CGPE working papers

From 2008 to 2021, CGPE published a peer-reviewed working paper series. The archive of working papers can be found below

Please note: this series is no longer open to submissions.

Looking Beyond England: Slavery, Settler Colonialism and the Development of Industrial Capitalism

Paula Reisdorf
Working Paper No. 22
24 June 2021

This paper examines the debates surrounding industrial capitalism’s origins, critiquing the Eurocentrism in the Political Marxist approach. Instead, using a dialectical framework, I argue that the transition from agrarian to industrial capitalism in Britain required the existence of slavery and settler colonialism in the New World. The reason for this is threefold: Firstly, the removal of surplus populations either to colonies or domestically by employing them in colony- related industries was necessary to avoid stagnation in capitalist development. Secondly, the cheapening of basic commodities leading to a reduction in wages (i.e. relative surplus value extraction) in Britain necessitated enslaved labour in the New World. Thirdly, British industrialisation itself required settler colonialism and slavery because of: 1) the importation of slave-produced raw materials that were manufactured in Britain, 2) the exportation of manufactured products to settler colonies in the Americas, 3) the investment into industry by slaveowners and 4) the credit provision by banks that were tightly linked to the slave trade. I, therefore, conclude by suggesting that taking seriously the links between capitalism and slavery/colonialism could unify post-colonialism and Marxism by demonstrating the interconnectedness between post-colonialism’s principal object of analysis – colonialism – and Marxism’s main object of analysis – capitalism.

Looking Beyond England: Slavery, Settler Colonialism and the Development of Industrial Capitalism [PDF 486.70KB]

Global Social Fascism: Violence, Law and Twenty-First Century Plunder

Lara Montesinos Coleman
Working Paper No. 15  May 2018


The intellectual authors of neoliberalism were aware of the lethal implications of what they advocated. For ‘the market’ to work, the state was to refuse protection to those unable to secure their subsistence, while dissidents were to be repressed. What has received less attention is how deadly neoliberal reforms increasing come wrapped in social, legal and humanistic rhetoric. We see this not only in ‘social’ and ‘legal’ rationales for tearing away safety nets in Europe’s former social democratic heartlands, but also in the ‘pro-poor’ emphasis of contemporary development discourse. This includes contexts where colonial legacies have facilitated extreme armed violence in service of corporate plunder. To expose these dynamics, I juxtapose the everyday violence of austerity in Britain with neoliberal restructuring in Colombia. The latter is instructive precisely because, in tandem with widespread state-backed terror, Colombia has held fast to the language and institutions of liberal democracy. It has, as a result, prefigured the subtle authoritarian tendencies now increasingly prominent in European states.

The reconceptualization of law, rights and social policy that has accompanied neoliberal globalization is deeply fascistic. Authoritarian state power is harnessed to the power of transnational capital, often accompanied by nationalistic and racist ideologies that legitimize refusal of protection and repression, enabling spiraling inequality. Nevertheless, extending Boaventura de Sousa Santos’s discussion of ‘social fascism’, I suggest that widespread appeal to the ‘social’ benefits and ‘legal necessity’ of lethal economic policies marks a significant and Orwellian shift. Not only are democratic forces suppressed: the very meanings of democracy, rights, law and ethics are being reshaped, drastically inhibiting means of challenging corporate power.

Global Social Fascism: Violence, Law and Twenty-First Century Plunder [PDF 615.19KB]

The ebbing of the Pink Tide or permanent underdevelopment? Dependency theory meets uneven and combined development 

Felipe Antunes de Oliveira
Working Paper No. 14  May 2018


Latin America is once again passing through a crisis. After initially showing promising results, the neodevelopmentalist strategy adopted in Brazil and Argentina has reached its limits. The attempt at 21st century socialism in Venezuela derailed, tearing the country apart. Finally, the neoliberal path dutifully followed by Mexico, Chile, Colombia and smaller countries perpetuated social inequalities, and is now menaced by President Trump's protectionist turn. The current Latin American crisis goes much beyond the reversion of the so-called "Pink Tide". It affects all ideological colours, raising again an old theoretical-political question that stood in the core of dependency theory: is development even possible in Latin America? The key to answer this question – a concept of development that captures non-converging transformation – was not available to Frank, Marini, Bambirra and Dos Santos, among other dependency theorists. Too easily conflating development with catching-up, they reached a dead end. Indeed, as they could see, Latin America was constantly changing, but not in the expected ways. In this paper, I suggest that the concept of uneven and combined development allows for a renewed engagement with dependency theory's core problem, by representing mixed forms of development as the norm, not the exception.

The ebbing of the Pink Tide or permanent underdevelopment? Dependency theory meets uneven and combined development [PDF 653.39KB]

Global Debt Dynamics: What Has Gone Wrong

Andreas Antoniades and Stephany Griffith-Jones
Working Paper No. 13  January 2018


This paper analyses the nature and characteristics of global debt dynamics in the post global financial crisis (GFC) period. First, we attempt to map the ways in which debt has been moving from sector to sector, and from one group of countries to another within the global economy. By capturing this inter-sectorial, inter-national, inter-regional movements of global debt we aspire to contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of global debt and its mode of operation. Second, we attempt to analyse what is wrong with global debt dynamics, i.e. we examine the broken link between what global debt was supposed to do and what it does. Here, we point to three interrelated dynamics: the accumulation of unproductive debt, growing inequalities of income and wealth, and the increase in privately-created, interest-bearing money.

Global Debt Dynamics: What Has Gone Wrong [PDF 639.11KB]

The Rules of Reproduction of Capitalism: A Historicist Critique

Samuel Knafo and Benno Teschke
Working Paper No. 12  January 2017 


Marxism has often been associated with two different legacies. The first rests on a strong exposition and critique of the logic of capitalism, which has been grounded in a systematic analysis of the laws of motion of capitalism as a system. The second legacy refers to a strong historicist perspective grounded in a conception of social relations and an emphasis on the centrality of power and social conflict to analyse history. In this article, we challenge the prominence of structural accounts of capitalism, which are inspired by the first of these legacies and argue for the need to radicalize the agent-centered and historicist contribution of Marx that derive from the second. Our claim is that Marxists operating within a structural framework systematically fall into economistic readings of capitalism, which hinder the practice of historicisation Marxism was supposed to buttress. To make this argument, we show how this tension between these legacies has played out within Political Marxism (PM). We argue that both orientations – encapsulated in the simultaneous programmatic emphasis on historically specific social conflicts and determinate rules of reproduction that are logically deduced from definitive social property relations – co-existed already uneasily in Robert Brenner’s original contributions to the Transition Debate. We proceed by critically exploring the increasing reliance on a structural conception of the ‘rules of reproduction’ in later works of PM’s early proponents and by some of its contemporary followers. This, we argue, has led to the reification of capitalism and a growing divide between theoretical premises and historical explanation. In response, we seek to return to the early historicist innovation of PM and to recover and develop its commitment to a more contextualised and open-ended interpretation of social conflicts. Through this internal critique and re-formulation of PM, we wish to open a broader debate within Marxism on the need for a more agency-based account of capitalism, which builds more explicitly on the concept of social relations.

The Rules of Reproduction of Capitalism: A Historicist Critique [PDF 743.94KB] 

The problem with ‘embedded liberalism’: the World Bank and the myth of Bretton Woods 

Samuel Appleton
Working Paper No. 11  October 2016


The Bretton Woods conference is conventionally understood as a radical break between the laissez faire order and its ‘embedded liberal’ successor, in which finance was suppressed in the interest of trade and productive growth. The new institutions, particularly the IBRD are often considered emblematic of this. In response to this, the paper argues that the Bretton Woods order required the enlistment, not repression, of private American finance. Firstly, laissez-faire era proposals for international financial institutions provided important precedents for the Bretton Woods institutions. Second, these were predicated on the uniquely deep liquidity of American financial markets following upon Progressive-era reforms, in the legacy of which the Roosevelt administration sought to locate the New Deal. Thirdly, they found new relevance in the 1940s as the IBRD turned by necessity to American financial markets for operating capital. Negotiating the imperative of commercial creditworthiness had two important consequences. First, it entailed the structural and procedural transformation of the IBRD, and allowed management to carve out a proprietary terrain in which its agency was decisive. Second, this suggests that US agendas were mediated by the Bank’s institutional imperatives – and that finance was no more ‘embedded’ during the Bretton Woods era than its predecessor.

The problem with ‘embedded liberalism’: the World Bank and the myth of Bretton Woods [PDF1.40MB]

Global Value Chains or Global Poverty Chains? A new research agenda

Benjamin Selwyn
Working Paper No. 10  June 2016

Global Value Chain (GVC) analysis is part and parcel of mainstream development discourse and policy. Supplier firms are encouraged, with state support, to ‘link-up’ with trans-national lead firms. Such arrangements, it is argued, will reduce poverty and contribute to meaningful socio-economic development. This portrayal of global political economic relations represents a ‘problem-solving’ interpretation of reality. This article proposes an alternative analytical approach rooted in ‘critical theory’ which reformulates the GVC approach to better investigate and explain the reproduction of global poverty, inequality and divergent forms of national development. It suggests re-labelling GVC as Global Poverty Chain (GPC) analysis. GPC’s are examined in the textiles, food, and high-tech sectors. The article
details how workers in these chains are systematically paid less than their subsistence costs, how trans-national corporations use their global monopoly power to capture the lion’s share of value created within these chains, and how these relations generate processes of immiserating growth. The article concludes by considering how to extend GPC analysis.

Global Value Chains or Global Poverty Chains? A new research agenda [PDF 675.39KB]

Beyond Elitism: The Possibilities of Labour-Centred Development

Benjamin Selwyn
Working Paper No 9  April 2016


This article outlines the theory and practice of Labour Centred Development (LCD).  Much development thinking is elitist, positing states and corporations as primary agents in the development process. This article argues, by contrast, that collective actions by labouring classes can generate tangible developmental gains, and therefore, that under certain circumstances they can be considered primary development actors. Examples of LCD discussed here include shack-dweller’s movements in South Africa, the landless labourer’s movement in Brazil, unemployed worker’s movements in Argentina and large-scale collective actions by formal sector workers across East Asia. The article also considers future prospects for LCD.

Beyond Elitism: The Possibilities of Labour-Centred Development [PDF 641.78KB]

Global Safe Haven Bonding Foreign and Domestic Owners of the U.S. Public Debt

Sandy Brian Hager
Working Paper No 8  January 2016


This paper offers new theoretical and empirical insights to explain the resilience of the U.S. Treasuries market as a safe haven for global investment. Going beyond the standard systemic explanation, the paper highlights the importance of domestic politics in reinforcing the safe haven status of U.S. Treasury securities. In particular, the research shows how a formidable “bond” of interests unites domestic and foreign owners of the public debt and works to sustain U.S. power in global finance. Foreigners who now own roughly half of the U.S. public debt have something to gain from their domestic counterparts. The top one percent of U.S. households that dominate domestic ownership of the U.S. public debt have considerable political clout, thus alleviating foreign concerns about the creditworthiness of the U.S. federal government. Domestic owners of the U.S. public debt, in turn, have something to gain from the seemingly insatiable foreign appetite for U.S. Treasury securities. In supplying the U.S. federal government and U.S. households with cheap credit, foreign investors in U.S. Treasuries help to deflect challenges to the top one percent within the wealth and income hierarchy.

Global Safe Haven Bonding Foreign and Domestic Owners of the U.S. Public Debt [PDF 593.23KB]

Great Power Politics and Strategic Narratives

Andreas Antoniades, Alister Miskimmon and Ben O'Loughlin
Working Paper No 7  March 2010


Great powers use strategic narratives to establish and maintain influence in the international system and to shape the system itself. This is particularly the case in periods of transition in the international system when challengers to hegemonic powers emerge. Strategic narratives are an important tool which must be considered alongside material resources as a determinant of whether emerging great powers are able to shape a new systemic alignment. Strategic narratives are a tool through which great powers can articulate their interests, values and aspirations for the international system in ways that offer the opportunity for power transitions that avoid violent struggle between status quo and challenger states. Complicating this picture, however, is a complex media ecology which makes the process of projecting strategic narratives an increasingly difficult one. Analysis of international political communication within this media ecology is central to evaluating how strategic narratives are projected and the interactions that follow. We argue that empirical analysis of the formation, projection and reception of strategic narratives in that media ecology offers a framework through which to generate important findings concerning power transition, domestic and international legitimacy, and recognition and identity - important because many international relations scholars thus far failed to take into account the difference such narratives make, and can make.

Great Power Politics and Strategic Narratives [PDF 270.86KB]

Private Military and Security Companies: Misconceptions, Re-Conceptualisations and Regulation

Carlos Ortiz

Working Paper No 6  October 2009


This paper argues the relevance of the notion of Security Partnerships for the understanding of the role Private Military Companies (PMCs) play in state defence and security. Security Partnerships imply the forging of close and formal patterns of collaboration between governments and PMCs and defence contractors. The notion facilitates an appreciation of the diverse tasks PMCs are contracted to satisfy, the extent to which these tasks permeate defence and security strategies, and the future of the model in light of the global financial downturn. In addition, this paper uses this research to highlight certain limitations of the new proposal for the regulation of PMCs put forward by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in April 2009.

Private Military and Security Companies: Misconceptions, Re-Conceptualisations and Regulation [PDF 368.97KB]

The Politics of Credit Rating Agencies in the European Union 

Lucia Quaglia
Working Paper No 5  June 2009


Why did the European Union (EU) decide to regulate Credit Rating Agencies (CRAs), instead of relying on the revised rules agreed at the international level and the revised US law to which the main CRAs operating in the EU but headquartered in the US were subject to? This research addresses this key question concerning the multi-level governance of financial services using a 'soft' rational choice institutionalist framework. It is argued that the global financial crisis, acting as an exogenous shock, triggered three causal mechanisms that led to a new institutional equilibrium within and without the EU, namely the issuing of EU rules on CRAs.

The Politics of Credit Rating Agencies in the European Union [PDF 353.72KB]

In Search of The 21st Century Developmental State

Peter B. Evans
Working Paper No 4  December 2008


What role for the developmental state in the 21st century? What state structures and political institutions will best equip nations trying to enter the ranks of "developed" countries? I offer two interconnected propositions. The first stresses continuity: the "developmental state" will continue to play a crucial a role in economic growth and social transformation in the 21st century, just as it did in the latter half of the 20th century. The second is more radical: successful 21st century developmental states will have to depart fundamentally from existing models of the developmental state in order to achieve success. Growth strategies focused primarily on traditional capital accumulation will no longer suffice. State-society ties can no longer be focused narrowly on relations with capitalist elites.

In Search of The 21st Century Developmental State [PDF 338.55KB] 

Critical Approaches and the Problem of Social Construction: Reassessing the Legacy of the Agent/Structure Debate in IR

Samuel Knafo
Working Paper No 3  June 2008


Conceptualizing the process of social change in IR has proved more elusive than initially thought. If the notion of agency that was proposed to capture this moment gained great saliency in the field, it has had surprisingly limited analytical effects on the discipline of IR. Hence, many can agree that social actors have agency, but very few have managed to set up an agenda that uses this notion in productive ways. Discussions about agency often remain meta-theoretical, and have had arguably little effect on the concrete studies in the field. This paper argues that debates over agency have failed to produce a satisfactory response to the question of how critical theories should approach social construction largely because they have missed what is ultimately at stake in thinking about social change and agency. Seeking in the latter an alternative form of causality that could be distinguished from structural reproduction, they created a dualism that was bound to be unproductive. Adopting a different perspective, this article revisits the structure agency debate with the aim of demonstrating that the notion of agency is fundamental to a critical perspective on social construction. It argues that introducing agency within our epistemological framework does not offer a solution for understanding social construction, but rather helps us frame the problematic of social construction itself in ways that pushes critical theory away from the reifying glance of positivism. More specifically, it uses agency as a means to problematise power as practice, arguing that, too often, critical theories take this aspect for granted. As a result they miss what exactly is being negotiated in struggles over power.

Critical Approaches and the Problem of Social Construction: Reassessing the Legacy of the Agent/Structure Debate in IR [PDF 333.80KB]

Bringing Ideas and Discourse Back into The Explanation of Change in Varieties of Capitalism and Welfare States 

Vivien A. Schmidt
Working Paper No 2  May 2008


To explain change in the varieties of capitalism and welfare states, a 'discursive institutionalist' approach focused on ideas and discourse is a necessary complement to older 'new institutionalist' approaches. Historical institutionalist approaches have difficulty explaining change, tend to be static and equilibrium-focused, and even where they get beyond this through accounts of incremental change, these are more descriptive than they are explanatory of change. The turn to rational choice institutionalist approaches for agency and 'micro-foundations' to historical institutionalist 'macropatterns' also does not solve the problems of historical institutionalism. A turn to discursive institutionalism could. Using examples of reforms in national political economies and welfare states in 'liberal', 'coordinated',and'state-influenced' market economies, the paper illustrates how ideas and discourse help explain the dynamics of change (and continuity).

Bringing Ideas and Discourse Back into The Explanation of Change in Varieties of Capitalism and Welfare States [PDF 282.71KB]

China's Challenge to the West in the 21st Century

Kees van der Pijl

Working Paper No 1  April 2008


What follows is based on Global Rivalries: from the Cold War to Iraq. In that book and elsewhere I have developed the theory that the global political economy for several centuries now has been characterised by an evolving core structure juxtaposing an expanding, English-speaking 'West' to a succession of contender states-beginning with France in the late 17th and the 18th centuries; Germany, Japan, and Italy and Austria-Hungary from the late 19th; followed by the Soviet Union. In the 1970s, a Third World Coalition rallied behind a tentative New International Economic Order seeking to impose a state-led world economy on global liberalism through the UN (Krasner 1985). Today, China would be the main contender state challenging Western hegemony.

China's Challenge to the West in the 21st Century [PDF 316.36KB]