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Article

The global political economy is a multilevel system of economic activities and regulation in which the domestic level continues to predominate—in other words, it is a global system comprising national capitalist economies. Nations differ in terms of the regulations and institutions that govern economic activity, an observation that is embodied in the so-called “varieties of capitalism” (VoC) literature. Contemporary VoC approaches highlight the significance of social and political institutions in shaping national economies, in stark contrast to neoclassical economics which generally ignores institutions other than markets or sees them as hindrances to the functioning of free markets. Three analytical premises inform the diverse conceptual frameworks within the VoC literature: the firm-based approach, national business systems approach, and the governance or “social systems of production” approach. The VoC literature offers three important contributions to our understanding of the global political economy. The first is that different sources of competitive advantage for firms and nations are institutionally rooted and not easily changed. The second contribution is that these distinct national arrangements give rise to different interests/preferences in how the global economy is constructed and managed. Finally, the VoC approaches provide a framework for analyzing long-term institutional changes in capitalist systems and the persistence of diverse forms of capitalism, including the global financial crisis of 2008–2009 that may usher in yet another epochal change in the “battle of capitalisms.”

Article

Robert M. Bosco

The study of religion and development focuses on how the moral and ethical resources of the world’s major faith traditions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism might tame the worst excesses of market civilization. Whereas states, corporations, and international development institutions often define “development” as economic growth and all of the adjustments required to achieve it, religious approaches consider the consequences of this conception of development and recommend that the achievement of material gain be tempered by compassion, conscience, a greater concern for social equity, and a responsible application of science and technology to both the social and natural worlds. The origins of the field of religion and development can be traced back to Max Weber's seminal investigations into the elective affinities between Protestantism and the spirit of capitalism. In the 1980s, the majority of scholarly literature grappled with the meaning and significance of Weber’s basic ideas in various contexts and locales as scholars examined whether, when, and how religious traditions enhance or inhibit development at the international, regional, national, or community levels of analysis. After a period of hibernation, the study of religion and development was reenergized in the late 1990s as religious leaders and faith-based organizations played a central role in challenging the policies and practices of international development institutions, especially the World Bank.

Article

Raymond J. Dezzani and Christopher Chase-Dunn

World cities are a product of the globalization of economic activity that has characterized post-World War II capitalism, and exhibit characteristics previously found in primate cities but with influence extending far beyond the range of the metropolitan state. They are the culmination of postwar urbanization mechanisms coupled with the rise of transnational corporations that have served to concentrate unprecedented population and economic power/potential. The potential for both human development advantage and disadvantage is historically unprecedented in these new and highly interconnected urban amalgams. In general, human settlement systems are usually understood to include the systemic (regularized) ways in which settlements (hamlets, villages, towns, cities) are linked with one another by trade and other kinds of human interaction. Geographers, historians, and economists have developed models of urban structure and patterning incorporating population location/movement and the location of economic activity to be able to rationally explain and predict urban growth and allocate resources so as to implement equitable distributions. The resulting models served to illustrate the importance of the interactions between specific geographic location, population concentrations, and economic activity. But given the development of world cities, there is the relationship between the size of settlements and political power in intergroup relations to consider. The spatial aspect of population density is, after all, one of the most fundamental variables for understanding the constraints and possibilities of human social organization.

Article

Critical international relations theory (CIRT) is not only an academic approach but also an emancipatory project committed to the formation of a more equal and just world. It seeks to explain the reasons why the realization of this goal is difficult to achieve. What is crucial here is not only the social explanation, but also politically motivated action to achieve an alternative set of social relations based on justice and equality. Critical theory in international relations (IR) is part of the post-positivist turn or the so-called “fourth debate,” which followed the inter-paradigm debate of the 1970s. Post-positivism consists of a plurality of theoretical and epistemological positions that opened up wide ranging criticisms of the neo-realist “orthodoxy” that has dominated IR theorizing since the beginning of 1980s. Critical theory has challenged the mainstream understanding of IR, and has spurred the development of alternative forms of analysis and approaches. Moreover, since the beginning of the 1980s, different types of CIRT have become the main alternative to mainstream IR. The general aim of CIRT can be summed up by Marx’s eleventh thesis on Feuerbach that “philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” A specific tradition of critical thought in IR, derived from Marx, comprises the normative Critical Theory (CT) of the Frankfurt School—termed the “structural critical theory”—since it focuses more on the sociological features and dynamics of capitalism.

Article

This essay focuses on two related “radical theories” of development, dependency and world-systems theory, and shows how they emerged as a critique partly of modernization theory and of the development strategy of import substitution industrialization. The dependency and world-systems perspectives on development were very influential among radical development theorists from the late 1960s onwards, all of whom agreed that capitalism had to be theorized as a world-system. These include Andre Gunder Frank, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Theotonio Dos Santos, Walter Rodney, Samir Amin, Arghiri Emmanuel, and Immanuel Wallerstein. Some “stronger” versions of dependency, associated with underdevelopment and world-systems theory, have been introduced in recent years. In particular, A. G. Frank proposed the idea that development and underdevelopment are two sides of the same coin. A more nuanced approach to understanding dependency suggested that development and dependence were in some respects compatible. Wallerstein’s world-systems theory has spawned another approach called world-systems analysis. As theories, the ideas associated with both dependency and the world-systems are problematic, failing, for example, to adequately explain the origins of the capitalist world economy. However, both theories remain useful for understanding the current global order. In addition to recognizing that capitalism can in some respects be regarded as a world-system, the two approaches correctly assume that neoliberalism reinforces hierarchies by undermining the capacities of states to shift out of low value production into higher value sectors, as shown by historical patterns of manufacturing.

Article

One of the most significant structural transformations in postwar capitalist democracies has been the rise of the welfare state. The theoretical intent of the traditional sociological and economic inquiry into the welfare state has focused less on trying to understand the welfare state itself and more on to what extent and under what conditions welfare provisions influence social and economic outcomes such as equality, employment, and labor market behavior. Over time, however, scholars have turned toward historical and political factors. G. Esping-Andersen identified three types of welfare state that seem incongruent with the real worlds of welfare capitalism: the “liberal,” “conservative/corporatist,” and “social democratic.” In contrast to the period until the mid-1980s that focused on welfare state expansion, the late 1980s saw the emergence of new streams of literature whose emphasis was on welfare state retrenchment. More recently, scholars have advanced the argument that the globalization of capital markets has effectively increased the power of capital over governments that seek to expand or maintain relatively high levels of social protection and taxation. Another notable trend is the increased intellectual interest in the relation between development and social policy and the growing interface between social policy and economic policy. A question that arises is whether distinctive welfare regimes have the ability to survive, particularly if their norms clash with those of the competition, or Schumpeterian workfare state.

Article

Roxanne Lynn Doty

The connections between the local and the global raise a range of issues that have been addressed in social and political theory in the past but continue to provoke important discussion. Many of the constructs that have traditionally been foundational to the academic discipline of international relations, including territory and sovereignty, are inherently intertwined with how we think of the local and the global. The local–global connections revolve around three broad and overlapping themes: the critical scrutiny of older concepts and the emergence of new ones as well as alternative vocabularies; an appreciation of the necessity of an interdisciplinary perspective; and attention to the significance of the relationship between theory and practice. Many of the more recent scholarly work on the local–global continue to tackle the effects of global capitalism in locations constructed as local as well as the role of these locations in facilitating global capitalist relations. Critical geographers and cultural studies scholars have made important contributions to our understandings of the global–local nexus by focusing on the formation of social movements and localized practices of resistance as well as transversal struggles that call into question conventional spatial logics. Another important area of research that has made both conceptual and empirical contributions has produced the “global cities” literature. Students of international studies need to continue to focus on what have been referred to as “everyday” or “local” practices that have often been considered unimportant when it comes to the “big” issues of international studies.

Article

Robert A. Denemark

World system history is a perspective on the global sociopolitical and economic system with a structural, long-term and transdisciplinary nature. The intellectual origins of the study of world system history can be characterized by three general trajectories, beginning with the work of global historians who have worked to write a “history of the world.” Attempts were also made by scholars such as Arnold Toynbee to write global history in terms of “civilizations”. A second pillar of world system history emerged from anthropology, when many historians of the ancient world, anthropologists, and archaeologists denied the importance of long-distance relations, especially those of trade. A third pillar emerged from the social sciences, including political science and sociology. One of the central ideas put forward was that sociopolitical and economic phenomena exhibited wave-like behavior. These various intellectual strands became self-consciously intertwined in the later 1980s and 1990s, when scholars from all of these traditions began to cross disciplinary boundaries and organize their own efforts under the rubric of world system history. This period saw Gunder Frank and Barry K. Gills questioning the value of identifying a uniquely modern system based on a transition to capitalism that was said to have occurred in the West. Frank and Gills introduced the “continuity hypothesis,” which suggests that too much scholarly emphasis has been placed on the search for and elucidation of discontinuities and transitions. World system history faces two important challenges from determinism and indeterminacy, and future research should especially address the implications of the latter.

Article

Wendy W. Wolford and Timothy Gorman

Organization by rural landless movements has been the primary factor driving the implementation of land reform projects. At the heart of land reform is a debate over the very nature of both property and rights within and between socialist and capitalist economic systems of the modern era. One common interpretation of the development of property rights was articulated by Karl Marx, who argued that capitalism was made possible through theft of common land by a rising bourgeois class. The issue of private property rights in land emerged as a crucial aspect of national socialist transformation in the early 1900s. Known as the “Agrarian Question,” it was first formulated by Karl Kautsky as both a political and economic question. Land distribution occurs today via three main mechanisms, which differ in their emphasis on market transactions, state appropriations, and grassroots mobilizations: the market, state, and civil society. Grassroots mobilization to demand access to land has been a key factor behind most if not all land distribution programs. There is a growing literature on the transnational peasant movement (TPM), but much of it is laudatory and descriptive, focusing on the formation of various movements and campaigns. Comparative work is needed to elucidate general trends and retain sensitivity to local conditions in the future. Furthermore, the literature on land reform must be interdisciplinary, with attention to economic issues, political factors, social relations (including power), and historical particularities.

Article

Bipolarity was viewed both as an empirical condition and as a central explanatory concept, albeit contested, during the Cold War (1945–1989), when two superpowers dominated the international system. The United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) confronted each other as military and ideological rivals heading competing alliance systems—the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), founded in 1949, and the Warsaw Pact established in 1955. Nuclear weaponry added a new wrinkle to the global superpower competition, particularly after the Soviet Union broke the American nuclear monopoly in 1949. A rich literature around these themes emerged as scholars sought to grapple with the explanatory dynamics propelling state behavior under the systemic constraints of bipolarity and the technological challenges presaged by the nuclear age. Such an academic focus meant that the study of international politics, particularly in the United States, was largely refracted through the prism of U.S.-Soviet competition and centered on the nature and implications of polarity, power, alliances, and nuclear deterrence. When the Soviet Union imploded, bipolarity in the sense of two predominant powers ended, as did the division of the world into two opposing blocs. In the post-Cold War period, scholars turned their attention to investigating questions regarding the impact on the nature of system structure and the international order of the collapse of one of the poles. Accordingly, during the Cold War, scholars debated the conceptual and empirical understandings of bipolarity as well as its implications and the causal factors on which the expectation of bipolar stability was based. In the post-Cold War period, scholars reflected over whether the end of ideological (capitalism/democracy vs. communism/single party authoritarianism) conflict presaged the end of history or inaugurated a clash of civilizations, with some questioning the salience of the concept of polarity and the viability of the state system in the face of rising subnational and transnational pressures.

Article

Hegemony emerged as an analytical term to conceptualize different historical periods out of the combined post-1945 historical context of two key events: the dissolution of an international political order founded upon European colonial empires, and the establishment and evolution of a postwar liberal international economy under U.S. leadership. Within the subdiscipline of International Political Economy (IPE), the genesis of the concept of “hegemony” or “leadership” has two sources: the idea of hegemonic order or dominance within the world economy as articulated in Immanuel Wallerstein’s World-Systems Theory in the early 1970s, and the publication of Charles Kindleberger’s analysis of the Great Depression that initiated a debate involving neorealist and liberal-oriented scholars around what subsequently become known as “hegemonic stability theory.” John Ikenberry also articulated a nuanced understanding of hegemony from a liberal-institutionalist perspective with regard to the post-1945 international order. There exists a substantial amount of literature on the theory and history of hegemony within IPE, and much of this discussion has been fueled by ongoing developments in the world economy. Critics of hegemony situate and embed state power and behavior within the socioeconomic structure of capitalism, and also focus on class agency as central to the establishment and evolution of hegemonic orders. To varying degrees these scholars have drawn on the theory of hegemony developed by Antonio Gramsci.

Article

The new information age has the potential not only to alter the historical path of world system development, as other socio-technological paradigmatic shifts have done, but also to transform it substantially. One school of thought argues for a complete upending of past patterns with nation states in their hierarchical alignment as the center core and periphery of power in this system. An alternative view instead argues that the regularized interaction that characterizes a world system may envisage a number of modes of production without altering its fundamental structure. The world system in this view is made up of a variety of complex intra-organizational and interorganizational networks intersecting with geographical networks structured particularly around linked clusters of socioeconomic activity. Information and carrier technologies based on new forms of information technologies and their connection to network technologies play a vital role in the long-term evolution of world system development characterized by both path-dependencies and major transformations that result from technological innovations. While digital information technologies significantly alter the processing and use of information as a central element of power and control within this network structure and therefore its network logic, they do not break the evolutionary process of world system development.