Academic journal article World Review of Political Economy

Global Power and the Geopolitical Dynamics of Capitalism

Academic journal article World Review of Political Economy

Global Power and the Geopolitical Dynamics of Capitalism

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

International Political Economy (IPE) emerged as a response to changes that the system underwent in the beginning of the 1970s. These changes were essentially perceived as a crisis of the American hegemony and the new forms of economic relations, represented by the rising multinational corporations and the renewed commercial and financial flows, which burgeoned on the liberalization and deregulation trend. Several theories were formulated in this new field of studies, both with "solving problem" and "critical" orientations, to use Cox's classification. In the first field, the theoretical elaboration began with the Hegemonic Stability Theory (HST) of Kindleberger and Gilpin and later progressed in the direction of the complex interdependence and the "liberal neoinstitutionalism" theories during the 1970s and 1980s. Interesting enough, HST, whose main concern was the preservation of American power and the liberal international capitalist order, was a decisive influence on at least one main theory of the "critical" camp, the World Systems (WS) perspective, especially in the way articulated by Giovanni Arrighi.

The HST-WS link demonstrates one underlining association between the original IPE traditions formed in the 1970s: they were all focused on the problems that had an impact on the center of the world capitalist system, and specifically on the United States. In other words, they were two sides of the same debate. However, the conjuncture that was opened by the "crisis of the 1970s" was not only a system-core event, to use WS terminology, but had a decisive influence in the worlds periphery and on the debate about the "development" that raged in Latin America since soon after World War II, animated by the ideas formulated by United Nations Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC, or in Spanish and Portuguese, CEPAL). In our view, this debate must be viewed as an IPE debate as well, since it involves the relation between power and wealth in the international arena. The wave of changes that began in 1970 affected the development debate through the impact that liberalization had on the dismantling of "Developmental States." This, together with the repressive tone that dominated "developmentalism" in its later stages, especially in Brazil, led to the formulation and dissemination of the dependency theories by the Marxists, as well as several attempts to reform the structuralist theory.

Today, it is important to acknowledge the fact that virtually all the currents mentioned above, originated in the crisis of the 1970s, were severely contested by the events and trends that dominated the systemic conjuncture opened by that crisis. In that sense, HST and WS failed to account for the continuation of American power, the same problem that complex interdependence and neoliberal institutionalism faced. The latter still struggles with the additional failure of liberalization and international organizations to promote, even in moderated and tonedown forms, democracy, development, and equality throughout the world, as it had predicted. The same disconnection between theory, reality, and political projects and outcomes plagues the periphery perspectives originated during the 1970s and 1980s, which saw its hopes for socialist revolution or egalitarian and autonomous capitalist development systematically frustrated. Simultaneously with the crisis of the theoretical-political intellectual traditions of the IPE, which are part of a larger liberal-illuminist tradition of thought strongly informed by the notion of historical progress and modernity, we observe a strengthening of what was frequently classified, by that tradition, as pre-modern or dated phenomena, such as geopolitical competition, religious movements, and nationalism. This strengthens the need for a deep theoretical innovation, which goes beyond the classical illuminist paradigm, and its modern representatives, Marxism and liberalism. …

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