international relation


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  • The purpose of this lecture is to outline -some core features of Marxist approaches to IR -four key strands within contemporary Marxist thought World-system theory (2) Gramscianism (3) Critical theory (4) New Marxism (which I’m not going to talk about) In many ways Karl Marx was the first theorist of globalisation -from a Marxist perspective, the features of globalisation are not anything new -they are modern manifestations of long term tendencies within the development of capitalism
  • As discussed, we have seen the end of the cold war -and the global triumph of ‘free market’ capitalism -the ‘great experiment’ of communism has failed -Communist parties retain power in China, Vietnam and Cuba -but they hardly threaten the hegemony of the global capitalist system -are themselves copying many features of contemporary capitalist societies -does this mean we can throw the ideas of Marx into the dustbin of history? Despite all this, Marx and Marxist thought refuse to disappear -in fact two decades after the collapse of the USSR, Marxism is facing a renaissance (1) For many Marxists, the Soviet communist experiment an embarrassment -in particular the depravities of Stalinism and post-WWII Soviet’s in E Europe -’actually existing socialism’ was clearly not the utopia many expected -it became hard to defend the principles of Marxism and criticise the government that claim to justify their behaviour by Marxism -however many of the concepts associated with Marxism do not feature in Marx’s writing (2) Perhaps more importantly, Marxist theory is analytically formidable -it proves a powerful analysis of the world we inhabit -much of his writing is an analysis of capitalism -in fact given pervasiveness of global capitalism into every aspect of contemporary life -Marx’s analysis of the dynamism and inherent contradictions of capitalism are even more relevant today Of particular interest is Marx’s analysis of crisis -liberal accounts of capitalism suggest that markets will move to equilibrium -this suggests that markets should be inherently stable -however our day-to-day lived experience suggests otherwise -1987 stock market crash, Asian financial crisis of late 1990s, current global financial crisis -according to Marx, these convulsions an inherent and inescapable part of capitalist system
  • Compared to Realism and Liberalism, Marxism presents an unfamiliar view of IR -Marxist theories hope to expose a deeper, hidden truth about the world -the familiar events in daily news are all influenced by the structures of global capitalism Marxist theory is also extremely discomforting -it argues that capitalism is designed to ensure that the powerful and wealthy prosper -at the expense of the powerless and the poor We should all be aware of the gross inequality in the world -In Marx’s own words “Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, -at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality at the opposite pole” (in Baylis et al 2008: 145) More than 1.2 billion people live on less than US$1 per day Average incomes in more than 50 developing countries are now [2008] at a lower level than they were in 1990. Tariffs on manufactured goods from the developing world are four times higher than those on manufactured good from other OECD countries. In the developed world subsidies to agricultural producers are six times higher than overseas development aid. African countries pay out US$40 million every day on debt repayment (Baylis et al 2008: 146)
  • Historical materialism -given the limited time, this is partial (and sometimes arbitrary) account Marx was a prolific writer and his ideas changed over time -therefore numerous interpretations of his legacy All four approaches to IR hold a few ideas in common (1) the social world should be analysed as a totality -the idea that is arbitrary and unhelpful to divide the social world into different disciplines -eg. History, philosophy, economics, political science, sociology, international relations -you can’t understand one without understanding all the others -clearly this is very demanding given the complexity of the social world (2) the materialist conception of history -processes of historical change are ultimately a reflection of the economic development of society -economic development is effectively the motor of history
  • The core of Marxist thinking is the tension within the economic base of any given society -this is between the means of production and the relations of production (1) the means of production – the elements that combine in the production process (2) the relations of production – e.g. private property and wage labour in capitalism -as the means of production develop (for example through technological advancement) -previous relations of production become outmoded, even restricts the effective utilisation of new productive capacity -this leads to social change – relations of productions are transformed to accommodate the new means -changes in this economic base act as catalyst for broader transformation of society -therefore cultural, legal, political institutions and practices reflect and reinforce the pattern of power and control in the economy Following this logic, then – it is change in the economic base that leads to changes in a society’s legal/political superstructure
  • Class plays a central role in Marxist analysis -while liberals believe there is an essential harmony of interests between different social groups -Marxists argue that society is systematically prone to class conflict -in a capitalist society this is mainly between the bourgeoisie (capitalist) and the proletariat (workers) Emancipation -Marx did not think it was possible to take a detached or neutral view of the world -he did not study the dynamics of capitalist society just for the sake of it -the point of his writing was to change the world -overthrow the prevailing order and establish a communist society -where wage labour and private property are abolished However, even with these key core ideas, there is a great deal of debate -especially with how these ideas should be put into practice -but also which ideas are the most important, which are outmoded, and which have been proven to be mistaken
  • World-system theory -began as the first systematic attempt to apply Marx’s ideas to the international sphere -the critique of imperialism at the start of the 20thC In 1917 Lenin published Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism -argued that capitalism changed since Marx published the first volume of Capital in 1867 -under new stage monopoly capitalism - two-tier structure emerged within world economy -where a dominant core exploited a less-developed periphery -this means no longer a natural harmony of interests between all workers -the bourgeoisie in core countries could use profits to improve the lot of their proletariat -the core’s working class could be pacified by further exploiting the periphery These ideas were further developed by the Latin American Dependency School -Raul Prebisch noted that the periphery were suffering from ‘declining terms of trade’ -prices of manufactured goods rise faster than that of raw materials -so year by year, it takes more tons of coffee to buy a refrigerator -peripheral countries rely on primary goods, and so become poorer relative to core
  • Immanuel Wallerstein probably the greatest advocate of world-system theory -he argued that world history has been marked by the rise and fall of a number of world-systems -the modern world-system emerged in Europe around the start of the 16thC -the driving force of this system has been capitalism Wallerstein added a semi-periphery to the core-periphery distinction -plays a intermediate role; shares some characteristics of the core and some of the periphery -it provides a source of labour to counteract upward pressure on wages in the core -it provides a new home for industries that can no longer function profitably in core (car assembly/textiles) -it stabilises the political structure of the world-system The three zones of the world-economy are linked together in an exploitative relationship -wealth is drained from the periphery to the core -the relative positions become more deeply entrenched; the rich get richer and the poor poorer
  • There are also three temporal features of the world-system theory: (1) cyclical rhythms - capitalist world-economy tends to go through ‘boom and bust’ cycles (2) secular trends - the long term growth or contraction of the world economy (3) contradictions – what is optimal in the short run may be the opposite of what is optimal in the long run One central contradiction is ‘under-consumption’ (a) situation where it is in the interests of capitalists to have well-paid workers -so they can consume the items they produce (b) but it’s also in the capitalist’s interests to reduce wages to increase profits So while it may be sensible to reduce wages, over time this can have bad consequences Here, ‘crisis’ refers to the point where contradictions, secular trends contradictions -combine in a way that prevents the system from sustaining itself -the system collapses and is replaced by another system Wallerstein has made some controversial arguments (1) that the end of the cold war does not mark the triumph of liberalism, but its demise -he argues that this demise provides an opportunity to develop a more equitable system (2) talk of growing US imperialism is nonsense -US power is actually in rapid decline; recent military adventures confirms this Others have looked to extend this work -Chase-Dunn lays more emphasis on the inter-state system -Frank - current world system is actually offshoot of a system that emerged in Asia -during medieval times, Europe was a backwater - world-economy centred on Middle East
  • The Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci developed his own strand of Marxist theory -he was jailed in 1926 for his political activities and died in prison -in prison he wrote Prison Notebooks Gramsci wanted to know why it was so hard to promote revolution in Western Europe -Marx had predicted that revolution would occur first in advanced capitalist societies -but first revolution was in backward Russia, and efforts failed in W / Central Europe His answer revolved around the concept of hegemony -he developed Machiavelli's view of power as a mixture of coercion and consent -previously, Marxists had focussed on the coercive powers of the state -but in the developed West, the system was also maintained through consent Gramsci argued that consent is created and recreated by hegemony of the ruling class -hegemony allows the moral, political and cultural values of the ruling class to be dispersed through society -these values come to be accepted by subordinate groups and classes as their own -this occurs through civil society -civil society = network of institutions and practices semi-autonomous from the state -e.g. the media, education system, churches, voluntary organisations etc. This suggests that we need to take the superstructure much more seriously -socio-economic relations (base) and political and cultural practices (superstructure) underpin a given order together -you cannot think of just economic relationships or just politics and ideas; both matter If hegemony is a key element in the perpetuation of ruling group’s dominance -then it needs to be successfully challenged by a counter-hegemonic struggle -to undermine the prevailing hegemony
  • Canadian Robert Cox has introduced Gramscian approach to world politics One of the most often-quoted lines of all contemporary IR theory: “ Theory is always for some one and for some purpose” (history is written by the winners) If ideas and values reflect a particular set of social relations -and these ideas change as the social relations change -then all knowledge of the social world reflects a certain context, time, and space -knowledge can not be objective and timeless (as some contemporary realists claim) Therefore, we cannot separate facts and values -we all bring our values to bear on our analysis We need to consider theories, ideas and analyses that claim to be objective or value-free -and ask: who or what is it for; what purpose does it serve? Realism and neo-realism serve the interests of those who prosper under existing system -those in the developed states and especially the ruling elites -whether consciously or not, they reinforce and legitimate the status quo -they make the current configuration of IR seem natural and immutable when it is not Cox contrasts ‘problem-solving theory’ with ‘Critical theory’ -problem-solving theory accepts the parameters of the existing order -critical theory tries to challenge the prevailing order -seeking, analysing, and assisting social process that can lead to emancipatory change Cox argues that ‘free trade’ is the hegemonic idea for hegemons US and UK -the idea that free trade benefits all is usually accepted as ‘commonsense’ -but while free trade certainly benefits the hegemon (which is most efficient producer) -the advantages seems much less clear for peripheral states and regions -yet US/UK seems to have generated broad consent even by those disadvantaged by it
  • Critical theory overlaps with Gramsci’s approach -Cox even referred to his Gramsci-inspired approach as critical theory But while Gramscians focus on International Political Economy -critical theorists more focussed on international society, international ethics, security Critical theory developed out of the Frankfurt School -left-wing German Jews forced into exile by Nazis (e.g. Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse) -J ü rgen Habermas is an influential contemporary social thinker (1) Critical theorists are unusual for Marx-inspired theorists -they are not really interested in studying the economic base of society -interested in things like culture, bureaucracy, authoritarianism, the structure of family -also concepts of reason and rationality and theories of knowledge (2) Critical theorists also doubt whether proletariat in contemporary society can in fact engage emancipatory transformation -the Frankfurt School thinkers argue that working class has absorbed by the system -the working class no longer presents a threat to it -reflected by rise of mass culture and the commodification of every element of social life (3) Explored the meaning of emancipation -emancipation a key concern of Marxist thinking, but has not been clearly defined -also unspeakable barbaric behaviour has been justified in the name of emancipation (e.g. imperialism and Stalinism) Traditionally emancipation meant mastery over nature through increasingly sophisticated technology, for the benefit of all -but critical theorists argued that mind-set easily slips into domination of other people -in contrast, emancipation needed to involve a reconciliation with nature (but vague)
  • Habermas’ - emancipation relates to communication, not the relationship with nature -through the idea of ‘radical democracy’ -the widest possible participation in democracy is encouraged -not only in word (like many W democracies) -but in deed: identify and overcome social, economic, cultural barriers to participation - and not just limited to the borders of a particular sovereign state -rights and obligations should extend beyond state borders For critical theorist like Andrew Linklater it is indefensible to say that -state borders denote the furthest extent of our sense of duty and obligation -we should share the same duties and obligations to non-citizens as to fellow citizens Critical Security Studies -refuses to accept the state as the ‘natural’ unit of analysis -for much of world population, states part of the security problem; not security providers -security analysts should hold individuals at the centre of their analysis -according to Marcuse, we belong to a one-dimensional society where most people cannot even conceive an alternative
  • international relation

    1. 1. International Relations Week 4 [read Baylis et. al. (2008) chapter 8] Brendon Tagg [email_address]
    2. 2. Marxist theories of IR <ul><li>(1) Core features </li></ul><ul><li>(2) Key strands: </li></ul><ul><li>World-system theory </li></ul><ul><li>Gramscianism </li></ul><ul><li>Critical theory </li></ul><ul><li>New Marxism* </li></ul>
    3. 3. Isn’t Marxism ‘dead’? <ul><li>The triumph of ‘free market’ capitalism? </li></ul><ul><li>But Marxism has refused to disappear </li></ul><ul><li>(1) Free of embarrassment of Soviet experiment </li></ul><ul><li>(2) Marx’s formidable analysis of capitalism </li></ul><ul><li>- especially Marx’s analysis of ‘crisis’ </li></ul><ul><li>- 1987 crash; Asian financial crisis; current recession </li></ul>
    4. 4. Inequality <ul><li>An unfamiliar view of IR – ‘hidden truths’ </li></ul><ul><li>Extremely discomforting </li></ul><ul><li>- powerful/wealthy prosper expense of weak/poor </li></ul><ul><li>Over 1.2b people < US$1/day </li></ul><ul><li>Over 50 countries income lower than 1990 </li></ul><ul><li>Manufactured tariffs 4x developing cf: OECD </li></ul><ul><li>Developed agricultural subsidies 6x overseas aid </li></ul><ul><li>Africa - US$40m/day on debt repayment </li></ul><ul><li>(Baylis et al 2008: 146) </li></ul>
    5. 5. Essential elements of Marxism <ul><li>The social world should be analysed as totality </li></ul><ul><li>- specific disciplines arbitrary / unhelpful </li></ul><ul><li>The materialist conception of history </li></ul><ul><li>- economic factors drive history </li></ul>
    6. 6. The economic base <ul><li>Means of production “… elements that combine in the production process … include labour [and] … tools and technology available …” (Baylis et al 2008: 583) </li></ul><ul><li>Relations of production “… technical and institutional relationships … … that govern the control of the means of production …” </li></ul><ul><li>(Baylis et al 2008: 586) </li></ul><ul><li>Legal / political superstructure </li></ul>
    7. 7. Essential elements of Marxism <ul><li>Social class </li></ul><ul><li>“ the history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggle” (Marx and Engels in Baylis et al 2008: 146) </li></ul><ul><li>- bourgeoisie (capitalist) vs. proletariat (workers) </li></ul><ul><li>Emancipation </li></ul><ul><li>“ philosophers have only interpreted the world in various way; the point, however, it to change it” (Marx in Baylis et al 2008: 146) </li></ul>
    8. 8. World-system theory <ul><li>Marx -> international sphere </li></ul><ul><li>Lenin (1917): </li></ul><ul><li>Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism </li></ul><ul><li>- two-tier structure: core vs. periphery </li></ul><ul><li>- no natural harmony among workers </li></ul><ul><li>Dependency School </li></ul><ul><li>- declining terms of trade </li></ul>
    9. 9. Wallerstein’s world-system <ul><li>Modern world-system </li></ul><ul><li>- Europe ≈ 16thC </li></ul><ul><li>Core, periphery, semi-periphery </li></ul><ul><li>- labour to keep wages low in core </li></ul><ul><li>- accommodates industries out of core </li></ul><ul><li>- stabilises world-system </li></ul><ul><li>- exploitative relationship </li></ul>
    10. 10. Wallerstein’s world-system <ul><li>Three temporal factors </li></ul><ul><li>- cyclical rhythms, secular trends, contradictions </li></ul><ul><li>- e.g. of contradiction: ‘under-consumption’ </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Crisis’ = system collapse </li></ul><ul><li>Controversial statements: </li></ul><ul><li>- end of cold war demise of liberalism </li></ul><ul><li>- opportunity for more equitable system </li></ul>
    11. 11. Gramscianism <ul><li>Antonio Gramsci: </li></ul><ul><li>Prison Notebooks </li></ul><ul><li>- why no W Europe revolution? </li></ul><ul><li>Hegemony </li></ul><ul><li>- power involves both coercion and consent </li></ul><ul><li>- values of elite dispersed through society </li></ul><ul><li>- superstructure important </li></ul><ul><li>- counter-hegemonic struggle </li></ul>
    12. 12. Cox – ‘world order’ <ul><li>“ Theory is always for some one and for some purpose” (Cox in Baylis et al 2008: 150) </li></ul><ul><li>- knowledge contextual; facts, values not separate </li></ul><ul><li>- who for? what purpose does it serve? </li></ul><ul><li>- realism, neo-realism legitimate status quo </li></ul><ul><li>‘ problem-solving theory’ vs. ‘critical theory’ </li></ul><ul><li>- challenge the prevailing order </li></ul><ul><li>- ‘free trade benefits all’ commonsense / hegemony </li></ul><ul><li>- broad consent even by those disadvantaged </li></ul>
    13. 13. Critical theory <ul><li>Overlaps with Gramscianism </li></ul><ul><li>- but international society, ethics, and security </li></ul><ul><li>1. unusual - less interested in ‘base’ </li></ul><ul><li>2. doubt emancipatory transformation likely </li></ul><ul><li>3. Explored meaning of emancipation </li></ul><ul><li>- mastery of nature - but domination of people? </li></ul><ul><li>- need reconciliation with nature </li></ul>
    14. 14. Critical theory <ul><li>More exploring emancipation </li></ul><ul><li>Habermas emancipation = ‘radical democracy’ </li></ul><ul><li>- beyond state borders (also Linklater) </li></ul><ul><li>Critical Security Studies </li></ul><ul><li>- individuals, not states </li></ul><ul><li>at centre of analysis </li></ul>Habermas Linklater