Self-Determination and Dependency. Jamaica's Foreign Relations, 1972-1989

By Malaki, Akhil | Ibero-americana, July 1, 2002 | Go to article overview

Self-Determination and Dependency. Jamaica's Foreign Relations, 1972-1989


Malaki, Akhil, Ibero-americana


Holger Henke, Self-Determination and Dependency. Jamaica's Foreign Relations, 1972-1989, The University of West Indies Press, Mona, Jamaica, 2000 (221 pages). ISBN 976-640-058-X.

The 1970s and 1980s are decades when Jamaica underwent a process of not just protracted polarization in national politics and ideology, but even economic decline. Interestingly enough, neither Manley's PNP and its democratic socialism, nor Seaga's JLP and orthodox neoliberal policies have helped Jamaica out of its structural crisis. On the contrary, they have served to accentuate the structural problems. Why hasn't Jamaica's foreign policy approach of either government ameliorated Jamaica's condition of structural dependency? Why has the country's foreign policy perpetuated dependency instead? To what extent the external and internal factors have shaped Jamaica's foreign policy approaches that have only served to perpetuate dependency? These are the fundamental questions Self-Determination and Dependency addresses. The emphasis is on the "socioeconomic nature of foreign relations, i.e. their rootedness in the economic sphere of production and the dependent states' position within the global hierarchies of capitalist production and exchange" (p. 4).

Holger Henke uses the more sophisticated variant of Cardoso and Faletto's dependency perspective in his foreign policy analysis. In doing so he notes thus; "The systemic foreign policy process of a structurally dependent state can then be specified as the concrete expression of the contending priority interests of social forces of which the bourgeoisie usually has the ideological and political hegemony. The struggle for this expression is rooted in the sphere of production, i.e. relations of production" (p. 6). He tries to incorporate Cardoso and Faletto's 'dependent capitalism' with Poulantzas' 'relative autonomy' of the state that focuses on contradictions among or between international capital and local bourgeoisie in creating a political context from which Jamaica's foreign policy approaches have emerged. By combining the two perspectives, the Henke arrives at a model of 'dependent state's foreign policy'. In this model, "the dependent state's degree of relative autonomy tends to direct its foreign policy actions... The sum of the actions and interactions of all social forces operating in the global and domestic economy determines the particular form and direction of a dependent state's foreign policy at a specific historical juncture" (p. 13).

Chapters 2 and 3 trace the internal and external dynamics between 1972 and 1980. In this period, the contradiction between the domestic capitalist class and Manley's democratic socialism gets accentuated leading to polarization. The state exercised its relative autonomy in foreign policy by not taking into confidence the domestic bourgeois. Towards the end of the decade, however, the government becomes more receptive and involves the bourgeoisie in bauxite negotiations. In the international scenario, several events like the oil crisis, financial mobility of petrodollars, the NIEO, made the developing countries increasingly 'internationalized'. During the same period, Jamaica tried to pursue an independent foreign policy towards Cuba that sparked antagonisms within and abroad, especially the US (chapter 4). As chapter 5 shows, the opposition JLP and the business community amplified these antagonisms. Thus, by the end of 1970s, Jamaica's foreign policy relations reflected an 'internationalization of domestic factors'. The attack on Manley's domestic economic policies instead became an attack on the government's foreign policy. The non-cooperation stand by the domestic bourgeoisie undermined the economy, which only served to bring the country under external control (IMF and US). The excessive rhetoric in Jamaica's foreign policy shifted the domestic balance of forces away from PNP. The end result was that Jamaica's more or less independent foreign policy was compromised. …

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