The CSS Blog Network

Review – Globalization and Capitalist Geopolitics

Capitalism, courtesy of Patrick Hoesly/Flickr

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 23 April 2016.

Globalization and Capitalist Geopolitics: Sovereignty and State Power in a Multipolar world

By Daniel Woodley

London: Routledge 2015

Daniel Woodley explores important contemporary trends in the capitalist world system from a Marxist perspective. Focusing on tensions between economic transnationalization and the persistence of state power and inter-state (and inter-regional) geopolitical rivalry, Woodley poses challenging questions for all perspectives in IR, including those seeking to transform the chaotic and destructive dynamics of globalized capitalism.

Woodley’s central thesis is that, notwithstanding US military and financial power, the world has entered a transitional phase in which ‘imperial state hegemony is giving way to a new international economic order characterized by capitalist sovereignty and the competition between regional/transnational concentrations of power for geopolitical security’ (p.xiii). In line with the transnationalist Marxist perspective, Woodley argues that the scale of transnational corporate power is such that the significance of inter-state competition is declining and that corporations operate within the framework of an emergent transnational state form of capital (chapter 4).

Capitalist sovereignty and state power

Woodley argues that the concept of capitalist sovereignty (chapter 2) reintegrates the dual logics of capital and territoriality that are separated in much international political economy. Rejecting the common view that states are the basic entities of IR, Woodley ‘places the value form-determined relation of power at the centre of theoretical analysis’ (p.1), emphasizing that both capital and states are subject to capital’s determining logic. Capital continues to depend on states ‘to reproduce the conditions necessary for the production of value’ (p.22), but, echoing Robert Cox’s transmission belt metaphor (later withdrawn), Woodley argues that states are becoming ‘administrative instruments for restructuring’ economies in line with transnational corporate interests (p.18). Like other transnationalists, Woodley throws down a gauntlet to state-centric IR and IPE, Marxist and otherwise.

» More

The Era of “Debt Capitalism” Has Come to an End

Private debt, public debt and inflation: the drivers of economic growth for the last 40 years. Image: Mikko Saari/flickr

After 40 years of economic growth based on debt, the era of  “debt capitalism” has come to an end, says Wolfgang Streeck. The Managing Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne gave a remarkable interview (in German) last week that I would like to share with you, in advance of the World Economic Forum‘s meeting in Davos starting today.

Economies must grow in order to increase welfare. This has been the basic requirement for capitalist societies since the industrial revolution. Yet the last time Western societies experienced real economic growth was in the decades following WWII, says Streeck, in his account of recent economic history. Since the 1970s, when this period ended and economic growth slowed, governments started to print money in order to create the illusion of increasing salaries and greater welfare. In reality, however, income stagnated.

When decision-makers realized that high inflation rates could no longer be sustained, they looked for new recipes to keep the economy growing. In the 1980s, they found a solution in increased government spending based on public debt. Ronald Reagan was the unlikely representative of this policy.

Streeck argues that when government debt reached unsustainable levels, the third and final phase of “debt capitalism” (he uses the term Pumpkapitalismus in German) began. From the 1990s on, economic welfare was no longer based on inflation or on public debt but on private debt. Financial markets were liberalized and consumers, especially in the US, were convinced to take out loans in order to pay for their expenses. » More

The End of History, the End of Ideology?

Is Ideology your next meal? courtesy of Alyson Hewett

When Francis Fukuyama declared “the end of history” at the end of the Cold War, he wasn’t completely wrong. The history of ideas stopped.

I know that philosophy is no longer trendy, but we have to face it: Ideologies have played a vitally important role in human history. Whether the Enlightenment, capitalism, communism, fascism, socialism, anarchism and all the other “isms”, ideologies have, sometimes alone and sometimes in competition with each other defined political history. Competition between ideologies forced them to improve their practical implementation, and thus each theory became better and better by being in contact with other ideologies.

When Fukuyama declared that history had ended, he meant that ideological history had ceased to exist when capitalism won the fight against communism. Since then, no serious ideologies have been able to seriously question or challenge the neoliberal system.

As a result, we have become bad and inept at thinking outside the box. We no longer seriously question the system (that most of us live in), not even after one of its most serious crises. Few people seem interested in seeking out and spreading new form of thinking that promote something better than capitalism. This is a serious deficiency for our increasingly ideology-deficient societies.

We do no longer think about reforming or improving the society, we just think about fixing it. Think about our government’s response to the financial crisis. What did we do? Did we try to create a financial system in which crises are no longer possible? No, we just saved the system from itself and are now simply waiting for the next crisis to happen.

What we need, is out of the box-thinking that the re-think and re-examines the basis of our current system. A few philosophers have started on this journey and one of them is Slavoj Zizek, a Slovenian philosopher. » More

1948-1953: Psychology of Hope in Propaganda Films

In early May London’s Barbican Centre showed its audience the lost and re-discovered propaganda films of the Marshall Plan.

Produced between 1948 and 1953 these films taught the wider Western European public about democratic values and free trade market principles.

The Barbican screening was made possible through the Selling Democracy Project, curated by Sandra Schulberg and Ed Carter.

For all propaganda film nostalgics out there: Some of the films shown at the Barbican’s are also viewable online, via the Film Archive of the German Historical Museum. All available material comes with valuable English descriptions.

Air of Freedom is one of the propaganda films available in the German Historical Museum archive

Air of Freedom is one of the propaganda films available in the German Historical Museum archive

And yet another “vraie trouvaille”, free of charge: The German Newsreel Archives.
The archives are in the process of being set up, but so far 6044 items can be called up.

Screenshot: German Historical Museum Film Archive.