SWFsEUROPE

Publications

Ilias Alami, Adam D Dixon, Ruben Gonzalez-Vicente, Milan Babic, Seung-Ook Lee, Ingrid A. Medby & Nana de Graaff (2021) Geopolitics and the ‘New’ State Capitalism, Geopolitics, DOI: 10.1080/14650045.2021.1924943

We may be witnessing the emergence of a new ‘state capitalist’ normal, a term this Forum proposes to problematise in its geopolitical dimensions. The growing prevalence of state-sponsored entities (encompassing state enterprises, policy banks, and sovereign wealth funds) as leading vehicles of economic activity is a defining feature of our times. This reassertion of state authority is altering configurations of state and corporate power across the world economy while generating a multiplicity of geopolitical tensions. This Forum reflects upon what it means, theoretically, methodologically, and politically, to articulate a geopolitics of contemporary state capitalism. It brings together interventions which draw on various theoretical approaches, including critical political geography, historical materialism, geographical political economy, and power structure research, in order to probe into the multiple spatialities at the core of contemporary state capitalism. The contributions aim to destabilise the assumptions and taken-for-granted ideas which have largely framed the debate thus far, including problematic binaries such as liberal/illiberal, state/market, commercial/geopolitical logics, and realist narratives of interstate power-maximising behaviour. Studying the (geo)political re-organisation of global capitalism requires moving beyond the castigation of a ‘rogue’ state capitalism as well as narratives of a clash between rival political-economic models, and disassembling the category state capitalism.

Babić, M. (2021) The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Crisis of the Liberal International Order: Geopolitical Fissures and Pathways to Change. Global Perspectives 2(1), 24051. [Link to file]

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerates and exacerbates many preexisting tendencies in the global political economy. Consequently, the crisis of the liberal international order (LIO), which has been ongoing for several years, is also being affected by the pandemic. These effects are, however, not uniform: some aspects of the crisis of the LIO, as a multidimensional phenomenon, are under more pressure than others. In this article, I detail these varied effects with a specific focus on questions of geopolitics and hegemonic change. I argue that especially the societal level, where socioeconomic distortions and popular discontent are long-existing drivers of crisis, will be severely hit by the social and economic fallout of the pandemic. I conclude by suggesting a set of hypotheses regarding the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the crisis of the LIO that can be tested once more data becomes available.

Alami, I., Dixon, A.D., E. Mawdsley (2021) State Capitalism and the New Global D/development RegimeAntipode

Official discourses of Development are being redefined. If the key geopolitical contexts shaping the post‐war Development project were decolonisation and the Cold War, the defining world‐historical transformations shaping the emerging vision of Development are the expansion of state capitalism and the rise of China. The IMF, the World Bank, the OECD, the G20, other multilaterals, and bilateral partners are increasingly taking stock of the rise of state capitalism, and acting as ideational vectors of this emerging regime. However, this new “state capitalist normal” is also portrayed as carrying risks. There is anxiety regarding the direction the political form of global capital accumulation is heading: with the unchecked proliferation of state capitalism possibly blunting competition, politicising economic relations, and intensifying geoeconomic tensions. This anxiety underwrites the current re‐articulation of Development, one which embraces the state as promoter, supervisor, and owner of capital; even as it critiques China’s use of similar instruments.

Dixon, A.D., (2020) The Strategic Logics of State Investment Funds in Asia: Beyond FinancialisationJournal of Contemporary Asia.

Financialisation presents a constraint on state power. It also offers opportunities. State-led development, with the Asian experience at the forefront, is increasingly operationalised through different forms of state investment funds. Some of these funds have a strategic development mandate underwritten by a shareholder-value logic. While financialisation as a concept gives meaning to the embrace of the shareholder value model to explain the convergence of sovereign funds with operational practices and guiding norms of conventional financial market actors, it is insufficient in explaining how and why state investment funds differ from conventional financial actors and the underlying political dynamics that drive their emergence and evolution. To address this gap, this article advances three strategic logics: a developmental logic, a logic of regime maintenance, and a geo-political legitimacy logic. Reference to these logics provides a more nuanced understanding of state financialisation, avoiding a potentially narrow reading presented by the convergence dynamics inherent in the adoption of conventional financial practices. As such, this article contributes to emerging debates in political economy on the employment of financial logics in the pursuit of economic and political statecraft. The argument is developed empirically through an analysis of strategic investment funds in Singapore, Malaysia and Kazakhstan.

Alami, I. and Dixon, A.D., (2020) The strange geographies of the ‘new’ state capitalismPolitical Geography.

The recent polymorphism of state intervention and attendant political geographies have been interpreted as a return of state capitalism. While commentators across the social sciences have offered competing characterizations of the new state capitalism, little attention has been dedicated to how narratives and geographical imaginaries of the new state capitalism operate as a form of geopolitical knowledge and practice. Drawing upon critical geopolitics, we make three main arguments. First, we examine the context of wider geopolitical and geo-economic shifts in which the social construction of the geo-category has happened. We contend that the emerging new spatiality of the global economy has prompted the need for new discursive frames and geopolitical lines of reasoning. Second, we argue that this need is fulfilled by the geo-category state capitalism, which acts as a powerful tool in categorizing and hierarchizing the spaces of world politics. It does so by reinstituting a simple narrative of competition between two easily identifiable protagonists – (Western) democratic free-market capitalism and its deviant ‘other’, (Eastern) authoritarian state capitalism – and by reactivating older geopolitical grand narratives. Third, the geo-category state capitalism discursively enables Western business and state actors to justify tougher policy stances in three areas: foreign policy; trade, technology, and investment regulation; and international development.

Alami, I. and Dixon, A.D., (2020) State capitalism(s) redux? Theories, tensions, controversies, Competition & Change, 24(1), 70-94.

This article interrogates the notion of state capitalism, exploring the contributions and limits of the concept as a means of theorizing the more visible role of the state across the world capitalist economy. We critically synthesize the key arguments, outlining commonly cited properties and practices of state capitalism, in three bodies of literature: strategic management, comparative capitalism and global political economy. We find that the term not only lacks a unified definition, but actually refers to an extremely wide array of policy instruments, strategic objectives, institutional forms and networks, that involve the state to different degrees. For this proliferation of competing usages to be productive and not lead to analytical impasses, we argue that there is a need for a heightened level of reflexive scrutiny of state capitalism as a category of analysis. In that spirit, we identify three issues that the literature must further grapple with for the term to be analytically meaningful, that is, capable of rendering (state)capitalist diversity amenable to analysis and critique: (1) the ‘missing link’ of a theory of the capitalist state, (2) the time horizons of state capitalism, or the question of ‘periodization’, (3) territorial considerations or the question of ‘locating’ state capitalism.