Pacific-Asia and the Future of the World-System

By Ravi Arvind Palat | Go to book overview

one discerns a certain critical antinomy or inconsistency in the approach as a whole. In essence, this antinomy reflects a basic tension between, on the one hand, a fundamentally positivistic, teleological, and closed view of historical change, social structures, and the world-system itself and, on the other hand, an open-ended, dialectical, and nonpositivistic view of social reality. One example of this is the fairly derivative view of social institutions (class, nation, etc.) within world-systems analysis that was revealed in the discussion of the state above, complemented by a nuanced and finely textured notion of historical change exemplified by the discussions of hegemony. This example is representative of similar tensions that run through many of the critical works within the perspective (prominent illustrations of this tension can be found in Hopkins et al., 1977: 126-127; Wallerstein, 1974: 7-9; 1984: 7-8, 35, 185; 1987: 322-323).

The macrohistorical narrative of Indian state formation emphasizes a paradox: The period of American hegemony coincided with the construction of a highly statist and protectionist version of development in India, while the waning decades of U.S. hegemony ( 1971 to the present) have witnessed the beginnings of a dismantling of this closed economy, the progressive inability of state elites to continue with their earlier strategy, and the increasing subjection of the Indian economy to the "logic" of the world capitalist system. The paradoxical character of this development, it is argued in this chapter, is mitigated if one reconceptualizes state power and hegemony in ways described above. In other words, a more compelling mode of analysis becomes available if one resolves the antinomy inherent in world-systems analysis in favor of an open-ended, dialectical, and nonpositivistic epistemology.


NOTES

I would like to express my thanks to Ravi Palat and Mark Rupert for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

1.
For a discussion of how economic pervasiveness has not translated into genuine autonomy from social classes in India, see Atul Kohli ( 1987: 15-32, and 51-88). For a discussion of similar issues in a global context, see Peter Evans ( 1985).
2.
The category of semiperiphery has given rise to much debate within world-systems analysis. Considerations of length prevent me from engaging this interesting literature. In this paper, semiperipheries are defined simply as areas that incorporate within themselves both core-like and peripheral production processes. For the discussions themselves, see Alvin So ( 1990: 198-200) and, especially, William G. Martin ( 1990).
3.
The irony of "resisting" colonialism and achieving "independence" while trying to remake society in the image of the Western countries is obvious here. For perceptive analyses, see Ashis Nandy ( 1980) and Partha Chatterjee ( 1986).
4.
1 crore = 10 million.
5.
The other, obvious option--generating foreign exchange through sustained exports to Western countries--was never seriously considered by the new regime. This long history of "export pessimism" in Indian development is detailed well in Jagdish Bhagwati and T. N. Srinivasan ( 1975).

-130-

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