Wednesday, April 18, 2012

‘Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality at the opposite pole’ (Marx).

Accumulation of wealth is a global phenomenon which influences all the states in the international anarchical arena. The capitalist system is the one which prevails in the modern epoch. First we need to identify these two poles which seem so diverse, meaning the division within the international scene. These are indicated by the uneven and combined development created by the capitalist system, the North and South division, the core-periphery and free trade. Also we have to take in to account how individual states act and achieve the accumulation of wealth and capital within their states and regions. Furthermore corporations are important in understanding and achieving the accumulation process of each zone.

            Capital accumulation, i.e. wealth increase and growth, is the “capitalist imperative”[1]. States are today driven by economic wealth and growth. One of Saunder’s titles is “The Growth Machine”[2]. This Growth Machine explains what capitalism is, ontologically, whilst its objective is the accumulation of profit. Capitalism needs all of the states to take part so it can function in a healthy and prosperous manner. Every policy and state relation is relevant to the accumulation of wealth by each actor. Social order and stability is needed for capital to increase. Liberalism here explains how capitalist states do not go to war between them due to the stability status and relations which are needed for the economy to prosper. This confirms how today international political actors collaborate in a Lockean world, which observes the other state as a rival but not as an enemy; the state complies because of its interests. Barkawi and Laffey identify this by accentuating that “a defining feature of world politics in the late 20th century is the decline in the frequency of warfare between industrialized states”[3]. Peace is what capitalism needs to prosper. Rivalry occurs on an economic level today not between capitalism and communism but between “capitalism and social systems represented in regional economic blocks”[4], such as the European Union, the North American bloc and the Asian Pacific bloc. Luxemburg moreover states that “competition is the driving force which keeps capitalists accumulating”[5]. However, this is not the case in non-capitalist states or between capitalist and non-capitalist actors. This is one key reason why there exists accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality in the non-capitalist world.
            The first division, which explains the diversity in the accumulation of wealth and capital and is expressed mainly by Marxism, is the uneven and combined development. This is due to the fact that the world is segregated in to regions. Since the Cold War this was primarily capitalist and non-capitalist nations, i.e. the USA and its allies and the Soviet Union, the communist bloc, on the other hand. Today one can easily observe the increase of the number of capitalist states. Nevertheless, all of these are ever changing, for example many countries in the South, which are considered Third World countries, are developing rapidly (“The other two ‘worlds’ being Western capitalism and the Soviet bloc”[6]). 
            Lenin supports that “for both uneven development and a semi starvation level of existence of the masses are fundamental and inevitable conditions and constitute premises of this mode of production”[7]. Marx analyses the uneven development by explaining that “capitalism does create and perpetuate considerable economic inequalities between the social classes, but it also raises the living standards of rich and poor alike”[8].
The unevenness needs to exist for capitalism to succeed in the developed states. Historically one can identify this uneven development when examining the continuity of imperialism in the modern era, not retaining to the same meaning that the word had in the 19th century where empires, such as the British, ruled the world. What we mean by imperialism today refers to the economic capitalist expansion and influence on a global level. Previously colonized states and regions are even today under the influence of the imperial political actors, the hegemonic powers of international politics. Iain Wallace explains, “The evolution of the capitalist world-economy was shaped by the Europeans, whose influence derived from the conjunction of economic and political interests within a few core nation-states”.[9] Capitalism was born in the West, and to be precise in England in the 18th century; with the Crystal Palace Exhibition being the first main event of this new economic system. Other regions of the world entered the capitalist ‘family’ later, giving them a disadvantage, a main paradigm being Russia.
North and South is one other key division. Today this idea is challenged due to the fact that southern states are developing or developed, surpassing even western political actors, for example Singapore and Taiwan. Brown describes, “contrary to expectations, capital has moved to (some) Southern countries”[10]. Anthony Payne believes that “the favoured bifurcation of the moment has become ‘The West versus the Rest’”[11]
            Moreover there is a core-periphery division which explains the modern unevenness of development. The core capitalist states are the industrialized nations of Europe and North America. The periphery consists of actors who belong to the rest of the world, mainly the South, where a common practice is the extraction of wealth via violence and force and where slavery, brutality and ignorance triumph. Although these differences exist, capitalist developed states and corporations depend on the underdeveloped ‘other pole’.  This system needs and requires the existence of the weaker states; it needs the non-capitalist underdeveloped actors so it can achieve its objectives. Through these latter it reduces wages and prices, increasing profit and wealth. Accumulation is best gained through “non-capitalist, non-waged, casual and/or informal economic activities that are not proletarianized”.[12]
A main reason for the uneven development is also that during some previous eras the accumulation of wealth and capital was more resourceful in hegemonic states than other countries. This is evident when we see that these hegemons acquired further accumulation of wealth; explaining what Lenin wrote, that capitalism promotes monopoly and that assembling development and wealth leads inevitably to monopoly; “capitalist monopoly exists in the general environment of commodity production and competition”[13].
 We should also take in to account that states vary politically and socially which means that their commitment towards the capitalist economic system differs. States which are liberal and democratic “contribute directly to the maintenance of a capitalist socio-economic order”[14]. Non-capitalist states do not follow the previous theory due to the fact that there exists an unstable political system that characterises these political actors.  This is also stated by social constructivists who have as a central idea the difference in identity and culture between the states. Jepperson states “cultural environments affect not only the incentives for different kinds of state behaviour but also the basic character of states-what we call state ‘identity’”[15]. Through this it is clear that material accumulation is not the only item which interests and identifies a state; although we acknowledge, especially in the modern era, the importance it has in forming politics and relations in the international arena. Culture, identity, religion, traditions and ethics are responsible for how states and its people accept and interpret capitalist, western ideas and ideals. Enforcing them is in many instances non-practical and non-realistic; that is why the west observes the political events which take place in the periphery with a critical stance.
            Today accumulation does not only refer to the states but it “involves the activity of private entrepreneurs freed from the interference of state-machineries”[16]. Giddens writes, “The accumulation process in capitalist societies rests upon the mobilization of privately owned capital and is not under the direct control of the state”[17]. This can also be reassured by Callinicos who describes how Lenin, Marx and Engels believe that, “the state is simply a tool that is used by the economically dominant to advance its interests”[18].
            Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), i.e. companies and factories which exist and employ overseas have risen in the last decade of the 20th century. Corporations have invested all around the globe, uniting the world, bringing nations and economies closer.  Even companies from China have begun making investments in other parts of the world, looking for new resources. The FDI has also the power to change locations when it wishes or when negotiations with, for example the workforce, do not favour their interests. This pressurises mostly the rich, First World countries, which have higher wages and more rights than the workers in Third World countries or non-capitalist states. This is a great paradigm which describes the accumulation unevenness between the two poles.    
  Cooperation between states is also achieved through the “‘free market policies’ which have constituted ‘global policy’”[19] during the past years, improving relations and commerce between political actors and industries from all around the world. Even Karl Marx supports Free Trade declaring: “we are for Free Trade, because by Free Trade all economical laws, with their most astounding contradictions, will act upon a larger scale, upon the territory of the whole earth”[20]. So we determine that both poles are needed to achieve this global expansion of capitalism, which spreads to new nations trying to obtain new markets, to increase its profit. With this in mind it is understandable why cooperation is needed and promoted. These policies are also encouraged through various unions, primarily in the North, such as the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). But the existing unevenness between the two poles is a result of the absence of a central regulating authority, making a reality the anarchy of the market. The accumulation process is thus diverse within various geopolitical regions, continuing the ongoing misery and slavery within the periphery. 
The other important issue is the class differences within the states, something that is pointed out in Marx’s Manifesto between the “bourgeois and the proletarians”[21]; which also affects the international economy and where capital can increase. In economics, one identifies an “immediate conflict of interests”[22]. The larger the income for the proletarians the lower the profit is for the bourgeoisie. That is why it is in the interest of international industries to base their corporations in the Third World, where salaries are minimal and human rights nonexistent. Lenin believes that capitalism has oppressed politically and economically the majority of the people and states through a “handful of advanced countries”[23]. We identify that misery, ignorance, slavery, brutality in the Third World are acquired and tolerated by the global capitalist system to accumulate wealth and capital without taking in to account human rights, which are essential and self-evident in the modern world. The more chaotic and inhumane the environment is in the periphery the more profit is made for the core.
Capitalism has produced material goods and wealth which was never achieved by any other economic system, but it has also emphasized the differences that exist and prevail between the states. Accumulation of wealth is gained by slavery, brutality and pain of millions in the Third World who only gather misery. Incomes and quality of life have gone down in the latter regions bearing unprecedented growth to the capitalist developed liberal states. Many regions have yet to be touched by this economic system. The two poles are not only geographically apart but also economically and politically. “The endless accumulation of capital has meant the incessant widening of the real gap”[24]. The uneven accumulation of wealth between the two poles, the core and the periphery, will continue to exist and succeed as long as capitalism is the main economic system between states and between corporations. The developed countries, which accumulate most of the wealth and capital, work with, coexist and depend on the underdeveloped non-capitalist states. This relation will continue to enrich the liberal states, whilst the accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance and brutality of the periphery will continue to prevail. This means that these two conditions need to subsist for capitalism and capitalist states to continue to accumulate wealth. But there should be a way to solve the injustice with which millions of people around the world live with, so the minority can prosper. What can liberal, capitalist, western states do to promote rights, freedom and a better life to the underdeveloped regions? Should capitalism adjust itself so the periphery can develop and its people prosper? These are some key questions which should be answered by the discipline of International Relations.  

[1] Wood E., “Global Capital, National States” Historical Materialism and Globalization, (London and New York: Routledge), 2002, p. 17
[2] Saunders P., Capitalism: A Social Audit, (Open University Press, 1995), chapter 1, p. 1
[3] Barkawi Tarak and Laffey Mark, ‘The Imperial Peace: Democracy, Force and Globalization’, European Journal of Internatioanl Relations, Vol.5, no.4, 1999, p. 403
[4] Gilpin R., The Challenge of Global Capitalism: The World Economy in the 21st Century, (Princeton and Oxford:    Princeton University Press, 2000), p.25
[5] Luxemburg Rosa, The Accumulation of Capital, (London: Routledge, 1951), p. 23
[6] Brown C. And Ainley K., Understanding International Relations,(London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), p. 163
[7] Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1982), p. 60
[8] Gilpin R., The Challenge of Global Capitalism: The World Economy in the 21st Century, (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2000), p.13
[9] Wallace Iain, The Global Economic System, (London: Unwin Hyman, 1990), p. 105
[10] Brown C. And Ainley K., Understanding International Relations, (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), p. 173
[11] Payne A., The Global Politics of Unequal Development, (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), p. 231
[12] Peterson, V.S., “The Reproductive Economy” in A critical rewriting of global political economy: integrating, reproductive, productive and virtual economies (London: Routledge,2003), p. 92 
[13] Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1982), p. 93
[14] Barkawi Tarak and Laffey Mark, ‘The Imperial Peace: Democracy, Force and Globalization’, European Journal of Internatioanl Relations, Vol.5, no.4, 1999, p. 408

[15] Jepperson R. et al, “Norms, identity and Culture in National Security”, Katzenstein, P. (ed.), The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics (New York, 1996), p. 33 
[16] Wallerstein Immanuel, Historical Capitalism, (London: Thetford Press Limited, 1983), p. 56
[17] Giddens Anthony, A contemporary critique of historical materialism, Vol. 1, Power, property and the state, (London: Macmillan, 1981), p. 214
[18] Callinicos A., Imperialism and Global Political Economy, (Polity, 2009), p. 70
[19] Ravenhill J., Global Political Economy, (Oxford: Oxford University Press,2005), p. 404
[20] Glyn A. Capitalism Unleashed: Finance, Globalization and Welfare, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p.77
[21] Marx Karl, The Communist Manifesto, 1848, <>
[22]Wallerstein Immanuel, Historical Capitalism, (London: Thetford Press Limited, 1983), p. 60
[23] Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1982), p. 11
[24] Wallerstein Immanuel, Historical Capitalism, (London: Thetford Press Limited, 1983), p. 72

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