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Production, Class, and Power in the Neoliberal Transition: A Critique of Coxian Eclecticism

Alfredo Saad-Filho and Alison J. Ayers
The transition from Keynesianism to neoliberalism11is a significant con-
cern in neo-Gramscian scholarship at two closely related levels. First, this his-
torical process is associated with the profound transformation of key features
of the contemporary political economy. For example, the transition is associ-
ated with the transnationalization of production, the rise of finance, the end of
the cold war, the renewal of U.S. imperialism, and other political economy
shifts that must be accounted for by any aspiring school of thought in the field
of international relations. The importance and intellectual complexity of these
historical processes help to explain why the transition to neoliberalism is cen-
tral to neo-Gramscian literature.2Relatedly, analyses of this transition offer
important ground for examining the explanatory adequacy of much neo-
Gramscian literature through the methodology and key assumptions within
such accounts, for example, concerning the internal relationship and relative
importance of classes, states, and nations in social theory; the nature and role
of empire and imperialism in contemporary political economy; the relationship
between changes in the labor process and broader sociohistorical transforma-
tions, and so on. These are some of the reasons why, in his magnum opus Pro-
duction, Power, and World Order, Robert Cox chooses to examine “the
world economic crisis that began in the 1970s…to see what transformations
in structures of production, states, and world order they portend.” Cox
rightly identifies the historical conjuncture of the late 1970s and the world
economic crisis as “a threshold—a phase of transition between the definable
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structures of the recent past and the as yet unclear structures of the emerging
future.”3This “threshold” refers to the transition from the Keynesian to the
neoliberal state and world order (or, in Cox’s particular terminology, from
“neoliberalism” to “hyperliberalism”).
This chapter reviews Cox’s writings on the neoliberal transition, particu-
larly that elaborated in Production, Power, and World Order, together with
several closely related works in the neo-Gramscian tradition.4It shows that
Coxian scholarship has contributed to an understanding of the social world
as more open and context-dependent, enabling a greater openness to diverse
empirical and theoretical influences within the social sciences. Nevertheless,
this chapter criticizes Coxian accounts of the transition to neoliberalism
because of their insufficiencies at four levels. First, they tend to be excessively
abstract and methodologically eclectic. These accounts draw upon a method-
ologically flawed juxtaposition of interpretations of this transition, including
selected insights from Marxism, regulation theory, institutionalism, and evo-
lutionary political economy, among other schools of thought, and from diverse
disciplines including International Relations (IR), political science, sociology,
and economics. These attempted syntheses tend to be overambitious and,
almost invariably, superficial. Second, the Coxian deployment of class analysis
is largely categorial, bypassing the dynamics of dispossession, exploitation,
resistance, and competition at the core of technological progress and politi-
cal change in capitalist societies. Third, and related to the previous point,
Coxian studies generally offer an inadequate theorization of social and his-
torical processes and the material and social relationships between them.
Fourth, they rely excessively on the purported “autonomy” of the state as a
catchall explanatory factor undergirding processes of systemic change.
In addition to explaining and illustrating these shortcomings of Coxian
studies, this chapter sketches an alternative analysis of production, class, and
power in the transition to the neoliberal system of accumulation in the “cen-
ter.” In this account, material processes and shifts in class relations play the
essential role, and state policies both express and respond to class and other
interests acting upon and through the state. It is shown that neoliberalism
emerged gradually and tentatively as the outcome of the capitalist search for
solutions to fundamental problems of accumulation, social order, and polit-
ical legitimacy. The neoliberal system of accumulation has largely replaced
previous systems in different countries, including Keynesianism in the rich
countries, developmentalism in the poor countries, and Soviet-style socialism
in the former Eastern bloc.
The examination of the material basis of neoliberalism and its vulnerabil-
ities in this chapter points toward one additional shortcoming of Coxian
studies of the neoliberal transition, which affect its policy conclusions. It is
shown, later in this chapter, that internationalized finance is the main
instrument for the imposition of the project of accumulation and social domi-
nation associated with neoliberalism. In this project, industrial capital (both
domestic and transnational) and finance are inseparably linked. The material
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integration between “finance” and “industrial capital” (and between foreign
and domestic capital) is such that the presumed “contradictions” between them
cannot be used to support progressive alternatives to neoliberalism, as proposed
by most Coxian studies.
Cox calls the postwar U.S.-led hegemonic order Pax Americana or (some-
what confusingly, for contemporary readers) “neoliberalism.”5This era was
characterized by national, mixed economies based on a tripartite corporatism
including capital, labor, and the government, basic social security, limited
redistribution, and a liberal international economy supported by the Bretton
Woods System. The relations of production were typically Fordist, compris-
ing an intensive regime of accumulation based on mass production and mass
consumption. The Pax Americana was bound together by a U.S.-led security
structure validated through anticommunist ideology.6
In Coxian analysis, the crisis of Pax Americana is said to have occurred as
a result of a combination of factors, including, at an immediate level, the col-
lapse of the Bretton Woods system, rising inflation, and falling investment
and manufacturing profits due to higher wages, higher input costs, and
intensified competition.7At a further remove, the internationalization of
production and the transition from Fordist to post–Fordist accumulation
played a determining role in this systemic transition. These processes
increased the power of transnational capital and finance at the expense of the
state and the trade unions. In particular, “finance has become decoupled
from production to become an independent power, an autocrat over the real
economy.”8These structural shifts compelled governments to recognize that
growth has become dependent on disciplining the workers and the govern-
ment itself, especially through restrictive labor laws and the abandonment of
fiscal activism.9
These pro-business policies have helped to consolidate a post–Fordist
structure of accumulation. This structure is distinct from Fordism because it
includes greater capital mobility, the displacement of human labor by equip-
ment, the systematic use of cheap labor both in the rich countries and inter-
nationally through the shift of production to poor countries, and faster
turnover of capital. These policy changes have also internationalized the
state, turning the national states into “transmission belts” from the global to
the national economy (although Cox reviews this metaphor in 2002).10 Cor-
respondingly, power has shifted toward a transnational managerial (capitalist)
class that has seized the opportunity to create globalized production sys-
tems.11 The transition has been secured through the imposition of a “new
constitutionalism” locking in the neoliberal reforms.12
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In Coxian literature, the neoliberal order is limited by two key contradic-
tions. The first contradiction is between production and finance. Since
finance is concerned primarily with short-term gains, its growing influence
tends to induce a macroeconomic “roller-coaster” of ups and downs, which
is destructive to jobs and productive capacity.13 The second contradiction is
between national and transnational capital. Specifically, national capital may
oppose the internationalization of production because it relies on national or
regional protection to remain competitive.14
Methodological Eclecticism and Levels of Analysis
In seeking to address questions of history and transformation in the global
order, Coxian scholarship has advanced an understanding of the social world
as open and context-dependent. This can be positive, for example, when it
supports the incorporation of empirical and historical material, and it increases
the analyst’s awareness of the potential contribution of diverse schools of
thought for understanding the neoliberal transition. However, these outcomes
depend heavily on the internal consistency of the analytical framework. As ear-
lier chapters have noted, the methodological underpinnings of the neo-Gram-
scian tradition are problematic precisely because of its eclecticism. Cox’s work
offers a clear example. As Schecter notes, “much ink has been spilled trying
to classify Cox’s work,”15 with Cox having been variously classified as “a
fairly conventional…Marxist-Leninist,”16 an exponent of “watery Marx-
ism,”17 or as insufficiently Marxist.18
These ambiguities stem from Cox’s eclecticism, which is widely recognized
in the literature. For example, Sinclair readily confirms that “Cox’s work reflects
a willingness to sample from discordant intellectual traditions to create a
method.”19 Despite his self-identification as an historical materialist,20 Cox
chooses to “take some things from Marxism without swallowing the whole
package.”21 For example, in Approaches to World Order, Cox rejects theory,
which he regards as theological, such as that of so-called “Theological Marxists,”
together with those theorists he labels as “groupies.”22 More generally, Cox
“seems to endorse the view that different methodologies can be selected legiti-
mately to study different chronological periods.”23
His disposition toward the selective incorporation of incompatible
methodologies leads Cox to combine Marxist and Weberian approaches in
his work, despite their notorious incompatibilities and Weber’s own sharp
warning that “Marx is not a taxicab one can drive where one will.”24 This
methodological stance is not unique to Cox. As Hazel Smith has indicated,
there is “controversy as to whether the concepts utilized by the neo-Gramscians
can be considered as recognizably ‘historical materialist’ in the Marxist
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sense.”25 Less charitably (and as noted in previous chapters), Peter Burnham
has argued that neo-Gramscian literature “offers little more than a version of
Weberian pluralism oriented to the study of the international order.”26 For
Cammack, these methodological shortcomings are due to the fact that Cox,
together with other proponents of critical IPE, “have been more concerned
either with pitching theory against theory, or with disputing the academic
and institutional terrain of U.S. IR/IPE (dazzled, as it were, by the attributes
and trappings of imperial power) than with pursuing their own project.”27
Although Cox seems oblivious to the destructive implications of his
eclecticism, it compromises his analysis at two critically important levels: its
conceptual coherence and its ability to incorporate new material consistently,
rather than merely arbitrarily, as an add-on. It is not obvious that analytical
integrity should always trump the convenience of paradigmatic flexibility. The
balance between them, and the shortcomings of eclecticism, can be examined
more fully through the contrast between alternative interpretations of histor-
ical processes, see later in this chapter. In short, what is missing in Coxian
analysis is a methodologically structured and systematic account of the nature
of capitalist accumulation, and why it is unstable and prone to systemic
changes. This can be supplied only through a systematic analysis of accumu-
lation in specific historical periods, drawing upon the abstract relations of cap-
italism. Simply to replay historical generalities interpreted through eclectical
lenses and ritually affirm the role of “mutual determination” is insufficient.28
This analytical stance is prone to backslide into the truism that “everything is
related to everything else” and, at a further remove, the claim that social history
is irreducibly indeterminate and, therefore, that social theory cannot aspire to
anything beyond description.
Class and Class Analysis
Cox claims to “make class analysis a principal feature of the study of histori-
cal change” because asserting “the centrality of production…leads
directly to the matter of social classes.”29 However, this bold promise is
immediately watered down because, for him, definitions of class derived
from mid-nineteenth-century Europe cannot be applied directly to a late
twentieth-century world characterized by a great diversity of social class situa-
tions. For example, Cox claims that “the restructuring of world society…chal-
lenges the Marxist schema of the primacy of class-oriented identities.”30
Rather, a fresh approach to the dynamics of class formation becomes necessar y.
This reworked interpretation claims to maintain an understanding of class
“as a real historical relationship and not merely an analytical category.”31
Unfortunately, this ambitious goal cannot be achieved because, in Cox’s
analysis, class is merely a static, positional, ideal-typical, and descriptive cat-
egory, rather than a dynamic and historically specific relationship that actu-
ally shapes the capitalist system and its evolution. Thus, for Cox, class is “the
way in which people are positioned in production processes.” This limited
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conceptualization remains apparent in Cox’s more recent writings,32 where he
defines a class relationship as any relationship of domination and subordination,
and argues that similar relations can be found in many forms, including those
of gender, race, caste, and so on.33 In this sense, the notion of class becomes
undistinguishable from that of “identities,” which informs the postmodern and
poststructuralist literatures at odds with materialist analysis.34
Despite his frequent references to class and class analysis, ßclass relations
are largely a rhetorical add-on in Cox’s works, and class changes and move-
ments have no determining influence on the collapse of Keynesianism and
the rise of neoliberalism. In Coxian analyses, the collapse of Keynesianism
was brought about by exogenous technological developments due to competi-
tion, and by sectional disputes between governments and the private sector,
between finance and industry, and between industrial capital and the workers.35
These conflicts are not explained. They are merely deployed to rationalize con-
flicts for shares of the national income, and they normally bypass completely the
conditions of work and the distribution of power in the shop floor and in soci-
ety. What we find in Coxian analyses—just like in mildly reformist Keynesian
studies of the decline of the so-called Keynesian consensus—is a (more or less
informative) description of conflicts around (the process of) accumulation, but
not about (the nature of) capitalist accumulation.
The Social Relations of Production
Cox seeks to theorize development and transformation within the global
order according to “modes of social relations of production.” He identifies
twelve such “modes,” conceptualized as “monads,” that is, as “self-contained
structures,” each with its own “developmental potential.”36 This peculiar
approach provides—at best—a descriptive and largely arbitrary snapshot of
sociohistorical realities that only exist as dynamic processes. In the specific
case of contemporary capitalism, Cox’s framework disables the causal status
of accumulation and the shifting modalities of social conflict associated with
it over time. In so doing, the historical specificity of capitalist sociality, cap-
italist relations of exploitation, and the different forms of resistance under
capitalism are largely suppressed.37 Because of these limitations, and the
sketchy treatment of class outlined previously, rather than “a problematic
of qualitative transformation, what becomes signal in Production, Power,
and World Order, is a certain positional problematic of social forces.”38
The use of Weberian ideal types underpins Cox’s “historical structures”
that are said to comprise three categories of forces: material capabilities, ideas,
and institutions.39 These “juxtaposing and connecting” structures are arbitrar-
ily placed into three interrelated “levels” or “spheres” of the social world, con-
sisting of the social forces related to production, forms of state, and world
orders.40 Thus, Cox claims to confront the “ahistorical, essentialist epistemol-
ogy” of neorealist IR/IPE and structural Marxism, insisting that “these levels
are not in any fixed relationship to each other…just as the three categories of
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forces identified by [him] exist only in relation to their historically endowed
capacities.”41 In other words, “the task of the analyst is to specify the forces
that interact in a structure, through the delineation of ideal types, and deter-
mine the ‘lines of force’ between these different poles, which is ‘always an
historical question to be answered by a study of the particular case.’”42
Readiness to confront the historical is always welcome, but this can be
achieved only through the deployment of a consistent theory of capitalism.
As the chapter by Lacher has detailed, Cox has none. In fact, while claiming
to be a historical materialist, Cox explicitly rejects key elements of Marx’s
theorization of capital. For example, Cox claims that “it is important to dis-
tinguish my usage from some of the ways in which [the] term mode of pro-
duction has been used. One of the other ways has been to think of the mode
of production as the discovery of the inner essence of capital, giving rise to
notions like the ‘logic’ of capital or the ‘laws of motion’ of capital.…[Instead,]
my approach has been to infer structures from observable patterns of con-
duct.”43 The shortcomings of this approach are critically examined elsewhere
in this volume (see especially the chapters by Lacher and Joseph).
The inability of Cox’s static and arbitrary framework to meaningfully
incorporate class and the social relations of capitalism (and, within capital-
ism, to distinguish structurally between systems of accumulation) lead him
and other neo-Gramscians to simply plug social and historical processes into
the narrative with little analytical or historical justification. Historical
processes of various orders and at diverse levels of complexity are often jux-
taposed, with little attention to the material relationships between them,
except by reference to parallel literatures, for example, regulation theory.
Although the cracks can be polished until they become almost invisible in
descriptive studies, the analysis is hampered by its inability to capture the
dynamics of capitalism in historically specific contexts.
The “Autonomy”of the State
Coxian accounts of the neoliberal transition rely too heavily on the “auton-
omy” of the state (as detailed by Bedirhanog˘lu), which, more often than not,
functions as a deus ex machina explaining economic and social changes
through its own disembodied rationality and its tensions with other (simi-
larly disembodied) categories, especially industrial capital, finance, and the
workers. This is essential for Coxian approaches because, having adopted a
static understanding of class and capital, they require an exogenous explana-
tory factor to account for historical change. This is generally supplied by
state policy and the conflicts associated with it, and by exogenous techno-
logical change, which can be called in whenever this becomes necessary.
This explains why, despite his vigorous attempt to transcend the state-
centrism of orthodox IR/IPE, Cox’s analysis remains profoundly state-cen-
tric. For example, although Production, Power, and World Order flags up the
fundamental issues of production and class right at the start, Cox meekly
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concludes his treatise with the familiar contention that “the crucial role, it
turns out, is played by the state…States…determine the whole complex struc-
ture of production from which the state then extracts sufficient resources to
continue to exercise its power.”44
The same limitations apply to Cox’s ambitious review of the rise and fall
of the global monetary standards in terms of successive hegemonic orders.45
His conclusions “seem disappointingly familiar given the lengthy expositions
on method, ontology and episteme,” simply boiling down to a logic of state-
led domination.46 These disappointing outcomes lead Burnham to complain
that the neo-Gramscian approach is “barely distinguishable from a sophisti-
cated neo-realist account” which fails completely to confront “the estranged
forms of appearance of capitalist social relations.”47 By the same token, Hamp-
ton has shown that neo-Gramscianism constitutes merely “a radicalised politi-
cal realism.”48 At a further remove, the state-centrism of the neo-Gramscian
literature shares profound similarities with the “political school” of the devel-
opmental state, which also privileges “state autonomy” as the prime mover of
long-term social and economic change.49
These limitations are not surprising. The neo-Gramscians “do not work
with a sophisticated state theory…[their] understanding of the state is
mostly a positivist one in the sense that nation state…[is] equated with for-
mal institutions…[and] very often it seems that these institutions are ‘instru-
ments’ of the ruling classes in order to pursue their interests.”50 This is
largely because the “social relations remain external to structures. These
structures in turn become objects of struggle among classes,”51 but these
conflicts are largely stylized and exogenously driven. This approach is insuf-
ficient at two levels. First, the Marxist literature on the state52 has consis-
tently argued that the capitalist state “is not capitalist because it responds to
the directives of the bourgeoisie, but because its very form of existence, as
the locus of the abstractly political relations of domination, marks it out as
part and parcel of a society in which exploitative powers have been separated
from the political sphere. The capitalist state is thus the political form of exis-
tence of capitalist class relations.”53 Second, the neo-Gramscians “have singu-
larly failed to develop a theoretical, as opposed to descriptive, specification of
the principal structures of the international system. For no amount of discus-
sion of such themes as ‘hegemony,’ ‘historic blocs,’ and ‘transnational capital’
adds up to a theory of the modern state system or of the world market.”54
Finally, Cox and other neo-Gramscians have also signally failed to chal-
lenge the Eurocentrism of mainstream IR/IPE (a theme explored further in
other chapters in this volume, see especially Pasha, and Grovogui and
Leonard). Since Cox’s account of world orders privileges the interstate sys-
tem, it is necessarily grounded on the European state system that emerged
from the Treaty of Westphalia. Agency is irresistibly drawn toward the cen-
ter, and the periphery (just like class in the center) is emptied of motive
power. For example, in barely three pages of analysis on “The Coming of the
Liberal Order” does Cox reflect upon the impact of this “expansionist society”
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upon the “periphery.” And, true to Eurocentric custom, this relationship is
characterized as the “penetrated areas” being impacted upon: “politically
structured global economic expansion had an impact on both production
relations and forms of state in the penetrated areas.”55
These limitations have considerable practical import. For, if the state is
autonomous, a “good” government can rise above the sectional interests
that have hijacked the neoliberal state, and implement policies that are more
egalitarian and more in tune with the interests of (domestic) productive cap-
ital rather than (international) capital and finance. This proposition is politi-
cally appealing in its simplicity, but it is flawed both analytically and practically.
First, if the state is “autonomous,” there is no reason why it should select poli-
cies that maximize the rate of accumulation, employment generation, or that
avoid financial crises. In principle, anything goes, depending on the political
balance of forces. However, the state, and the institutions comprised within
it, is shaped by technology and ideology, and by class relations, conflicts, and
material interests. Under these complex circumstances, it is naïve to expect
that the social basis of the state can be transformed via the electoral process
alone and through the agency of “progressive” elected officials. Second,
given the strength of the material basis of neoliberalism (examined later), it is
likely that the “progressive” policies advocated by the neo-Gramscians will fine-
tune the current order, rather than fundamentally undermine it.
By eschewing essential aspects of Marx’s method, neo-Gramscians, for the
most part, have relinquished the opportunity to deploy a methodologically
consistent account of the transition to neoliberalism. The following section
offers an alternative analysis of production, class, and power in the shift to a
neoliberal system of accumulation informed by Marxian analysis. In so doing,
it shows that the earlier chapters in this volume do not engage with the vexed
questions of method, ontology, and epistemology simply to demonstrate that
Cox or others have deviated from an understanding of “what is proper to [cer-
tain] currents of thought.”56 Instead, this alternative account confirms that
methodological eclecticism compromises the ability of much neo-Gramscian
analyses to explain shifts in the social relations of capitalism, and, therefore, the
search for alternatives. This alternative also offers a glimpse of the potential
implications of the deployment of Marxian analysis of systemic shifts in the
international order.
The Keynesian Compact
Keynesianism was the hegemonic system of accumulation and the most
important structure of sociopolitical domination during the postwar “golden
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age” in the center and the “age of developmentalism” in the periphery.57 It
evolved, tentatively, as a pragmatic response to the breakdown of its predecessor—
liberalism—in the interwar period.58
Keynesian economic policies were characterized, first, by fixed exchange
rates, accommodating (“easy”) monetary policies, expansionary fiscal poli-
cies (especially through state-led investment and transfers), and “financial
repression,” including regulations to stabilize the financial system, maintain
low interest rates, and direct credit flows to priority sectors. Second, Keyne-
sianism included a specific modality of social integration. In the center, espe-
cially in the core Western European countries, it was based on a social
democratic settlement based on the postwar antifascist consensus, the expan-
sion of working class entitlements through a welfare state funded by pro-
gressive taxation, the institutionalization of the downward rigidity of the
nominal wages, and the workers’ right to a negotiated share of the produc-
tivity gains. This type of wage relation is stabilizing when output and produc-
tivity are growing steadily because it channels social dissent into negotiations
around employment guarantees and salary demands bounded by the initial
real income levels. Keynesian social integration also facilitated the integration
of the reformist Left into the Keynesian compact, which helped to stabilize
the center politically during the cold war and the traumatic retreat of traditional
(colonial) forms of imperialism.59
Third, the Keynesian era was also characterized by the international hege-
mony of the United States. This was based on U.S. control of the international
accumulation through its unmatched levels of output and productivity, the
availability of capital, financial system depth, and control of the development of
technology, in addition to the comparatively vast U.S. gold reserves and mili-
tary power. These structural advantages ensured that the dollar would be the
international currency during this period and beyond. U.S. hegemony facili-
tated the expansion of (mainly) U.S. transnational companies around the
world, which helped to harmonize technologies, cultures, and economic
policies internationally.
The Bretton Woods System provided an institutional framework for the
integration of the national Keynesian compacts into the U.S.-led process of
international accumulation. The smooth functioning of the Bretton Woods
System also required the United States to run regular balance of payments
deficits in order to irrigate the international economy with dollars. These
deficits allowed the United States to sustain higher levels of domestic con-
sumption, foreign investment, and military commitment abroad than would
have been possible under a more stringent international financial regime.
Finally, the fixed exchange rate system created incentives for the other
countries, both in the center and the peripher y, to mirror U.S. policies in
order to minimize the risk of exchange rate instability.
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Limitations and Crisis of Keynesianism
The gradual unraveling of Keynesianism between the late-1960s and the
early 1970s was the outcome of limitations in the three areas examined in the
previous section. They included economic management problems, the weak-
ening of U.S. hegemony, and widespread labor and social conflicts.
The economic limitations of Keynesianism were essentially due to its suc-
cess ushering in a long international expansion—the “golden age” of capi-
talism. High levels of investment, sustained expansion of output, productivity
and trade, and significant technological innovations in telecommunications,
transport, and computing power fuelled the development and international-
ization of production and finance, especially offshore banking and the
Eurodollar market. In turn, financial development fostered the accumulation
of financial assets by states, industry, and financial institutions bypassing the
regulations imposed by governments, and independently of the immediate
demands of industrial capital.60 However, in the longer run, this process of
financial deepening weakened the relationship between money and com-
modities, facilitated purely financial accumulation, stimulated speculation,
and breached the financial restrictions that were essential for the stability of
the Keynesian policies.
Keynesianism was also adversely affected by the erosion of U.S. hege-
mony. The rapid expansion of the world economy eroded the prominence of
the United States in production and technology. By the same token, France,
Italy, Japan, and West Germany, and, at a further remove, Brazil, Mexico,
India, South Korea, and Taiwan, became alternative poles in the world econ-
omy. Their greater prominence was not due to the “failure” of the United
States to keep permanently ahead of the pack, but to the success of the U.S.-
led Keynesian system of international accumulation to achieve some of its
stated goals, in this case, rapid growth in the world economy. At the same
time, the USSR and China offered rival models that were appealing to
weaker economies in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, which aimed to achieve
rapid “modernization” and greater economic independence. In several
countries, these pressures and incentives triggered demand for extensive eco-
nomic intervention by the state and, at a later stage, for the reorganization
of the global economy through a new international division of labor backed
up by international producers’ cartels. These goals openly conflicted with the
reproduction of U.S. hegemony.
These evolving difficulties and instabilities were magnified by the gradual
destabilization of the U.S. economy because of its creeping fiscal and bal-
ance of payments deficits. These deficits were largely due to the combination
of poorly funded expansionary social programs at home and spiralling mili-
tary commitments abroad, especially during the Vietnam War. Destabiliza-
tion fuelled inflation in the United States and around the world, as the
United States flooded the world with dollars. Although these outflows sup-
ported the development of U.S.-led financial institutions, they impaired the
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capacity of the U.S. state to convert dollars held by foreign central banks into
gold at the official Bretton Woods rate of US$35 per ounce. The instability
of the system of international accumulation and the U.S. defeat in Vietnam
created both the incentives and the policy space for other countries to search
for domestic solutions to their accumulation problems, as had been the case
in the 1930s.
The third limitation of Keynesianism was due to the spread and radical-
ization of social conflicts in most countries in the center and the periphery
between the late-1960s and the mid-1970s. They were due, in part, to the
increased economic power of the working class in circumstances of rapid
growth and low unemployment and, in part, to the (closely related) emer-
gence of a radicalized youth around the world. Their escalating demands
fuelled antisystemic revolts that curtailed managerial control in the work-
place and capitalist control of social reproduction, including the material and
cultural levels, in a large number of countries. The erosion of the hegemony
of capital at the interrelated levels of accumulation, class relations, and social
reproduction turned the crisis of Keynesianism into a crisis of the capital
relation. This crisis surfaced through rising inflation and declining profit
rates in most economies, rising corporate debt, falling share prices, and
investment ratios, the fiscal crisis of the state, and widespread social unrest.61
Austerity by Consent and Monetarism
The strategy initially adopted in the West to tackle these fundamental prob-
lems of accumulation, legitimacy, and international hegemony was “austerity
by consent.” It included measures to stabilize the international economy after
the collapse of the Bretton Woods System and initiatives to restore social disci-
pline and the conditions for accumulation without head-on confrontations with
the workers. This strategy included fiscal and monetary austerity, curbs to
domestic credit, and “austerity” incomes policies negotiated between the state
and representatives of capital and the trade unions, which primarily aimed to
impose wage restraint. These policies achieved only limited success.
Their ineffectiveness compelled these states to manage social relations
more aggressively, for example, through the manipulation of labor regulations,
the limitation of welfare and employment benefits, and other initiatives to
reduce industrial costs and promote “business confidence.” However, these
policy changes eroded the legitimacy of the postwar consensus and contributed
to the ideological disintegration of Keynesianism. The failure of “austerity by
consent” was symptomatic of the exhaustion of Keynesianism. It also sug-
gested that any lasting solution to the problems of the international econ-
omy within the parameters of capitalist reproduction would need to address,
head-on, the crisis of accumulation in the United States.
The demand for the restoration of the conditions for stable accumulation
coalesced intellectually around the Austrian liberalism associated with Fried-
rich von Hayek and the monetarist economic theory developed by Milton
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Friedman.62 Liberalism rejected social democracy and Keynesian interven-
tionism in the name of individual freedom and the “rationality” of the mar-
ket. In turn, monetarism offered a critique of the propensity of Keynesianism
to generate economic inefficiency and foster high inflation because of
macroeconomic mismanagement and the accommodation of the workers’
demands. This approach legitimized government neglect of unemployment,
validated the alignment of the state with the interests of capital as if it repre-
sented society as a whole, and set the stage for a state-led offensive against
the working class.
Monetarism also offers a straightforward remedy to the problem of infla-
tion: governments simply have to limit the growth of the money supply to a
rate compatible with long-run price stability (money supply targeting). The
abolition of Keynesian macroeconomic fine-tuning should expand the scope
for automatic (overtly nonpolitical) market processes, and reduce the ability
of the working class to deflect the costs of adjustment. In sum, under Key-
nesianism, monetary policy supported the subordination of the working class
indirectly, through politically engineered processes of rapid accumulation
and income growth. In contrast, for the monetarists, monetary policy should
discipline the workers directly but, paradoxically, through overtly nonpolitical
means. Finally, capital (“the market”) was expected to resolve the problems
of accumulation spontaneously.
Despite its ability to partially dismantle Keynesianism and defeat the
working class in several countries, the success of monetarism was limited.
GDP growth rates in the center did not significantly recover between the
mid-1970s and the mid-1980s, and unemployment increased in most coun-
tries. Even worse for the monetarists, money supply targeting in West Ger-
many, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States did not
vindicate the claims that this strategy was either feasible or conducive to
rapid and costless inflation stabilization. In sum, although monetarism was
part of a successful project of social domination, it did not provide the basis
for a viable system of accumulation.
The Political Economy of Neoliberalism
Neoliberalism offered a stable solution to the problems of capitalist repro-
duction after the exhaustion of Keynesianism.63 Neoliberalism is not simply
a set of economic and social policies imposed by “autonomous” states or, per-
versely, the outcome of the takeover of the state by self-serving coalitions, as is
implied by Coxian analyses. It combines an accumulation strategy, a form of
regulation of social and economic reproduction, and a mode of exploitation
and social domination based on the systematic use of state power to impose,
under the ideological veil of nonintervention, a hegemonic (class) project of
recomposition of the rule of capital in each area of social life. This project is
guided by the imperatives of the international reproduction of capital, repre-
sented by the financial markets and the interests of U.S. capital.
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The rise of neoliberalism is closely related to the perceived failure of Key-
nesianism, developmentalism, and Soviet-style socialism in the 1980s, the rise
of conservative political forces in the United States and the United Kingdom,
and the recomposition of class relations in the center. These social, economic,
and political shifts spread to the periphery through persuasion (including mis-
leading images of “success” beamed by the international media and the slanted
development of fashionable economic and political theories), and coercion. For
example, center governments routinely used the international financial institu-
tions, the United Nations system, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and
Trade/World Trade Organization (GATT/WTO) to justify the imposition of
neoliberal policies on the periphery as a condition for access to funds, interna-
tional markets, and aid flows.
Neoliberal economic policies are based on three main planks, none of
them identified clearly in Coxian studies. First, at the microeconomic level,
the assumption that the market is efficient and the state is inefficient. There-
fore, relative prices should be determined by resource availability and con-
sumer preferences, and the market should address such economic problems
as employment creation, industrial development, and international competi-
tivity. The state should essentially provide legal and economic infrastructure
for the development of markets, mediate between social groups in order to
expand market relations, and defend the country against foreign aggression.
Second, at the macroeconomic level, the world economy is presumably
characterized by capital mobility and the relentless advance of (an ill-defined
process of) “globalization.” Although they offer the possibility of rapid
growth through the attraction of foreign capital, this can be achieved only if
domestic policies conform to the short-term interests of the (financial) mar-
kets; otherwise, foreign and domestic capital will be driven elsewhere. These
assumptions have been used to justify the transfer of state capacity to allocate
resources intertemporally (the balance between investment and consump-
tion), intersectorally (the allocation of investment funds and the composi-
tion of output and employment), and internationally (the pattern of
international specialization) toward an increasingly integrated and U.S.-led
financial sector. These policy reforms support the recomposition of the sys-
tem of production at a higher level of productivity (at least at the level of
large or international firms) through the transnationalization of production
and finance and the integration of local capitals into global capital circuits.
This new relationship between domestic capitals, foreign capitals, and the
state requires the liberalization of foreign trade, domestic finance, and the
capital account of the balance of payments, as local platforms for the restruc-
turing of processes of production and finance in each country.
Third, neoliberalism institutionalizes the preeminence of financial market
imperatives on the key aspects of macroeconomic policymaking. This is evident
in the neoliberal claims for the superior efficacy of monetary policy. In par-
ticular, interest rate manipulation is considered to be the most important
tool for economic management and the imposition of social discipline under
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neoliberalism. Presumably, in a liberalized economy, the “correct” interest
rates can deliver balance of payments equilibrium, low inflation, sustainable
investment and consumption, and high growth rates in the long term.
These claims are not simply due to the subjective overestimation of the
potential of monetary policy to deliver its stated aims. The rise of liberalized
finance and the prominence of monetary policy under neoliberalism evince
the growing material articulation between the processes of economic and
social reproduction across the world, and the trend toward the integration of
international production and financial systems. This growing articulation
also tends to escape the attention of Coxian studies because of their descrip-
tive understanding of class and narrow focus on state policy.
The processes of liberalization of domestic finance and the capital
account of the balance of payments associated with neoliberalism promote
the integration between industrial and interest-bearing capital and between
domestic and international capital. In this sense, the inability of the neolib-
eral reforms to support higher levels of investment in most economies is hardly
relevant. The primary purpose of the neoliberal reforms is not to promote high
rates of economic growth, reduce inflation, or increase the portfolio choices of
the financial institutions. Their primary aims are to subordinate domestic accu-
mulation to international imperatives, promote the microeconomic (firm-
level) integration between competing capitals, mediated by finance, and
expand the scope for financial system intermediation in the financing of the
The transfer of the main levers of accumulation to (international) capital,
mediated by (U.S.-led) financial institutions, and regulated by (U.S.-con-
trolled) international organizations, especially the IMF and the BIS, has
established the material basis of neoliberalism.64 In this system of accumu-
lation, stable capital flows are essential not only to close the balance of pay-
ments, but also to finance domestic activity and the public sector. In turn,
the stability of these flows is conditional upon compliance with the neolib-
eral prescriptions. Internationalized finance is the main vehicle for the
imposition of this project of accumulation and social domination, in which
production and finance are inseparably linked. At a further remove, the
prominence of finance expresses the subsumption of sectoral interests by
the interests of capital as a whole. In policy terms, it ensures that accumu-
lation is not regulated by sectoral coalitions, but by the capitalist class. This
conclusion is sharply at odds with Coxian analysis of the implications of
neoliberalism, examined in the previous section.
The neoliberal restructuring of social and economic reproduction has
drastically curtailed the scope for alternative economic policies. The main
task of the economic authorities is no longer to fine-tune the process of accu-
mulation and arbitrate between competing claims over the national product,
as was the case under Keynesianism. Their main job under neoliberalism is to
ensure that the signals emitted by the financial market operators—expressing
the interests of capital in general—are read by the state institutions and by
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individual capitals with as little distortion as possible and implemented as
promptly as technology allows.
Outcomes and Limitations of Neoliberalism
The neoliberal transition includes three main elements—the restoration of
capitalist social domination, the restructuring of production after the col-
lapse of Keynesianism, and the recomposition of U.S. hegemony through
the pivotal position of U.S. financial institutions in global accumulation, the
restoration of the role of the dollar, and the U.S.-led integration of the inter-
national elite. The transition has led to a significant worldwide shift in power
relations away from the majority. The political spectrum has shifted toward
the Right, Left parties and mass organizations have imploded, and many
trade unions have been disabled. The working class has been disorganized
and disciplined through a range of mechanisms of control, including higher
unemployment, labor turnover and personal debt, greater international
competition, and legal changes, including cutbacks in the wages, benefits,
and entitlements systems built under Keynesianism. Neoliberalism has facili-
tated the concentration of power and wealth, increased the rate of exploita-
tion of the workforce, and demoralized and suppressed the alternatives.
Having emphasized the strengths of neoliberalism, it is also important to
briefly point out five of its contradictions and limitations, which also tend to
escape Coxian studies. First, neoliberal policies are overtly guided by the
imperative of “business confidence.” This is inconsistent because confidence
is intangible, elusive, and self-referential, and it is subject to sudden and arbi-
trary changes. The advocates of neoliberalism invariably overestimate invest-
ment and growth that can be generated through the adherence to the
neoliberal demands. Second, these policies systematically favor finance and
large capitals at the expense of smaller capitals and the workers. The ensu-
ing transfer of resources to the rich and the global growth slowdown trig-
gered by the neoliberal obsession with low inflation have increased
unemployment and fostered the stagnation of wages and the concentration
of income in most countries. Third, economic “deregulation” disintegrates
the established systems of provision, reduces state policy-making capacity
and the degree of coordination of economic activity, creates undesirable
employment patterns, and precludes the use of industrial policy instru-
ments for the implementation of socially determined priorities. “Market
freedom” increases economic uncertainty, volatility, and vulnerability to cri-
sis. Fourth, the neoliberal reforms introduce mutually reinforcing policies
that destroy jobs and traditional industries that are defined, often ex post, as
being inefficient. The depressive impact of their elimination is rarely com-
pensated by the rapid development of new industries, leading to structural
unemployment, greater poverty and marginalization, and a more fragile bal-
ance of payments. Fifth, the neoliberal policies are not self-correcting. Fail-
ure to achieve their stated aims generally leads to the extension of the
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reforms, with the excuse of ensuring implementation and the promise of
“imminent” success compounding their adverse implications. Finally,
neoliberalism is inimical to economic democracy, whilst it hollows out
political democracy, making neoliberalism vulnerable to political challenges.
The examination of the material basis of neoliberalism and its vulnerabilities
in this chapter points toward two significant shortcomings in Coxian analysis.
First, the Coxian approach is wrong to claim that contradictions between
“finance” and “industrial capital” (or between foreign and domestic capital)
can be used to support progressive alternatives to neoliberalism. Pace Cox,
finance is not an independent sector competing against industrial capital under
neoliberalism. In advanced capitalist economies with developed financial systems,
finance is the pool of liquid capital held in common by the financial and
industrial sectors. The liberalization of domestic finance and the capital
account of the balance of payments promotes the material integration
between industrial and interest-bearing capital and between domestic and
international capital. Moreover, stable capital flows become essential not
only to close the balance of payments, but also to finance domestic activity
and the public sector. In turn, the stability of these flows is conditional upon
compliance with the neoliberal policy prescriptions. Internationalized
finance is the main instrument for the imposition of this project of accumu-
lation and social domination in which industrial capital (both domestic and
transnational) and finance are inseparably linked.65
Second, the Coxians—exactly as the modern-day Keynesians—argue that
macroeconomic instability and frequent financial and balance of payments
crises show that neoliberalism is fundamentally flawed. This is true, but only
in the same abstract sense that economic crises show that capitalism is a
flawed mode of production. However, just as crises offer the opportunity to
restore balance in capitalist accumulation, crises play a constructive role
under neoliberalism because they impose policy discipline on governments
and compel capitalists and workers to behave in ways that support the repro-
duction of neoliberalism. In this sense, financial crises fine-tune neoliberal-
ism and make it work “better.”
The persistent failures of governments elected with the promise of seek-
ing alternatives to neoliberalism show that transcending this system of accu-
mulation is costly. They also show that moving beyond neoliberalism is not
primarily a subjective or electoral problem of selecting adequate industrial,
financial, or monetary policies. Transcending neoliberalism will involve eco-
nomic and political transformations that can be addressed only through the
construction of an alternative system of accumulation. This project will
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require a driving force, which can be only the politically rearticulated
working class: it would be profoundly misguided to expect “domestic capi-
tal” (or some of its fractions) to play a decisive role in the transition from
In sum, the Coxian account of the decline of Keynesianism and the rise
of neoliberalism is too abstract and indeterminate, and it fails to contextual-
ize the transformations in capitalist production and in economic and state
institutions taking place between the mid-1940s and the late 1970s. Instead,
Coxian analysis focuses uncritically on excess competition, distributive con-
flicts between rival states and social groups, and the (largely unexplained)
drift from “Fordism” to “post-Fordism,” while ignoring the disabling criti-
cisms of these regulationist categories that are readily available in the litera-
ture.66 These tensions and displacements are normally not explained in detail.
Distributive conflicts, in particular, are usually merely described as disputes over
shares of the national (or, in the case of states, global) income. This is insuf-
ficient because the Coxian account largely reports what is immediately appar-
ent, while eschewing the explanation of these tensions and displacements
through a systematic reconstruction of the contradictions of Keynesianism
and the internal structure and dynamics of neoliberalism, the contemporary
form of capitalism. These limitations dampen the explanatory power of Coxian
theory, and debase its potential to inform the search for alternatives.
* We are grateful to Branwen Gruffydd Jones, Jonathan Joseph, Stephen McBride,
and Robbie Shilliam for their comments on a previous version of this manuscript, and
to Sebastian Sajda and Jenny Kennedy-Pannett for their invaluable research assistance.
1. In this chapter, Keynesianism, monetarism, and neoliberalism are understood as both
economic theories and economic policy paradigms. Keynesianism was typical of the
period between the mid-1930s and 1973 and, more specifically, of the postwar “golden
age.” Neoliberalism is typical of the period after 1979 (all dates are approximate).
2. See, for example, Bastiaan van Apeldoorn, “Transnationalizing the Restructuring
of Europe’s Socioeconomic Order,” International Journal of Political Economy 28,
no.1 (1998): 12–53; Stephen Gill and David Law, “Global Hegemony and the Struc-
tural Power of Capital,” International Studies Quarterly 33, no.4 (1989): 475–99;
Stephen Gill, American Hegemony and the Trilateral Commission (Cambridge: Cam-
bridge University Press, 1990); Stephen Gill, “Globalisation, Market Civilisation and
Disciplinary Neoliberalism,” Millennium 24, no.3 (1995): 399–423; Adam D. Mor-
ton, “Structural Change and Neoliberalism in Mexico: ‘Passive Revolution’ in the
Global Political Economy,” Third World Quarterly 24, no.4 (2003): 631–53; Mark
Rupert, Producing Hegemony: The Politics of Mass Production and American Global
Power (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995); Mark Rupert, Ideologies of
Globalization: Contending Visions of a New World Order (London: Routledge,
2000); Mark Rupert and M. Scott Solomon, Globalization and International Political
Economy: The Politics of Alternative Futures (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield,
2005); Kees van der Pijl, The Making of an Atlantic Ruling Class (London: Verso,
pal-ayers-05 08/07/18 4:58 pm Page 126
1984); and, especially, Robert W. Cox, Production, Power and World Order: Social
Forces in the Making of History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987);
Robert W. Cox, “Production, the State and Change in World Order,” in Global
Changes and Theoretical Challenges: Approaches to World Politics for the 1990s, ed.
Ernst-Otto Czempiel and James N. Rosenau (Toronto: Lexington Books, 1989),
37–50; Robert W. Cox, “Global Perestroïka,” in The Socialist Register: New World
Order? ed. Ralph Miliband and Leo Panitch (London: Merlin, 1992), 26–43.
3. Cox, “Production,” 2.
4. The chapter adopts the terminology “Coxian” to refer to Cox’s scholarship and some
closely related work in the neo-Gramscian tradition. It recognizes that other writers
within the “school” do not necessarily share the methodology and key assumptions
of Coxian explanatory frameworks.
5. Cox, “Production,” 211–72.
6. Cox, “Production”; Cox, “The State”; Cox, “Perestroïka”; for other neo-Gramscian
analyses in the same mold, see Andreas Bieler and Adam David Morton, “A Critical
Theory Route to Hegemony, World Order and Historical Change: Neo-Gramscian
Perspectives in International Relations,” Capital and Class 82 (2004): 93–94; Gill,
American, 96; Gill and Law, “Global Hegemony,” 478.
7. Cox, “Production,” 220–21; Cox, “The State,” 45; Bieler and Morton, “A Critical
Theory Route to Hegemony,” 94.
8. Cox, “Perestroïka,” 29; see also Gill and Law, “Global Hegemony,” 479; van
Apeldoorn, “Transnationalizing the Restructuring,” 12–13.
9. Cox, “Perestroïka,” 28–29.
10. Robert W. Cox and Michael G. Schechter, The Political Economy of a Plural World:
Critical Reflections on Power, Morals and Civilization (London: Routledge, 2002).
11. Rand Morton, “A Critical Theory Route to Hegemony,” 94–96; Cox, “Produc-
tion,” 253; Cox, “The State,” 46–47; Cox, “Perestroïka,” 30; Gill, American, 98;
for detailed studies of the transnational capitalist class, see van der Pijl, The Making,
on the transatlantic ruling class, and Kees van der Pijl, Transnational Classes and
International Relations (London: Routledge, 1998).
12. See, for example, Isabella Bakker and Stephen Gill, “Ontology, Method, and
Hypotheses,” in Power, Production, and Social Reproduction, ed. Isabella Bakker and
Stephen Gill (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003) 17–42; Stephen Gill, Power and
Resistance in the New World Order (London: Palgrave, 2003); Gill, “Globalisation.”
13. Cox, “Perestroïka,” 28–30.
14. Bieler and Morton, “A Critical Theory Route to Hegemony,” 95.
15. Michael G. Schechter, “Critiques of Coxian Theory: Background to a Conversation,”
in The Political Economy of a Plural World, 3.
16. Chris Brown, International Relations Theory: New Normative Approaches (Columbia
University Press, 1992), 202.
17. John Adams, review of Production, Power, and World Order, by Robert W. Cox,
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 501 (January 1989):
18. See, for example, Peter Burnham, “The Politics of Economic Management in the
1990s,” New Political Economy 4, no.1 (1999): 37–54; Hazel Smith, “The
Silence of the Academics: International Social Theory, Historical Materialism and
Political Values,” Review of International Studies 22 (1996): 191–212.
19. Timothy J. Sinclair, “Beyond International Relations Theory: Robert W. Cox
and Approaches to World Order,” in Approaches to World Order, ed. Robert W. Cox
with Timothy J. Sinclair (Cambridge University Press, 1996), 9; see also Susan
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Strange, “Cox is an eccentric in the best English sense of the word, a loner, a fugitive
from intellectual camps of victory, both Marxist and liberal” in her review of Pro-
duction, Power, and World Order by Robert W. Cox, International Affairs 64, no. 2
(Spring 1988): 269–70.
20. See Cox, Approaches, 58.
21. Ibid., 27.
22. Ibid., 176–78.
23. Burnham, “The Politics,” 39.
24. In Derek Sayer, The Violence of Abstraction: The Analytical Foundations of Historical
Materialism (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987), ix–x.
25. H. Smith, “The Silence of the Academics,” 202 and 202f.
26. Peter Burnham, “Neo-Gramscian Hegemony and the International Order,” Capital
and Class 45 (1991): 77.
27. Paul Cammack, “RIP IPE,” Papers in the Politics of Global Competitiveness No.
7. Institute for Global Studies, Manchester Metropolitan University, e-space
Open AccesRepository, 2007, 16.
28. See Bieler and Morton, “A Critical Theory Route to Hegemony,” 88–89; Cox,
Production, 29.
29. Cox, Production, 2.
30. Cox, Plural World, p.85.
31. Cox, Production, 3–4, 355.
32. Ibid., 355; for example in later works, see Cox and Schechter, The Political Economy
of a Plural World, 84.
33. See Cox, Plural World, 30
34 For a detailed critique of the latter, see Ellen M. Wood, The Retreat from Class: A
New “True” Socialism (London: Verso, 1998).
35. Cox’s (Production, 314–16) provocative remarks about the social and political
determinants of technology are dropped as soon as they have been uttered, and
play no role in the remainder of his work.
36. Cox, Production, x, 32–34; see also Bieler and Morton, “A Critical Theory Route to
Hegemony,” 89.
37. See Hannes Lacher, “Making Sense of the International System: The Promises and
Pitfalls of Contemporary Pitfalls of Contemporary Marxist Theories of International
Relations,” in Historical Materialism and Globalization, ed. Mark Rupert and Hazel
Smith (London: Routledge, 2002), 147–65; and Robert Shilliam, “Hegemony and
the Unfashionable Problematic of ‘Primitive Accumulation,’” Millennium: Journal
of International Studies 33, no.1 (2004): 59–88.
38. Shilliam, “Hegemony and the Unfashionable,” 83; emphasis in original.
39. Cox, Production, 4.
40. Robert W. Cox, “Social Forces, States and World Orders: Beyond International
Relations Theory,” Millennium: Journal of International Studies 10, no.2 (1981):
41. Sinclair, “Beyond International Relations,” 11–12.
42. Sinclair, “Beyond International Relations,” 10, citing Cox, “Social Forces,” 136.
43. Cox, Production, 396.
44. Ibid., 399.
45. Cox, “Gramsci,” 170–71.
46. Matt Hampton, “Hegemony, Class Struggle and the Radical Historiography of
Global Monetary Standards,” Capital & Class 89 (2006): 133, 136.
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47. Burnham, “The Politics,” 37–54; Peter Burnham, “Capital, Crisis and the Interna-
tional State System,” in Global Capital, National State and the Politics of Money, ed.
Werner Bonefeld and John Holloway (London: Macmillan, 1995), 95–96.
48. Hampton, “Hegemony, Class Struggle,” 157.
49. For devastating critical reviews of the “political school” (associated with Evans,
Rueschemeyer, and Skocpol, 1985), see Paul Cammack, “Bringing the State Back
In?” British Journal of Political Science 19, no.2 (1989): 261–90; Ben Fine, “The
Developmental State and the Political Economy of Development,” in The New
Development Economics after the Washington Consensus, ed. K. S. Jomo and B. Fine
(London: Zed Books, 2006), 101–22.
50. Ulrich Brand, “Hegemony and Spaces for Resistance: Neo-Gramsci, Neo-
Poulantzas and an Outline of a Critical Theory of International Politics,” La Jiribilla
174 (2004):
51. Hampton, “Hegemony, Class Struggle,” 136–37.
52. See, for example, Bob Jessop, “Bringing the State Back In (Yet Again): Reviews,
Revisions, Rejections, and Redirections,” International Review of Sociology—Revue
Internationale de Sociologie 11, no.2 (2001): 149–73; Bertell Ollman, “Why Does
the Emperor Need the Yakuza? Prolegomenon to a Marxist Theory of the Japanese
State,” New Left Review 8 (2001): 73–98.; Derek Sayer, “The Critique of Politics
and Political Economy: Capitalism, Communism and the State in Marx’s Writings of
the Mid-1840s,” Sociological Review 33, no.2 (1985): 221–53; Sayer, “Violence of
Abstraction”; Ellen. M. Wood, Democracy Against Capitalism: Renewing Historical
Materialism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).
53. Lacher, “Making Sense,” 151.
54. Simon Bromley, “Rethinking International Political Economy,” in Boundaries in
Question, ed. John Macmillan and Andrew Linklater (London: Pinter, 1995), 232.
55. Cox, Production, 144–46; emphasis added.
56. Cox and Schechter, The Political Economy of a Plural World, 1.
57. For an overview of Keynesian policies and experiences in the center, see Simon Clarke,
“Overaccumulation, Class Struggle and the Regulation Approach,” Capital & Class
36 (1988): 59–92, and Stephen A. Marglin and Juliet Schor, ed., The Golden Age of
Capitalism: Reinterpreting the Postwar Experience (Oxford: Clarendon, 1990).
58. See, for example, Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century. Money, Power
and the Origins of Our Times (London: Verso, 1994), and Eric Hobsbawm, The
Age of Extremes (New York: Vintage, 1994), chap. 3–4, 8–9.
59. See Richard Saull, The Cold War And After: Capitalism, Revolution And Superpower
Politics (London: Pluto, 2007).
60. Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin, “Finance and American Empire,” in Socialist Register
2005: The Empire Reloaded, ed. L. Panitch and C. Leys (London: Merlin), 46–81.
61. See, for example, Gérard Duménil and Dominique Lévy, Capital Resurgent:
Roots of the Neoliberal Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
2004); and “The Neoliberal (Counter-)Revolution,” in Neoliberalism: A Critical
Reader, ed. A. Saad-Filho and D. Johnston (London, Pluto, 2005), 9–19.
62. See Ronaldo Munck, “Neoliberalism and Politics, and the Politics of Neoliberalism,”
in Saad-Filho and Johnston, Neoliberalism, 60–69.
63. For a review of neoliberalism, see the contributions in Saad-Filho and Johnston,
Neoliberalism (especially “Introduction”).
64. See Chris Rude, “The Role of Financial Discipline in Imperial Strategy,” in
Socialist Register 2005: The Empire Reloaded, ed. Leo Panitch and Colin Leys
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(London: Merlin, 2005), 82–107; Robert Wade, “A New Global Financial Archi-
tecture?” New Left Review 46 (2007): 113–29.
65. See Vivek Chibber, “Reviving the Developmental State: The Myth of the ‘National
Bourgeoisie,’” in Socialist Register 2005: The Empire Reloaded, ed. Leo Panitch and
Colin Leys (London: Merlin, 2005): 144–65; Leo Panitch, and Sam Gindin,
“Global Capitalism and American Empire,” in Socialist Register 2004: The New
Imperial Challenge, ed. by L. Panitch and C. Leys (London: Merlin, 2004): 1–42.
66. See, for example, Robert Brenner and Mark Glick, “The Regulation Approach:
Theory and History,” New Left Review 188 (1991): 45–119; Clarke, “Overaccu-
mulation”; Ciaran Driver, “Review Article: A Theory of Capitalist Regulation—
The U.S. Experience,” Capital & Class 15 (1981): 150–68; Stavros Mavroudeas,
“Regulation Theory: The Road from Creative Marxism to Post-Modern Disinte-
gration,” Science & Society 63, no.3 (1999a): 311–37; Stavros Mavroudeas,
“Periodising Capitalism: Problems and Method—The case of the Regulation
Approach,” Research in Political Economy 17 (1999b): 310–37; Hugh Ward,
“The Co-evolution of Regimes of Accumulation and Patterns of Rule: State
Autonomy and the Possibility of Functional Responses to Crisis,” New Political
Economy 8, no. 2 (2003): 179–202.
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... A propósito do problema em pauta e a categoria de hegemonia, por vezes muito associada a Gramsci, uma certa definição de hegemonia é comumente retomada na literatura nacional e internacional, no mais das vezes evocando Robert W. Cox (1981) como o grande intérprete do autor italiano. O texto a ser apresentado não corrobora tal tendência, valendo-se de avaliações preliminares que demonstram uma significativa distância entre a interpretação coxiana e aquela do prisioneiro do fascismo italiano (SAAD-FILHO & AYERS, 2008;PASSOS, 2013). Na vastíssima literatura internacionalista associada a Gramsci, mas na verdade majoritariamente tributária de Cox e assim dita "gramsciana" ou "neogramsciana" 4 , são reproduzidas linhas metodológicas e analíticas que não fazem jus, entre outras, a uma das passagens centrais dos cadernos carcerários gramscianos, senão a mais importante em conformidade com estudiosos do comunista sardo (BIANCHI, 2008: p. 244;COSPITO, 2000: p. 102-103). ...
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O objetivo deste texto é argumentar em prol da hipótese de que elementos conjunturais apontam inacuradamente um interregno hegemônico, perdendo de vista um processo histórico mais amplo que sustenta a manutenção da hegemonia norte-americana. A linha de argumento desenvolvida se vale de elementos da categoria de hegemonia e da análise das relações de força, ambas desenvolvidas por Antonio Gramsci, situando vários processos históricos em termos de uma revolução passiva. Tais referências buscam metodologicamente se diferenciar de análises que privilegiam aspectos conjunturais, ou de ênfase econômica, política, estatal ou uma perspectiva estritamente internacional. De forma alternativa, elas tentam situar a hegemonia em um processo histórico mais amplo em suas múltiplas dimensões, conectando organicamente as relações sociais fundamentais no nível nacional com o plano internacional. Nestes termos mencionados, uma breve análise busca situar em linhas gerais os processos históricos dos Estados Unidos e da China. Recebido em 13-06-2019 Aprovado em 12-10-2019
... The political-economic practice of neoliberalism depends on an emergent mode of production based on computers and information, organized through supra-national circuits of capital circulation and economic institutions or frameworks, e.g., WTO, World Bank, IMF, and Bank of International Settlements, which are capable of tapping new forms of (economic, cultural, social, human) capital for expanded reproduction. At the paradigmatic level, Alison J. Ayers and Alfredo Saad-Filho (2008) suggest three economic axioms that underlie all neoliberal political projects: first, that at the microeconomic level, the market is considered more efficient than the state in decision-making, and simply requires a legal foundation to be put in place; second, that at the macroeconomic level, processes of globalization and uninhibited capital flows constrain domestic policies to the short-term interests of market growth; and third, that the authority of financial markets should be institutionalized in the form of monetarist macroeconomic policies, with interest rates serving to effectively discipline national and subnational populations (122-3).1 Neoliberalism is the dominant theory and practice of capitalism after the demise of effective welfare state policies; but while it is often associated with de-regulation, it in fact involves practices of rationalized state intervention to manage economic crises, by stimulating growth and capital accumulation, as well as normalizing self-discipline. ...
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My ethnographic research project presents analysis of local municipal council decision-making and discourse in the context of neoliberalism, understood as an ideology and practice privileging efficiency and profit-driven growth over policies of social justice. In the City of Port Moody, I observed processes of consensus-formation at four Council meetings and multiple small committee meetings, and interviewed three Council members and three candidates in the months of October-November 2011, leading up to the Nov. 19th municipal election. I employed content and archival analysis to interpret City-produced meeting minutes and official publications, candidate-produced campaign brochures, and media-produced local newspaper articles, including how campaign photos were visually presented. Discourse at City Hall centered on the role of state planning of infrastructure and services to stimulate economic growth, yet also centered on the need for prudent financial management and fiscal discipline, framing the citizen as tax-payer. The articulation of a ‘smart growth’ paradigm sought to increase quality of life by synthesizing notions of sustainability and capitalist growth in a legitimate way. Finally, Port Moody’s adoption of the “City of the Arts” label was associated with the accumulation of cultural capital and the preservation of ‘small town charm,’ which would lead to tourism and investment, increasing the municipal tax-base of the City.
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A teoria crítica de Robert W. Cox se consolidou como uma das principais críticas metodológicas às teorias tradicionais das Relações Internacionais. Neste artigo, apresentamos as principais contribuições de Cox através das categorias de estrutura histórica (capacidades materiais, ideias e instituições), forças sociais e hegemonia. Em nossa visão, o método coxiano da estrutura histórica e sua análise sobre as diferentes forças sociais que incidem sobre a realidade social e internacional fornecem um instrumental importante para analisar as transformações em curso na ordem mundial. Esse instrumental nos convida a enxergar além dos Estados nacionais e instituições, trazendo o olhar para as forças sociais em disputa. Partindo das formulações de Cox, apresentaremos uma intepretação das relações entre China e América Latina e Caribe. Mostramos que, apesar de romper com a onipresença das potências tradicionais e gerar expectativas de relações mais horizontais, a inserção de multinacionais chinesas na região também é fonte de conflitos. Estes vêm sendo de natureza socioambiental, levando ao questionamento sobre o próprio modelo de desenvolvimento adotado por países latino-americanos, baseado nas indústrias extrativas e infraestruturas a elas vinculadas.
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The former Soviet Union lost the tug-of-war against the capitalist western hegemon United States of America as it got dissolved in 1991. The international system shifted dramatically from bipolarity to unipolarity for the benefit of the Pax Americana, and history was assumed to be ended in favour of it as clearly as indicated by Fukuyama in brief account. In International Relations literature, it could be observed that there are many scholars like offensive neorealist John Mearsheimer who produced seminal studies drawing our attention on the pros and cons of rising power, China. Our main argument is to make elaborations on what Cox theoretically put forward, upon which our assumption is that China wants to achieve what the former Soviet Union failed by using different, but not surprising, methodology: Not the war of movement based on the complete material power by disregarding other configurations of power as the former Soviet Union insisted on during the Cold War between 1945 up until its break down, but the war of position to achieve counter hegemony against the West is the strategy of China. For penetrating the idea, read Communist ideology, into the Western sphere of influence in the Third World, and on the globe in general, China put in motion the strategy of passive revolution via eco-soft power that is to be defined as outward investment for attraction and persuasion through material capacity to obtain consent (legitimacy). Yeni Gramscianizm Bağlamında Çin için Uluslararasılaşmanın Dinamikleri Özet Eski Sovyetler Birliği, kapitalist batılı hegemon Amerika Birleşik Devletleri'ne karşı olan çekişmeyi 1991'de dağıldığında kaybetti. Uluslararası sistem, dramatik bir şekilde iki kutupluluktan tek kutupluluğa Pax Americana'nın yararına kaydı ve tarihin, Fukuyama'nın kısaca ifade ettiği gibi, onun lehine sona erdiği varsayıldı. Uluslararası İlişkiler literatüründe, yeni ufuklar açan saldırgan yeni-gerçekçi kuram, John Mearsheimer gibi birçok bilim insanı tarafından dikkatimizi yükselen güç Çin'in artıları ve eksileri üzerine çektiği gözlemlenebilir. Ana argümanımız, Cox'un teorik olarak ortaya koyduğu ve Çin'in eski Sovyetler Birliği'nin başaramadığını, farklı ama şaşırtıcı olmayan bir metodoloji kullanarak, başarmak istediğini varsaydığımız detaylandırmalar yaparak, Çin'in, 1945'le Soğuk Savaş arasındaki hegemonyaya karşı mevzi savaşını verdiğini gözlemlemek. Üçüncü Dünya'da ve genel olarak dünya genelinde fikrini Batı etki alanına nüfuz etmek için, Komünist ideolojiyi okuyun, Çin, rıza (meşruiyet) elde etmek için materyal yoluyla çekim ve ikna için dışarıya yatırım olarak tanımlanacak eko-yumuşak güç yoluyla pasif devrim stratejisini harekete geçirdi.
After being recovered and expanded by Justin Rosenberg almost two decades ago, Trotsky’s concept of Uneven and Combined Development (UCD) has inspired many articles, dissertations and books, becoming the core of one of the most exciting contemporary approaches within the cacophonic discipline of International Relations. Nevertheless, the contribution of the emerging UCD literature remains largely unbalanced. Most of it revolves around the classical sociological problems of capitalist transition and state formation. As such, the UCD scholarship disproportionately belongs to the field of international historical sociology, favouring expansive explanations and broad historical questions. With few exceptions, contemporary UCD has had little to say in shorter-term, policy-oriented, International Political Economy (IPE) debates. To fruitfully inform IPE analysis, UCD must expand and refine its highly abstract conceptual toolkit. In this article, I take stock of the existing literature and offer an original contribution to the UCD-IPE framework. Specifically, I unpack the general notion of the ‘whip of external necessity’ into more granular and operational concepts, setting the foundations for a UCD-inspired exchange-rate, monetary and fiscal policy analysis. Finally, the potential of an expanded UCD-IPE framework is illustrated through considerations on the uneven and combined effects of the 2008 financial crisis.
This paper aims to combine a critique of political economy with that of transnational polity in a unified theoretical foundation. It begins by (1) exploring the development of capitalism into stages, (2) showing that this should necessarily lead to globalization, and (3) validating that in the epoch of globalization no hierarchical interstate (hegemonic or not) political order may stand a chance for survival. These highly abstract theoretical queries, on the one hand, follow Karl Marx's critique of capitalism, and on the other hand obtain further theoretical and historical concretization in Antonio gramsci's hegemony, before their realization at observable levels via the rise and fall of the postwar Pax Americana (1945–1979). Marx's “conquest of mode of production” and gramsci's hegemony set the context for a synthetic approach to the rise and fall of American power. Finally, the force of globalization is the arbiter of time, despite the declining power syndrome, in this disjointed polity.
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This article examines the theories and practices of neoliberalism across 13 aspects of (‘things you need to know about’) neoliberalism. They include the argument that neoliberalism is not reducible to a cogent ideology or a change in economic or social policies, nor is it primarily about a shift in the relationship between the state and the market or between workers and capital in general, or finance in particular. Instead, neoliberalism is a stage in the development of capitalism underpinned by financialization. Neoliberalism by its nature is highly diversified in its features, impact and outcomes, reflecting specific combinations of scholarship, ideology, policy and practice. In turn, these are attached to distinctive material cultures giving rise to the (variegated) neoliberalization of everyday life and, at a further remove, to specific modalities of economic growth, volatility and crisis. Finally, this paper argues that there are alternatives, both within and beyond neoliberalism itself.
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The intent of this paper is to point a preliminary research result that aims to: (a) investigate the existence of any eclecticism in critical international relations theory enunciated by Robert W. Cox (1981) that allows to understand a hypothetical approach to a liberal idealist perspective; (b) investigate the coherence of Coxian approach in relation to Antonio Gramsci´s conceitual apparatus. O intuito deste texto é apontar resultados preliminares de uma pesquisa que tem como objetivos: (a) investigar a existência de um eventual ecletismo na teoria crítica das relações internacionais enunciada por Robert W. Cox (1981) que permita, inclusive, entender uma hipotética aproximação com uma perspectiva idealista liberal; (b) pesquisar a coerência da abordagem coxiana com o aparato conceitual de Antonio Gramsci.
The closing months of 1993 saw the conclusion of two agreements heralded by liberals as setting the world economy on a new and sound footing. The United States’ ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in November was capped in December 1993 when the Director-General of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) brought down the gavel on the Uruguay Round, which had been formally launched in September 1986. Amid the popping of champagne corks the Financial Timesdeclared that the agreements would provide, ‘powerful underpinning for the world economy, fresh impetus to competition, and fresh hope for those developing and former communist countries that have been opening up to international commerce’.1 By the opening months of 1994 this liberal triumphalism looked somewhat premature in the face of the Zapatista revolt in Chiapas (see Chapter 7; and Cleaver, 1994) and tension in Europe occasioned by persistent economic stagnation and disputes over the enlargement of the European Union.
Chapter 2 is concerned to advance some of the theoretical and practical agenda outlined at the end of Chapter 1 by introducing issues of ontology and epistemology so as to outline a methodological sketch to frame a number of our main hypotheses.
Financial instability has been a consistent feature of neoliberal global capitalism, and when this instability has taken the form of a major financial crisis, as it did in East Asia in 1997, the consequences for the economies involved have been severe. Economic contractions, leaving economies in ruin and populations traumatized by increases in unemployment, poverty and inequality, have been the typical results. The liberalization and internationalization of capitalist production relations have created an economic system in which recurrent financial crises set the pace and rhythm of economic activity and change within the centre as well as at the periphery. This chapter examines this financial and economic turmoil and the role that it has played under neoliberalism. It also explores the role that the state has played in regulating, but not eliminating, the turmoil. Some readers may find the argument surprising. It is that financial instability and the economic hardship that it creates play an essential role in reproducing capitalist and imperial social relations. The financial instability is functional. It disciplines world capitalism. This is where the state comes in. The various national banking and financial systems are regulated and supervised and, where appropriate, supported by injections of official liquidity, in such a way that the damage caused by the turmoil is directed away from the dominant classes and the centre towards the subordinate classes and the periphery.
Despite the hubris that has attended the global ambitions of American financiers for over a century, the actual rise to world dominance of American finance was far from smooth or inevitable. The goal of ‘building the world’s capital for all time to come’ in New York, already articulated in the late nineteenth century, looked set to be realized by the end of the First World War. Yet it was only a decade later that the Wall Street crash triggered the Great Depression and the breakdown of the international financial order. And while New York took its place as the world’s principal financial centre at the end of the Second World War, this seemed much less important when the new Bretton Woods order had supposedly marginalized finance relative to production and trade. As the story of twentieth-century capitalism is usually told today, only the neoliberal ‘revolution’ of the 1980s and 1990s finally unleashed the forces that made Wall Street the central location of the world economy. But far from this marking the end of history, the scandal that enveloped Richard Grasso in 2003 over his $150 million salary not only epitomized the venality of New York as the capital of global finance, but it also appeared to symbolize its fragility. And Hank Paulson’s bold statement of confidence in New York as the financial capital of the world — expressed in the midst of the global credit crisis that had its roots in the collapse of the US domestic subprimemortgagemarket (with Paulson’s ownWall Street firm Goldman Sachs having played a large role in making that market) — could be taken as yet another example of whistling in the dark (Stein 2007).