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Marxism after Communism: Beyond Realism and Historicism

Author(s): Andrew Gamble


Source: Review of International Studies, Vol. 25, The Interregnum: Controversies in World
Politics 1989-1999 (Dec., 1999), pp. 127-144
Published by: Cambridge University Press
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? British

Copyright

International

Studies

Association

1999

after Communism:

Marxism

beyond

Realism

and Historicism
ANDREW

GAMBLE*

of capitalism as a social system would


always predicted that the development
become
be punctuated
crises, which would
progressively
deeper and
by major
broader until the system itself was swept away. What he could not have foreseen was
as a theory would also be marked by crises, both
of Marxism
that the development

Marx

its survival. In this


threatened
which have periodically
and of method,
has achieved a unity of theory and practice. No crisis has
respect at least Marxism
been so profound for Marxism,
however, as the crisis brought about by the collapse
the disappearance
after seventy years of
in Europe after 1989.1 With
of Communism
as
state and the first state to proclaim Marxism
the first workers'
the Soviet Union,
as a critical
seemed
its official
suddenly
theory of society
ideology, Marxism
of belief

the present or providing a guide as


rudderless, no longer relevant to understanding
to how society might be changed for the better. Marx at last was to be returned to
the nineteenth
century where many suspected he had always belonged.
intellectuals
is surprising. After
At first sight the collapse of belief among Marxist
a particular approach in the social
as a distinct theoretical perspective,
all, Marxism
sciences, and an independent critical theory, had long been separate from Marxism
The various
the official and ossified state doctrine of the Soviet Union.
Leninism,
as
in particular had sought to keep alive Marxism
strands of Western Marxism2
of criticism on the Soviet
critical theory, and had frequently turned those weapons
nor Moscow'
was a favourite
Union
itself. 'Neither Washington
slogan of the
New
what
defined
the
so-called
Left which
Marxist
left.
Indeed,
independent
was
not
events
its
in
wake
of
the
of
the
1968,
just
critique of Western
emerged
to
in
Eastern
Stalinism
but
its
Europe and the
capitalism
equally strong opposition
former USSR.
But in spite of this attempt to break free from old intellectual shackles, Marxism
in general could not entirely escape its association with actually existing socialism
accident
of being
linked in the
and remained deeply marked
by the historical
twentieth century so inextricably with the fortunes of one particular state: the Soviet
* I
would
of

like to thank Michael

Cox, Michael

Kenny,

and Tony

Payne

for comments

on an earlier draft

this article.

'Fin-de-si?cle
Socialism:
Socialism
after the Crash', New Left
See for example Robin Blackburn,
185 (1991), pp. 5-67; Robin Blackburn
1991); G. A.
(ed.), After the Fall (London: Verso,
New Left Review,
190 (1991), pp. 5-20; Alex Callinicos,
The
'The Future of a Disillusion',
Cohen,
'Marx after Marxism',
Stedman-Jones,
1991); Gareth
Revenge
(Cambridge:
Polity,
of History
Marxism
1990).
Today (February
2
as a distinctive
characterizations
of Western Marxism
strand of Marxism
One of the most
influential
on Western Marxism
is Perry Anderson,
Considerations
1976). For a critical
(London: Verso,
Review,

assessment

of Anderson's

account

of History

(Minneapolis:

University

see Gregory
Elliott, Perry Anderson:
of Minnesota
Press, 1998).

The Remorseless

127

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Laboratory

128

Andrew Gamble

Union. This association was fanned by the opponents


of Marxism,
who labelled all
as Communists
Marxists
social democrats)
and totalitarians,
notwith
(and most
to
their
the
some
But
the
association
did
have
basis
standing
protestations
contrary.3
in fact and was reflected most
in
the
ambivalence
which
the
Left
obviously
continued to display or feel towards the USSR. Even those Marxists most critical of
the Soviet Union
could not ignore its historical
and the fact that it
significance
some
to
to
alternative
however
flawed in its imple
represent
appeared
capitalism,
a
and
of
and
in
mentation,
stage
Furthermore,
society
history beyond capitalism.
the stand-off between the superpowers
after 1945, the very existence of the Soviet
Union
limited the reach of the United
States and created a space for resistance
movements

and alternative
not
the
USSR
supported
because they were opposed

in fact,
regimes in the Third World. Many Marxists,
because
the
Soviet
admired
but
they
system,
simply
to the United
the USSR
States, and because on occasion
did lend support to revolutions, for example in Cuba and Vietnam.4 Many also gave
reluctant support to the USSR
because at times it appeared to represent less of a
threat to peace than did the United
States. During
the most intense moments
of the
on the Marxist
Cold War?especially
in the early 1980s?many
left tended to be less
critical of the Soviet Union
than the United
States for fanning the arms race.
The link which developed
after 1917 between Marxism
and the interests of a
a
nation-state
had
another
effect:
the
rise
of
rival
form of realism in
specific
major
international
relations in the shape of official Marxism-Leninism.
This offered an
account of the international
an
based
account of the
instrumentalist
upon
system
state policy on the one hand and the interests of national
between
relationship
and territory was
resources,
capital on the other. The struggle to seize markets,
regarded as the essence of the imperialist era, which Lenin predicted would be the
last stage of capitalism.
This brand of realism differed from mainstream
realist
in seeing a close
theory in at least three ways: in being more openly materialist,
between the action of states and their internal character, and offering a
connection
broader view of the determinants
of state action than just the calculation by elites of
their security interests. In the theory of imperialism
in particular what states did
abroad very clearly reflected the interests of the dominant
sections of their national
as vague and ill-defined as the national
interest.
capital and not just something

Marxism-Leninism
still viewed the international
Nonetheless,
system in terms of
conflict and states, and competing
national
rather than the global
economies,
economy or the world system.5
or Marxism-Leninism
It would be wrong
as
therefore to see Soviet Marxism
to realism. The opposition
it and main
between
having been theoretically
opposed
stream realism as it developed
in the Cold War era was primarily
ideological. The
of the two realisms backed different
states, but they shared similar
partisans
as to how the international
system worked, disagreeing only over which
assumptions
3
A classic example
to Serfdom
is F.A.Hayek,
The Road
(London: Routledge,
1944)
4
a Cause', New Political Economy,
Michael
'Rebels Without
Cox,
3:3, (November
1988), pp. 445^160.
5
state system which
The international
of realist
emerged after 1917 invited the development
E.H.Carr's
attack upon idealism
in The Twenty Years Crisis: An Introduction
to the
interpretations.
Relations
the case for a realist analysis of
Study of International
(London: Macmillan,
1939) made
international
relations and sparked a wide-ranging
and still continuing
debate. See 'The Eighty Years
Review of International
Crisis
24 (1998). In his later history of the Soviet Union
1919-1999',
Studies,
Carr went on to provide a systematic
defence of the Soviet Union
and its policies
from a realist
perspective.

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Marxism

after Communism:

beyond Realism

129

and Historicism

two realisms
role. But what made
state played
historical
the more
progressive
was
state
state
different
from
the
the
what
made
system
system of
post-1917
possible
was
a
not
the nineteenth
There
continuation
of
great power rivalry, but
century.
just
and
social
universalist
also a contest between
systems. This became
ideologies
a
1945
into
between
and
each
after
Communism,
magnified
struggle
capitalism
In this bipolar world the ideological
championed
by one of the two superpowers.
a
in all
East
and
West
had
between
struggle
impact on domestic politics
profound
a
severe
of
and
network
alliances.
Even
detractors
of
established
countries,
complex
all great power politics were forced to have an ideological preference for either the
It was scarcely possible to be even-handed
and condemn
was
a
not
in
the
USSR
the system of
And
for
many,
only
key player
equally.
a
the
'other'?one
which
had
and
far
but
states,
ideological
significance
magnetism
a
as
status
in
its
world.
another
superpower
two-superpower
beyond
had a deep impact not just on the
For this reason the collapse of the USSR
on
arena
as well.
order but
the ideological
of world politics
Its
international

United

States or the USSR.

both

left
ignominious
implosion appeared to destroy the credentials of the broad Marxist
at a stroke.6 The triumph of the West and the triumph of capitalism were complete
such. The pulling down of
triumphs, and were hailed?and
widely recognized?as
was paralleled
the statues erected to the leaders of Marxism-Leninism
by the
in the rest of
edifices of Marxism
metaphorical
pulling down of the theoretical
(however distant they
Europe, as well as the Third World. For radical intellectuals
the shock was especially great. Politically
might have been from the Soviet Union)
so long as it survived in
however,
they may have had little time for the USSR;
state of political degeneration,
it provided a point of reference for anti
in theWest. Critics did not have to profess loyalty to the Soviet
capitalist opposition
Union; but the fact that it existed allowed them to be critics of their own society?
and its disappearance
made
it far more difficult for them to remain so. How could
they when Soviet-style
planning had not only failed to deliver the goods but had
of those who had lived under the capitalist
been openly rejected by the majority
alternative for so many years?
whatever

In this way the fortunes of the USSR and the fortunes of Marxism
became fatally
and this explains why the collapse of the former appeared much more
critics hailed
significant than just the collapse of an especially large state. Marxism's
it as an end of ideology, an end of history. Admittedly,
Marxism
lived on as the
official doctrine of a number of states, Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea and above all
China. But in the first three its only purpose seemed to be to justify one party rule,
while China,
the
party rule, has clearly abandoned
though clinging to centralized
idea of creating an alternative
Instead from the 1980s it
society or economy.
entwined,

developed

a state-led

strategy which

accepted

China's

incorporation

into global

capitalism.7

Fred Halliday,
'The End of the Cold War and International
Relations:
Some Analytic
in Ken Booth and Steve Smith (eds.), International
Theoretical
Relations
Conclusions',
State University
Press, 1995), pp. 38-61.
(Pennsylvania
7
Manuel
Castells, End of Millennium
(Oxford: Blackwell,
1998), pp. 287-307.

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and
Theory

Today

130
Crawling

Andrew Gamble
from the wreckage

if anything
What
new world order
is now
Marxism
that any insights
from
dissociated

is left from the wreck and does Marxism


have any relevance in the
in the 1990s? One prominent
which has emerged
view is that
defunct as a political practice and as an ideological doctrine, and
as a mode
which
still inhere in Marxism
of analysis are best
new
the Marxist
label and incorporated
in
forms of social science.8
or Machiavelli
or Kant, to
similar to Hobbes
Marx might then be used in a manner
an
or
a
on
to offer
reinforce
the problems
argument,
perspective
particular
of

international
would be the pretensions
politics. What would be abandoned
to be a self-contained,
theory of the social sciences,
over-arching
to mainstream
alternative
disciplinary
approaches, with its own
interdisciplinary
to political practice.
and special relationship
of concepts, methodology,

Marxism

of
an
set

far
argue however that the collapse of Communism,
Many defenders of Marxism
to revive the discourse of classical
from being a disaster, is in fact a great opportunity
the doctrine of Marxism-Leninism.
Marxism
and abandon
It liberates Marxism
to a state which had long since ceased to
from a false position,
tied by association
as a critical
to do with Marxism
have anything
theory of society, and which
a
a
a just society. Marxism
not
forward
but
backwards
towards
step
step
represented
set to regain its vitality and its reputation for critical analysis which
it
to
the
1917
revolution.
No
linked
the
of
fortunes
any
enjoyed
longer
parti
state system
cular state, it can analyse the forces which are shaping the international
in a dispassionate
and objective manner, once again under
and the global economy
as global social relations. The analysis
of
relations
the
social
capitalism
standing
it starts from the global economy. The state is
does not start from the nation-state;
once more as one aspect of the social relations which constitute global
understood
has lost its chains, and can speak in its own authentic
capitalist society.9 Marxism
is therefore

before

accents

once

more

to

reignite

a revolutionary

politics.10

If Marxism
is to have a future, however, it will not be because there is a return to
is very different today from what it was
the world before 1914. The global economy
are very different also. When
and
resistance
then, and forms of political
struggle
as the agent which would
first emerged it identified the workers' movement
Marxism
at
the
Marxism
end
of
the
twentieth century is a
the capitalist
overthrow
system.
an
It
of
in
is
still
search
of
capable
theory
providing a searching and often
agent.11
account of the nature of the global political economy and the structures
unequalled
it is no longer a serious
But as a political practice
which
shape its development.
an
few
and
lacks
effective
strategy. Very
presence
parties of any size or
political
or
a
now
Marxist
Marxist
call
themselves
adopt
parties,
ideology. The
significance
in
the
has
old unity of theory and practice
(often precarious
past)
finally been
sundered.
8

This

is very
of States
the State and the
Political Economy,
9 Peter
Burnham,
Wealth

view

See for example


John Hobson,
The
historical
among Weberian
sociologists.
popular
of
Press,
1997); and 'The Historical
Sociology
Cambridge
University
(Cambridge:
in International
Review of International
State of Historical
Relations',
Sociology
5:2 (1998), pp. 284-320.
Review of International
and Vulgar
International
Political Economy',
'Open Marxism

Political Economy,
1:2 (1994) p. 229.
10
Hillel Ticktin,
'Where Are We Going Today?
(1998), pp. 21-48.
11
a Cause'.
'Rebels Without
Cf. Michael
Cox,

The Nature

of Contemporary

Crisis',

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Critique,

30-31

Marxism

after Communism:

beyond Realism

and Historicism

131

has tended to
This may turn out to be an opportunity. The creativity of Marxism
such as the theory of imperialism
and by instru
be frozen by realist doctrines
accounts of the state, but also by historicist narratives which identified the
mentalist
as the industrial working
of
revolution
class, and socialism as the necessary
agent
of history. To regain its analytical
power and its place among other key
we
our world, Marxism
to
to
with
which
understand
needs
try
perspectives
It does not
rediscover what makes
it distinctive,
its critique of political
economy.
start from a blank sheet. There is a rich legacy of ideas and approaches within
Western Marxism which can be drawn upon. This article will discuss ways in which
to the international
theories, often building on approaches
contemporary Marxist
goal

which developed
new ways of
developing
system

historicist

in the

1970s and 1980s within Western Marxism,


about international
politics which transcend

thinking
and realist biases of the past.

Transcending

are
the

historicism

Francis

claim in 1989 (before the opening of the Berlin Wall and the
Fukuyama's
of
the
Soviet
that history had ended was roundly criticized, parti
Union)
collapse
saw it as yet another meta-narrative
who
of modernity,
cularly by postmodernists
but perhaps
least by Marxists
who
the
of
themselves,
recognised
importance
as
was
drawn
it
from
Alexandre
Marxist
Fukuyama's
Kojeve's
question,
interpret
ation

of Hegel.12 The issue Kojeve


and Fukuyama
raise is whether
the great
over
contests
unleashed
since
the
French
Revolution
of
the organization
ideological
run
economic
and social life have
their course, with the acknowledgement
that the
are the horizon
institutions
of free market
and liberal democracy
of
capitalism
to these forms, no higher stage of
There are no viable alternatives
modernity.13
can be achieved
in terms of improving the distri
Whatever
development.
resources
bution of
has to be achieved within the limits of these institutions.
as a political
These claims strike at the core of Marxism
theory of revolution,
was
to demonstrate
since the aim of Marx's historical materialism
that there was a
stage of human development
beyond capitalism which would guarantee the kind of
freedoms
and opportunities
which
had promised
to
but was unable
capitalism
deliver because of the way it was organized as a class society. Only the abolition of
classes and the abolition
of the conditions
which reproduced
in a
class relations
of power and
capitalist
society could allow class society with all its inequalities

human

resources

to be

overcome.

such social inequalities remains at the core of any Marxist


Redressing
project, but
to was whether Marxists
what the debate on the end of history drew attention
needed to be attached any longer to the particular narrative which for so long had
framed its enquiries. This narrative was historicist
to the notion
that
by adhering
and was evolving towards an inevitable destina
history had an objective meaning,
tion through
12
13

a series of historical

Perry Anderson,
pp. 279-376.
Francis
original

Fukuyama,
article was

'The Ends
The End
'The End

of History'

stages. Such historicist


in A Zone

of Engagement

guarantees
(London:

Verso,

in the past did


1992),

and the Last Man


of History
(London: Hamish Hamilton,
of History',
The National
16 (1989), pp. 3-18.
Interest,

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1992). The

Andrew Gamble

132

to discredit
to purge
and invalidate Marxist
The
much
scholarship.
struggle
Marxism
of this kind of historicism
has been a long one; what Fukuyama
has
is reminding his Marxist
succeeded in doing (inadvertently)
readers that for Hegel,
the meaning
of history was revealed only after a particular phase of history is past.
dead after the battle of Jena in 1808, because
he
history
Hegel
pronounced
as
in
the
of
the
French
Revolution
carried
forward
recognised
principles
by
armies the fully developed
of modernity.
victorious
What
Napoleon's
principles
and many of his critics is that the claim that history has ended
escapes Fukuyama
can only be a judgement on a particular history, and a particular
time. At the very
a new process will be under way. What
the judgement
is valid in
was
a
his
is
that
the
end
of
the
1980s
decisive
turning point. A
Fukuyama
insight
new world was being made, and this involved the supersession
of the terms of the
is invalid is his belief that this new world will not
ideological battle of the old. What
own
its
develop
history.

moment

of

to acknowledge
The fall of Communism
forced Marxists
finally that the confident
belief that socialism would
involve the replacement
of the market by some form of
or democratically
planning, however decentralized
organized, was flawed. This belief
was one of the lasting legacies of the 1917 Revolution.
some Marxists
Although
was
at
not
that
the
Soviet
Union
all
but
socialist
else',
'something
always argued
did believe

that it contained
elements were

elements, however distorted and


the
it from
elements which prevented
precisely
corrupted.14
a
to
most
market
market
And
for
Marxists
economy and subject
disciplines.
being
(though again not all) socialism was always identified with the existence of a non
to most Marxists
this type of economy was either
market economy?and
according
or
in transition to something higher.
superior in character
many

Those

certain

socialist

In the last ten years, this historicism


has almost completely
and
disappeared,
to think about some stage of human development
is now little disposition
of history. But this does not mean
by the evolution
beyond capitalism guaranteed
a
to raise questions about what an
Marxist
framework
that it is not possible within
or
to
what ethical principles may be used to
alternative
look like,
capitalism might
of the international
criticise the existing organization
order. Two examples of these
are
of John Roemer15
and the critical
kinds of writing
the analytical Marxism
theory of Andrew Linklater.16 Roemer has developed new thinking on the character
istics of a socialist economy. His version of market
socialism offers a decentralized
a
are publicly owned but in
assets
in which productive
socialist economy
model of
which
all economic
This is a theoretical
is organized
activity
through markets.
there

in social and economic


It
possibilities
organization.
that a political
transfer of all assets from private to
is not interested in the mechanism
by which such
public hands has occurred. Roemer
a transfer might
take place, and those Marxists
from the analytical
school who have
ever
about the political conditions
that question have been pessimistic
investigated
different
exercise, exploring
starts from the assumption

14
Manuel

uses the term 'statist' to refer to the Soviet type of economy


to distinguish
it from
Castells
(Oxford: Blackwell,
1998).
capitalist; End of Millennium
15
'The Ends of
John Roemer A Future for Socialism
(London: Verso,
1994). See also Anderson
to Capitalism
Jon Elster & Karl Ove Moene
(eds.), Alternatives
(Cambridge:
Cambridge
History';
Socialism
The New Market
Press, 1989); See also Christopher
Pierson,
University
after Communism:
Socialism
1995).
(Cambridge:
Polity,
16
The Transformation
Ethical Foundations
Andrew
Linklater,
Community:
of the Political
of the Post
Era (Cambridge:
Polity,
1998).
Westphalian

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Marxism

after Communism:

beyond Realism

and Historicism

133

systems which would create electoral majorities


arising within democratic
political
forms which do not prejudge
for socialism.17 Nevertheless
work on organizational
of governance
the desirability
of different modes
has begun to make a significant
to dominant capitalist forms.18
to the imagining of alternatives
contribution
a very different kind of analysis. He has sought
Andrew Linklater has developed
to extend the idea of critical theory developed by the Frankfurt
School to issues of
international politics.19 Linklater takes as the most important legacy of Marxism
the
a
which
of
critical
the
for
human
emanci
development
theory
explores
possibility
include all peoples, which
society, which would
pation and for creating a universal
has made possible. He argues that it was this insight
the progress of industrialization
which gave Marxism
its great moral
force and which allows the formulation
of
can
ethical principles
which
in
international
be
by
existing arrangements
politics
judged.20
The rejection of historicism
in parti
left?and
by what remains of the Marxist
of
cular the belief in the historical
inevitability
higher stages beyond capitalism?has
not of course meant
the abandonment
It has rather aided
of historical materialism.
to the analysis of
the return to the fundamental
contribution
made by Marxism
social development
and to politics. Marxism's
great strength, acknowledged
by many
of its detractors as well as by its advocates, was its incisive analysis of capitalism as
an economic
and political
the social
system, how that system came into existence,
were
relations and institutions which defined
and
how
these
and
it,
reproduced
sustained
both temporally
and spatially.21 Such a focus is more
in
interested
as
an
as
a
rather
than
socialism
and
distant possibility,
existing reality
capitalism
therefore more

on capitalist

rather than capitalist crisis. The


reproduction
as a
and dynamism
of capitalism
inventiveness,
flexibility,
over
in the analysis
its fragility,
system take precedence
political
of crisis and the con
sclerosis and imminent demise. The possibility
vulnerability,
it occurs remains a key part of Marxist
ditions under which
analysis, but it is no
the political perspective
of immediate political revolution
longer considered within
and the transition to socialism, but within the broader context of the conditions
of
adaptability,
social and

focused

resilience,

reproduction of capital.22
The historicist
in Marxism
elements
introduced a strong moralizing
previously
tone into the discussion
of certain
institutional
characteristics
of capitalism,
the market, because this was destined to disappear
in the higher stage of
particularly
socialism. With
the discarding of historicism Marxists
have been freed to develop a
the market, but treats it
theory of the capitalist economy which no longer demonizes
instead as one tool through which economies are governed. This has opened the way
to analyses of the institutional diversity of capitalism, discarding
the assumption
of
an invariant logic of capital, and investigating
the contribution which markets make

17
Adam
18
Robin

and Social Democracy


Przeworski,
Press, 1985).
Capitalism
Cambridge
(Cambridge:
University
'The New Collectivism:
Pension Reform, Grey Capitalism
and Complex
Blackburn,
New Left Review,
233 (1999), pp. 3-65.
Socialism',
19
Andrew
The Transformation
and Beyond Realism
and Marxism:
Linklater,
of the Political
Community;
Critical Theory and International
Relations
(London: Macmillan,
1990).
20
A forum which critically discusses
recent book can be found in Review of
Linklater's most
International
25:1 (1999).
Studies,
to Capital
David Harvey,
The Limits
(Oxford: Blackwell,
22
Robert Brenner,
'The Economics
of Global
Turbulence'

21

1982).
New Left Review,

229

(1998),

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pp.

1-264.

Andrew Gamble

134

of capital, how markets are embedded


in other
and regulated, and how they can be steered.23

to the reproduction
they are constituted

how

institutions,

realism

Transcending

to international politics
contributions
of aMarxist
perspective
was global rather than
that capitalism
from the beginning
is its understanding
in its reach. This insight became clouded during the ascendancy
national
of Marxist
theories of imperialism, but in the 1970s it was reborn in new theories of how the
social and political institutions of capitalism make up a world system24 or
economic,

One of the distinctive

world order.25 One of the spurs to this has been the development
of the discourse
can rightly claim that Marx and Engels were among
around globalization. Marxists
the first nineteenth
century theorists who perceived the trends towards globalization
not just of economic
culture and politics. For
activity, but of social arrangements,
Marx
of capital accumu
the creation of the world market was one of the outcomes
of existing boundaries
of territory and concepts of space
lation. The undermining
was one of the main ways in which new sources of profit were located, and the
of capital assured.26 Marx's
famous passage from the The Communist
reproduction
so well the
is
it
it encapsulates
often
but
bears
cited,
repeating, because
Manifesto
of capitalism
extraordinary
insight which Marx and Engels had into the dynamism
for the political organization
of the world economy. Their tone,
and its consequences
as many commentators
have noted, was more adulatory
than critical of the achieve
ments of capitalism:27
a cosmopolitan
of the world market
has through
its exploitation
given
bourgeoisie
to production
in every country.
To the great chagrin
of
and consumption
character
on which
it has drawn
from under
the national
the feet of industry
reactionists,
ground

The

it

stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being
are dislodged
a life and death
whose
introduction
becomes
industries,
They
by new
raw
for all civilised
that no longer work
nations,
up indigenous
by industries
are
drawn
from
the remotest
whose
but raw material
industries
zones;
products

destroyed.
question
material,

not

consumed
satisfied

by

the products

In place
of the old wants,
of the globe.
but in every quarter
only at home
we find new wants,
of the country,
for their satisfaction
the productions
requiring
In place
of distant
lands and climes.
of the old local and national
seclusion
and
we

self-sufficiency,

And as inmaterial,
nations

become

instruments
even

the most

heavy
artillery
of extinction,
23

of

have

common
production,
barbarian
with

in every

intercourse

universal

direction,

interdependence

of nations.

so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual

which

to adopt

. . .The
bourgeoisie,
facilitated
by the immensely
The
nations
into civilisation.

by the
means

property

it batters

down

the bourgeois

mode

all Chinese
of

cheap
walls

production;

rapid
improvement
of communication,

of

all

draws

all,

are the
of its commodities
prices
... It
on
all
nations,
compels
pain
what
it compels
them to introduce

in Retrospect
and Prospect',
and Society,
19:2 (1990),
Economy
Jessop,
'Regulation Theory
'Financial
Structures
and Egalitarian
Economic
pp. 153-216; Robert Pollin,
Policy', New Left Review,
214 (1995), pp. 26-61.
24
The Modern
World System
Immanuel Wallerstein,
Press, 1974).
(New York: Academic
25
Power and World Order (New York: Columbia
Robert Cox, Production,
Press, 1987).
University
26
to Capital
The Limits
David Harvey,
(Oxford: Blackwell,
1982) and The Condition
of Post Modernity
27

Bob

(Oxford: Blackwell,
1989).
and Friedrich
Karl Marx
Engels,

The Communist

Manifesto

(Harmondsworth:

Penguin,

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1973), p. 71.

Marxism
it calls

civilisation

creates

a world

into
after

after Communism:

their midst,

its own

i.e. to become

beyond Realism
bourgeois

and Historicism

themselves.

In one word,

135
it

image.

This passage has been rightly cited as one of the first theories of globalization,28
remarkable for the way in which it draws together economic, political, and cultural
as a
and understands
aspects of the impact of capital accumulation
capitalism
of
But
for
much
the
twentieth
the
of
century
global system.
organization
capitalism
as a global economy has not been central to Marxist
analysis. Instead, as argued
a more
as imperialism,
narrow political
of capitalism
above, the organization
concept, was
Soviet Union

of the collapse of the


instead.29 One of the consequences
emphasized
has been the recognition
that the global economy has entered a new
phase. For the first time since the early years of the century it can be said to be truly
as Castells puts it, unified for the first time.30 In the
unified, or more accurately
1917
Revolution
the global economy did not cease to exist,
the
after
seventy years
was marked
but its organization
the
economies,
by
strength of national
regional
terms by protectionism
and state regulation. All national
blocs, and in policy
in the period up to the 1950s. In the
economies became relatively closed, particularly
structure
1960s and particularly
after 1971 this
of the global economy began to
break down, and the pressures towards greater openness
increased. The discourse of
in the 1980s. No country or
became
current, and then dominant
globalization
the pressures for greater openness;
the process
regime appeared able to withstand
in the opening of the territories of the former USSR, which followed the
of China
The extent of
Government).
opening
(by its Communist
to vary, but only a very few countries
of many countries continued
in
incorporation
the global economy, such as Cuba and North Korea, remained significantly closed at

culminated
previous

the end of the millennium.


In the nineteenth century

the growth of the world market went hand in hand with


the strengthening
of the most powerful
and
states, and their political
capitalist
reach within
this world market. While Marxists
shared many of the same
military
as liberal cosmopolitans
like Richard Cobden as to the power of global
assumptions
to transform
markets
the world
and undermine
nation-states,
they were also
On
sceptical about the prospects for a peaceful world of economic
interdependence.
the contrary they argued that there was a close connection
between economic and
for
political power, and that the state would be used to create favourable conditions
capital accumulation.
The relationship between the global economy and the international
state system is
a central question
in international
have always argued
political economy. Marxists
that there is a close connection
between
economic
and political power although
there have been fierce controversies
about the degree of autonomy possessed by the
in terms of the logic of capital or the
state, and whether the state is best understood
struggle between classes.31 But a further controversy which can only perhaps be fully
28

Simon Bromley
'Marxism and Globalization'
in Andrew Gamble,
David Marsh
and Tony Tant (eds.),
Marxism
and Social Science
(London: Macmillan,
1999), pp. 280-301.
29
Tom Kemp,
Theories
Theories
Brewer, Marxist
(London: Dobson,
1967); Anthony
of Imperialism
of
in the Theory of
(London: Routledge,
Imperialism
1980); Roger Owen and Bob Sutcliffe
(eds.), Studies
(London: Longman,
1972).
Imperialism
30
Manuel
Castells The Rise of the Network
Society
(Oxford: Blackwell,
1998), p. 93.
31
Bob Jessop, The Capitalist
State (Oxford: Martin
Robertson,
1982); State Theory: Putting Capitalist
in Their Place
States
'Marxism and the State' in Gamble,
(Cambridge:
Polity,
1990); Colin Hay,
Marsh
and Tant (eds.), Marxism
and Social Science, pp. 152-74.

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136

Andrew Gamble

and the phase of Marxist


realism are over,
appreciated now that Marxism-Leninism
is whether
of
should
the focus of the Marxist
be the national
analysis
capitalism
state and the global economy.
state and the national economy or the international
to be grasped as global or national pheno
Are the social relations of capitalism
mena?32 Marx recognised the very strong pressures towards the creation of a unified
of political power into a
global economy, and at the same time the fragmentation
multitude

of

have theorized

Imperialism

separate authorities,
the tension between

but

left relatively
the two.

few clues as to how he would

and war

in Marxist
in different ways
The most
The tension has been resolved
writings.
influential in the twentieth century was the theory of imperialism, and its variants,
account of international
relations focused on indivi
which offered a Marxist-realist
of imperialism argued that the most powerful
dual capitalist nation-states.
Theorists
to seize as much
states used their military
and financial
territory and
capacities
resources as they could to increase the opportunities
for successful accumulation
by
their own capitalists. The rivalry between the leading capitalist powers was therefore
in the system of capital accumulation
itself. As the world market was
endemic
extended and its immense possibilities
opened up, the absence of any overarching
created fierce competition
between
states?economic,
political,
authority
political
and finally military. The link between capitalism and war became one of the firmest
in its classic form in Lenin's
of Marxist
immensely
analysis, expressed
postulates
influential pamphlet Imperialism.33
The outbreak of the First World War appeared to vindicate this Marxist
analysis,
of the Soviet State this became one of its central beliefs
and with the establishment
texts. However
there were from the start other
and Imperialism one of its canonical
in Marxism,
for example
the tendencies of the global economy
ways of analysing
or Rosa Luxemburg;
Rudolf Hilferding,
these
those developed
by Karl Kautsky,
and the freezing of Marxism
became
buried by the rush to canonize
Lenin,
Leninism as a state ideology. The full richness of the Marxist
analysis was obscured.
Only much later did new theories of the global economy and world order re-emerge.
to explain
the
The thesis of imperialism
leading to war had been employed
of the world
into regional blocs in the 1930s and the outbreak
of the
division
Second World War, but the theory began to work extremely poorly from the 1950s
state system was between the United
onwards. The main conflict in the international
the leading capitalist powers
rather than between
the USSR
(Europe
were
dismantled.
The
and
the
of
colonial
great
concept
empires
against America)
which
the
idea
of
underlaid
discrete national
powers
imperialist
using
capitals
to compete against one another, also began
economic, political and military means
to become more transnational
to break down as capital appeared
with the emer
States

and

gence of large global

companies.

32
International
and Vulgar
Peter Burnham,
'Open Marxism
33 V.
The Highest
I. Lenin, Imperialism:
Stage of Capitalism

Political

Economy'.

(Moscow,

1917).

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Marxism

after Communism:

beyond Realism

and Historicism

137

in the 1990s has echoes of the world


The greater openness of the global economy
before 1917, but with some important differences, not least the absence (so far) of
and the drift towards war
the interimperialist
rivalry, the aggressive nationalisms
so marked
at
the
which
international
of the century. The
politics
beginning
structure of capitalism
is also quite different;
in the
economic
and organizational
course of the twentieth century it has been transformed
by the rise of the public
limited company,

Fordist

process,

production

and

the incorporation
of science into the
production methods,
the expanded
role of the state in the reproduction
of

capital.
The more

open global economy of the 1990s also contrasts quite markedly with
that rivalry between
the leading
years, when Marxists
predicted
war.
would
the
world
The
into
contemporary
(and
imperialist powers
again plunge
of new regionalisms
around the three poles of the
highly uneven) development
a new
States?has
introduced
global economy?Europe,
Japan and the United
tension but hardly matches
the regional blocs of the 1930s.34 The global economy
is
no
means
to
which
free
of
conflicts
continue
involve
the
several
of
by
military
clashes between
states, but there have been no signs of military
leading capitalist
these states themselves.
the

interwar

Hegemony

for the lack of conflict in the Cold War era employed the
influential explanation
The division
of the world between
the two superpowers
concept of hegemony.
to suppress
the natural conflicts between
different
states, and
helped
capitalist
to be successfully
enabled the leading capitalist powers
united under American
But some Marxists,
like Ernest Mandel,
leadership to defeat Communism.35
thought
was
an
state of affairs, and predicted
that this
unnatural
that once tension was

One

reduced between the superpowers


the old pattern would reassert itself and capitalist
states would once again use military power to further the interests of their national
the Cold War has now ended and the Soviet Union has
capitalists.36 But although
over trade and investment
been dismantled,
there is no sign that the conflicts
or
between the US and Japan,
between the US and the EU, which undoubtedly
exist,
will be resolved by force.
to the problems
The concept of hegemony
of the more open global
applied
was
the development
of
economy of the 1970s and 1980s
important in stimulating
new approaches which rejected the nation-state
as the primary focus, and sought to
and exchange.37 One of
grasp capitalism once more as a global system of production

34

Andrew

Gamble

and Anthony

Payne

(eds.), Regionalism

and World

Order

(London:

Macmillan,

1996).

35
Michael

Cox, US Foreign Policy After the Cold War: Superpower Without A Mission?
(London:
1995).
36
versus America
Ernest Mandel,
Europe
(London: Verso,
1968).
37
Ankie Hoogvelt,
Globalisation
and the Post-Colonial
World: The New Political Economy
of
Development
(London: Macmillan,
1997).

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RIIA,

138

Andrew Gamble

as a
the more ambitious attempts to do this was world systems theory.38 Originating
a concept of capitalism
as a world
critique of modernization
theory, it developed
system in which there was continual conflict between the Centre and the periphery
the different components
of the Centre for control of the periphery.
and between
The world system develops
through cycles in which at any one time one power may
over the whole world
to unify the centre and exercise hegemony
be in a position
to its economic
which
is closely tied to relative
dominance,
as measured
and foreign investment.
by trade, productivity,
In world systems theory, the world moves
through periods of relative stability and
of
relative
followed
conflict, disorder, and war. The ending of
prosperity
by periods
of a new phase of
the Cold War on this account does not signal the beginning
a
in
but
which
American
will
be increasingly
American
power
hegemony,
phase
as
states
assert
themselves.
other
challenged
as a system of
In world
is understood
systems
theory, capitalism
primarily
system due primarily
economic performance

rather than as a system of production.


The competition
exchange and circulation,
still as realists would understand
between nation states is conceived
it, but there are
as
well
and
forces
which
the
world
other
many
system. A different
agents
shape
was
Robert
Cox.
Like
world
systems theorists, Cox departed
developed by
approach
Marxism.
He
treated
from
classical
capitalism as a global system which
considerably
structures (ensembles of ideas,
specific historical
at
and
three
different
material
and institutions),
levels, (social forces,
capabilities
to
states and world orders). Cox included nation-states,
but widened
the analysis
on
and put special emphasis
systems and broader forms of governance,
production
to
social formations
the power of ideas. He drew on Gramsci's
analysis of national
a
a
critical account of how
historical
economy which provided
develop
political
world orders are historically
constructed. This approach, as it has been developed by
Cox and others, has come to be labelled transnational historical materialism.39 At its
centre is a different concept of hegemony. Cox ismore struck by the strength of the
needed

to be understood

through

and by
forces holding the global order together than in its proclivity to self-destruct,
elites seek to win consent for particular visions of the
the way in which transnational
in a world economy
is constructed
world. He focuses particularly on how hegemony
to how
is fragmented,
in which
paying
special attention
political
authority
are
elites
unified through the creation of networks which share ideas,
transnational
institutions. These world orders40 give rise
aggregate interests, and facilitate common
to what the Amsterdam
of control,41
school have called comprehensive
concepts
and neoliberalism,
which are then diffused through national
such as Keynesianism
38

39
40

The Modern
World System
Immanuel Wallerstein,
Press, 1974); C. Chase
(New York: Academic
Structures
Dunn,
(Oxford: Blackwell,
1989);
(ed.), Global Formation,
of the World Economy
The Capitalist
World Economy
Immanuel Wallerstein,
Press,
(Cambridge:
Cambridge
University
1979).
Andre Drainville,
'International
International
Political Economy,

in the Age
Political Economy
1:1 (1994), pp. 105-132.

of Open Marxism',

Review

of

Power, and World Order (New York: Columbia


Press, 1987);
Cox, Production,
University
and the Trilateral Commission
(Cambridge:
Cambridge
University
Stephen Gill, American Hegemony
Economic
and Monetary
Union
and New Constitutionalism:
Press, 1990); 'European Governance
in Europe', New Political Economy,
Neoliberalism
3:1 (1988),
of Disciplinary
and Alternatives
pp. 5-26.
41
Global Capitalism
and National
Decline
Henk Overbeek,
(London: Unwin Hyman,
1990); Kees van
der Pijl, The Making
1984); Kees van der Pijl, 'Ruling
of an Atlantic Ruling Class (London: Verso,
and Historical
International
and the State System: Theoretical
Considerations',
Classes, Hegemony,
19:3 (1989), pp. 7-35.
Journal of Political Economy,
Robert

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after Communism:

Marxism

and Historicism

beyond Realism

139

were not ideas which arose in


and neoliberalism
systems. Monetarism
political
were
contexts
then
and
domestic
exported. They were fashioned within
particular
networks
of the capitalist
class and then adopted and adapted
the transnational
states remain important
in this world but they
countries. Nation
within particular
are

not

all-important.

There

are

other

many

agents,

in particular

transnational

of the new
'organic
organizations,
for
class.
The
needs
of
the
elite
order and
transnational
business
ruling
to
the
of
institutions
and
the
of
leads
creation
global
cooption
predictability
a
the
world.
One
of
these
is
that
around
groups
analyses
implication
political
state is gradually emerging in which key domestic elites have become
transnational
to maintaining
the institutions of the trans
elite, dedicated
part of a transnational
companies
transnational

and

the

international

intellectuals'

national global economy rather than being concerned with purely domestic
interests.
The decisive locus of power in such conceptions
lies with transnational
capital itself;
it is its interests and agendas which now drive the global economy
and global
are
course
states and
and
both
There
of
frictions
within
many
conflicts,
politics.
between them, but these have in general been managed
and kept
aims of ensuring that the global order itself is sustained.

subordinate

to the

wider

Accumulation

and regulation

important alternative tradition to the emphasis on capitalism as a unified global


inWestern Marxism
influenced by Gramsci
and
system have been those traditions
and national
later Althusser, which have focused on national paths of development,
social formations,
between their economic, political,
and ideological
distinguishing
are combined.
levels, and analysing the way in which different modes of production
Most
influential of these has been the regulation approach.42 The regulation school
to
of regimes of accumulation
the concepts
and modes
of regulation
developed
are
characterize
social formations.
of accumulation
different
national
Regimes
An

and consumption
which can be reproduced over a
patterns of production
are
the rules, norms, conventions,
networks, forms
long period; modes of regulation
of governance, and institutions which organize and sustain regimes of accumulation.
With
these tools, regulationists
have analysed the peculiarities
of different national
social formations
and the types of production
system, Fordism and post-Fordism,
which characterize
them. They show how certain kinds of policies and institutional
In this way the regulation
school is
arrangements
protect and insulate societies.
in
with the historical
institutionalists
part of a broader engagement
by Marxists
the specificities
of national
and whether
there are different
exploring
capitalisms,
of capitalism, which are path dependent
models
and institutionally
distinct. The
interlinked

it discusses
regulation school, although
the significance of either accumulation

42

global trends and global patterns plays down


or the market on a world scale, preferring to

Bob Jessop,
The Paradox
of Success and
'Twenty Years of the (Parisian) Regulation
Approach:
New Political Economy,
Failure at Home
2:3 (1997), pp. 503-26; Bob Jessop,
and Abroad',
in Retrospect
School
and Prospect'; Robert Boyer, The Regulation
'Regulation Theory
(New York:
A Theory of Capitalist
Columbia
the US
Press, 1990); Michel Aglietta,
Regulation:
University
Experience

(London:

Verso,

1979); Alain

Lipietz,

Mirages

and Miracles

(London:

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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Verso,

1987).

140

Andrew Gamble

analyse capitalism as a set of interlinked national


through political,
legal and cultural relationships.43

The reproduction

economies,

which

are structured

of capital

World

historical
materialism
and the regulation
transnational
systems
theory,
to
have
been
criticised
those
who
Marxists
wish
revive the classical
approach
by
on
a
as
Marxist
which
is
defined
system
emphasis
capitalism
by the accumulation
and reproduction
of capital.44 These approaches
all emphasize
the need to under
stand capital as a social relation?the
accumulation
of capital means
simultaneously
the reproduction
and extension of the social relationships which constitute
capital.
are long-term
structures which
These
include the economy,
the state, and the
household.
such as Ernest Mandel
have analysed
the long waves of
Theorists
and
their
and economic
by social, political
capitalist
development,
punctuation
tradition criticises world systems theory for its reliance on a
crises.45 This Marxist
and exchange
in its analysis of power in the global
theory of circulation, markets
the
for
the
Gramscians
system,
weight
they give to ideology and politics, and the
for
their
social formations
in the reproduction
national
regulationists
emphasis upon

of capital and the imprecision of concepts


like Fordism and post-Fordism.
Classical
turn
in
Marxism
its
criticized
has
been
of these other schools for
by representatives
and reductionism.
But it remains a powerful analytical
tool for seeking
determinism
as
a
to understand
A major contribution
capitalism
global system of accumulation.
to this tradition has recently been made by Robert Brenner, seeking to understand
in recent decades.46
the trajectory of capitalist development
to any Marxist
of the economy, how
Fundamental
analysis is its understanding
is maintained,
and how crises develop. The
capital is reproduced, how profitability
Marxist
is also
economy
although
insight that the capitalist
fragile and unstable
to how capitalism
and dynamic
directs attention
hugely productive,
adaptable
of capital has increasingly been conceived
in a much
itself. Reproduction
reproduces
once
was
manner
in particular
than
broader
common,
through studies of domestic
to
of the household.47
labour and the organization
Classical Marxism
continues
to
is the search for profits,
that the driving force of capitalism
make
emphasize
is secondary to this. The driving
of capital; everything
possible the self-valorization
is an outcome of
force is not the creation of a world market; rather the world market
the drive for profitability.

43

in Gamble, Marsh
'Marxism and Regulation
and Tant (eds.), Marxism
and
Michael
Kenny,
Theory',
Social Science,
pp. 35-60.
44
Peter Burnham,
'Neo-Gramscian
and the International
Order', Capital and Class, 45:1
Hegemony
and Mark Glick,
'The Regulation
and History',
(1991), pp. 73-93; Robert Brenner
Approach:
Theory
a
New Left Review,
188 (1991), pp. 45-99; Robert Brenner,
'The Origins
of Capitalist
Development:
New Left Review,
104 (1977), pp. 25-93.
of neo-Smithian
Marxism',
Critique
Late Capitalism
Ernest Mandel,
1976); The Second Slump (London: New
(London: New Left Books,
Left Books,
1978).
46
'The Economics
of Global
Robert Brenner,
Turbulence'.
47
Diane Elson,
in
'The Economic,
the Political,
and the Domestic:
States, and Households
Businesses,
New Political Economy,
3:2 (1988), pp. 189-208; Jean Gardiner,
the Organization
of Production',

45

Gender,

Care,

and Economics

(London:

Macmillan,

1997).

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Marxism

after Communism:

beyond Realism

and Historicism

141

is how
One of the issues raised by the classical Marxist
analysis of accumulation
a stream which can be
far this is a process outside politics, essentially ungovernable,
dammed and sometimes diverted, but only for a time. Sooner or later the remorse
all the controls
less process of capital accumulation
bursts through,
subverting
structures such as welfare states with their employment
devised to tame it. Historical
in so
wages, and social programmes which have been established
rights, minimum
on
rest
in
different
advanced
may
countries,
forms,48
many
although
capitalist
if those who control capital
foundations which can swiftly be undermined
that higher profits are to be made elsewhere. This idea of a race to the
as Marx
or immiserization
and Engels called it, is regarded by classical
bottom,
as one of the historical
tendencies of the process of capital accumulation,
Marxists
it may be delayed or diverted for long periods. Capital always seeks
however much
out those circumstances
in which costs are reduced to the minimum
and profits
on a number of factors,
The ability of capital to do this depends
maximized.
economic

conclude

of new technologies
and the speeding up of the pace and
including the utilization
to
of
increase
the
of labour, the transfer of costs to
exploitation
intensity
production
the state (hence to the general taxpayer rather than the individual capitalist),
the
new
of
and
the
of
domestic
markets.
Under
labour,
discovery
reorganization
inno
crisis, reorganization,
capitalism no pattern remains fixed for ever. Upheaval,
vation are the essence of this most unpredictable mode of production.
to inspire major
The continuing
power of classical Marxism
insights into the
can
seen
two
recent
in
works
of
international
be
shape
by Manuel
major
politics
seems
at
its greatest in
Castells and Giovanni Arrighi. Capitalism's
dynamism always
innovation, and the period at the end of the twentieth
periods of great technological
is certainly one of those.
revolution
century with the unfolding of the informational
can
be affected, and huge transfers take
At such times all forms of employment
sectors of the economy
different
and types of occupation.
The
place between
are profound for individuals but also for national economies. Castells
consequences
in the spirit of classical Marxism
charts how a fundamental
change in the way the
for all aspects of social life?
of capitalism
is organized
has implications
culture, politics,
identity, leisure, consumption,
technology, work, and households.49
At the same time for all the dynamism of capital and its ability to subvert all existing
to the persistence
has also pointed
of
patterns of social life, Giovanni
Arrighi
in the world
hierarchical
and uneven development
economy. The rich
patterns
economies
stay rich. In the course of the twentieth century the rank order of the
states changed,
but not the identity of those states, with one
leading capitalist
Otherwise
the list is the same in 2000 as it was in 1900.50 These
exception?Japan.
two works have profound
of international
for our understanding
implications

mode

politics

48
49

and the global

system.

The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism


Esping Anderson,
(Cambridge:
Polity,
vol. I, The Rise
The Information
and Culture:
Castells,
Age: Economy,
Society
vol. Ill, End of Millennium
vol, II, The Power of Identity;
Society;
(Oxford: Blackwell,

Gosta

Manuel

50

1990).
of the Network
1996, 1997,

1998).
Giovanni

The Long Twentieth Century: Money,


Power, and the Origins of Our Time (London:
Arrighi,
and the Future of Socialism',
New Left Review,
189 (1991),
Verso,
1994); 'World Income Inequalities
pp. 39-66..

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142

Andrew Gamble

The future of Marxism

to detach
Marxism
has the resources
itself from the ruins of Communism
if it
on
some
moves
historicism
and
of
the
realism,
decisively
beyond
building
traditions
of
Western
Marxism
not
and
intellectual
critical theory,51 but
developing
forgetting its central insight into the nature of society, the social relationships which
define the different modes of production which have existed in human history. Many
in the past, in parti
of the other aspects which have defined historical materialism
saw capitalism
as a stage of development
which
cular the historicism
towards
in terms of the strategies of
socialism and the realism which analysed
imperialism
national capital and states, have fallen away. But capitalism as a very present reality
has not fallen away, and Marxism
still offers a crucial set of concepts
for under
standing
What

it.

is the nature of
precisely
Marxism
have not worn well, despite
them. The
labour theory
preserving
account of the social
institutionalist
which markets are embedded, but not
of the way
of prices or the modelling

this contribution?

The microfoundations
of
the huge investment of time and ingenuity in
as a historical
of value can be defended
which define capitalism,
and in
relationships
as a device which allows precise measurement

in which markets work.52 Since prices cannot


cannot supply
be derived from labour-time values, the microfoundations
of Marxism
a theory of how resources are allocated
in markets.
But the microfoundations
of
mainstream
economics
do not provide an adequate account of the wider
institu
can still make a major
This is where Marxism
contri
tional context of markets.
of the nature of power, how it arises and how
bution. It provides an understanding
it is exercised in different modes of production
through its analysis of how capital as
a set of social relationships
is reproduced. Understanding
capital as a set of social
are always capable of being contested
which
and ideo
politically
relationships
a
resources
are
as
in
of
which
utilised
rather
than
logically,
quantity
simply
remains
its
critical
insight.
production,
Marxism
is still noted for its concern with the dynamics of social systems.53 More
than any other observer in the nineteenth
grasp
century Marx had an extraordinary
as a mode
of production
such a subversive and revolu
of what made capitalism
tionary force, although even he cannot have imagined what its full effects would be.
His intuition
that capital would not rest until it had pulled all societies and all
sectors into the world market
and until it had expelled
living labour from the
was remarkable when
towards
automation
process
altogether by driving
production
since capitalism had at that time penetrated a small part of the world,
itwas written,
and a few parts of Europe had industrial capitalism
and only in England
really
taken hold.54 Marx has always been much praised, even by his critics, for the quality
of his foresight.55

51
52

Andrew

Linklater,

Perry Anderson,
Steedman, Marx
(London: Verso,
53 Ankie
Hoogvelt,
54
Martin Nicolaus,
55
J. A. Schumpeter,

The Transformation
of the Political
on Western Marxism
Considerations

Community.
Ian
(London: Verso,
1972): Afterword;
et al. (eds.), The Value Controversy
Ian Steedman

1977);
after Sraffa (London: NLB,
1981).
and the Post-Colonial
World.
Globalization
'The Unknown
Marx', New Left Review, 48 (1968), pp. 41-61.
Socialism
and Democracy
(London: Allen & Unwin,
Capitalism,

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1950).

Marxism

after Communism:

beyond Realism

and Historicism

143

like this he was blind on other ques


But while Marx was insightful on questions
This may be because Marxism's
tions, particularly nationalism.
peculiar strength is
for seventy years have been seeking
derived from its economism. Western Marxists
in
to deny this and deflect attention
forms of economism,
away from it. Vulgar
which all politics and all ideology are simply reduced to crude class interest, and the
state becomes a puppet in the hands
been rightly criticised. But attempts
at all end by throwing away what is
how modes
of
need to understand

of the ruling class, are uninteresting


and have
to prove that Marxism
contains no economism
still valuable inMarxism?its
insistence on the

repro
production
depend upon the continual
in terms
of particular
social relations which then have particular outcomes
in the end has to stand by the
of the distribution
of power and resources. Marxism
claim that the economic power which accrues to the class which controls productive
assets is a crucial determinant
in which political, cultural and ideo
of the manner
are
exercised.
kinds
of
concepts can be deployed
logical power
Many
sophisticated
to understand
the intricacies of the relationship, but in the end if the primacy of the
and its value in social theory.
economic
is lost, then Marxism
loses its distinctiveness
There are after all many theories of the social which do not privilege the economic,
duction

or assume

that modern
society is to be understood
primarily in terms of the way in
the economy
is organised. Marxism
does make this claim, and although
it has
often been made rather badly, it is a serious claim, which like Hobbes'
claim about
on history and on society which cannot easily be set
is a perspective
sovereignty

which

aside.

as economism
the most of Marxism
does not therefore mean embracing
Making
instrumental
theories of class, which imply that class itself is the crucial feature of
and that the people who own property
form the ruling class which
capitalism,
an economistic
controls
and
What
is
about
society
politics.
important
reading of
is the notion of capital as a social relation. It is the reproduction
of this social
so
so
and
its
invasion
into
of
social
life
and
into
relation,
many spheres
many parts
of the globe that is one of the most central features of any conception
of modernity.
The fragmentation
of ownership with the rise of the corporate
and the
economy
to Marxism
of an easily identifiable ruling class is not an objection
if
disappearance
what is important for Marxist
theory is tracing how capital as a social relation is
reproduced,
imposing the structures within which all agents have to operate, whether
in assisting capital or resisting it.
Marxism
often lost its way in the past through claiming to be a total science of
the only objective
and true one. These claims were never
society, and moreover
credible and have become even less so in a period of questioning
of the foundations
and truth claims of all theories. Marxism
is incapable of explaining all the trends
and phenomena
of the contemporary
world, but it can offer an account of such
as globalization,
matters
the
informational
the changing
revolution,
inequality,

Marx

structure of work, and the changing nature of the state. It also has interesting things
to say about the boundaries
between the public and the private, and the meaning
of
non-commodified
and health?public
spheres such as welfare
goods which exist
an under
outside
the sphere of capital and its operations.
But it also provides
as to why any such noncapitalist
spheres are never inviolable, and may be
subject to political attack and invasion.
A contemporary
to the potentiality
Marxism
needs to direct attention
and the
as a mode
limits in the continued
of capitalism
of
spread and development
standing

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144

Andrew Gamble

The political
interest behind
this kind of enquiry has undoubtedly
production.
shifted. At one time the perspective was the coming social revolution which would
are more likely to be
remove the capital relation once and for all. Today's Marxists
at different
levels of the international
concerned with how forms of governance
subnational
and local, may
system, global,
regional, national,
impose or release
in national and
constraints on the way in which capitalism operates and is embedded
not have been strange
to Marx.
This approach
would
He
in
in
of
what
could
do
reforms
the
limiting
capital
recognised
providing
importance
in which other social relations and ideas could flourish. The
sites of resistance
Factory Acts of the 1840s which set limits on the way in which children and women
in
could be employed in factories were one of the examples on which he commented
regional

societies.

Capital.56
as a global system has grown both more
and more
Capitalism
interdependent
enormous
enormous
in
last two
wealth
and
the
It
has
knowledge
fragile.
generated
far in excess of any that has existed
hundred years which now support a population
of the wealth
human
the same time the distribution
in previous
history. At
and unequal,
industrial
concentrated
created has remained
highly
capitalism
threaten
the
life
the
where
have
reached
activities
support systems of the
point
they
and
itself
is
marked
of
accumulation
and
the
system
by huge instabilities
planet,
in a devastating
financial
crisis with far
imbalances which
could still implode
consequences. Marxist
analysis therefore points to
reaching political and economic
new
to
in the global economy
of
multi-level
for
the urgent need
governance
systems
steer
divided
in
their
these
Marxists
remain
and
prog
problems.
identify, manage
noses. Some are pessimistic
It some
and fatalistic about the future of capitalism.57
and which drifts on to
times seems like a giant ship which has slipped its moorings
no-one
a
or
can
steer
to
find
it
take control. But others
its destruction
because
way
new
more
structures and new institu
are
If acts of resistance multiply,
hopeful.58
to live in the modern
world without
tions can be built. It may not be possible
capitalism, but capitalism need not be a single fate.

56
Karl Marx,
1976), ch. 10.
Capital
(Penguin: Harmondsworth,
57
Eric Hobsbawm,
'The Ends of History';
Age of Extremes:
Perry Anderson,
Joseph,
1994).
Century
(London: Michael
58
Acts of Resistance
Pierre Bourdieu,
Castells,
(London: Verso,
1999); Manuel

The Short
End

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Twentieth

of Millennium.