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Postcolonializing the ‘new state capitalism’

Authors: Ilias Alami*, Maastricht University, Adam D Dixon, Maastricht University
Topics: Political Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: state capitalism, postcolonialism, geographical political economy, state-owned enterprises, varieties of capitalism
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The more visible role of the state across the global political economy, or what commentators have called the ‘new state capitalism’, has been understood through conceptual lenses that have antecedents in western theorizations (i.e. (1) the Varieties of Capitalism framework, (2) strategic management theories of the firm, and (3) liberal International Political Economy). This is problematic inasmuch as these antecedents erect epistemological hurdles to theorizing state-capital entanglements across geographical and ideological contexts. Thus, in this article, we propose to ‘postcolonialize’ the new state capitalism. Drawing upon recent work in postcolonial political-economic geography (Hart 2018; Pollard and Samers 2007), we ask: what would a postcolonial treatment of the new state capitalism look like? Our main contention is that looking at the new state capitalism from the postcolony (and foregrounding relations of empire) allows significantly destabilizing hegemonic views of state capitalism, along at least 3 key axes. First, we find a different periodization: state capitalism was not born in the 19th century with French, German, and American late industrialization, but with the 16th-19th chartered company. Second, in terms of space/scale: the transnational character of state capitalism is not new; it actually preceded the territorial organization of capitalism along nation-states lines. Third, early forms of state capitalism also used the tools of modern finance (stock markets, etc.), and were characterized by a mix of commercial and (geo)political imperatives. These findings matter to conceptualize contemporary state-capital entanglements, as well as the role and function of the state in capitalist society more generally speaking.

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