Mobilis in Mobili: State in the Conditions of Globalization


Mobilis in Mobili: State in the Conditions of Globalization

Эксперты МГИМО: Пономарева Елена Георгиевна, д.полит.н., профессор

World events of the last decades are directly linked not so much to the inner factors of the development of certain states as to the turning point in the development of capitalism as a system. By world events I mean first of all ethno-political and social conflicts, civil wars, destruction of a number of large states, escalation of military tensions, degradation of the principles of international law.

Serious changes in the modes of functioning of capitalism, in the spatial configuration of the processes of capital accumulation have been taking place since mid-1970s. However, it was only by the end of the century that they reached a bifurcation point. In the 1970s there prevailed the tendency to shifting capital accumulation processes from the countries of the «golden billion» to the periphery. But in the 1980s a return movement took place: the centralization of capital moved back to the countries and regions with high income. Both tendencies demonstrated great geographic mobility of capital. The return movement of capital in a way was also linked to the fact that until the very end of the 1980s a large part of world space was controlled by the anticapitalist system of with the USSR as the core.

The turning point in the contemporary history of capitalism came with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Here I speak not of the ideological component of the confrontation of the two world political poles but of the political and economic deterrence of capital’s movement by the Soviet system. Having removed this obstacle, capitalism became a genuinely global system. That was marked by the era of globalization. The latter in its turn symbolized not only spatial but also substantial triumph of capital which freed itself from redundant guardianship of the state. As David Harvey noted as early as in 1989, in the conditions of globalization there came «the transition to the rule of financial capital over nation-states».

It is no secret that capitalism «prefers» liquidity. That is why it tries to create such a situation in which extremely large share of money flows remains in a liquid form. Because of unique technological and communicational achievements of the so called «postindustrial society» of the late twentieth — early twenty-first century global money markets dramatically reduced state’s possibilities to control financial and economic flows. I agree with A. Fursov that globalization has radically changed the correlation of levels of the Modern epoch: the state and local levels have receded into the background giving way to global and regional ones.

The analysis of the world economy since the late 1990s has revealed another side of globalization — the regionalization of the world. This process develops along supranational and subnational lines. The first one is the forming of supranational economic and political structures like EU, WTO or NAFTA. The second line is the emergence of a «region-state» (RS) phenomenon which according to some researchers, for example Kenichi Ohmae who coined the terms «regional economy» and «region-state» as special ones, is becoming the basic unit of global economy. These regional entities solve regional problems using global resources and are closer linked to other RS than to their own countries.

The functioning of a RS is defined by purely economic and not political, still less social, historical or cultural imperatives. RS is no more than a unit of demand and consumption. The population size must correspond to it. According to Ohmae it must not exceed 20 mln people (otherwise the unity of citizens as consumers will not be guaranteed). At the same time it must not be less than 5 mln to guarantee economizing at the cost of services, particularly those which are important to guarantee effective participation in global governing.

Global economy is not a whole fabric, it is not a universal thing, but a network of 100–200 points-nodes («pointilist society» as Andrey Fursov puts it). This network as if hovers over the rest of the world with its «sovereign» (in quotation marks) states. In fact RS means desocialization, denationalization, hence desovereignization of the state. These processes have been caught by Philip Bobbitt. In his opinion nation-states no longer manage to solve the problems and contradictions which tear the world apart. They are being replaced by a new order of «market states» where most management functions are given to the private sector. A participant less and less relies on regulation and more and more — on market mechanisms and incentives. Whereas a RS still preserves characteristics of a nation-state together with characteristics of a sovereign body, a market state loses them entirely. So RS is a transitional form to a genuinely global structure composed — in according to neoliberal ideals of market states.

Note should be taken that the offensive against nation-state «on all fronts» of course is not connected solely with the «preference» of liquidity. It is obvious that capitalism emerges and flourishes when it, as Fernand Braudel noted, «identifies itself with the state, when it itself becomes the state». But coming across the opportunity to get rid of the unnecessary guardianship of the state, capital did not miss it. Capitalism made a choice in favour of not national but transnational domination due to a number of reasons. «Quite cumbersome and in outward appearance unchanging configuration of political power which connected large trade unions, big business and… the government by written and acquired rights more and more preventing normal work… rather undermined safe capital accumulation than guaranteed it» (D. Harvey). Largest corporations saw in neoliberal globalization not only a convenient way to free themselves from state regulation, tax burden and control of national institutions but also the opportunity to remove (by selective use of liberalization principles) those elements of the past which were out of favour with them (for example, social programmes). Besides, given the weakness of nation-state, especially peripheral one, large capitalist structures relying on their already accumulated advantages and might got the prospects to create new centres of power, to form peculiar rules of market game on a world scale.

Whereas in developed countries the neoliberal model of globalization was applied cautiously and selectively, there was no hesitation towards peripheral spaces such as Latin America, South-Eastern Europe or post-Soviet space.

As a result of the neoliberal Blitzkrieg vast new regions and spheres of human activity have been drawn into capitalist circulation of goods and money during the last ten — fifteen years. For Europe alone it is eighteen states in the zone of former Soviet influence. New correlation and alignment of forces have emerged between economic and political subjects, the state and corporations, production and finances. Economies of many countries have become import dependent and export oriented. Historically conditioned inter-state competitive struggle has become sharper. Also there emerged the confrontation between the state and transnational corporations. The UN report named «Globalization Favours Rich Nations» (July 12, 1999) says that in 85 countries out of studied 174 people according to the «index of human development» live worse than before whereas five leading countries — Canada, Norway, the US, Japan and Belgium — have improved their situation.

Financial regulation is one of the main ways of government. Karl Marx had named state debt the «alienation of the state». However, he could not have foreseen that this «magic wand» would be found in the hands not of states but of international and nongovernmental organizations and would lead to unprecedented concentration of financial capital. This in its turn would in fact plunge all countries of the world in debt. Moreover, their existence and hence politics and economy would directly depend on the «ever-full hand of the giver» who would easily provide nonproductive money with productive power by ways of crediting of a country turning the money into capital — long-term capital at that. In contemporary conditions international crediting is one of the main open, legal sources of enrichment of some people and empoverishment of others: «debtors grow poorer, creditors grow richer».

During in the last twenty years the agrarian-industrial periphery ceased to be quite successful regions and turned not simply into world back yard or even back street but into a «credit cow» for the capitalist system. Following regularity is significant: the more developed the country’s economy once was, the larger its present debts prove to be. Karl Polanyi justly noted that «finance… played the part of a powerful coersive factor in the plans and activity of a number of small sovereign states. Loans and their renewal depended on credit and the latter — on good behaviour».

So, the turning point in the history of capitalism is directly linked with neoliberal globalization. The age of this globalization began after the collapse of anticapitalism — the Soviet system. Then capitalism having freed itself from the guardianship of the nation-state became able to exploit previously undeveloped spaces thus guaranteeing stable liquidity of capital.

Joseph Brodskiy was right when he wrote that «the genuine equivalent of the Third World War seems to be the prospect of an economic war. The absence of international antitrust legislation provides the prospect of entirely unlimited rivalry where all means are good and the goal of victory is a dominant position. Battles of this war will be supranational in character but the triumph will always be national, that is happen in the place of victor’s registration. Financial ascendancy usually takes different forms of expansion — economic, political, cultural. To buy is easier than to kill. National debt as a form of occupation is more reliable than a military garrison. It seems highly probable that the countries of Eastern Europe having got rid of communist supremacy will find themselves in the position of debtors… that is countries occupied in the new manner».

It is obvious that in the conditions of globalization politico-territorial ideal of sovereignty grows dim, nation-state ceases to be the only subject that integrates the interests of large social and economic communities and represents them in the world arena. Transnational participants play more and more active role in the world political and economic process. The forming of megasociety, the emergence of interconnected and interdependent world set the mankind the task of managing global development: in breadth — in the whole of the planet — and in depth — on all levels of organization from local to worldwide.

The architects of global corporate management insist that elementary uneffectiveness of the state compels them to reduce its powers, curb its sovereignty. Among the main causes of the nation-state’s «incapacity» scholars distinguish the following: the presence of external factors of influence not subject to state control; shortage of resources; unwillingness/ uninterestedness in fulfilment of its duties or incomprehension of existing problems. More and more researchers are of the opinion that nation-state with all its attributes is simply inadequate to the world of neoliberal globalization. From that world’s point of view nation-state is not only irrational but is a poor competitor since it is overloaded with social duties towards the mass of the population.

Scholars and experts are active in their versions of what will replace nation-state, of who will become the heir of the part of its sovereignty. Some think it will be world government, some — civilizations, others — region states, still others — corporation-state. Models are numerous but one thing is obvious: the existence and development of the contemporary nation-state, the mutation of the category of sovereignty are directly linked to globalization.

Globalization not only changes social and economic picture of the world but it also transforms the internal essence of sovereignty, depriving the state of the functions to organize and govern physical space. I speak of the forming of new approaches and centres of government, the emergence of new concentrations of economic power and ascendancy, of the legitimate global intervention.

For instance, ex-councillor of McCain and well-known American observer Robert Kagan in a recent article («The Washington Post», 2008, December, 2) openly states that in cases when this or that state (say, Pakistan) is not able to provide security, to fight terrorism, to avoid humanitarian catastrophies etc. it must not pretend to sovereignty. Here we see political and theoretical justification of desovereignization of nation-states in the interests of so called «world community» which in reality means global capitalist class and its main cluster — the USA.

At the initial stage globalization meant macroeconomic restructuring which on the world scale reflected the experience of the industrial revolution which occurred at the national level. Now specialization and economic optimality make capitalists shift production to such zones where intensive use of labour enables them to get largest profit, where there is relatively cheap qualified labour or considerable reserves of natural resources. Nowadays dependence of national economies on the activity of globalizational core develops in a geometrical progression.

Transnational corporations and banks are the most active bearers of globalization. Larger and larger space is occupied by corporations sharing global transnational «citizenship». Due to globalization transnational corporations, having got sizable opportunities to evade state control and regulation, have accumulated means several times larger than the resources of even rather big states. Simultaneously with the maturing of private transnational corporations international economic organizations were being transformed into powerful centres of decision-making whose decisions were more and more often binding for the states. Moreover, they were turning into centres where institutional and legal framework of the neoliberal economic order was being formed.

In such a situation the state is going through a crisis. However, it does not at all mean that the state has come to its historical end as a political institution, as a «form of life» (to use Rudolf Kjellen’s term). The play is not finished yet. Nation-state is really fading away. But is this structure really the last form of the state?
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