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Robinson.what Empire Whose Hegemony the Transnationalization of Capital and the Gramscian Critique of Statolatry 2004

Robinson.what Empire Whose Hegemony the Transnationalization of Capital and the Gramscian Critique of Statolatry 2004

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Hegemony and globalization
Hegemony and globalization

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WHAT EMPIRE? WHOSE HEGEMONY? THE TRANSNATIONALIZATION OF CAPITAL
AND THE GRAMSCIAN CRITIQUE OF ‘STATOLATRY’ WILLIAM I. ROBINSON Department of Sociology University of California Santa Barbara, CA 93106 805-893-5607 wirobins@soc.ucsb.edu FOR PRESENTATION AT THE 2004 ANNUAL MEETING OF THE ISA, MONTREAL, MARCH 16-21 Introduction
 Globalization and hegemony are concepts that occupy an increasingly important place in social science research and are central to out understanding of 21
st
 century world society. Yet they are as well the subject of progressively pitched debates among political economists and sociologists, international relations, world-systems, and Gramscian scholars, and, more generally, social theorists. Debate in recent years has centered on the purported decline of U.S. hegemony and what new hegemony may take its place as the world slips into turmoil or
“systemic chaos” (Arrighi and Silver, 2000). More recently, the 2003 U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has generated a welter of claims that U.S. interventionism and unilateralism is evidence of a new U.S. bid for world empire and a new round of inter-imperialist rivalry. My objective in the present essay is to step back from the bustle of headlines and day-to-day events, which change so quickly that analyses may well be outdated before they are published. Instead I wish here to examine the deeper theoretical issues of structural change in world capitalism, and to focus in particular matter of hegemony in the global system from the standpoint of global capitalism theory, in contrast to extant approaches that analyze this phenomenon from the standpoint of the nation-state and the inter-state system. Hegemony may be firmly situated in our social science lexicon, yet it means different things to different speakers. There are at least four interwoven conceptions in the literature on the international order and the world capitalist system:
1) Hegemony as International Domination.
Hegemony in the realist tradition in International Relations (IR), world politics, and some International Political Economy (IPE)
 ,
understood as dominance backed up by active domination, or “hegemonism.” Thus the former Soviet Union exercised hegemony over Eastern Europe and the United States exercised hegemony over the capitalist world
 
during the Cold War.
 
1)
 Hegemony as state hegemony
.Hegemony in the loose sense as evoked in much world-systems and IR literature, in reference to a dominant nation-state within the core that
 
2
serves to anchor the world capitalist system or to impose the rules and enforcement that allows the inter-state system to function over time. Thus, there has been a succession of hegemonic powers in the history of world capitalism, e.g., from Dutch, to British, and then to U.S.
 hegemony, and a particular power is a “hegemon.” 1)
 Hegemony as consensual domination
 or
ideological hegemony
.Hegemony in the more generic sense meant by Antonio Gramsci as the way in which a ruling group establishes and maintains its rule. Hegemony is rule by consent, or the cultural and intellectual leadership achieved by a particular class, class fraction, strata, or social group, as part of alarger project of class rule or domination. Thus, in modern capitalist societies the bourgeoisie has managed to achieve its hegemony during periods of stable rule, although that hegemony has broken down during periods of crisis, such as in the 20
th
 century period of world wars and authoritarian rule in a number of countries. 1)
 Hegemony as the exercise of leadership within historic blocs in a social formation
.Aview of hegemony that combines the loose sense of some preeminent state power in the world system with the more specific sense of the construction of consent or ideological leadership around a particular historic project. Thus the United States was able to achieve hegemony in the post-WWII period as a result, not so much of its economic dominance in global political economy and military might to back it up, than to the development of a Fordist-Keynesian social structure of accumulation that became internationalized under the leadership of the U.S. capitalist class. The above is, of course, a simplification. These four approaches are not mutually exclusive and most social scientists would view their conception of hegemony as a synthesis of several or all of them. But for argument’s sake the first approach is epitomized by such realist paradigms as the
 
theory of hegemonic stability in the field of International Relations (IR), as developed by Kenneth Waltz (1979) and Robert Keohane (1984), among others. We could characterize Immanuel Wallerstein’s well-known essay, “The Three Instances of Hegemony in the History of the Capitalist World-Economy” (1984), as archetypical of the second approach, while Giovanni Arrighi’s 1994 study,
The Long Twentieth Century
,may be its most elegant expression in the world-systems tradition. Gramsci’s own writings (1971) epitomize the third approach. The Frankfurt school writings of the early and mid 20
th
 century, and perhaps more recently, some of the theoretical work of Habermas and of Bordeau, and late 20
th
 century political sociology research on power, may draw on or develop out of this approach. The fourth is closely associated with the work of Robert Cox (see, inter-alia, 1987) and the Italian, or neo-Gramscian, school in IR, and may be best illustrated by Mark Rupert’s study,
Producing  Hegemony
 (1995), although Justin Rosenberg’s
The Empire of Civil Society
 (1994) stands out as well. All four conceptions of hegemony may be of value insofar as they have contributed to understanding the evolving historical structures of the world capitalist system. But here I want to suggest that an understanding of the current dynamics of the global system requires a more expansive approach, one that allows for innovations in order to grasp novel transnational processes unfolding in the early 21
st
 century that form the backdrop to the bustle of fluid and rapidly changing conjunctures, such as the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. In a nutshell, I
 
3
suggest that we need to expunge
nation-state centrism
 from the discussion of hegemony. This allows us to conceive of disputes over hegemony and other global political dynamics involving
transnational social forces
 notnecessarily tied to any one nation-state. We need, indeed, to move away altogether from a statist conception of hegemony -- from
statism
 -- and revert to a view of hegemony as a form of social domination exercised not by states but by social groups and classes operating through states and other institutions. This allows us to identify social groups in the global system that may now be attempting to construct a hegemony beyond formal state institutions, and it provides for greater latitude in assessing 21
st
 century hegemonic projects.
In pursuing these ideas I want to draw on Gramsci’s theoretical discussion of hegemony and on his critique of the reification of the state. My aim is to apply a global capitalism approach (see, e.g., Robinson, 1996, 2001, 2003, 2004; Sklair, 2001, 2002;) to the current global order by explicitly linking the process of globalization to the construction of hegemonies and counter-hegemonies in the 21
st
 century. I will draw as well from the works of Cox (1987, 1995) and others from the neo-Gramscian (see, inter-alia, Gill, 1990, 1993; 2003 Gill and Mittelman, 2001) and related schools of critical global political economy (see, inter-alia, Palan, 2000; Rupert and Smith, 2002). But I will part ways over what I see as excessive state-centric emphases, attempting to move to beyond what I have critiqued as a “nation-state framework of analysis” that accords centrality to the nation-state in macro-social inquiry (Robinson 1998; 2002). In this framework, nations are seen as discrete units within a larger system (the world-system or the international system) characterized by external relations among these units. Economic globalization is analyzed from the political framework of the nation-state system and the agency therein of national classes and groups. Studying social phenomena in the new epoch requires that we adopt a transnational or global approach in place of this outdated national/international approach. The national/international approach focuses on the pre-existing system of nation-states as an immutable structural feature of the larger world or inter-state system, whereas by contrast
trans
national or globalization approaches focus on how the system of nation-states and national economies, etc., are becoming transcended by transnational social forces and institutions grounded in the global system rather than the interstate system. To get beyond nation-state centrist ways of thinking we need to keep in mind that a study of globalization is fundamentally
historical
 
analysis.
 When we forget that the nation-state is an historically-bound phenomenon we
reify
 the nation-state, and by extension the inter-state system or the world system founded on nation-states. To reify something is to attribute a thing-like status to what should be more properly seen as a complex and changing set of social relations that our practice has created, and that has no ontological status independent of human agency. When we forget that the reality to which these concepts refer is our own sets of social relations that are themselves in an ongoing process of transformation and instead attribute some independent existence to them then we are reifying. For instance, a “nation-state” is not a tangible “thing” in so far as borders are artificial lines we draw through real space. A “state “ is not, of course, the physical buildings which house government officials or a capital city but a set of social relations and practices we have created and institutionalized. To see the state as some thing-in-itself is to reify the state. To the extent that they posit the nation-state system as an ontological feature of world capitalism extant approaches risk falling into the pitfall of reification. The imputation of a trans-historic character to the nation-state is erroneous in that it assigns a universal character to relatively fixed set of historic structures whose foundations were laid in the 16
th
 and 17th centuries. I want to challenge the assumption – so ingrained that it is often only implicit and taken-for-granted - that that by fiat we are speaking of the hegemony of a

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