Imperialism and the Social Question in (Semi)-Peripheries: The Case for a Neo-National Bourgeoisie by Sabah Alnasseri

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Imperialism and the Social Question in (Semi)-Peripheries: The Case for a Neo-National Bourgeoisie

Sabah Alnasseri

The crises of the neoliberal world order, as well as the financial and economic crises (cf. McNally, 2011), brought one thing to the fore: the Atlantic imperialist powers are in no position to manage these multiple crises. Hence, different paths for developments in peripheral and semi-peripheral societies[1] could once again gain in relatively autonomous dynamics, which in turn could influence developments in the imperialist centres and thus accentuate their own internal contradictions.

Perhaps it will become clear that even those ideas claiming to reconcile a neoliberal world of “ultra-imperialism” (Kautsky), in which contradictions are conjured away, are descended from the past of a conjuctural (bi-polar) world order and its own peculiar thinking, as are appropriate concepts for analysing present conditions.

In order to think through the current, contradictory situation, this paper aims at tackling the new phase of imperialism, developments, and the social question in (semi)-peripheral social formations by critically conceptualizing the formation of a fraction of the ruling classes and its specific development strategy. We termed this fraction a neo-national bourgeoisie (NNB).[2]

I will discuss the criteria that help identify and distinguish a new dominant fraction from other fractions of the ruling classes within the power bloc. Three qualitative distinctive criteria are developed and discussed: a specific accumulation strategy, a state project (a project of political hegemony), and an ideological identity discourse. My historical materialist argument is based on three theoretical propositions pertaining to development, the state, and hegemony:

1. The weakening or loosening of “trade and investments ties” (Frank, 1966, p. 24) in times of international and/or domestic crises opens up space for relatively autonomous development through restructuring and renegotiating conditions of political, economic, and institutional priorities which could facilitate and help create the conditions of existence for a new development strategy. Furthermore, semi-peripheral economies play an intermediate role in the globale surplus-extraction chain and in times of crisis in the metropolises they may “expand control of their home market at the expense of core producers, and expand their access to neighboring peripheral markets, again at the expense of core producers.” (Wallerstein, 1976, p. 464)

2. The global imbalance of power and the hierarchy of the state system are explained by the fact that the strong nation-states are not only independent, but also “internationally autonomous” (Gramsci, Notebook 6, § 89, p. 77). The historical moment of their mutual expansionary constitution emphasizes their national exclusivity. When understood in this respect, the peripheral states are constituted internationally, but are not internationally autonomous. They are in a globally pre-structured space: the international constraints necessitate domestic inferiority and disempowerment. This does not, however, impede them to manoeuvre strategically and to take advantage of the interplay of the international relation of forces at their strategic margins (Gramsci, Notebooks, 6, § 89, p. 77). Peripheral states may therefore establish the conditions of existence for a relative degree of international autonomy and for relative autonomous development, which then hinder the restoration of the status quo ante. This makes possible, among other things, the transition to a semi-peripheral status.

3. The induced reproduction and interiorization (Poulantzas, 1979, pp. 46-47) of imperialist relations and their crises within (semi)-peripheral social formations, open up new spaces for development in the latter which will have effects on the former. Due to the multiple restrictions and limits of the concept ‘internal bourgeoisie’ (ibid. p. 72f), class formation and development in the (semi)-periphery necessitate a conceptual and analytical theorization appropriate to this specific development.

Conceptual clarification: Internal and neo-national bourgeoisie

An important, and for the current situation, relevant moment, is what Poulantzas termed ‘domestic’ or ‘internal’ bourgeoisie as a dominant fraction within the power bloc in the metropolises. The formation and dominant position of the domestic bourgeoisie is restricted to and favoured by three decisive conditions: the internationalization of US capital, the integration of the North Atlantic economies into the US economy, and the geo-strategy of anti-communism. In this regard, the domestic bourgeoisie is predominantly Atlanticist. Although a nucleus of this fraction can be found in (semi)-peripheral countries, its dominant or hegemonic position within the power blocs there is more than questionable. This is the strength, but also the limits of the concept of the domestic bourgeoisie. Thus, the character of this fraction in peripheral and semi-peripheral states in times of crisis of imperialism needs to be addressed.

The neoliberal offensive and the structural adjustment programs of the IMF and the World Bank, undertaken against the backdrop of the debt trap in the (semi-) periphery in the 1980s (cf. Toussaint, 1999), contributed to political-economic restructuring, a transformation in class relations to the advantage of money capital, and marked the end of the developmental states (Medeiros, 2011). The breakdown of the eastern bloc, and the global dominance of financial capital since the 1990s, inaugurated a new era of imperialist power relations. A transformation took place from a bi- to a multi-polar imperialist world order. This new constellation of power and the crises of neoliberal ‘development’ strategies opened up new opportunities for state-supported development.

To comprehend class formation in the (semi)-periphery, we need to develop an adequate concept, which is appropriate for the peculiarity of this development. This paper argues that the new fraction can be classified as a neo-national bourgeoisie for three reasons: (1) the demarcation of the neo-national bourgeoisie against the comprador bourgeoisie is visible through the dependency on and subordination of the later to imperialist capital. The comprador “is that fraction whose interests are entirely subordinated to those of foreign capital, and which function as a kind of staging-post and direct intermediary for the implantation and reproduction of foreign capital” (Poulantzas, 1976, p. 42). Further, a national bourgeoisie is unlikely under current conditions (cf. Tsoukalas 1999, (2) it has a continental and regional orientation compared to the traditional domestic orientation of the national bourgeoisie, and (3) it has ideologically succeeded, unlike other fractions of the ruling classes, to appeal to the struggles of the popular classes with neo-nationalist, anti-racist, anti-imperialist, or pan-identity discourses.

First, the concept of a neo-national bourgeoisie emphasizes a break, while simultaneously emphasizing the connection of this fraction to existing older fractions (national, comprador, and domestic bourgeoisie or combination of different forces of these three). Second, the concept designates foremost a special moment of the project of class rule, its regional and imperialist and/or hegemonic tendencies, rather than its progressive character. Finally, the term fraction is used here not as an abstract capitalist category – money, industrial or commercial capital -, but in the intersection of the economic form, political form of the capitalist state, which assumes historically specific different forms, and ideological-discursive formation. A neo-national bourgeoisie fraction is simultaneously a political-institutional, economic, and ideological force, which is identified and differentiated from other fractions through its accumulation strategy, state project, and post-colonial identity discourse. The carrier of this strategy, the neo-national bourgeoisie, utilizes the strategic manoeuvring made possible by the interplay and imbalances of the relation of forces of intra-imperialist rivalries which are no longer Atlantic, but rather global in character.

I will theoretically discuss the questions of imperialism, hegemony, the state, and development before addressing the concrete question of the NNB.


If the old rivalries, contradictions, and conflicts among the imperialist powers, facilitated possibilities of development in the peripheries – the  diametrically opposed interests of the competing imperialist powers, opened up spaces for the ruling and popular classes in the peripheries, to articulate and institutionalize their own interests and possibilities for change -, this raises, then,  the logical question of how to assess their current relationship, an issue that is not to be answered in the abstract. It must be posed in an historically specific manner. On the one hand, the internationalization of capital and of nation-states (Panitch, 1994; Jesoop, 2001; Hirsch, 1996, 2001; Poulantzas, 2001; Brandt, 2007; Alnasseri, 2004; Glassman, 1999) since World War II (and especially after the collapse of the eastern bloc) has moved the North Atlantic imperialist powers closer together. On the other hand, the bi-polar world order has been transformed into a relatively decentralized, multi-polar power constellation. The old problem of imperialism is to be shifted, then, to the changed circumstances accordingly, namely, we must make the contradictory developments in their current conditions and options/power relationships the focus of the analysis.

The recent theoretical debates[4] regarding imperialism crystallize around four positions: (i.) a violent form of inter-imperialist rivalry coupled with an expectation of a revolutionary option for socialist transformation (cf. Callinicos, 1994; Harman 1993, 2003); (ii.) a U.S. empire centred hegemony (Panitch, 1994; Panitch and Gindin, 2003), which assumes imperialist states themselves have become so close that contradictions and conflicts among them manifest themselves at best as cooperation, as well as, competition. The latter perspective revives the Kautskyian concept of ultra-imperialism (Kautsky, 1914); (iii.) Empire (Hardt and Negri, 2000) as a global, decentralized power constellation, which exhibits an affinity to Lenin’s conception of Imperialism as the Highest Stage of Capitalism (cf. Görg, 2004) – expressed through the term ‘Passage’ to communism; and (iv.) the new-imperialism as a global strategy of expropriation (Harvey, 2003) which is grounded in Luxembourg’s conception of primitive accumulation, though with a terminological shift: from ‘primitive’ to accumulation qua dispossession. According to the latter, accumulation of capital takes place less via surplus value production, rather it occurs as processes of expropriation, redistribution, privatization of public goods and services etc. Such developments can be conceived only with an adequate class analysis.

This paper takes the position that intra-imperialist rivalries assume historically different forms. It sees the possibility that management of conflicts of interests, and the processing of contradictions among and between imperialist powers, can also be organized and institutionalized in different, (as in the currently) non-violent forms (cf. Tsoukals, 1999; Albo, 2004; Callinicos, 2005). This does not, however, exclude the potential for moments of violent relations in the future, but emphasizes that the relevance of intra-/inter-imperialist rivalries depends upon the perspective from which the question is approached. From a (semi)-peripheral perspective, imperialism not only appears as a north-south relation, but questions regarding development and underdevelopment may depend on the nature of the imperialist relations and their crises. Thus, the question of rivalries concerns not only inter-state relations, but above all intra-/inter-class (ruling and popular alike) relations. Any shifts in the relations of the latter can have an impact on the nature of relations among the former. In other words, the fact that the imperialist powers and their ruling classes have become closer does not mean that conflicts of interest, contradictions, and struggles between and among the ruling and the popular classes have disappeared. Any radical change in these struggles could lead to the instability of the imperialist formation, and thus instigate a radical shift in the relations between these states and their ruling classes.

Let me, then, explicate my position. First, following Poulantzas, the capitalist mode of production no longer dominates the (semi)-peripheral social formations “from ‘outside’, by reproducing the relation of dependence, but rather establishes its dominance directly within them; the metropolitan mode of production reproduces itself, in specific form, within the dominated and dependent formations themselves” (1979, p. 46). But what is equally important “is that this induced reproduction of the CMP [capitalist mode of production] within these formations extends in a decisive way to the domain of their state apparatuses and ideological forms. This internalized and induced reproduction, in so far as it is related to modifications in the imperialist chain, also has its effects in the reverse direction, from the dependent formations on the metropolises” (ibid.). This is relevant in so far as US hegemony over the other imperialist metropolises in no way dissolves the contradictions and repeals the conflicts of interest. At best it neutralizes the latter since “these metropolises continue to constitute independent centres of capital accumulation, and themselves to dominate the dependent formations. It is particularly the under-estimation of this latter element which characterizes the theories of ultra-imperialism” (Ibid, 47).

Now, “effects in the reverse direction” means that beyond the induced reproduction of (semi)-peripheral developments in the metropolises, the US hegemony over the metropolises and the formation of the ‘internal’ bourgeoisie in those formations, is not a one-way path, rather it can be understood as having a boomerang effect. Just as US capital and the US state penetrate and restructure those economies, their class relations, and states, so too these have an effect on US ruling classes and the US state. Again, the neglect of this element characterizes the theories of US Empire and ultra-imperialism.

Second, the induced reproduction and interiorization of imperialist neoliberal relations, does not only mean the internalization of neoliberal accumulation forms and their crises, but also the internalization of imperialist moments within the peripheral and semi-peripheral states. Consequently, there develops a relation of dependency of a precarious nature among these states, which I shall term lower order imperialism. Thus, the old comprador form of sub-imperialism, such as the apartheid regime in South Africa, Israel, Iran under the Shah, Egypt under Sadat and Mubarak, Turkey etc., manifested itself as a transmission relay for imperialist interests in the respective regions and spheres of influence. The new form is self-interested and articulates a contradictory relationship to imperialist centres in forms of cooperation and/or conflicts. This is one of the mechanisms for achieving state international autonomy.

Third, Althusser’s conception of “over-determination” gives the global concept of imperialism important thrust. Althusser illustrates (1969, p. 94f; 200f) the term contradiction with Lenin’s metaphor of the “weakest link” of the imperialist chain[5] (cf. ibid, p.94f). The key issue is to show that the contradiction is not to be understood in isolation from its “conditions of existence” (ibid., p. 101, italics in original). It builds a contradictory unity with these conditions and can only be determined in and through this unity – it is “over-determined in its principle” (ibid.). How, then, are global power relations determined? For Althusser, the structure of domination is inherent in the complex given whole: “Domination is not just an indifferent fact, it is a fact essential to the complexity itself. That is why complexity implies domination as one of its essentials: it is inscribed in its structure” (Ibid., p. 201, italics in original). However, the elements of the unity are not composed as desired; this unity is articulated by a relationship of dominance.  The link between the abstract relation of the over-determination and the concrete analysis of the concrete situation is produced by the term “conditions”.  Althusser notes that all depends on the “conditions”; on the “circumstances”. The term condition is not empirical, but is rather understood as a theoretical concept, “with its basis in the very essence of the object: the ever-pre-given complex whole” (ibid., p. 207).

This (the conception of the structural, global power relations and the conditions as ‘concrete restructuration’) lacks a mediating “link” in that the forms of “conditions of existence” change historically, which means that they must be produced conceptually, so that the concrete situation can be analysed. Otherwise, it is difficult to understand “the specific variations and mutations of structured complexity such as a social formation […], not as the accidental variations and mutations produced by external ‘conditions’ in a fixed structured whole, in its categories and their fixed order […], but as so many concrete restructuration” (ibid., p. 210). Filling this gap (the mediating link) can be achieved by the conceptualization of the crisis of neoliberalism and the formation of the NNB as a historical-concrete form of uneven restructuration due to the induced reproduction.  The movement of the contradiction is characterized by displacement and condensation processes, which proceed unevenly. This unevenness is neither an exception nor external, “the internal unevenness has priority and is the basis for the role of the external unevenness, up to and including the effects this second unevenness has within social formations in confrontation” (Ibid., p. 212).  Imperialism would be in this sense neither a system nor a series of social formations, but a relation of domination, whose concrete form depends on the conditions of existence/forms of over-determined and uneven development of the economic, political, and ideological contradictions and the forms of their articulation/manifestation.


I’ll elaborate on the question of hegemony, for class relations as relations of domination are formed, stabilized, and reproduced qua struggle, and the later is always politically and ideologically over-determined.

Although one can analytically situate the question of hegemony, or the production and reproduction of consensus and consent of the allied and subordinated classes over whom hegemony is exercised, in civil society, cultural hegemony must always be articulated politically since it is always posed in relation to the state and the latter can only be determined in the integral sense. The production of hegemony is accomplished ideally from the economic-corporate phase, cultural and political hegemony in civil society up to the conquering of state power: Leaving the economic-corporate phase to the intellectual political hegemony to bring about civil and political society (Gramsci, Notebook 4, § 38, pp. 179f).

Though hegemonic struggles are class struggles, they have cross-class or class-unspecific, a consistently over-determined (Althusser) character. This applies to both hegemonic or dominant discourses (nationalism, racism, ethnocentrism, welfare chauvinism etc.) and the nature of the institutionalization of the relations of power. In its generalization of “people-as-nation”, the national state is always constituted qua hegemony, that is to say,. not only the interests of the ruling, but also the subordinate classes, also, gain access to and find representation in state institutions, albeit unevenly, since this characteristically class form of the state is structured in an “unstable equilibrium of compromise” (Poulantzas, 1979, p. 152).

In addressing political domination and economic exploitation, action can not be reduced to “professional actors”, “experts”, “elites”, or “decision makers”. Therefore, in addition to the structure, the question of the subject must also be addressed.

Now, if we understand every “social life” as human “practice” and the subject as in “its reality it is the ensemble of social relations” (Marx’s sixth and eight thesis on Feuerbach, Marx and Engels Selected Works, Vol. One, pp. 13-15), individual subjects must be understood in this complex-integral form.  It is always the case of “individuals belonging to more than one private association, and often they belong to associations that are essentially in conflict with one another” (Gramsci, Notebook 6, § 136, pp. 107-8), and  in “any given society nobody is unorganized and without a party, provided that organization and party are understood broadly, in a nonformal sense” (Ibid., p. 107).

With Poulantzas, we can conceptualize social classes from the perspective of the extended reproduction, which underlies the role of ideology and politics in the circuit of capital and non-capitalist relations. The conjuncture expresses the limits of the possibilities open to the various classes and social categories engaged in a particular conflict over hegemony and political power (Poulantzas, 1973, p. 42, 46, 76, 93). Hence, collective and individual subjects are always constituted concretely qua class struggles, social contestations (non-class social movements), conflicts and compromises. In this context, the state disorganizes the popular classes and organizes the ruling classes. It organizes the hegemony of a class or a fraction of the power bloc (ibid., pp. 137-41). ‘Allies’, supporting classes, fractions, and social categories (ibid., pp. 243-44) cluster around the hegemonic class or fraction. The state does not express the power of a class or a fraction, but the condensation of and the power relations of all class (popular too) relations (1973, pp. 256-7, p. 299).

The strategic-conjunctural moment at the concrete and complex level of analysis highlights not only the under-determination of interests and outcomes of the class struggle and social contestations, but also the strategic alliance-, compromise-, and coalition-building in these struggles and their influence on the results and the form of their institutionalization. This opens up a space for analysing and understanding political mistakes, failures, miscalculations etc., as pivotal for questions of development or the hindrance thereof. Furthermore, “the positioning of fractions of capital leads to possibilities for alliances which transcend national boundaries and which are grounded in objectively similar interests in particular kinds of state policies. State policies may thus simultaneously serve certain ‘domestic’ and certain ‘foreign’ fractions of capital” (Glassman, 1999, p. 680).  Considering that the industrial, commercial, and financial infrastructure in the (semi)-periphery is comparatively less productive and competitive than in the metropolises, the specific state economic, technical, foreign policies etc., contribute to and help promote the building of alliances with regional and international capital. In a methodological and analytical sense, this means that it is both legitimate and necessary, to explore the question of hegemonic practices (political, economic, intellectual, etc.) separately, since they are over-determined social relations. However, one must be carful not to derive social totality from a particular practice or reduce the complexity to this particular practice.

State, accumulation, and hegemony

This paper does not engage with capital accumulation in general, but in a historically specific mode of development. Since the state plays a pivotal role in every development (global included), thus, different state-hegemonic projects account for different developments. A hegemonic project is a complex, multi-dimensional process, which encompasses the institutional selectivity of the state, the formation of class and non-class alliances, a national popular moment, a strategic platform (‘policy paradigm’), and its organic link to an accumulation strategy (Jessop, 1990, pp. 209-10). The term project encompasses a strategic consideration aiming at specific forms of class struggles, conflicts and contestations beyond structural determination. Beyond this strategic moment, the term expresses a “restrictive” quality i.e., contingency.

The success of a project of political hegemony is a complex question that depends on the balance and relation of forces, forms of the struggle, etc. However, to avoid voluntarism and arbitrariness inherent in the concept of contingency, the later can only be understood as a historically necessity, which means that it depends on the given conditions, not least on the structural selectivity of the state that limits the reach, impact, and implementation of hegemonic projects (cf. Jessop,1999; Offe,1974). While structure represents an organizing matrix of institutions, institutions are systems of norms or rules which are socially sanctioned (Poulantzas, 1973, p. 115 n. 24).

The terms institution and apparatus, beyond their technical and formal functions and mechanisms, must reflect the contradictions of social practices in their condensed forms. This is central to the question of power relations and the autonomy of social institutions. With Poulantzas, this problem can be expressed as follows: The state is “the material condensation of such a relationship among classes and class fractions, such as this is expressed within the State in a necessarily specific form” (Poulantzas, 1978, pp. 128-9, italics in original). However, the state has its own density and strength and “is not reducible to a relationship of forces…change in the class relationship of forces always affects the State; but it does not find expression in the State in a direct and immediate fashion. It adapts itself exactly to the materiality of the various apparatuses, only becoming crystallized in a refracted form that varies according to the apparatus” (ibid. pp. 130-1).

Here I will introduce a slight modification in the definition: the ‘condensation’ of relation of forces is unbalanced due to the dominance of capital, the asymmetry of the relations of power, and the capitalist social division of labour. This has crisis theoretical consequences since a crisis of the state has considerably more of an effect on the fractions of the ruling classes than it has on the popular classes. In this context, what seems to be an advantage of the ruling classes in the form of the institutional selectivity of the state and the expression of the condensation “in a necessarily specific form” represents the Achilles heel of bourgeoisie political power. Thus, the security apparatuses of the state and the monopoly on the legitimate use of violence become essential for the reproduction of bourgeoisie rule. With a weakening of the position of the ruling class, the bureaucracy (the “State Party “) or the state apparatus takes over the dominant role (Gramsci, Notebook 3, § 119, p. 106).

Accumulation strategy and hegemonic state projects

We can, then, distinguish analytically between an accumulation strategy (corporatist economic interests of a class or fractions) and a hegemonic state project. An accumulation strategy describes an economic development contextualized in its conditions of existence – technological, socio-economic, political-institutional etc. (cf. Jessop, 1990, pp. 198–9, 207–8). The intra- and inter class relations (fractions of the ruling classes and the popular classes), the balance of forces, and struggles (class and non-class alike) determine the parameter, form, and the probability of the general adherence to this development. Hence, without a hegemonic state project, there can be no successful accumulation strategy. The task of the former is to politically and ideologically generalize the particular accumulation strategy, to organize social acceptance, and to anchor it institutionally qua programmatic and coherent bundles of different interests and expectations of ruling and popular classes and social categories.  Hegemonic state projects are more complex in nature; they are simultaneously, but unevenly, involved in and articulate multiple social relations (economic, political, ideological, institutional etc.). Jessop (1990, pp. 260f) uses two different terms to differentiate between political-institutional and political-economic approaches: state project (effective modus operandi of the state apparatuses) and state strategy (mode of economic intervention). To avoid confusion, I will use the term project for both moments of these state activities as I use the other term, strategy, in the context of capital accumulation.

The determinant factor for the transition to a strategy of accumulation is accompanied by institutional changes within the state. The generalization, relative stability, and reproduction of an accumulation strategy are organically linked to these political-institutional changes. The state project aims at processing the social contradictions through the organization and integration of state apparatuses and civil society institutions around specific policies, procedures, and modes of economic intervention (Jessop, 1990, p. 346). The state’s engagement in the forms of economic and spatial intervention helps establish “spatio-temporal fixes” (Harvey, 2003, pp. 108f) for capitalist development. Neil Brenner points out:

In particular, states are instrumental in managing flows of money, commodities, capital and labor across national boundaries, in maintaining the productive force of capitalist territorial organization, in regulating uneven development, and in maintaining place-, territory- and scale-specific relays of political legitimation. The resultant state spatial strategies are articulated through diverse policy instruments, including industrial policies, economic development initiatives, infrastructure investments, spatial planning programs, labor market policies, regional policies, urban policies and housing policies, among many others. (2003)

These multiple forms of intervention by the state depend on it’s (the state) structural selectivity. The later is understood as the institutional, ideological, legal, and political mechanisms and practices that filter, promote, or hinder the accessibility of specific class and gender forces and interests.

The structural selectivity of the state depends on the form of the state and political regime (Poulantzas, 1978, p. 62), legal system, dominant ideological discourses, and “State-monopolized physical violence permanently underlies the techniques of power and mechanisms of consent: it is inscribed in the web of disciplinary and ideological devices; and even when not directly exercised, it shapes the materiality of the social body upon which domination is brought to bear” (ibid., p. 81, italics in original). The state monopoly of violence influences, transforms, and shapes the forms of class struggle (ibid., p. 82).  In this sense “a given state form, a given form of regime, will be more accessible to some forces than others according to the strategies they adopt to gain state power” (Jessop, 1990, p. 260).

These domestic relations of power are further complicated by the fact that the “induced reproduction […] introduces an entirely new set of contradictions between the fractions of domestic monopoly capital and imperialist capital, contradictions that must be added to those already existing between domestic monopoly and non-monopoly capital and the various fractions of both” (Resch, 1992, p. 358). In this sense, the state intervenes, “in its role as organizer of hegemony, in a domestic field already structured by inter-imperialist contradictions and in which contradictions between the dominant fractions within its social formation are already internationalized” (Poulantzas 1979, pp. 74-75).

This development creates a contradictory situation. On the hand, it contributes to non-congruence between the international relations of production and the domestic relations of political power. On the other hand, it opens up a new manoeuvring space for state actions since the:

task of the state is to maintain the unity and cohesion of a social formation divided into classes, and it focuses and epitomizes the class contradictions of the whole social formation in such a way as to sanction and legitimize the interests of the dominant classes and fractions as against the other classes of the formation, in a context of world class contradictions”. (Poulantzas, 1979, p. 78)

which in its turn helps promote the relative autonomy of the state and its institutional selectivity.

The National Bourgeoisie and the Import Substitution Strategy (ISS)[6]

The development strategies and the formation of national bourgeoisies were influenced and favoured by the bi-polar world order and the privileged position of the nation-state as the primary territorial space of capital accumulation (predominantly import substitution strategies), regulation of class relations (corporatism), and the ideological kit (developmental nationalism, anti-colonialism, opposition to western imperialism under the hegemony of the US).

The backdrop and the condition of existence of this historically relative coincidence between the political-economic, territorial, and ideological relations of power was a global crisis and a temporary situation: intra-imperialist rivalries contributed to the decline of old imperialist powers (British, French, Japanese, and German) and to the rise of US hegemony and the Soviet Union. In this conflictual and contradictory situation, potentials for (semi)-peripheral development were possible through strategic manoeuvring resulting from the imbalance of global power relations.

The origins of the strategy of import substitution are found in the 1930s, first in Latin America, later (in the 50s) in other countries (Lipietz, 1987, p. 60). The inherent crisis moments of this strategy and the articulation of international conditions contributed in part to its failure.

After the initial phase of a ‘simple substitution’, profitability of capital declined, while increasing mechanization, i.e. rising investment costs and imports of mainly capital goods, The internal market is limited to the ruling middle class and the already closed markets of the centres. In terms of foreign trade, the expanded capitalization means a considerable expansion of investment and thus an increase in imports, which can not be financed by the export of raw materials.

Thus, the strategy of import substitution contributed to trade deficits, debt, inflation, and ultimately, to a crisis of the accumulation strategy. Yet, Lipietz assessed the effects and side effects of the strategy of import substitution as a (positive) change in that it had contributed to the creation and expansion of the working classes, middle classes, and to industrialization (ibid, p. 62).

Now, the global crisis in the 1970s, the neoliberal offensive, and the break down of the eastern bloc, contributed to the crisis (a time lag depending on when and where the strategy was first inaugurated) of the ISS and of the dominance or hegemony of the national bourgeoisie fraction within the power bloc of the respective (semi)-peripheral-developmental states. Not only the internal dynamic, but also the internationalization of capital and the state as late as the 1970s made the ISS extremely unlikely. That does not mean that there are no national bourgeoisie fractions/groups anymore, but simply that this strategy and its carriers will unlikely assume a dominant or hegemonic position within the power bloc.

New accumulation strategy: corporatist productive system

Certainly, as Frank (1966, p. 33) developed in his hypothesis, he assumed a relatively national development carried out by a national bourgeoisie. This assumption articulates an external relationship between the centres and the peripheries. However, if we assume that the internationalization of production and the state, and the restructuring in peripheral and semi-peripheral countries, takes place through induced reproduction, it will then be very hard to envisage national development by means of a delinking from the centres and from the world market. In this respect, we must assume, if the hypothesis of Frank is still valid, that the crises are no longer comprehensible in the context of spatial separation, but produce their uneven and unequal effects globally, since the crises of the centres are internalized in the peripheries qua induced reproduction. The latter generates imperialist moments within peripheral and semi-peripheral states: “Industry looks abroad for a market, it seeks to export its goods to backward countries where it is easier to penetrate politically through the establishment of colonies and spheres of influence” (Gramsci, Notebook 6, § 135, p. 107).

In regard to the specificity of the new development strategy, the theories of the “dominance effect” and the “growth poles” by Perroux are of interest here. It is one of the key assumptions of the theory of dominance effects that a developed country dominates in every economic space, which exerts asymmetric effects on the countries dominated by it. This combination of economic space and dominance effect is echoed in Perroux’s second theoretical element regarding the polarization of economic space: the development or growth poles. Accordingly, the economic space is not only polarized, but never coincides with the political. Thus a social formation cannot be determined a priori as a national space. An “economic nation” is characterized by the consistency of its economic structures, i.e. it represents a “regulatory space” and is generally a dominant economy, whereas a dominated economy is characterized by fragility or a lack of regulatory procedures, and therefore is unable to ensure its reproduction. The “integration” of dominated economies in the economic space of a dominant economy is characterized as a process that enables the dominant economy to maintain an accumulation rate and allow for expanded reproduction (cf. Waringo, 1998, p. 62).

The correlation between the changes in the production and consumption standards, however, can take shape through the articulation of “polarized space” and by various modes/forms of production. It is on this basis that a “productive system” is constituted. The later is referred to as an “ensemble of national states, which are organized around a dominant economy” (Borelly, in ibid.). “The economic spaces which are dominated and integrated by the accumulation process of a dominant economy constitute an integral part of the productive system” (Borelly, in Ibid. p. 63.).  Conversely, this means according to Borelli, the more developed and dominant economies were never auto-centred, that “the nation states which developed within themselves the conditions of an accumulation process, have always relied on other spaces” (ibid., see also De Bernis, 1990). This means, among other things, the displacement and shifting of parts of the cost of processing the contradictions on to the dominated economies (cf. Jessop, 2001, p. 147).

In the context of inter- or transnational production system, the dichotomy of internal/external is relatively superseded when through the relation of dominance the so-called external causes of crises are internalized in the dominant economies. Stability or situations of crisis in the “heartland” have direct impacts on the dominated economies, but also vice versa. In this respect, the stability of the dominated economies is much in the interests of the dominant economies. On the other hand, the crisis in the ‘heartland’ may (but need not) open up a space for the development of the dominated economies. In other words, because and in so far as the dominated economies represent a ‘strategic depth’ for the dominant economies, it may be in the interest of the latter to promote the development of their peripheries. This is not a question of “identity of interests”, but must be localized in a global context of competition of different production systems. That is, there is not only the world market, but also “zones of the world economy” (Bye and De Bernis).

One of the ideas of Perroux was that “underdeveloped countries to base their development on an international base, and favors cooperation between groups of underdeveloped countries and groups of developed countries”. In the cold war context, this meant cooperation with alternative imperialist powers (Western Europe). Now it is more precise to speak of new emerging and non-Atlantic powers like China, Russia, Brazil, and India. The cooperation with developed countries is essential “because technology and investments are required for development” (Perroux in Monsted 1974: 110); Further, foreign investments must “be controlled to facilitate the creation of linkages in the local economy” (ibid.). Thus, a relevant scale of accumulation for a new mode of development (or, which is basically the same, accumulation strategy) would be the incorporation of the domestic into a “regional market” which is coupled directly to a new order of the world market and international division of labour.

An essential relation in the accumulation strategy as a development strategy is the dominant form of the organization of the labour process, that is to say, the ratio of living to dead labour. Thus, the form of the organization of the labour process can be determined as an institutionalized compromise qua struggle. In this sense, it includes the skills and knowledge of the immediate producers, i.e. the form of their incorporation into the labour process and the form of their real subsumption under capital. The choice of a particular technology and its implementation is not purely a question of technique, but one of social contestation. In other words, not the technically most efficient form of production, but its social feasibility, and hence its potential hegemonic generalization determines whether it will be institutionalized or suppressed (cf. Hirsch/Roth, 1986, p. 39).

Likewise, the ideological practices, which are here directly involved in the production process, can ascend by means of a hegemonic project towards a state doctrine. In this sense, corporatism is one of the modes of the restructuring of class relations – the shift within the power bloc, the fractionation and the passive integration of parts of the working classes and other popular classes – as well as the modernization of unproductive classes. “Corporatism” is meant here in the sense of:

an autonomous industrial-production block, which is intended to solve in a modern sense, the problem of the economic apparatus in strict capitalistic sense, against the parasitic elements of society who take too large a share of the surplus value, against the so-called ‘saving producers’”: “The production of saving should, therefore, be a function of the same productive block itself, through a growth in production at lower costs and through the creation of a greater of surplus value which would allowed higher wages and thus a larger internal market, worker’s savings, and higher profits, and greater direct capitalization within firms – and not through the intermediary of the ‘producer of saving’ who, in reality, devour surplus value. (Gramsci, Notebook 1, § 135, p. 221)

Furthermore, following Lipietz (1987, pp. 72f) three kinds of autonomy for the political regime are required conditions for the existence of an accumulation strategy: (i) a relative autonomy from external power (what I have termed relative international autonomy), (ii) independence from comprador classes, and (iii) independence from the popular classes.

Last, but by no means least, geo-strategic positioning can determine, among other things, the possibility, form, and chances of success or failure for a specific development strategy. Geo-strategic position is hence of ‘locational advantage’ in issues of development or underdevelopment (cf. Holman, 1993).

Crisis and mode of development

The domestic and global crisis of neoliberal restructuring opens up a space for different paths of development organized around three processes: (1) the expansion of the space of accumulation (regional) as strategic depth in relation to international crisis tendencies/constraints; (2) political and international autonomy of the state in relation to international decision-making bodies and implementation processes, rules of the international order, institutional constraints, and international capital etc.; and (3) the ideological marking of a sphere of influence.

First, the internal market as the primary context of development and space of accumulation is not only less ‘internal’ in the context of the internationalization of capital and states, but above all, different spatial levels of accumulation (cf. Alnasseri, et al., 2001; Brenner 2003) gain in prominence, wherein the primary level is determined by the mode of development strategy (cf. Alnasseri et al., 2001), in our case, a regional space of accumulation. One of the lessons learned from the experiences of ISS is, that the interior market is insufficient for capital accumulation and that the attempt to shield the national economy from the world market was anything but successful. Thus, the aim of the new accumulation strategy is not to delink from the world market and international divisions of labour, but to be actively involved in the internationalization of capital rather than being a passive recipient of neoliberal decrees.

Second, in the context of the internationalization of production and the state, relative autonomous domestic development in the (semi)-periphery necessitates relative international autonomy of the state. The metropolitan capitalist states were not constituted in sequence, but were formed in a process of mutual constitution (Wallerstein). Through this process they were not only able to halt exterior interference in their internal affairs. Above all, precisely because it was an inter-national process of mutual constitution, they gained in relative international autonomy – diplomatic, military, economic, and the power of decision-making on the international stage – which in its turn guaranteed relative national autonomy for the state.  Outside of the metropolises, peripheral states were formed qua colonialism and imperialism. This is the reason why these states lacked any form of autonomy. Only after the Second World War, and due to the bi-polar world order, these states gained in relative national autonomy (the project of the national bourgeoisie), which, however, lacked an international autonomy as a guarantee for internal development. This explains the dependent and subordinate position of these states. The collapse of the eastern bloc, the internationalization of production and the state, and the crisis of the neoliberal strategy provided an opportunity for (semi)-peripheral states to gain in relative international autonomy through alternative models of development.

The ability and the capacity of the state to achieve international, active participation/decision-making capabilities by means of diplomatic, military, institutional, organizational, and political mechanisms depended on the constellation in the power bloc and the degree of legitimacy of the dominant or hegemonic fraction. This autonomy refers to the delicate balance of the condensed domestic and international relations of forces. Thus, the relative international autonomy of the state does not express an anti-imperialist position, or even as an alternative to the imperialist world order. The fact that deregulation, privatization, austerity, flexibility, commodification of social security systems, preservation of private property (also of foreign capital)[7] etc. are not questioned and continue to be, albeit in different forms, state priorities, is a clear indicator that autonomy must only be understood in terms of internalization of imperialist moments qua the induced reproduction.

Thus, autonomy is not a break with, but a form of cooperation and conflict within the framework of the imperialist world order. This is due to the brutal disorganization of the popular classes and lack of a radical, socialist alternative.  The old popular classes and social categories – workers and peasants, small commodity producers and lower level state employees – were brutally oppressed, marginalized, hierarchically fractionalized, dispossessed and forced into internal and foreign migration during the neoliberal restructuring since the 1980s. The majority of the expropriated farmers and wage labourers found a haven in the so-called informal or in the micro-credit-debt economy (a post-modern form of slavery). The consequence of the brutal solution to the peasant question through dispossession and expulsion was agricultural destruction – except for the mono-cultural enclaves of agricultural production such as raw materials for export industries – and the enormous interdependence of the countries on the world market to satisfy their need for basic foodstuffs.

New groups, layers, and privileged categories were formed, such as the new middle classes (immaterial workers), a privileged minority of wage labourers in the mostly privatized export industries, the structurally and permanently unemployed, the marginalized, the working poor etc. The old forms of representation of the popular classes, the political parties, organizations, and trade unions in particular, were either brutally suppressed, weakened, or were integrated into state apparatuses in a corporatist model, in which the higher ranks among them were co-opted. Among the workers there developed a privileged minority of highly qualified cadres in various public and private, national and international companies, who were disconnected politically, institutionally, ideologically and technically from the rest of the class of the working poor. Although these very privileged segments of the workers – but also of the new middle class – showed a strong political presence in recent years by means of various forms of protest, they remained in their protests and demands isolated from the rest of the population due to the narrow horizon of their particular interests. They were thus not able to form a hegemonic political movement. Nor were they able to overcome the corporatist moment and articulate the common interests of the popular classes.

The non-privileged part of the workforce was employed in labour-intensive industries dominated by local, national, and regional non-monopolistic fractions. Precisely because of the intense exploitation, the social question and class struggles were sharply articulated here. Asymmetric relations of power conducive to the NNB in relation to the popular classes facilitated the initiative for political hegemony (cf. Alnasseri, 2011).

Third, a regionally oriented accumulation strategy must be sustained ideologically. Therefore, propagating ‘national’, ethical and social responsibility in competition with foreign monopoly[8] capital and the neoliberal financial and commercial cliques is consistent from the perspective of the NNB. Under these circumstances, the neo-national bourgeoisie fraction provides strategic support for collective and cooperative forms of production of small and medium sized enterprises. The moral economic discourse is ideologically dominant, as it not only over-determines the practices of wage and distribution criteria, but also that of credit allocation, and the determination of ownership etc.

According to the ethics of this fraction, civil society projects (building of social institutions and charities, educational institutions, professional associations, human rights organizations etc.) are formed and aim at a cross-class or class non-specific networking, which fulfils the function of Gramsci’s ‘trenches’ for its hegemonic project.

What is formed is an identity discourse whose various, contradictory elements, are constructed by the traditional and organic intellectuals of the neo-national fraction, and which ideologically appeals (Althusser) to popular and supportive classes, groups, and social categories (especially within the state apparatus). The most prominent ideological discourse in this context is what I term a collective pan-identity discourse: pan-Africanism, pan-Arabism, pan-Hispanic, pan-Islamism etc., as well as an anti-colonial, anti-imperialist and anti-neoliberal discourse.

Neo-National Bourgeoisies and non-monopoly capital

According to Gramsci, in the:

development of a national class, one must take into account not only the process of its formation within the economic sphere but also its parallel growth in the ideological, juridical, religious, intellectual, philosophical spheres, etc. Indeed, one ought to say that growth in the economic sphere cannot take place without these other parallel developments. (Notebook 6, § 200, p. 143)

(Semi)-peripheral economies were forced into the world market and international divisions of labour through three relations of dependency: (1) exportism qua externally induced restructuring (structural adjustments programs), (2) dependency on foreign capital and technological know-how (portfolio and foreign direct investment with the predominance of the former), and (3) dependency on the metropolitan market for their exports. The neoliberal strategy contributed to the selective incorporation of (from the perspective of international capital) profitable export sectors of the domestic economy, which had disarticulative effects on the rest of the economy in the developmental strategic sense. These enforced relationships left little space for inter- and intra-peripheral forms of cooperation and integration. The domestically dominant force in this neoliberal accumulation strategy was the state supported monopoly capital fraction (through joint-ventures, patenting, licensing agreements, etc.), with shareholder value being the predominant goal. Through the mediation of financial, commercial and bureaucratic state elites and cliques, export-oriented enclaves and free trade zones were formed on the basis of joint ventures between internationalized monopoly capital and the state. In contrast, the liberalization of the economy through the elimination of subsidies and protective tariffs, made small and medium-sized businesses, that operate locally and nationally, and which are subordinated to monopoly capital, vulnerable to international competition. Other fractions of capital, small commodity producers, handcrafters, land owners and small peasants etc., were rudimentarily incorporated (through sub-contracting) and politically under-represented.

The limit of the finance-led (Sablowski and Alnasseri, 2001) and export led (predominantly qua foreign capital) accumulation strategy was exposed not only by the current global financial and economic crisis, but above all in the crisis of this strategy in the respective (semi)-peripheral economies depending on the time, pace, and extent of its institutionalization. Thus, the initiative for a new accumulation strategy is carried politically, institutionally, and ideologically by non-monopoly capital (small and medium-sized capital), supported by small commodity producers and social categories (anti- or privatization-, deregulation-, and speculative capital, critical state institutions and personal). Though under neoliberal exportism, small and medium-sized industries, manufactures, commerce, and finance were incorporated within this strategy, their interests were only rudimentarily represented and secured. They had to bear the harshest effects of the internationalization of metropolitan capitals.

I subsume under the term neo-national fraction the non-monopoly capital groups (industrial, commercial and financial) and their political-ideological kit.  This marks a demarcation among the ruling classes by which contradictions and conflicts within the ruling class can be made visible. It expresses the non-monopolistic moment relative to monopoly capital, as when state monopoly capital takes advantage of the benefits arising from the exclusive rights to the exploitation of strategic resources, licensing, lending, etc. The non-exploitative, moral economy is identified with small commodity production, and small or medium-sized enterprises (non-monopoly capital). The only limit seems to be the capital concentration/centralization, ultimately to monopoly capital.

Certainly, non-monopoly capital is not a homogeneous and contradictions free entity. Some elements of non-monopoly capital constitute parts of other fractions (domestic-, national-, and/or comprador bourgeoisie), just like parts of national monopoly capital or comprador groups are to be counted to neo-national bourgeoisie.
Thus, the neo-national bourgeoisie is not identical to non-monopoly capital.

Now, differentiating between the ruling class or fraction and the politically hegemonic or dominant one, means, in this context, that monopoly capital is still economically dominant. Non-monopoly capital is ideologically and politically ascending to a position of dominance within the power bloc[9], which in its turn helps promote the economic interests of non-monopoly capital and renegotiate its position, forms of participation, and share of surplus value appropriation vis-à-vis monopoly capital. The dominant fraction:

politically polarizes the economic interests of the other classes or fractions of the bloc in order to establish its own economic interest as the least common denominator in the political field and to make itself the representative of the general common interest of the power bloc as a whole. From this privileged position within the power bloc, the hegemonic class or fraction indirectly reproduces its own privileged place within the relations of economic exploitation and political domination pari passu with the exploitation and domination of the masses by the power bloc as a whole” (Resch, 1992, p.333; cf. Poulantzas, 1973, pp. 297-98).

The possibility and probability of this type of political and economic restructuring within (semi-) peripheral social formations is conceivable against the backdrop of the role of the state and its specific form of relative autonomy/institutional selectivity. That is to say, contrary to the power position of monopoly capital in the metropolises, monopoly capital in the (semi-) periphery is not only subordinated to the former, but also heavily dependent on the state for its integration into the circuit of international capital and for sustaining its monopoly position within the social formation itself. Hence, the ascendance of non-monopoly capital to a dominant position within the power bloc will then open up new accumulation spaces for domestic monopoly capital rather than undermining its interests, due to the new configuration of the power bloc. As Poulantzas notes:

The relation between the state and the monopolies today is no more one of identification and fusion than was the case in the past with other capitalist fractions. The state rather takes special responsibility for the interest of the hegemonic fraction, [….], in so far as this fraction holds a leading position in the power bloc, and as its interests are erected into the political interest of capital as a whole vis-à-vis the dominated classes. (1979, p. 157)

The non-monopoly capital fraction is integrated into, and subordinated under domestic and international monopoly capital industrially, financially, and commercially through licensing, patenting, sub-contacting, out-sourcing of labour-intensive and less- and non-skilled segments of the labour process. Furthermore, non-monopoly capital is dependent on precarious, sub-contracted, and informal wage and non-wage labour. The subordinated and dependent position of this fraction means that not only monopoly capital passes on its own moments of crisis to the former, contributing to a further fractioning of the popular classes, but above all that the non-monopoly fraction, being locally and domestically much more anchored than monopoly capital, is more affected by the intensification of the social question. The “working-class struggles often have their most sever effects on non-monopoly capital, given the fragile margins for accumulation and manoeuvre that this enjoys in the context of its dependence on monopoly capital” (ibid. p. 149).

In this context, there is another strategic reason why non-monopoly capital is at a disadvantage vis-à-vis monopoly capital. The later drives the former “into the ‘security zone’, as a protective shield and a rampart in its struggle against the working class, passing directly onto non-monopoly capital the effects of the working-class struggle against itself which is the core of the contemporary struggles” (ibid, p. 150). The formation of non-monopoly capital as a politically and ideologically effective force depends on processing its own internal contradictions (industrial money, and commercial) on the one hand, and on the other, on its capability in forming alliances and coalitions with segments of the popular classes, and on the role of the state “in managing the ‘unstable equilibrium of compromise’” (ibid. p. 152).

Taking the initiative for change and attempting a reconfiguration within the power bloc, will not necessarily harm the hegemonic position of domestic and international monopoly capital in the economic field. In this sense, the non-monopolistic fraction will be further (qua induced reproduction it was already integrated in the international division of labour under monopoly capital) internationalized. In other words, the contradictions and conflicts among fractions of the ruling class, the initiative of one fraction for economic, political, ideological, and institutional restructuring, are consequences of the class struggle (‘the principle contradiction’) between the ruling class as a whole and the popular classes; “The extended reproduction of capital is nothing other than the class struggle, the contradictions within the dominant classes and fractions being only the effects, within the power bloc, of the principal contradiction” (ibid., p. 107).

The current specific contradictions and conflicts concern the relation between fractions of the ruling classes and between these and the popular classes over ways of solving/managing the current neoliberal crisis in terms of what and at whose cost, as well as over different paths of development and modes of economic restructuring against the backdrop of the neoliberal internationalization of production and states and the global crisis. These developments have different effects on the composition of power bloc and their relation to the popular classes. Hence, restructuring is taking place currently in the monetarist form of redistribution of capital among fractions of the ruling class and from popular classes to the latter (nationalization of private debt and privatization of public spending through bail-outs, quantitative easing, cuts in public spending, prioritizing issues of public debt and budget deficits over economic and social needs). In the semi-peripheries, national and regional spaces of accumulation and (speculative) capital control are gaining in relevance as another means of managing the crisis and of opening up spaces for development.

Conclusion and prospects

The project of the neo-national bourgeoisie can take different forms in different countries depending on the previous forms of development, neo-liberal restructuring, the effects of the crisis, the nature of the political regimes and forms of the state, the forms of the institutionalization of class relations and contradictions, and the forms of the organization of the popular classes etc.

The restructuring and regional orientation of the accumulation strategy is not a substitute for national development and world market integration, but a complimentary strategic depth in times of crises, price fluctuations, unequal competition, and international institutional constraints. Simultaneously it is a mechanism of expansion of the internal market, i.e.: the interiorization is proceeding from the national to the cross-boarder regional to help interiorize political-economic, ideological, and geo-strategic interests of this fraction qua internal fractions in the respective countries. The less developed countries in the respective regions may bandwagon and hope to benefit from this development. This form of regional orientation is different from the Cold War regional formation (Japan in south-east Asia for example) and post-Cold War development (EU, NAFTA etc.) in that it is taking place in a different socio-economic, political-institutional, and ideological context, within and as a reaction to the crises of neoliberal restructuring in the respective countries.

Thus, regional orientation is not equal (not a form of equitable) regionalization, although this can develop in the future. We are not dealing here with a process of a multilateral, collective, and mutual (though unequal) institutionalization of economic and political interests in general, rather with an extension of the field of accumulation of the comparatively more developed economies. The results of this, bi-laterally developed regional orientation, is much more about the formation of a productive system. The time lag of restructuring is determined by the degree and the pace of neoliberal effects and its crisis. The formation of ‘regional security’ and an economic ‘belt’ are mechanisms of achieving international autonomy and exerting influence (institutional and otherwise) on issues of international development.

What matters here is not the revival or reproduction of neoliberalism in forms requiring the use of adjectival prefixes such as neo- or post- (neoliberalism). We are much more concerned with developments within a crisis, in a transitory situation in which old as well as new moments are articulated.  The conjunctural term neo-national bourgeoisie expresses precisely this contradictory situation.

The regional orientation of the new accumulation strategy is creating new markets and investments opportunities for small commodity producers, handcraft industries, and monopoly and non-monopoly capital alike. Initiatives for regional accumulation strategies were taken by both state and civil society organizations of non-monopoly capital. This restructuring could lead to a new form of the inter-nationalization of non-monopoly capital. This will have developmental consequences on the respective economies involved (new industrial-, commercial-, and financial policies, new fields of investment, labour market-, foreign-, and social policies etc.), accompanied by the development of new, and the restructuring of older, state institutions with relative autonomous capacities in decision-making processes.

Certainly, this is not a conflict free, technical-planning event. The restructuring of the state apparatuses and the economy will definitely imply new contradictions and new conflicts of interests among and between existing and newly created institutions, state personnel and economic pressure groups, particularly considering the paternalistic-clientelist mechanism of interest articulation and representation. Above all, the shifts in the relations of power and authority in the executive, legislative, and juridical apparatuses of the state will turn out to be anything but conflict free. The relative autonomy vis-à-vis individual fractions of the ruling and popular classes (issues concerning deregulation, privatization, monetary and fiscal policies etc.), and the institutional selectivity of the state will be pivotal during this phase of restructuring in which international capital and institutions will definitely play a critical role qua the induced reproduction and interiorization. The process will lead to the transformation of the state form and political regime.

The new accumulation strategy and state project as a project for political hegemony are not only facilitated (not caused) by the crisis, but above all by the weakening, fractioning, and disorganization of the popular classes under the neoliberal offensive. Hence, in the current conjuncture and in the face of the unbalanced relation of forces, it is no wonder that the initiative is undertaken by fractions of the ruling classes. Precisely because of its (NNB) struggle in the power bloc against other fractions of the ruling classes, and because of the possibilities of the explosion of the social question, the NNB is appealing to and mobilizing segments of the popular classes (cross-border popular classes also) for its own project. The political and ideological anchoring of this fraction within the ruling and popular classes is carried out by its organic intellectuals (collectively as parties, organizations, associations etc. and individually) in civil society as well as in the ideological apparatuses of the state (Althusser).

The ascendance of the so-called new emerging economies and the multi-polar world (dis-)order offer an escape valve and mitigating function as well as an alternative to the Atlanticist model of development. State regulations, capital controls, domestic and regional demands, investments in new sectors and underdeveloped national regions (expanding the interior market) etc. gain in relevance. The state also gains new strategic space for manoeuvring, and in relative international autonomy, which in turn supports the new accumulation strategy.

What are the impacts of these developments on the metropolises and internationally? First, the rise of the new emerging economies and the scramble for less or developed economies offer alternative development, trade, financial, and industrial forms of cooperation under less restrictive and unilaterally imposed conditions than the policies of the international institutions (IMF, WB, WTO etc.) and the metropolitan states.

Secondly, the regional division of labour and cooperation mediated through the indirect outreach of the metropolises, intensify the contestations over market shares, important resources, and labour power.

Thirdly, the search for alternative development models to the metropolitan mode of production is much more appealing since the fragility of the metropolitan model of development was revealed by the current financial and economic crises. Fourthly, migration is a complementary mechanism to the increase of the organic composition of capital which ensures that capital disposes over enough labor power. Migration and free movements of worker weakens the law of the reserve army in the sense that it (reserve army) must be permanently controlled, regulated, and reproduced through (bio-)political, ideological, economic, and institutional mechanisms, above all by the nation state. Migration complicates the regulatory mechanisms and predictability of capital accumulation. Regional and international waves of migration of labour forces not only weaken the law of the reserve army, which is only possible due to all forms of restriction and control on the movement of labour and which permanently forms cheap, flexible, non- or less unionized and superfluous labour power for metropolitan capital, but also places the imperial states under enormous pressure while they are already facing popular struggles in their own backyards.

Lastly, new forms of dependencies among and between (semi)-peripheral economies and states emerge as a result of this development, which could lead to relations of dominance, hegemony, and/or lower-order imperialism.

Thus, the induced reproduction generates a far-reaching and a wide-ranging boomerang effect. It impedes the old colonial, imperialist and one-sided penetration, reveals its impact on the metropolises themselves, and sets in motion a process of over-determination, of mutual, but unequal determination of rule, dominance, and exploitation whose course and outcome is far from clear.


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[1] Semi-peripheral areas “are in between the core and the periphery on a series of dimensions, such as the complexity of economic activities, strength of the state machinery, cultural integrity, etc. Some of these areas had been core-areas of earlier versions of a given world-economy. Some had been peripheral areas that were later promoted, so to speak, as a result of the changing geopolitics of an expanding world-economy. The semiperiphery, however, is not an artifice of statistical cutting points, nor is it a residual category. The semiperiphery is a necessary structural element in a world-economy”, nevertheless, “particular regions of the world may change their structural role in the world-economy, to their advantage, even though the disparity of reward between different sectors of the world-economy as a whole may be simultaneously widening. It is in order to observe this crucial phenomenon clearly that we have insisted on the distinction between a peripheral area of a given world-economy and the external arena of the world-economy. The external arena of one century often becomes the periphery of the next–or its semiperiphery. But then too core-states can become semiperipheral and semiperipheral ones peripheral” (Wallerstein, 1974, pp.349-350).

[2] The term NNB was developed collectively within the framework of a workshop on Nicos Poulantzas which I have organized for some of my doctoral students. I thank the participants of the workshops – Nima Nakhaei, Yasin Kaya, Hessam Daryani, and Alexander Caramento – for the extraordinary collaboration, and for the original contributions they have made in their respective case studies (Iran, Turkey, and South Africa). The approach developed here focuses on the development in these countries, but also on Egypt. Although the approach provides a theoretical basis for the above cases, yet it still has a hypothetical research character. The approach had to be problematized, revised, and empirically verified by further work and case studies. Thus, the concept NNB refers neither to the development in the (semi-)periphery in general, nor does it exclude the probability that a similar development under comparable conditions can take place in other (semi-)peripherial social formations.  The question is whether the analysis applies also to countries such as China, Brazil and India? Or whether the experiences in these countries would compel us to undertake strong theoretical modifications? Without further analytical and empirical research, it would be difficult to determine the adequacy of the approach to development in these and other (semi)-peripheral social formations.

[3] I am approaching the discussions on imperialism from the perspective of a Marxist state theory in the tradition of Gramsci, Althusser, and Poulantzas.

[4] In summarizing the debates on imperialism, I only engage with contributions which I hold relevant for my own argument and my position. Thus I internationally exclude contributions like those of the neo-Gramscians and the World(s) Systems Theorists, other Marxist and non-Marxists approaches.

[5] I employ the term imperialist chain for it expresses more precisely the asymmetrical, political and economic power relations, dependencies, and the central role of nation states in the internationalization of politics and capital.

[6] There is no intention here of a comprehensive presentation of this complex strategy in the diverse social formations. The succinct and condensed presentation has an illustrative character: to distinguish this strategy and its advocate, the national bourgeoisie, from the current development.

[7] The structure of ownership and property (the differentiation between economic and legal relations and of ownership and property) is not only of interest in regard to distribution of appropriated surplus value among the ruling classes, but above all in regard to questions of political hegemony. A capital fraction is termed ‘foreign’ or ‘domestic’ not in accordance with the nationality of the legal owner: the distinction between the two is not of legal nature, it explicates the interests of different fractions of capital and their contestation over exploitative conditions of popular classes, over market shares, access to resources etc. The example of joint-ventures between international monopoly capital and the respective domestic fractions of capital with the intermediary of the state make clear that not all fractions of domestic capital are part of this project and that this represents one conflictual moment among fractions of capital. Therefore, the distinction between ‘domestic’ and ‘foreign’ capital is analytically important in regard to questions of contestations over political power and hegemony within the respective, national/international power blocs.

[8] Monopoly- and non-monopoly capitals are concrete categories that refer to specific fractions of the power bloc. Thus the former terms are essential for the analysis of the later.

[9] The question is to what extent is the political dominance of non-monopoly capital in these countries a transitory phenomenon? To what extent is it conjunctural (its dominance is due to the crisis of neo-liberalism) or structural (the peculiarity of development in (semi)-peripheral social formations)? These and other issues can be resolved only by further research and observations.