government had emerged throughout the world over the past few years, as it conquered rival ideologies like hereditary monarchy, fascism, and most recently communism. More than that, however, I argued that liberal democracy may constitute the “end point of mankind’s ideological evolution” and the “final form of human government,” and as such constituted the “end of history.”' Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man, 1992
'Karl Marx had it right. At some point, Capitalism can destroy itself. You cannot keep on shifting income from labor to Capital without having an excess capacity and a lack of aggregate demand. That's what has happened. We thought that markets worked. They're not working.’ Nouriel Roubini, Financial Times, 2011
resistance and its return
Early 2000s anti-capitalist movements...

Iraq War, revival of discussion about Imperialism (Hardt, Negri, Harvey, Callinicos)
Global protests, revolutions, not very well understood by IR theory
Who 'resists'?
The Oppressed?
What do they resist, and how?
Does resistance become revolution?
Full transcript