From 'feral' markets to regimes of accumulation: the state and law in neoliberal capitalism

Clunie, Gregor John (2015) From 'feral' markets to regimes of accumulation: the state and law in neoliberal capitalism. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The emergence between 1965 and 1973 of a crisis of over-accumulation and over-capacity, rooted in international manufacturing yet affecting the overall private business economies of the advanced capitalist countries, inaugurated a developmental context whose profound contradictions were brought home by the Great Recession of 2008-9 and the continuing Long Depression. The intervening period has seen profound economic, political and social crisis in the advanced capitalist world and has simultaneously been treacherous for under-developed economies forced to navigate rocketing energy costs and international commodity price and currency exchange rate turbulence under the continual threat of debt-levered expropriation. The struggle to locate the causes – proximate and ultimate – of the present crisis is at the same time a battle to map the basic economic and political coordinates of the continuing long downturn. In this connection it is contended that efforts have been undermined by the epistemological underdevelopment conditioned by a crisis of knowledge-formation which has unfolded in parallel with the long downturn. The dominance of neoclassical economics (‘unworldly’ since the marginal revolution) on the right and the displacement of Marxism on a structurally weakened and autodidactic left in the context of the ascent of postmodernism as an intellectual and cultural dominant has opened a space between the material and discursive realities of global capitalist development.

This work is an attempt to deploy the method developed by the classical Marxist tradition to approach the significance of the state and law in the historically-conditioned reproduction of capitalist social relations. It is contended in the first place that the dualism which obtains between national and global spheres in much theorisation of neoliberal ‘globalisation’ obscures the dialectical interrerelation of state and world market – the institutional and regulatory environment of international trade, money and finance being both the creation of states and the developing context which frames their – necessarily path-dependent and reflexive – projects of domestic economy making. As against popular notions of state decline, following Gowan the state-political content of the centring of private financial markets in the mediation of international monetary relations is recalled, while the embeddedness of the state in circuits of capital accumulation is emphasised (Tony Smith), the concept of ‘regime of accumulation’ being deployed to capture the nexus of monetary, fiscal and regulatory policy which articulates historically-conditioned development strategies. In this respect, we depart from the work of the Bolshevik jurist Pashukanis, who despite significantly advancing the materialist analysis of the juridical form, identified in his most significant work a largely derivative role for the state. It is argued that the methodological weakness represented by Pashukanis’ disproportionate emphasis on commodity exchange – his failure to proceed from the basis of the capitalist economy as a contradictory unity of production and circulation – prevents him from fully apprehending the role of the state in the production and reproduction of capitalist social relations.

As the discussion unfolds, there is developed in conversation principally with Gramsci an understanding of the state as the specific material condensation of a relationship of forces among classes and class fractions. Upholding the notion of the ‘integral state’ as a differentiated unity of civil society and political society upon which terrains the capitalist class forms alliances with proximate classes as the prerequisite for and correlate of its domination of labour, the developmental context represented by neoliberalism is conceived in terms of the transition of interest-bearing capital from leading to dominant fraction of the capitalist class in parallel with its tendential contradictory disaggregation from productive capital. Such a process has necessitated a transformation in the character of bourgeois political supremacy involving a dismantling of the civil rights and social protections accumulated during the period bookended by Americanism and the welfare state and increasing dependence upon an expanded machinery of coercion. Proceeding from this basis, it is considered how in specific developmental contexts the state by way of the legal form maps the social totality, achieving distinctive couplings (and de-couplings) of wealth production and social reproduction. There is asserted the second-order integration of public and private spheres in terms of the fundamental unity of capitalist reproduction, the first-order public/private metabolism being evaluated in view of the facilitation and rationalisation of social reproduction in the context of a productive economy structured around dissociated private producers. The legal form is further interrogated in view of its role in structuring the productive antagonism between capital and labour, a relation which on the basis of its form comes to expresses various contents – from consensual integration to casuistic assimilation – as domestic social relations are (in-)validated by the operation of the law of value at the level of the world market. In this connection, the unproductive theoretical polarisation obtaining between approaches which consider law to be epiphenomenal and those which pursue its relative autonomy is enriched by a historicised conception in terms of which law, concretising specific relationships of forces within particular regimes of accumulation, appears as ‘sword’, as ‘shield’ and as ‘fetter’. This framework is particularly useful for evaluating the opportunities for the deployment of legal strategies by labour and groups oppressed under capitalism – a question in relation to which Pashukanis, following Lenin, demonstrated a remarkable political astuteness.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Law, political economy, economics, neoliberalism, capitalism, regulation, crisis, Marxism.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
J Political Science > JC Political theory
K Law > K Law (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Law
Supervisor's Name: Christodoulidis, Prof. Emilios and Farmer, Prof. Lindsay
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Mr Gregor Clunie
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-6436
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2015 15:07
Last Modified: 02 May 2018 12:46

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