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Political geographies of the new state capitalism 2

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Economic Geography Specialty Group
Organizers: Ilias Alami, Adam Dixon
Chairs: Ilias Alami


State capitalism is back. At least that is what we are told. An avalanche of books and articles, both in academia and for the broader public, have recently argued that the more visible role of the state across the world capitalist economy signals the resurgence of state capitalism (e.g. Bremmer 2010; Kurlantzick 2016; Musacchio and Lazzarini 2014; MacDonald and Lemco 2015; Spechler, Ahrens, and Hoen 2017). Indeed, the new polymorphism of state intervention is manifest, from the mass bailouts following the 2008 financial crisis to the expansion of marketized state-owned enterprises (SOE), sovereign wealth funds (SWF) and other state-sponsored investment funds, national and regional development banks, to the renewal of industrial policy and various forms of economic nationalism in the advanced capitalist economies and the consolidation of state-led development in China and elsewhere. For many commentators, these developments suggest that state capitalism is once again taking center stage in the global political economy.

However, despite the widespread use of the latter term, there is neither consensus about what it exactly means and what is qualitatively new about it within and across academic disciplines (Alami and Dixon 2019). For instance, scholars have deployed the concept (and cognates) to designate a national variant of capitalism (Nölke et al 2015); a specific brand of state-owned enterprise and/or state-sponsored investment fund (Lyons 2007; Carney 2015); a particular type of state-business relation (Zhang & Whitley 2013; Nölke 2014); a threat or an alternative to (Western) liberal capitalism (Brenner 2008; McNally 2013) ; a reconfiguration of the global ‘state-capital nexus’ (van Apeldoorn et a. 2012); and the use of market mechanisms for the promotion of geo-economic and geopolitical goals (e.g. Kurlantzick 2016).

The session aims to stimulate geographical engagement with this literature, which has so far been dominated by other academic communities and disciplines (International Political Economy, Varieties of Capitalism/Business Systems, Developmental state theory, Strategic management & International Business). In particular, the session aims to enhance our scholarly understanding of the recent polymorphism of state intervention by exploring its attendant economic and political geographies. In particular, we welcome both theoretical and empirical contributions exploring the following topics:

- The nature of the new state capitalism: Explaining the more visible role of the state in the economy and society at large from a geographical perspective. What are the wider geopolitical and geo-economic shifts in which the rise of the new state capitalism is embedded? What is new about the recent ‘wave’ of state capitalism across the global economy? What are the strategic, structural/epochal, and contingent drivers of its emergence?

- Variegated state capitalism(s): Explaining the diversity of state capitalism across the spaces of the global capitalist economy, from Sino-capitalism and its one-party state to the oil-rich Middle Eastern rentier states: where is state capitalism geographically located? Is there one, or several varieties of state capitalism? Are there state capitalisms across regions? What are the drivers of diversity in state capitalism, i.e. the common tendencies and the continuous reproduction of difference both between state capitalism and other forms of capitalism, and between different varieties of state capitalist configurations?

- Spatializing the new state capitalism: Studying state capitalism beyond methodological nationalism. The spatialities and scales at which state capitalism is produced, enacted, and imagined. The spatial practices, flows, and strategies of the new state capitalism at a variety of scales that cut across the national, as well as their interconnection. State capitalist strategies and the reconfiguration of economic territory and political authority. The changing spaces and scales of state intervention (e.g. Hameiri & Jones 2015; Alami 2018). The fragmentation of the state and the question of multi-level governance (e.g. Gu et al. 2016; Jones and Zou 2017). The role of the local state, the internationalization of the state, the continuous importance of the national scale?

- State capitalism and uneven and combined geographical development: Scrutinizing the growing integration of state capitalism into transnational circuits of capital (including global networks of production, trade, finance, infrastructure and corporate ownership) in the context of a deeply polarized world market. The remaking of the political geographies of capital under conditions of uneven development and politically mediated capitalist competition. The emergence of specific spatial, institutional, legal, and political forms that contribute to the re-scaling of relations between firms and nation-states, and the reconfiguring of spaces of political power and authority beyond national territories and in geographical settings that span north/south and east/west boundaries.

- State capitalism and the new political geographies of capital and state power: The rationale for and new tools of state intervention. How are state capitalist practices and instruments reconfigured under conditions of capitalist globalization and financialization? the role of state-sponsored investment funds and state-owned enterprises; the role of intervention of regional and national development banks. Is the rise of state capitalism challenging the boundaries between politics, economics, and geography? How to think together political/territorial/imperial and capitalist logics of power (e.g. Lee et al. 2018)?

- Studying state capitalism in light of the concept of ‘legitimacy’ (e.g. Clark, Dixon, & Monk 2013): Are the new practices of state capitalism forcing a redefinition of what is considered the appropriate scope for state intervention? What are the strategies of various actors to (de)legitimize new forms of state intervention and new policy instruments?

- Critical geopolitics of the new state capitalism: How do narratives and geographical imaginaries of the new state capitalism operate as a form of geopolitical knowledge and practice? How do they contribute to categorizing and hierarchizing the spaces of world politics? Non-western centric perspectives on the new state capitalism.

- The multiple and interlocking geographies of state capitalism and the future of the (Western-dominated) (neo)liberal capitalist order


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Adam Dixon*, Maastricht University, Ilias Alami, Maastricht University, The strange geographies of the ‘new state capitalism’ 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Chris Meulbroek*, University of British Columbia, Placing China in the Washington Consensus 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Guillermo Bervejillo*, The Ohio State University, Rearticulating Capital, Nation, and State: The Geography of China-Latin America Relations. 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Ricardo Reboredo*, Trinity College Dublin, ‘Catching the Value in the Value Chain’: SOE’s, State Capitalism, and Strategic Coupling in South Africa’s Automotive Sector 15 12:00 AM
Discussant Ilias Alami Maastricht University 15 12:00 AM

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