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Poulantzas and the Power Blocs in the Periphery

Εισήγηση από το συνέδριο «Κρίση, Κράτος και Δημοκρατία. Αξιοποιώντας τη θεωρία του Νίκου Πουλαντζά για την αντιμετώπιση του αυταρχικού καπιταλισμού». Πάντειο Πανεπιστήμιο, 12-13 Δεκεμβρίου 2014

 

Morten Ougaard (Copenhagen Business School)

Poulantzas and the Power Blocs in the Periphery

 

Session Theme: Global Analysis

  • How was transnationalising capital inscribed into dependent economies through the process of “interiorisation”

  • What did this mean for different class factions?

  • Which role does financial capital and financialisation play?

  • How are different groups of the subaltern classes integrated into and excluded from the power bloc

1. Key distinctions in Poulantzas, reflecting realities of the 1970s:

First distinction is between the metropolises or centre and the dependent social formations (with Southern Europe in a middle position in the Crisis of the Dictatorships).

Next there are distinctions within each of these groups:

In the metropolis: distinction between dominant US capital and the former ‘national bourgeoisie’, now labelled the ‘internal bourgeoisie’, dependent on and intertwined with US capital and therefore without interest in and capacity for an independent ‘national project’.

In the periphery: national bourgeoisie and comprador bourgeoisie, the former with potential and capacity for being part of an anti-imperialist popular alliance.

2. Updating Poulantzas

Today, ca 40 years later, this analysis calls for an update.

For this it is useful to consider Poulantzas’ method.

2.1. Method

Poulantzas went deeply into Marx’s analysis of forces and relations of productions, the two dimensions of property, in order to examine the internationalization of capital – both of the labour process (forces of production) and patterns of control and ownership, i.e. the internationalization of relations of productions.

2.2. The new international economic order

Along booth of these dimensions, internationalization has proceeded and become much deeper than 40 years ago and we know much about the new realities from studies of transnational corporations, global value chains and global production networks. It is a fundamentally changed international division of labour, organized and driven forward by transnational corporations.

3. Where is the periphery in this?

3.1. The stratification within the South has become more important. In class terms there are

i) Countries with weak, nascent bourgeoisies, allied with and reliant on foreign capital, and largely comprador in nature. And there are

ii) Countries with strong emerging national bourgeoisies, (Brazil, China, India, South Africa, and more). They are becoming integrated in the political establishments of the Centre while at the same time struggling over the conditions for this integration. Generally, and in contrast to the North, finance has not become hegemonic in these countries.

Probably it also makes sense to identify a middle category between these two groups:

iii) Countries marked by an unstable balance between national capital on one side, and comprador and international capital on the other.

3.2. On the emerging bourgeoisies:

They share an interest with centre capital in the ongoing development of capitalism on their territories. The conflict is over who controls the process, and in particular who controls the profit from it. This underlying conflict plays out at many different levels, nationally and internationally, for instance at the WTO, in negotiations over trade and investment treaties, in climate politics, and more.

3.3. On countries with weak nascent bourgeoisies:

They are subject to rivalry between old and emerging bourgeoisies, e.g. over resources and infrastructure projects in Africa.

4. On subaltern social forces:

Premises:

i) Fundamental transformation is not possible in the foreseeable future – and under all circumstances a very challenging proposition because of the deep internationalization of forces and relations of production.

ii) All states today are ‘competition states’.

The questions for subaltern social forces:

At the national level, there are in most countries narrow limits for challenging the logic of the competition state. International solidarity, transnational collective action is necessary to limit the logic of the competition state.

In national contexts:

– How best to play on conflicts within the power bloc – e.g. playing transnationals against national capitalists;

– Necessary to move within the discipline of competition, the logic of the competition state cannot be changed in one nation.