Skip to content

Category archive for: International Political Economy

Working into poverty?

Written by Lucia Pradella.

Unemployment has reached unprecedented heights in Western Europe — wages are declining and attacks on organized labour are intensifying. Nearly a quarter of Western Europe’s population, about 92 million people, was at risk of poverty and social exclusion in 2013. That’s nearly 8.5 million more people than before the crisis. The number of working poor — employed workers in households with an annual income below the poverty threshold — is growing, and austerity is going to make things much worse in the future.

Critics of austerity argue that it is absurd and counterproductive, but European leaders disagree. During the latest round of negotiations with Greece Angela Merkel argued: “This is not about several billion Euros—this is fundamentally about how the EU can stay competitive in the world.” There is some truth in this. What Merkel does not mention is that workers in Europe, in Europe’s South in particular, increasingly compete with workers in the Global South. Continue reading Working into poverty?

Is this the end of the socialist dream in Venezuela?

Written by Iñaki Sagarzazu.

An alliance of centre-left, centrist and right-wing opposition parties has scored a resounding victory in Venezuela’s parliamentary elections – marking a seismic shift for the country.

Breaking two decades of dominance by the socialist government, the Democratic Unity alliance has won the vast majority of seats, after promising economic and social change.

The government will stay on because president Nicolas Maduro holds executive power, but the sizeable majority won by the opposition is a strong signal that a recall referendum could take place in 2016. Continue reading Is this the end of the socialist dream in Venezuela?

Axis of Evil or Access to Diesel? Reflections on the Iraq War

By Andreas Bieler.

How can we understand the dynamics underlying the Iraq war in 2003? My latest article with Adam David Morton, entitled ‘Axis of Evil or Access to Diesel? Spaces of New Imperialism and the Iraq War’ is now published in the journal Historical Materialism and attempts to address this question.

In our analysis, we argue that the Iraq war did not simply reflect the unitary decision by the U.S. state to assert its interests in the global political economy, nor was it the result of co-operation by a group of allied capitalist countries to secure access to oil in the Middle East. Equally, we reject the notion that the use of military force reflected the interests of an emerging transnational state. Following on from our International Studies Quarterly article and in contrast to the above positions, our main focus is to assert the philosophy of internal relations as the hallmark of historical materialism. Thus, transnational capital is not understood as externally related to states, engaged in competition over authority in the global economy. Instead our focus shifts to class struggles over the extent to which the interests of transnational capital have become internalised or not within concrete forms of state and here in particular the U.S. form of state.

Continue reading Axis of Evil or Access to Diesel? Reflections on the Iraq War

Class struggle in times of crisis: conceptualising agency of resistance.

By Andreas Bieler.

While movements of resistance against neo-liberal globalization have increasingly become subject of analysis, there is little agreement on how to conceptualize such agency. In my recent article Class struggle in times of crisis: conceptualising agency of resistance, published in the on-line, open access academic journal Spectrum: Journal of Global Studies, I argue that a historical materialist analysis is necessary to capture the historical specificity of capitalism (see also Analysing exploitation and resistance). Nevertheless, a focus on class struggle does not imply a reductionist, economic determinist account.

Continue reading Class struggle in times of crisis: conceptualising agency of resistance.

The Opportunities of Sovereign Credit Ratings

By David Gill

Sovereign credit ratings play an important role in the global economy. The potential advantages of a strong rating are widely known: the ability to borrow more money, on better terms. And the downsides of a poor one—less credit, higher costs—are equally so. Yet the path to a top rating is less clear. Economists and political scientists have spent decades trying to understand how governments can secure better sovereign credit ratings, principally by focusing on a handful of economic indicators, such as a country’s GDP per capita, real GDP growth, default history, and the like. Such indicators, however, are incomplete guides on their own. The “big three” credit rating agencies—Fitch Ratings, Standard and Poor’s, and Moody’s Investors Service—rely on more than quantitative factors, which is why their conclusions about the same numbers sometimes differ.

Indeed, that fact, combined with some recent damaging downgrades, has led some experts to conclude that the ratings process is too subjective or ill-thought out and that political leaders should dismiss credit ratings agencies as a result. But adopting such an approach risks missing a valuable opportunity. Subjectivity, after all, is a two-way street, since it can work in a country’s favor as well as to its disadvantage. Governments that understand how ratings are made can take steps to hold or improve their position; those that don’t may end up more vulnerable. And with new rating agencies now emerging alongside the old guard, knowing the rules of the game matters more than ever.

Continue reading The Opportunities of Sovereign Credit Ratings

The Greek government, EU policy constraints, and the tension between responsiveness and responsibility

By Kyriaki Nanou

In January 2015, after failure to agree on the nomination of a president, national elections were held in Greece – a country at the eye of the storm of the Eurozone crisis. The main opponents were New Democracy, the main party in the governing coalition arguing in favour of the necessity of the memorandum agreements and the continuation of the reforms as part of the external support package; and, on the other side, SYRIZA, arguing that there is a different way for Greece to exit the crisis – involving renegotiation of the the terms of the bailout agreements and not undertaking all of the reform measures. Together with its governing partners, New Democracy stressed ‘responsibility’ and argued that Greece had no other way out of this crisis but to implement all of the austerity measures, which it argued had already improved the state of the economy, and to satisfy external creditors and EU partners. Their campaign was focused on a rightist agenda underlying the dangers of deviating from the implementation of the painful reforms, which had the potential of upsetting the creditors, stopping the transfer of further payments and leading to a potential ‘Grexit’ from the euro. On the other hand, SYRIZA emphasised ‘responsiveness’ and argued that politicians should listen to the needs and concerns of Greek people, who were disillusioned with austerity politics. It had a leftist agenda that aimed to provide hope to the Greek electorate by promising measures that would ease the burden of austerity – by either not implementing planned reforms or by changing or reversing some of the reforms implemented by the previous government.

Continue reading The Greek government, EU policy constraints, and the tension between responsiveness and responsibility

The End of Cheap Labour in China?

By Andreas Bieler

China’s developmental strategy has been based on cheap labour, foreign direct investment (FDI) and the assembling of pre-fabricated parts for export to North American and European markets. This export-oriented growth strategy in low value added production sectors has, however, come under pressure as a result of the global economic crisis and a decline in global demand. In his presentation at Nottingham University on 17 February, jointly hosted by theSchool of Contemporary Chinese Studies and the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice, Florian Butollo from Jena University in Germany investigated whether China’s attempts at industrial upgrading in response to the crisis have also resulted in ‘social upgrading’ for its workforce.

Continue reading The End of Cheap Labour in China?

The Enduring Relevance of Rosa Luxemburg

By Andreas Bieler 

The work of Rosa Luxemburg has received renewed attention in recent years. To celebrate the centenary anniversary of her seminal book The Accumulation of Capital in 2013, a collective of colleagues from within the Marxism Reading Group of the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice (CSSGJ) at Nottingham University have written the article ‘The Enduring Relevance of Rosa Luxemburg’s The Accumulation of Capital’, which has now been published online by the Journal of International Relations and Development. In this blog post, I will present some of the key findings of the article.

First published in 1913, The Accumulation of Capital represents Rosa Luxemburg’s quintessential contribution to Marxism and an exceptional, yet equally controversial, ‘modification’ to Marx’s original scheme of accumulation. Built on a cordial critique of Marx’s model of expanded reproduction, Luxemburg’s intervention offers not only a new framework to study capitalist economic development, but also a historical and political compass with which the expansion of capitalist social relations through colonialism and imperialism can be analysed.

Continue reading The Enduring Relevance of Rosa Luxemburg