Cover Image
close this bookMaldevelopment - Anatomy of a Global Failure (United Nations University)
close this folder3. The crisis of state
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentNation-state and the ideology of nation in crisis'
View the documentEthnicity: myth and reality
View the documentThe cultural dimension of development in Africa and the third world
View the documentThe cultural dimension: the example of the crisis in the arab world today - the end of the Nahda?7
View the documentNew forms of the social movement
View the documentNotes


An economic analysis of the failure of development confined to the narrow framework of economic science can offer only very limited results. Economic science relies on a threadbare concept of 'agents of economic change', limited to the abstract categories of the 'dynamic entrepreneur', the 'consumer' end when needs must, the state, but in the latter instance in a cut-down version of the 'economic functions of the state' (economic legislation and regulation). Political economy looks wider by taking into account the collective agents in the social classes and the state perceived less narrowly. But this is far from being enough. For the whole problematic of peripheral capitalism raises the theory of 'subjects of historical change' and challenges the simplifications drawn by extrapolation from European experience. It has been possible to identify a series of questions about the state, the nation and ethnicity, the character of the categories called social classes in classical Marxism, the manifestations of social movement and culture. These issues may be summarized as follows:

(1) Is the state a historical subject in itself, overriding social classes? In the currently existing centres of capitalism, the state does appear to be so. But here a concomitance can be observed between the active role played by the states in the inter-state -primarily European - world system (at the level of national economic policies as well as diplomacy) and the crystallization of that other social reality known as 'nation'. It looks very much as if this concomitance is missing in the Third World and in Africa particularly, to the advantage of so-called 'ethnic' forms otherwise defined and undoubtedly diverse. Is the result a series of particular handicaps interfering with the state's manifestation as an active historical subject? What is the role of nationalist ideologies in this context?

(2) Transnationalization sets limitations on the state. To such an extent that the state may nowadays seem powerless against the forces operating in a worldwide economic environment, in the developed centres and a fortiori in the vulnerable peripheries. What is the character of this contradiction and how are the 'adjustments" forced by transnationalization made? Are these 'adjustments' similar or different for the developed and the underdeveloped societies?

(3) The social movement in modern history has appeared in two principal shapes: organization of so-called 'crass struggle' (particularly of the working class - under trade union and partisan form - and of some peasantries), and organization of the so-called 'national struggle' (notably the national liberation movement in Africa and Asia). These two principal organizational forms of social movement seem to have run aground, whereas the wind seems to be in the sails of other social forms, whether trans-class (the feminist movement for example) or with an ethnic, religious, linguistic or provincial basis. To what extent does this evolution call in issue the concepts of classical Marxism defining social classes as subjects of history?

(4) Study of the cultural aspect of societies has scarcely been brought into any theory of global social change. The implied hypothesis here was that economic change makes itself felt and thus causes a subsequent 'cultural adaptation'. It is a hypothesis that must be questioned.

We shall go on to consider some of these issues in order to highlight the specific character of the African situation.

Our era is certainly characterized by an awakening - or reawakening - of collective social identifications other than those attributable to national and class affiliation. Regionalism, linguistic and cultural adherences, 'tribal' or 'ethnic' loyalties, devotion to a religious institution, attachment to local communities, are among the many forms of this awakening. In the West and the East or in the Third World, the catalogue of these 'new' movements, or old ones with a new lease of life, is extensive. These movements are a significant aspect of the crisis of state, and more precisely of nation-state, whether the nation in question has greater or lesser reality or is merely imaginary. This crisis of state must be viewed as a manifestation of the increasing contradiction between the transnationalization of capital (and behind this of the economic life of all countries in the capitalist world) and the persistence of the state system as the exclusive political pattern in the world. The question that arises here is: if capital is becoming more international, why do the peoples not respond with more internationalism, or by asserting their class identity? Why, instead of class consciousness coming to the fore over the diversity of 'alternative' aspects of social reality, does this consciousness lose ground to 'racial', 'ethnic' or religious identity?

It is certainly not our aim to offer a reply to the question, but more modestly to contribute to clarifying the analysis through offering an ideological critique of two of the main social 'realities' at issue: nation (or the supposed nation) and ethnicity (or the supposed ethnicity).

The state system in which we live is a system of genuine states or those allegedly being built, to such a degree that in some languages, such as English, the distinction between the two concepts is diminished by synonymous usage of the two expressions: the United Nations body is in fact an organization of states. The 'ethnicity' concept which must in turn be open to question - is advanced by opponents of the nation-state.

The first half of the question (the nation state and the ideology of the nation in crisis) revolves around what we believe to be the main issue, the crisis of the modern state as a consequence of the increasing worldwide expansion of capital. This general crisis affecting even states outside the capitalist system (the socialist countries) hits the states of the periphery more severely than those of the centre. There are two reasons for this. The lesser reason is that the 'national question', in the sense of the nation we know as the creation of the central capitalist state, is a social reality of a particular time and space. It is the product of particular historical circumstances and this crystallization has given rise to an ideological frame, and more seriously to the export of this ideology on a world scale, including to the peripheries of the system where circumstances did not allow the nation to take shape. The greater reason is these very (economic and political) circumstances preventing the crystallization of the autocentric (and potentially national) bourgeois state at the periphery. The current phase, typified by the offensive of transnational capital to 'recompradorize' the states of the periphery and dismantle the attempts at crystallization that were underway in the previous phase, makes all too apparent the character of these unfavourable historical 'conditions'. The threat to the Third World peoples of unlimited fragmentation (on ethnic or pseudo-ethnic bases, or when the national factor is wanting or unsound) exactly in line with the aims of compradorization, can be countered only by a dual objective: organization into states as large and powerful as possible (while continuing to respect diversity) end 'delinking'.

The second half of the question (ethnicity: myth and reality) complements the analysis by considering forms of social organization in the absence of the bourgeois nation. Pre-capitalist forms that beyond their variety sometimes establish a so-called 'ethnic' crystallization but more often prevent it. Peripheral, especially colonial, forms of capitalism that are ranged about the objective of dominant capital (unity through destruction) and are the origin of the ideological illusions of ethnicity. We go on to consider the cultural aspects of the problem and their effects on the social movement.

Nation-state and the ideology of nation in crisis'

Our political vocabulary deploys the term 'nation' in a sense that presupposes certain articulations between this true or supposed reality and other realities the state, the world system of states, the economy and social classes. We inherit these concepts and their articulation in a system of various social theories developed out of the historical experience of 19th century Europe, in the shape of bourgeois nationalist theories or historical Marxism.

The 19th century in Europe remains an epoch central to our modern history. During this century the essential realities that constitute the framework of the contemporary world evolved, through decisive struggles of every kind - wars, revolutions, economic, social, political and cultural upheavals. Among the realities taking shape through three centuries of gentle ripening should certainly be included the nation-state and the worldwide capitalist system, as well as the opposition of modern social classes.

Two theoretical entities have been produced in this framework, in counterpoint to one another. Marxism and the theory of class struggle on the one hand, nationalism and the theory of integration of classes into the bourgeois democratic nation-state on the other. Both take into account numerous aspects of the immediate reality, characterized at one and the same time by social struggles going as far as revolution and by struggles between nation-states going as far as war. The one and the other purport to be effective instruments to inspire strategies of action by the protagonists who are the subjects of history and see themselves as such.

The real effectiveness of political strategies nevertheless depends on a specific conjuncture defined by a correlation - that seems to us now to have been limited in time and space - between the following elements: first, correlation between the state and another social reality, the nation; second, the dominant position of the bourgeois national states thus constituted in the world capitalist system, their 'central' (as opposed to peripheral) character in our conceptual scheme; third, a certain level of worldwide expansion of the capitalist system that makes 'autocentric' economic units, interdependent but enjoying a high degree of autonomy with respect to one another, central partners.

It can be seen why this conjuncture gives the policies inspired by the theories under consideration a real effectiveness. First, there is a possible field of action for 'national' economic policy, that is applied to a given territory, delineated by frontiers and governed by a single state power. The instruments of this policy-centralized national monetary system, customs regulations, network of physical infrastructure of transport and communications, unifying education around a 'national' language, unified system of administration, and so forth have a certain autonomy in relation to the 'constraints' of the worldwide economy. The relations of class - however conflictive - are regulated within and by the national state. There is in this sense an average price for national labour power, determined by history and internal class relations, a national system of prices that reflect the decisive social relations. In this sense too the 'law of value' has a national dimension. Nations and classes - workers, bourgeois, peasants - are the effective subjects of history. It is clearly understood that there is no Wall of China to cut these national systems off from the world system they constitute. Internal social relations depend in part on the positions held by the national states in question in the world hierarchy. All of them are 'central' capitalist economies although unequally competitive. But they can improve this by coherent national policies, if social relations permit. This effectiveness in turn facilitates social compromise and, without in any way 'abolishing class struggle', contains the conflicts within precise boundaries. In all of this complex reality, the conflicts between social classes and conflicts of competing states lead to a certain degree of balance. Even the size of these nations seems to tee 'optimum': 30 million citizens for the Britain. France and Germany of the period is the right size for the industry of the time.

In this conjuncture what is the role of the 'rational' reality we have yet to describe? Ideology a posterior) gives an autonomous dimension to national reality by attributing to it pre-existence to the state, which seems debatable to us. For the European bourgeoisie, from the Renaissance to the century of the Enlightenment, seems more cosmopolitan than narrowly national. Moreover, it divides its loyalties among several legitimacies, religous, or philosophical beliefs, friendships still feudal but also at the service of the absolutist monarchical state when it seemed reasonable. It is still largely mobile, at ease in the embrace of Christianity. As for the peasant population, it is more loyal to soil and province than to the future nation whose culture nor even yet really language it shares. But the state of the absolute monarchy gradually creates the nation, a task to be rounded off by bourgeois democracy. Doubtless this creation does not come from nowhere. But the ethno-linguistic collections of provinces subject to the same ruler are not 'naturally' destined to become the modern nations of Europe; it is no more than a possibility. The nation is really a product of capitalism, as moreover Marxism along with conventional sociology acknowledges for the reason that in Europe feudalism, from which capitalism emerged, took no note of the nation and knew only Christianity and the fief. It was, moreover, a product largely shaped by the sword and the fire - much as by the market - assimilating and compelling, destroying languages and dialects, and nearly always imperfect. A product also sometimes curiously aborted - when capitalist development hangs fire - or distorted by the skew of chance conjunction between local interests, ideological (especially religious) conflicts and international balances. Only in the 19th century did the great melting pot, new industry calling for the diffusion of a national language, and the - slow progression of Western electoral democracy really define nations. But this is in the framework of pre-existing states.

It is true that the strength of the model of the predecessors inspires those who come after. As there already exists an English, and a French nation, the German nation and the Italian nation assign themselves the task of creating themselves by creating their state. The political cunning of the promoters will be in finding social alliances and compromises that mobilize the forces in this direction.

The linguistic dimension acquires exceptional force in the European nation-states, that may even constitute the essence of the national factor as a new social factor. Certainly the material base of this reality is constituted by autocentric capitalist construction, relatively autonomous within the interdependence of the global system. But the national language to some extent constitutes its active superstructure, which operates effectively in its reproduction. Language as a means of unification is a relatively modern phenomenon. In the pre-capitalist world, local languages, of peasant and regional currency, coexist alongside an official language of religion and of the state, whose penetration is incomplete at best. Education and modern democracy turn the national language into an instrument that in the end defines the nation itself, its frontiers, its mass culture. It is attributed a mysterious power of transmitting a 'national culture'. The virtues hitherto invested in the feudal lord, the absolute monarch, the men of God, the true 'proprietors' of populations and human communities, are transferred by democracy and its ideology to the entire nation. The literature of 'national identify' that nourished in the 19th century testifies to this transfer. The slide into jingoism, and indeed racism, is inherent to it.

On a closer examination, however, it would appear that this clear correlation limited in time to the 19th century is even more limited in space. Around these few 'model' nation-states, the world of the capitalist system, structured by different pasts that lose their legitimacy and effectiveness, remains inchoate and its destiny is uncertain and confused.

For what concerns us, namely identification of the historical subjects and eventual establishment of the constituent nations of the world capitalist system, attention must be given to the state. First the state in its relations to continually expanding capitalist reproduction. And at this level, there is no state but the central, that is one that controls external relations and subjects them to the logic of autocentric accumulation. Elsewhere there are only 'countries' administered from outside as colonies and semi-colonies, or ostensibly independent but powerless not only to influence the exterior according to their own needs but even to avoid the tides and influence from the exterior. But attention must in fairness be given to the 'doubtful cases', those that until the present have not veered to one side or the other, the 'semi-peripheries'. Here the destiny of the state will determine the rest.

The European semi-peripheries - the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires - were to veer in the direction of central evolution, but not without difficulty. The start to the constitution of a unified capitalist market, albeit initially under the influence of external penetration, represented a challenge to the old dynastic state. The challenge in the early stages would take the form of a renovation-modernization that was far from hesitant and made giant strides: education, constitutional reform (the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy and petty parliamentarianism), social reform (abolition of serfdom in Russia) among others. But here, the nationalist ideology, largely imported along with the rest, was to prove as much a handicap as a driving force. It was to end in the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian empire, putting the small inheritor states at risk of being peripheralized until their later incorporation into the Soviet empire. And if the Russian empire survives - with and even thanks to the Bolshevik revolution - even at the cost of the loss of Poland and Finland, doubtless it is in great measure because the Russian nation is predominant there.

It is one those phenomema of discrepancy that constitute the hypothesis of this reflection. For it cannot be said that each of the bourgeoisies, assuming their existence Czech, Slovak, Polish, Hungarian, Slovene, Croat, German needed 'its' state end 'ifs' market. It cannot be said that they would have been unable to constitute segments of a single bourgeoisie on the basis of a single integrated market. It cannot be said that the mass of the peasant population would have preferred to be exploited by their own 'rational' bourgeoisie. The polarization of the conflict around language is typical, largely by projection of the ideology attached to the new role of language in the developed European West. The complex interplay of real and potential social conflicts led the political forces - social democratic parties of the Second International, peasant parties, parties of the bourgeois revival - to theorize, justify propose endless strategies that finally all fell away before the myth of the linguistically unified nation-state, as a reproduction of the 'mode!'.

The result is in any case rather mediocre. The inheritor states are the confirmation of incapable local bourgeois hegemonies that quickly fell into the lap of Berlin or Paris. The potential for capitalist development was thrown away and economic stagnation became a marked characteristic. With the absence of bourgeois democracy compensated for by talk of jingoistic mobilization against a neighbour, the affair was settled - oddly by the regimes put into place by the Red Army in the aftermath of the defeat of fascism - by the generalized expulsion of minorities! Since then the system inspired and dictated by the Soviet model and, with the exception of Yugoslavia, integrated into the Soviet empire, has inaugurated a new history. Not everything in this new history is negative and it cannot be said that the fate of the peoples of the region would have been better in any other way and that they would then have escaped their peripheralization. But, if it is possible to imagine, the unrealized potentialities, the maintenance and renewal of the ancient empire - and nowadays a kind of Hungary-Yugoslavia (which are not doing so badly in the present-day world) at the scale of the entire region - would perhaps have allowed more room for manoeuvre for the plans for independence and democracy.

Russia would have been inaugurated with more talent, and the invention of Bolshevism is no smell thing in the history of humankind. That it has little to do with socialism, that it has given Russification a power that no Western colonization has ever had (precisely through what, despite everything, is the progressive dimension of the Soviet renewal) is not the issue.

Further to the south and east is the world that was not to escape peripheralization. First the centres carve out colonial empires there. Some regions have this status from the mercantilist period - the British and Dutch Indies, the Philippines. Other fall to the imperialist scramble for Africa at the end of the 1 9th century. The states that retain formal independence - China, the Ottoman Empire, Persia - are in reality 'semi-colonies'. At the level of the economic base, there is no mystery: the peripheralization is the systematic work of colonial administrations or the inevitable result of the drift by states whose sovereigns expect no more than to survive from week to week. But at the level of the superstructure, things are not so one-dimensionally uniform. Here the past is a weightier encumbrance. And it is in this regard that the most outlandish simplifications and most Eurocentric projections have flourished. As the nation in Europe is the historical product of capitalism and unknown in feudal times, in the name of Eurocentrism the possibility is denied of an analogous social factor elsewhere, for periods that can only be imagined as 'feudal' as well. Elsewhere, we have pronounced on this very point and attempted to describe the tribute-paying mode in its non-feudal Asian and African forms. A phenomenon, whose similarity with the previous national phenomenon cannot escape notice, often appears when a complete and advanced form of this tribute-paying mode is characteristic of the society. Linguistic phenomena similar to those that Europe would not develop until the capitalist epoch would also testify to this similarity, quite clearly in China and Egypt, in part at least in India and at certain epochs of Arab history.

Attention must be paid to the regions and states whose fate is not determined at the moment of European irruption into their area. Was China also on the point of inventing capitalism? Would it have strengthened the Chinese nation too, but there on the basis of a substratum already present? There are indications of this. Is it this maturity that has prevented worse: disintegration? Or is it the Confucian bonding and the sheer size of the continent that made the conqueror hesitate? But India did not dismay either Dupleix or the East India Company. It still seems that the nation-state, despite its decline, and with hindsight here, was the historical subject. It provided the framework - national is the only way to describe it - in which the historical subjects that constitute classes face one another under the successive hegemonies of the heavenly aristocracy and bureaucracy, then the bourgeoisie, and in the end under a peasant revolution led by the communist party, to regulate the conditions of internal transformation and external relations.

India, too, was pregnant with a capitalist development that Marx doubtless did not expect and whose reality has been shown by Ramkrishna Mukherjee.2 The disappearance of the Indian state, perhaps merely the fruit of a passing conjuncture, to the benefit of colonialism, has nevertheless had longstanding, irreversible effects in the fields of national and statist construction. Indian unity is not, it must quickly be added, a product of British colonization, and its maintenance after independence is not the expression of the will of the political liberation movement without objective foundations. Hinduism certainly supplies a real common denominator; is not the proof of this that unitary efforts were to fail outside its area of dominance, in the Islamized regions? But this common denominator also operates for a family of a dozen linguistically related great nations, which includes most of the peoples of the sub-continent. Here, unification of the capitalist market is not called in question by the will of the bourgeoisies of these various nations to break up the new state to their benefit, as was the case in central and eastern Europe. Is it because the ideology of the nation-state had not penetrated into this part of the world less clouded by the West-European model than Austro-Hungary and the Balkans were?

The Ottoman state and the Egyptian state also provide food for thought. The ripening of capitalist relations is evident in the Balkans and in Rumelia, in Egypt and Syria. The state that superimposed itself over all the component populations - Arab and Turkish Muslims, Greek Christians, slaves and Armenians - was not 'naturally' en obstacle to this ripening. Its incapacity to withstand the forays of foreign capital would in the end rob it of its legitimacy. But there too, as in central Europe, the proof would be provided by the history that the inheritor states would offer scarcely more effective resistance. It was therefore possible to envisage another kind of doubtless more effective response, modernization within an Ottoman framework that had become lay and pluri-national. This is not a pipe dream. History, written after the event by the Balkans peoples, the Arabs and the Turks, suggests that the desire for 'national independence' of the populations (or bourgeoisies?) was irrepressible. That is not obvious. In the Balkans perhaps, decadent Muslim fanaticism, combined with active British, Austrian and Russian intervention strengthened the transfer of the ideology of the small nation-state to the Greek, Albanian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Romanian peoples. The real resonance of this ideology remains a matter of debate, as is shown by the lack of interest shown in it by the 'Greek bourgeoisie of the exterior'.3

In the Arab part of the empire, the Ottomans did not recruit solely from Muslim reaction. Intellectual bearers of the Arab national renaissance in Syria and Egypt defended Ottoman unity, not only as a tactical shield against the Europeans, but also, sometimes because, with astounding perspicacity, they believed the break-up would still further weaken the possibilities of an effective renewal. Is it known that the Arab and Muslim intellectuals defended the thesis of a laicist state (defended the Christians in the Balkans and Armenia against Turkish oppression) and a pluri-national state, and kept their distance from the Khalifate? Here, as in Inida, the European model of the nation-state had only limited appeal. Unhappily this appeal would be great in the decisive sector of the young Turks and the secret organization for 'Unify and Progress' which, taking the initiative for the creation of a then artificial 'Turkish' perspective, would begin what was to be completed by the defeat of 1918 and the Kemalist revolution. In an even more tragic version of central Europe, this option would end in making Turkey the last 'lumper-proletarian' wagon in a Europe that would repulse it. In a necessary echo, and in the face of the deplorable behaviour of the Arabs of the Mashreq in the 1914-18 War, the Egyptian liberal bourgeoisie rallied round this thesis that was predominant in the inter-war period. This option, later abandoned for a healthy return to Arab Egypt, finds objective foundation in the 'two stage' character of the Arab nation, as I have tried to show in The Arab Nation: Nationalism and Class Struggles.

In the Americas likewise, on a very different historical substratum however, the state operates as an active subject, forging the nation or attempting to do so, with greater or lesser success. In the North its base is provided by the construction of an autocentric economy established from New England to be extended throughout the United States after the settlement of the question of the South. But it did not manage to establish itself in Latin America, despite the early accession to independence. The national superstructure constituted in the US has such peculiar characteristics that one hesitates to speak of nation in the singular, despite the 'purity' and unparalleled success of the capitalist development. Did the two original cultures, petty commodity of New England and slave colonial of the South, fuse? Do they continue side by side? Are they diluted in a new culture that is gradually shaped by massive immigration? Is the racially-based pyramid defining North American society to the present day more or less significant than linguistic uniformity? The insurmounted peripheralization of the economic base in Latin America substantially reduces the extent to which the state has formal existence. All the more since it is a case of a Creole state marginalizing the Indian communities. It is hardly possible to speak of a nation-state except in Mexico when, after the revolution of the 20th century, hispanification of the Indian communities reached a decisive stage. Brazil, however, constitutes one of those oddities of history, where the state - a Portuguese rather than specifically Brazilian state moreover - is able to impose itself,, even without an economic base and, perhaps for a long time, even without a nation. In any case, in this field as in in others in Latin America, the European model remains the sole point of reference and with it the unchallenged ideology of the nation-state.

Actual history has therefore led us through this rapid overview to challenge the ideology of the nation, whether in its bourgeois version (the nation is a pre-existing reality, the ideal state - the nation-state - is founded on it and reveals its potential) or its vulgar Marxist version (capitalism creates nations and generalizes the nation-state form to the entire world). Actual history suggests rather that the state is the active subject that sometimes creates the nation, sometimes 'regenerates' it, but often fails to do either. As actual history further suggests, the significance of the nation-state ideology is that it does not always manifest itself as a progressive active agent in capitalist development but as a deviant influencing its development in a negative direction or slowing down its rate. It is a shining success only in Western Europe, Russia, China, Japan and the US; and the nation-state/autocentric economy correlation is limited in time and space. In those cases the nation became an active historical subject, a framework for the conflicts and compromises between the subjects who, in the final analysis, constitute capitalism's social classes or emerge from it. Elsewhere, whether the economic base remains peripheral or becomes so, whether the state fragments or disappears, whether the potential national constructions emerge or fail to do so, groups and social classes, communities of various kinds and the state confront each other in a play of conflicts that does not permit control of the destiny of the people in question. The true historical subject here is the 'liberation movement' rather than the classes or nation. This liberation movement, described as 'national - such is the potency of the nation-state ideology brings together classes, groups and communities, and assigns them their objectives: independence, 'development' and national construction. It has achieved the first, but generally failed in the essence of the others, certainly by virtue of the class character of its hegemonic component, but also because the nation-state ideology is not as effective as it is believed to be.

The nation-state ideology is, however, so powerful that when, in the aftermath of the Second World War, all the countries of the world were bidding for independence, they constituted a system of would-be nation-states. But at the very moment when the nation-state was being proclaimed everywhere, it was entering a crisis everywhere, even at its centres of origin, a crisis from which there seems no escape.

In the 1945-70 period the worldwide expansion of the capitalist system reached a stage that gave it qualitatively new characteristics. Until the end of the 19th century, the worldwide expansion had merely integrated a certain number of basic products into a market that was still an international rather than a world market. This first step allowed the operation of the laws of value of a national character, within the framework of the constraints operating through international competition, through an embryonic world capitalist law of value. At this stage, the social classes were still essentially national classes, defined by social relations confined to the limits of the state. There was, therefore, a conjunction between the struggles of these classes and the play of politics, which was regulated precisely within the framework of these states. From the end of the 19th century to the Second World War, the internationalization of monopoly capital began in parallel with the international market for basic products. But this stage is marked by the absence of world hegemony, and the monopolies, constituted on the basis of competitor central states, operated in a privileged position in the peripheral regions carved out between the colonial empires and the spheres of influence of these states. The absence of a state or its weakness in these peripheral regions had the effect that social relations confined within the frontiers of central national states could still govern the essential dynamism of capitalist expansion. The principal subjects of history remained the national social classes, even if the working classes among them would henceforth clearly align their strategies within a reformist, or imperialist, perspective. After the Second World War, began the stage of the worldwide expansion of the processes of production themselves through the break-up of systems of production into segments that the so-called 'transnational' form of enterprise would spread through the globe under its control. United States hegemony, even if it is now facing challenge, provided an adequate framework for this transnationalization.

Undoubtedly the global value and employment produced in this way was a modest proportion of the whole, but that is not the issue. It is a fact that the interests invested in these areas of economic activity are those that dominate the system, and determine its evolution by their concentration in the areas of the most advanced technological progress, and are in short the typical new forms of contemporary capitalism. Is it not the case that nearly half of world trade is now made up of internal transfers to the transnationals? And the relative mass of international capital flows of direct interest to these sectors of activity is undoubtedly at least as significant within the world capital market. For the first time, too, we see social classes taking on a world dimension; white-collar workers are employed by IBM in the US, Germany, Senegal. Morocco. Brazil and Indonesia: blue-collar workers make parts for or assemble such and such make of motor-car in a score of countries, and so on. A single world labour force has been constituted; the world dimension of the law of value wins over the local dimensions. This reality finds its obvious reflection in economistic discourse: the constraint of competitiveness on a world scale is an arresting theme of the discourse of governors of the right or the left: it is presented as an inescapable and unavoidable fact, and to ignore it is to turn one's back on 'progress', etc. But by this token, the state - national or not forfeits its effectiveness as the locus for drawing up the strategies to control capitalist expansion or modulate it, As there is no planetary state, and while US hegemony that has partly fulfilled this role is itself in crisis, while the world institutions (IMF,, and so forth) are embryonic, while the political games (elections, for example) are still confined to the state systems, the correlation between class conflicts and compromises on one side and politics on the other has vanished.

But this general crisis does not have the same impact on the various components of the world system,

a) The developed capitalist centres - the United States, Europe and Japan - do not have the essence of their advantages threatened by this evolution. The US enjoys the relative advantage of political and national homogeneity on the scale of a continent; Japan the advantage of national unity, but on the scale of a more average-sized country, and furthermore one poor in natural resources and confronted with neighbours which could threaten its security. Europe is handicapped by its historical legacy. It had been the greatest beneficiary of transnationalization in the first phase - in the 1950s and 1960s when a decisive role was played in capitalist expansion of its fringes (Italy, Spain) and modernization of its centres (Germany especially, and France). The European construction is ambivalent. It was presented by its promoters as the means of establishing a force capable of autonomy in regard to the United States and Japan, but it has also been the framework for transatlanticism.

The effects of worldwide expansion on the developed centres must be considered in the light of the crisis of state and politics it has created. The state is no longer the effective instrument it was, even in the US and Japan, and a fortiori in a divided Europe. The renewal of ultra-liberal, anti-state ideologies is a response of surrender to this decline. But at a stroke, the scope of politics is annulled. The seeds of this erasure of the sense of political choice are not new. The dominant imperialist position had long since created conditions for the aims of the social compromise. But it was a national compromise, that is, its terms depended on internal social relations (capital working-class middle strata). Voting for left or right, in these circumstances, implementing a reformist and Keynesian policy, or choosing austerity, unemployment and an attack on social privilege, were significantly different alternative choices. They were no longer so once the society accepted the notion of the constraint of 'competition on a world scale'. The political forces that engaged in electoral battle drew together in the consciousness of the narrowing of the gap between them: their tactics tended even to reduce the gap to a minimum. To win the votes of the 'centre' one sought to speak in terms as close as possible to those of the opponent. The role of social classes as historical subjects was obscured.

The ineffectiveness of politics does, however, create an uneasy feeling. The history of the United States, again in advance of that of Europe, has shown how this vacuum may be filled by a combination of permanent elements (do not racism and religious and social side-tracks serve a useful purpose in this stability?) and conjunctural coalitions of interests (professional, local, and so on, working through lobbies). Are there not indications of similar phenomena appearing in Europe?

Worldwide expansion has also entailed, for the first time, the beginnings of a pluri-national working class within the very centres of developed capitalism. Migration is of course not a new phenomenon. But the great migrations that populated America came from capitalist centres in formation. In the countries of reception, assimilation was the rule - except of course for the slaves brought by force. France, likewise a country of immigration, readily assimilated Poles, Spaniards and Italians. The new migrations come from the periphery. They have already changed the composition of the working class in the centres and represent very large minorities in the United States (Latin Americans) and in Europe (Africans, Asians and West Indians).

The optimists nevertheless stress the appearance of 'new movements' bringing new social forces into play, perhaps even new historical subjects capable of bringing to life the prospect of a new - socialist - society on the basis of objective contemporary reality. It is far from our intention to underestimate these new trends. Beyond the conjunctures aroused by the emergence of issues evaded by the traditional organizations or by the defection from this same kind of organization (parties, trade unions), some movements indicate the emergence of a far-reaching maturity: the feminist movement, the ecological and local democracy movements, the ideological currents concerned with the reorganization of labour and the critique of commodity alienation, among others. All these movements are largely trans-class, with a strong component in the new middle classes.

Is this a case of the emergence of new historical subjects? What social changes do they offer? Do these changes come within the potential evolution of capitalism and notably the maintenance of the centres/peripheries imbalance? Can they, and under what circumstances, initiate internal socialist development and North-South relations conducive to progressive transformation of the world system? What articulation with the new functions of the state does this potential demand?

The most advanced proposals and analyses in these areas call for a political restructuring of these nascent forces around the following four axes: first, a model of 'alternative development' based on expanding the scope for non-commodity and self-management activities; second, rejection of blind surrender to the demands of international competitiveness, in short, delinking to restore the lost autonomy to the national state: third, revision, albeit by regions, of North-South relations intended to strengthen the national autonomy of the partners and widen the scope for the popular movement, the foundation of a new internationalism; and fourth, a pacifist approach to East-West relations, especially to broaden the interaction of the two Europes and provide scope to the East for democratization and progress.

All that has our entire and unhesitating support. The programme defines for the North what we mean by delinking.

But it must be noted that there is no sign of this structuring in the foreseeable future. The large organizations are deaf and the accepted mode of political regulation impenetrable. The tendency is therefore for these forces to be marginalized or to be incorporated into the system. The model of 'cantonization' of social and political life permits this absorption to the benefit of capital, and it is the latter that remains the sole dominant force trampling on regional autonomies, and absurd votes on constantly recurring minor issues, and even the progressive evolution of customs, and so forth.

Of course, the future is unpredictable, as all these prospective arguments suppose that the stability of the system is not challenged either by a worsening of East-West confrontation that might follow Europe's closer adherence to the Atlantic alliance, or by a global financial and economic slump. A crash, panic, protective chain reaction, unpredictable responses to the political plan in case of too rapid a rise in unemployment, are unknowns. But let us say that, if the relations continue in their current state of tension without a slump, an overall aggressive strategy of the North against the South, that has already begun, would be quite compatible with the apparent 'stability' of the system. This evolution would, naturally, dash the hopes placed on the new movements of the North. The future would then depend entirely on the kind of answer made by the societies of the South,

b) Capitalist expansion has directly inverse effects in the centres and in the peripheries of the system: it integrates the societies in the former, founds or eventually reinforces the nation there, but in the latter it disintegrates the society, fragments it, alienates it, and eventually destroys the nation or destroys its potential. This imbalance as to the economic basis of the system seems to us quite essential. It reflects the qualitatively different position of the local bourgeoisies in the local and world system, which is not only a matter of quantitative degree. It is a manifestation of the unequal character of capitalist development and at the origin of objective need to go beyond capitalism in the peripheries.

The question of the state and its relation to the nation and to its social components comes to the forefront of a concrete analysis of the forms of peripheralization. Generally speaking, we are brought back to the proposition supported above, that the formation of nations is limited in time and space and is in no way a 'general' product of capitalism. How many of the Third World states of today bear even a vague resemblance to nation-states? With the exception of pluri-national India, peripheral capitalism in expansion does not operate as a force dictating a bringing together, or fusion, of nearby quasi-nations, neither in Spanish-speaking America nor in the Arab world. Rather the reverse, as one sees in the latter instance, the closer world integration that oil revenues occasioned pushed back pan-Arab prospects. In Africa, the crude form of neo-colonialism has even broken up the former broader colonial groupings. And this offers no advantage of more homogeneous small units: the small African states are as heterogeneous as the big ones. The incapability of opting for unifying national languages and the concomitant and anomalous retention of linguistic duality (the foreign language - English, French or Portuguese - being designated as 'rational', even when it is spoken by only a tiny minority) makes it impossible to speak of nations here.

Moreover, the new stage of worldwide expansion causes the disappearance of the last traces of social classes recognizable by their position as defined in the local social formation. The ruling classes are no more than subordinate and powerless transmission belts for worldwide capital. But the popular classes themselves lose their identity (working class, small peasantry, and so on) to blend into an ill-defined mixture. The very kind of extraverted development underway calls for this 'molecular' form in the new social structure. Can these classes and social groups, fragmented and fragmentary, make the transition from the status of class in itself to a class for itself? This seems to us very unlikely in the absence of a political struggle where the state may be at stake. The mature formation of classes occurs in this framework, when there is a correlation of state, nation, social struggles and political struggles. The non-correlation between state, nation (which is often non-existent), social classes (dispersed and fragmented in the world) cancels out the effectiveness of politics. In our opinion this loss of effectiveness explains the rise of populisms and ideological irrationalities.

These negative factors together explain the success of the recompradorization underway at the level of the Third World as a whole.

This recompradorization is nevertheless bound to clash with the rise of popular movements. It is not surprising that the populist form is confused, and founded on ambivalent ideologies. It is evidence of the broad character of an alliance of classes themselves unsure of their determination, denied their autonomy and consciousness of class for itself. But this is not to say that it is less effective as a force for disintegration of the world order, or that it could not under certain circumstances evolve into positive revolutionary constructions.

It is not our intention here to make 'forecasts' of either phenomenon or to succumb to the often futile exercise of 'scenarios'. We suggest that positive constructions entail the combination of three conditions. First, delinking as we have defined it, that is strict subjection of external relations in all fields to the logic of internal choices without regard to the criteria of world capitalist rationality. Second, political capacity to introduce profound social reforms in an egalitarian direction. The latter is also a precondition for delinking, since the hegemonic classes in situ have no interest in it and a possible consequence of it, since it evidently implies transfers of political hegemony. Delinking has little chance of coming about without reform, and if it occurs conjuncturally it will end up at an impasse. Third, capacity for technological absorption and ingenuity, without which the autonomy of decision that has been won cannot be put into effect. Clearly such a capacity cannot be developed through a few educational tricks; it implies an ideological opening up.

Ideological and political preparation of a response to the offensive of the North against the peoples of the South requires three axes of action.

First, strengthening the unity of the Third World, and its national and regional components. The greatness of Kwame Nkrumah and his call for pan-Africanism, which in his day made some laugh and condemned him to the ferocious hatred of others, can now more than ever before be recognized as a clear-sighted awareness of the frailty of a fragmented Africa.

Second, progress for democracy and respect for collective rights, whether of (for example, ethnic, religious) 'minorities', or of the popular classes (for example, political and trade union rights). The objective need to provide the Third World with great economic, political and military scope, as the sole means of intervening effectively in the contemporary world and winning respect as a genuine partner, entails the renunciation of the narrow ideology of nation as it has been inherited from 19th century Europe. The idea of unification by force from local Prussias and Piedmonts, ignoring regional differences and imposing, even on minorities, linguistic and administrative homogenization, does not correspond to the realities of contemporary Africa and the Third World. The rights of peoples and nations to self-determination, including their right to secession, must be tempered by outlooks sympathetic to the constitution in appropriate forms of great 'multinational' states, democratic and mindful of differences. This is the only way to check-mate the imperialist plans that always aim to divide. In Africa and the Middle East in particular, South Africa and Israel openly plan to 'bantustanize' or 'Lebanonize' to an infinite degree, counting on 'tribes' and 'religious communities' and refusing to see what, beyond their differences, unites the African peoples and the Arab peoples.

Third, strategic consciousness that the peoples of the periphery must be self-reliant. Neither a possible Soviet alliance, still less illusions about Europe, could mitigate shortcomings in the fields of delinking, internal reform and mutual support. With some justification at the tactical level, these alliances and compromises will be of no strategic value until, through the joint efforts of the peoples, the overall world system has been refashioned.

Ethnicity: myth and reality

The ethnic group, no more then 'race' or any other 'non-reality' invented for the purposes is not the basis of social organization of the pre-capitalist worlds.

As variety was the rule here, it is essential to find some criteria of classification to assist an understanding of history. In this area the criteria of development of the forces of production and the character of the corresponding relations of production provide, in the last analysis, the only sensible solution. We suggest a distinction between two basic modes of production: the primitive-communal and tribute-paying modes. The former correspond to the long transition from virtually unknown primitive existence to the great states of the pre-capitalist classes. The tribute-paying mode defines the societies of pre-capitalist societies. On this view the slave-owning particularity is eliminated, for reasons we shall not go into here; even if we replace the 'two paths' ("Western and Asiatic) - or the three, four or five inspired by more or less dogmatic interpretations of Marx's Grundrisse - by a distinction between a complete tribute-paying mode and its incomplete peripheral forms.

This fundamental analysis is not, however, enough, and to take account of actual history it is necessary to define the series of complex social formations that make up the pre-capitalist political societies. In this analysis the role of 'long-distance trade' is essential since, before capitalism it was practically the only way of integrating into a whole, however loosely, the disparate elementary societies. In the complete tribute-paying societies, with statist centralization of surplus is initiated political and exchange activity sufficiently intense to influence the conditions of production and eventually stimulate progress.

The rediscovery of this articulation between production and centralization (or absence thereof) of surplus - long-distance trade - is recent, at least in Marxist circles. But as happens all too often we have gone from one extreme to the other. In the past the thesis of 'primacy of production' was supported, and was a pretext for ignoring long-distance trade and its role in politics. Now, suddenly, as Marxist modes take hold, interest in analysing the productive base is lost and reserved for exchange and political and warfare organization. From Marx we move on to Pirenne, who wrote of nothing else.4

In the reconstruction of pre-capitalist societies, analysis of their character, their dynamic (on the basis of their contradictions), their interaction, or their complications, it is rediscovered now that the ethnic group had no essential place.

There are in fact 'peoples', the most general of terms that does not imply any a priori precise qualification. These peoples are organized in spaces that do not always coincide, for example: space for matrimonial exchanges, for long-distance trade, for eventual centralization of surplus, for political organization, for the eventually centralized states, for mythologies of kinship and origin, for religious beliefs, and space for linguistic communications (it would be possible to make an almost infinite catalogue of the areas defined).

Where is the ethnic group in this multiple reality? Everywhere and nowhere. If by ethnic group is meant a people who 'speak the same language' (even allowing for dialect variations so long as they do not prevent communication), and who obey the same political authority, there are only rarely ethnic groups in the advanced tribute-paying systems (in China and in Egypt). But why then speak of ethnic group? How does it differ from the modern nation? Furthermore - in the mediaeval West or black Africa for example - the surplus is scarcely centralized beyond the elementary constituents of the system (the feudal manor, the village). Part of the surplus is distributed through the long-distance trade. The state scarcely exists, and where it does seem to have formal existence it is without power: neither a state integrating the basic units of production of tribute-paying surplus, nor a state organized by 'warrior-merchants' as masters of long-distance trade. In these systems communal consciousness has several stages, without necessarily going through the stage of 'ethnic' identification: there is the village community and that of the villages included in the same elementary tribute-paying unit and/or close matrimonial ties, there are the broad spaces with vague religious connotation in some cases: Christianity for medieval Europe, for example. But there is no such thing as a Frenchman, or even perhaps a Breton... Is 'provincial' (pseudo-ethnic) consciousness not a later product, of centralized monarchies (who 'crease' the provinces as organizational units in order to control them), whereas the provinces are very like the advanced tribute-paying mode. Language in itself does not necessarily motivate a sense of community. In our age, when the state education system has largely brought together and imposed a 'single language', it is easy to forget that the ancient peoples were often polyglot (see Africa), that according to need they used this or that language, variant or idiom, without being perturbed by 'multiple identity' in the jargon of the modern phenomenon of linguistic chauvinism.

Pre-capitalist organization is not 'homogeneous', even in fractions of the world, a fortiori over great areas. There are nearly always areas of greater population density, development of forces of production, political, cultural and religious organization, and the 'intermediate' areas, with more or less defined dependence on the former. There are also nearly always enclaves that escape the (linguistic, religious, economic or political) homogenization imposed by the rise of great states. Where the area of long-distance trade does not correlate exactly with that of minimum common disposition of power there often emerge people-classes who bridge the gaps the Jews in mediaeval Christianity, the Dioula in West Africa, among others.

We have elsewhere suggested an interpretation of Arab and pre-colonial African history based on the method described above.

In the Arab case, we speak of the quasi-nation superimposing itself on the regional community, founded on centralization and distribution of the surplus provided by the dominant class of warrior-merchants. It was a class at its height (moving from Tangiers to Baghdad without difficulty) strongly unified through, amongst other things, a written language and a religion. It was a quasi-nation and not a nation pure and simple since the means corresponding to the development of the forces of production scarcely touched the peasant masses, especially those cut off by natural barriers (hence the survival of linguistic and religious enclaves) and since the correlation with power, often localized (especially at times of decline in the great trade), was only relative. Unification in the ruling class was, however, strong, hence our description. But this was not an 'Arab ethnic group'; any more than the enclave peoples had an 'ethnic' by the Western mass media, was of no interest to the broad masses; the 'one' people).

The case of the old Sudanic Africa is very similar to that of North Africa. It is known (i) that the great states of Sudanic Africa (Ghana, Mali. Songhai, and so on) were founded on control of the southern edge of trans-Saharan trade, just as those of the north were founded on control of its northern edge; (ii) the ruling class of these states far from being identifiable as a 'dominant ethnic group' was formed on the basis of certain warrior clans, wide open to assimilation (there were professed Malinke or Songhai here just as there were professed Turks in the Ottoman Empire): (iii) that the scope of these dominances, with fluctuating frontiers, was highly heterogeneous, or variable, especially as regards what is now called the 'ethnic' factor. These theses with their critique of 'ethnicity' are gaining ground nowadays. The Atlantic trade ruined the states and classes to the north and south of the Sahara for similar reasons that led to the decline of the Afro-Arab long-distance trade. The Atlantic slave trade completed the destruction and wrought one of the worst abuses recorded in the history of humankind. The formation of black coastal states founded on this trade was not matched by any development of the forces of production, but rather their regression.

Our political thesis on contemporary Arab unity and African unity comes within the pursuit and revival of this history. Arab unity has firm objective roots, reinforced even today despite the impact of a decline dating back several centuries and aggravated by colonization and the emergence of the present-day post-colonial states. It is in our view impossible to defend the long-term interests of the Arab peoples, their liberation from world capitalist domination and the related internal patterns of exploitation, without defending the triple objective of delinking, socialism and the building of a unified Arab nation. African unity, or African regional unities, has perhaps more tender roots, since, among other factors, it does not enjoy the unparalleled instrument represented for the Arab nation by a shared language. It is, however, the only possible response to the challenges of our age. Neither consolidation of the states emerging from colonization, often too tiny to face the problems of our time, nor the break-up desired by the proponents of ethnicity (to be seen in Nigeria of the past and Ethiopia of the present) provide a response to these issues.

The practices of colonial domination have played a decisive part in the 'creation' of 'ethnic realities' in Africa in particular. For the colonizers to dominate vast regions, often disrupted by decline associated with slave trading, they need to 'reorganize' and above all find local intermediaries for the purpose. In the absence of state, a tribute-paying or 'feudal' class, the colonizers invented 'chiefs' and invested them with an authority that was often spurious. But of what could they be chiefs anyway? It was then that poor, amateur anthropologists, who were good military and civilian servitors of colonialism, invented the 'ethnic groups' (wish the frankness of the times the expressions were 'races' or 'tribes'). Professional anthropology made a halfhearted attack on these inventions. The story of these inventions has been told very wittily about the Bambara and the B - and of the Ibo and many others. In the most tragic instances - for the peoples victimized - colonialism linked the invention of ethnicity to the establishment of savage systems of exploitation, nowadays adorned with the description 'traditional'. J. P. Chren has shown how Belgian colonialism and the Catholic church jointly invented the 'Tutsi' and the 'Hutu': curious ethnic groups indistinguishable by language, culture or history, he says. Tutsi feudal domination was thus an entirely Belgian invention, then justified by a baseless theory (the vaunted distinction between Hamites and Bantu).5

Ideologization of ethnicity is a clear example of racism. The ethnic group - or 'race' as it was called - was supposed to exist on its own, prior to the ethnic consciousness of those affected. It defined significant qualities that have sometimes been comically described: for example, the X or the Y are 'bright' or 'stupid', dedicated to agriculture or to abstract thought, according to the needs of the colonial power. But when all is said and done the mass circulation description of 'An Englishman's view of the French' or vice versa is not much better.

The extreme form of the ideology of ethnic racism comes in apartheid South Africa and the bantustanization of the country. The black people of South Africa have, as is well known, riposted with demonstrations of unity and struggle and it might be hoped that their courage and example would give the theoreticians of ethnicity and its unconditional acceptance more pause for thought. Zionist literature showing its 'view' of the Arabs and plans based on this view are no different.

History cannot go backwards. As a consequence, if the ethnic group exists, whether or not as a product of colonialism, it must be acknowledged and taken into account. But does it really exist and if so where? Here variety is the rule and there is no substitute as is said for 'concrete analysis of concrete situations'.

In some instances it would seem clear that ethnic reality - albeit a false reality - is a given of current politics. But on closer examination it can be seen that in most situations this reality is manipulated by clans competing for power within the ruling class. The best examples of this are Zaire. Rwanda and Burundi. In the latter two countries, the quasi-racist contrast of Tutsi and Hutu has been internalized by the ruling classes. Belgian colonialism and the Catholic church favoured in the extreme a 'feudal' domination they themselves created and christened 'Tutsi'. Later the new educated petit-bourgeoisie, hoping to take over from the 'feudals' in the new neo-colonial framework, claimed 'Hutu' ethnicity and, with colonialism and the church showing a change of heart, were supported by imperialism when the post-independence regime was established in Rwanda. As C. Vidal has shown, the 'tine ethnic excuse' was manipulated by the petit-bourgeois clans competing for power. But has 'ethnicity' really been internalized by the great manipulated masses? This remains to be proven. In Katanga (now renamed Shaba) it can hardly be called ethnicity but provincialism, and pluri-ethnic at that. Here it can be seen that provincialism was only the reflection of the backwardness of the petit-bourgeoisie of this province under the extreme domination of large-scale mining capital, in the face of the Kinshasa petit-bourgeoisie, who were radical nationalist in the early 1960s. Here, too, imperialism used the contradiction to try to prolong its domination of Katanga, threatened by the rise of support for Lumumba. Once again with colonial power situated in Kinshasa, imperialism had a change of heart. It should also be observed that this provincialism, speedily dubbed as 'ethic' by the Western mass media, was of no interest to the broad masses; the first workers' organizations in the province laid no claim to ethnicity.

The hydra of ethnicity and ethnic affiliation is always ready to spring up again. In fact it reappears whenever the local ruling class is slipping and when its failure is becoming unbearable. This is clearly the case in Zaire, and perhaps not the only one in Africa. But it is not the case generally. Stable neo-colonial power is founded on a ruling class more or less united at state level: this class largely transcends ethnic grouping. A comprador class as a whole it binds its destiny to the state's and the state is its means of exerting local power. Doubtless the individual components of this class may seek to 'build a following' in their region of origin. For want of power or the desire to use the 'normal' political means (as defence of social interests and conflict over programmes are barred by the widespread system of single pseudo-parties serving comprador development), they may appeal to ethnic or pseudo-ethnic solidarities. This kind of manoeuvre is limited in effect and is only serious in case of global failure and acute conflicts for 'succession' to a broken power, when imperialism has itself decided to switch horses.

The political conclusion to be drawn from this critique of ethnicity is self-evident. It can be summarized in two phrases: respect diversity, and be united despite it.

Respecting diversity means giving up empty talk of a power pretending to be what it is not, asserting 'national interest' (frequently betrayed) by appearing to internalize the ideology of the nation-state. It means accepting that there are social realities, primarily classes (although the authorities often deny their existence in order to deprive them of autonomous expression), but also gender, religious communities, regions and sometimes even ethnic groups. A social reality exists when individuals are conscious of it and desire to express it; no right has higher value than such expression. Scientific analysis may provide an understanding of the objective conditions that create this reality, but it does not justify giving 'prior warrant' to its expression. It is not the duty of thinkers and researchers (any more than of the authorities) to decree whether a reality (ethnic or otherwise) exists or not. That right belongs only to the people and to them alone, those really concerned with the issue.

A recognition of diversity does not mean allowing fragmentation through endless secession. On the contrary it must be the jumping-off point for an appeal to unity. This is the only prospect that is bound to be favourable to the development of the popular forces. But an appeal to unity remains hollow unless it is associated with a denunciation of the global and local system that, while not always and inevitably responsible for all the 'differentiations', is ready to exploit them to break the unity of the popular forces.

The cultural dimension of development in Africa and the third world

For the following we draw on the analysis made by our colleague Faysal Yachir. His text was published with two others. Samir Amin on Islamic ideology and Mario de Andrade and Maria do Ceu Carmoreis on black African ideologies.6 We shall not reiterate the two texts here but return to the issues they raise.

The now widely acknowledged failure of development policies followed in Africa has provoked a renewed interest in culture. Cultural issues, until recently regarded as secondary, are seen by an increasing number of researchers as an essential aspect of social change, or as the fundamental issue in development.

This irruption of culture on to the field of economic and social reflection is primarily a reflection of the recent evolution of African societies, who in some way have spontaneously included cultural issues in the forefront of their concerns. The new acuteness of linguistic questions, the religious revival in its various forms, the demand by minorities for the right to be different, or from another angle the tensions undermining traditional values, status and roles, bear witness to the relevance of questions of individual and collective identity. But this irruption of culture on to the field of economic and social reflection also arises from increasing dissatisfaction with the limitations of analytical force in the conventional approaches, in particular of sociology and development economics.

The reason why researchers studied economics and sociology rather than culture was not that economic and social issues seemed more serious. The explanation is rather the compartmentalization of the social sciences and their largely apologetic nature have led to a separation of culture from economics, with the notion that the former should adapt almost automatically to the latter. Furthermore when culture was explicitly taken into account, it was to stress its negative character as an obstacle to development. If this dichotomous approach is nowadays challenged with renewed vigour and in more and more circles, it is because its methodological premisses prevent account being taken of the increasingly obvious embroilment of culture with economics.

An awareness of the crucial importance of this embroilment of culture with economics is based on two observable intuitions warranting scientific elaboration. The first is that culture in the broad sense deeply affects if not the character of economic systems at least the logic of their operation, and this impact goes further than the influence of 'traditional values' on the diffusion of attitudes of the capitalist kind - the principal theme of functionalist sociology of modernization. The second intuition is that economics, or more precisely economic (and social) changes induce phenomena of acculturation and deculturation, namely change the culture. The relationship between culture and economics is dialectic rather than functionalist or structural.

An interest in the cultural aspect of development is not merely identifying an omission and studying cultural issues after a study of the cultural aspect of economic changes.

An attempt should be made to clear up the interaction or rather embroilment of culture with economics at three distinct levels ideology, society and state. The social changes experienced by the African countries in the past two or three decades in part reflect the impact of policies implemented by the governments or parties, which were - and are - strongly influenced by the great ideological constructs of anti-colonial Africa. Pan-Africanism throughout the continent, sub-Saharan ideologies of negritude and 'consciencism, pan-Islamism and pan-Arabism in Egypt and the Maghreb' fill the ideological horizon for Africa in the 1950-70 period. Whatever the means of justifying government policies, under the label of 'African' and 'Arab' socialisms or whatever the aspirations to dignity and freedom of the broad strata of population, these ideologies have for an era provided the fundamental bench-mark for action by individuals and groups. Research into the cultural aspect of African development must begin with an analysis of these ideologies and their complex relation to social and economic practice. Among the matters we regard as important here is the relationship these ideologies and the perception of development issues have with the corresponding formulation of economic and social strategies.

By contrast nationalism and Marxism can be seen as minority ideologies in Africa, if not as the explicit ideologies of state authorities, at least as mobilizing myths commanding the broad adherence of peoples. In some countries, particularly those that have experienced an armed struggle for national liberation, nationalism and to a lesser extent Marxism have had a strong impact, sometimes outreaching the ideologies of pan-Africanism, negritude or pan-Arabism. Moreover, nationalism and Marxism have often been in competition, before and since political independence, a competition for power and influence, but also in recruitment and programmes. It is possible to discern within this broad framework the history of troubled relations between national movements and communist parties in Africa, but only passing interest has been shown in a comparative analysis of the themes and structure of the nationalist and communist ideologies in the context of African countries, any more than interest has been shown in the way either revealed a continuity and/or break with the more widespread African ideologies. In particular, few researchers have tried to consider the two ideologies from the point of view of their comparative bearing on dependence and under-development in Africa. Finally, for more than a decade. Marxism has become the state ideology in a fair number of African countries and this factor makes it necessary to reconsider the relation between nationalism and communism in modern African history.

The recent evolution of African societies has enriched the gamut of ideologies in three main directions. The religious revival, in its various forms, from new syncretisms to Islamic fundamentalism, is to be seen nearly everywhere in Africa, to the degree that a certain acculturation to the capitalist West proceeds and there are more obvious failures and impasses in the development strategies pursued. In the Arab countries more particularly, fundamentalism appears as a 'cultural' come-back on economics and is the reaction of an indigenous culture threatened by the accelerated Westernization of the society and its elites. This truncated but real Westernization is not supported by an explicit cultural ideology, but increasingly by the vehicle of the language of neo-liberal ideology on a world scale. The contrast between fundamentalism end 'westernization' is not as clear-cut as might be thought from the strict letter of fundamentalist discourse. If fundamentalism emerged as a cultural protest against economics, it has its economic foundation, whereby the circumstances of its growth are largely conditioned by the forms of social and economic change. In the same way, if 'westernization' comes with the drift of development strategies and is conveyed by neo-liberal economic discourse, it has its cultural foundation too, since it has arisen on the basis of the dissolution, albeit incomplete, of established social relations, through the diffusion of commodity and capitalist categories in the society. Finally, possibly in con junction with the ideological duo of fundamentalism and Westernization, new ideologies emerge on particularist bases as part of the process of constituting or consolidating nations. The national formations must be distinguished between those where nationalism has been or is an active ideology, and more recent or weaker formations where the frontiers inherited from colonialism delineate a highly heterogeneous social space in ethnic, linguistic or religious terms. In either case, specific characteristics and particularities are asserted to a varying degree. An analysis of these new ideological phenomena, of very varying degrees of completeness and spread, should be carried out, with the corresponding bid to relate them to the economic and social changes occurring in Africa in the 1970s and 1980s.

A study of the cultural aspect of development should begin from a second point of view, that of relations between culture and society. Three key issues can be identified here, the search for identity, the relation between labour and technology, and the role of intellectuals, which all come back to the interaction between cultural change and economic transformation.

The question of identity, of individuals and groups and broader collectives, is at the very heart of the cultural aspect of development. The economic changes, while bearing the stamp of the pre-eapitalist cultures, alter beliefs, attitudes and behaviour that define the culture as the world of being of the peoples. In the circumstances of dependent capitalism, economic development brings a 'crisis of values' of unprecedented extent and ferocity. In the West and Japan, material development has the support of internal transformation of social and human relations, a transformation achieved over a long period so that there was no break but a complex process of selective repossession of former cultural components within the context of technological and economic development. Modern capitalism is deeply rooted in a truly Western (or Japanese) tradition that it has in turn invigorated, namely in a direction favourable to technological creativity and economic initiative. In Africa, the historical circumstances of capitalist penetration, then expansion, have from the outset had a contrary effect, as economic development confronts local cultures and the transformation of social and human relations is essentially effected from outside, often with the help of ferocious violence. Identity, in this case, rather than being gradually broken down and rebuilt to productive effect, is more or less ferociously destroyed, without putting in place compensatory processes of production of new cultural components, capable in turn of supporting accumulation and innovation. Nowadays the crisis of values in African societies has reached a staggering pitch, because of the development of capitalism and because of the inadequacy, of this development. We find accelerated urbanization, the bringing of a significant proportion of the population into the wage sector, the spread of modern forms of production to the countryside, external competition, along with the break-up of population balance, unemployment and social differentiation tending to disrupt the traditional settings of popular culture, with the latter process assisted by the various Western cultural influences. As in the West, the individual climbs out of the disaggregation of traditional collectives, but here climbs into an atmosphere of confusion. The decomposition of social values has more the effect of changing them than of purely and simply destroying them, for the reason that mentalities are slow to change, but also that the evolution of social and economic structures fails to give rise to a coherent entity. The diffusion of new reference systems, new social criteria and new aspirations occurs at the same time as a revaluation of traditional values of new import. This spontaneous repossession of values in a rapidly changing economic context is purely a holding operation, despite its many facets ranging from the simple dullardness of the collective psychology to metaphysical reactivation before the disenchantment of seeing the real world 'in the icy waters of selfish calculation'.

The crisis of values for the majority is matched by a profound cultural alienation of the social elite, which comes back to the issue of the formation of an intelligentsia. It is of the essence of the cultural problem, since only the intelligentsia is capable of helping a society to become conscious of itself and take on board its own modernization. The direct political role of the intelligentsia in the successful modernizations of the 19th and 20th centuries is open to discussion but its role as social critic has always been crucial. In most African societies the intelligentsia has not yet been able to form itself. The growing number of graduates and intellectual workers on mainly technical duties does not suffice to form an autonomous and critical corps of intellectuals. The circumstances of training the elites in Africa do not relate only to such economic factors as the relative breadth of the production and administration systems to absorb them. They also relate to the cultural remoteness induced by alienation of the elites from their peoples. It is an alienation that comes first from privileged access to the goods and services of the modern economy, but is more affected by the extraverted character of the educational systems. Just as it has not formed an intelligentsia, the intellectual elite has been unable to construct an alternative cultural model to the more or less enticing Western model whose baton it carries. A good indicator of this incapacity is shown by the relative scantiness of autonomous social study by Africans about their condition and future, as a result of cultural, scientific and technical dependence on Western metropolises and their sloth. In one way the cultural alienation of the elites is an aspect of the crisis of values in society, just as the problems of collective identity are aggravated by the alienation of elites and lack of an intelligentsia. Analysis of 'mass culture' should be closely tied to that of 'elite culture'.

The question of technology is at the heart of the problematic of identity, since creativity in all forms and technological creativity in particular, is one of the main manifestations of the identity of peoples. Throughout history communities have stamped their own genius on their physical environment even when the level of development of the forces of production was very low. In this sense, technology is culture, even when the technological underdevelopment of ancient societies frequently corresponds to and nurtures a mythological overdevelopment. In the Western and Japanese societies of today, technological innovation carries the clear imprint of attitudes, tastes, and more broadly, values appropriate to these societies. In the kind of products, the conception of forms, the working methods, the universality of capitalist norms of consumption and production adapts to a certain diversity reflecting national cultures. In Africa, the development of colonial and post-colonial capitalism has broken the unity between culture and technology, thus inhibiting national creativity at the same time as it imposed an alienating technology. If the impact of Western technology on economic structures is often taken into consideration, its impact in the field of culture is much more rarely so. Furthermore if technology is culture, modern Western culture has become technical, in that it tends to reshape itself in the light of the appropriate conditions for technical innovation. But in Africa, the culture has largely lost its former power of control over nature without managing to achieve a new technological creativity. These complex issues, of vital importance for the future, deserve a more detailed treatment, but a beginning can be made with an analysis of particular aspects, for example the problem of language in the policy of technical apprenticeship, the representations, attitudes and behaviour of workers in industry, or the patterns of creativity in the informal sector.

A third axis of possible research is the relation between culture and the state. Two main themes are relevant at this level, the cultural policies implemented by the African states and the political conditions for cultural development.

By cultural policy here is meant properly speaking "cultural policies" that could usefully be subjected to a critical survey, but particularly education, training and scientific research policies, plus policies to encourage national languages. It is obvious that the policies of education and training determine the level and character of educational service and its social catchment. Concern should be shown for the curriculum, language of instruction, literacy campaigns, and to the role of the educational systems, as an instrument of cultural, economic and technical development rather than as a means of social promotion and reproduction.

The issue of national languages deserves particular attention, as the experience of encouraging the use of national languages to the north and south of the Sahara is sufficiently long-established as to lend itself to survey.

The second theme, the political conditions for cultural development, in fact a bearing on democracy. Political democracy is evidently a precondition for the free expression of cultural pluralism, the most commonly found situation in Africa. In general, cultural pluralism, whether on an ethnic, linguistic or religious basis, is repressed by state authorities out of fear of imperilling the attempt to build or consolidate the nation. But such repression often leads to an exacerbation of cultural pluralism as the latter is expressed in clandestine forms even more perilous for national unity.

In a more general way, democratization of political and social life bolsters a dynamic cultural development, since it promotes discussion and encourages scientific, technical, literary and artistic innovation. In many African countries control over the press and media and censorship of literature, theatre, cinema or popular music works to sustain a cultural waste and reproduce dependence on the West. A question mark over the frustration of modern cultural expression in Africa by political authoritarianism is therefore increasingly pertinent.

The cultural dimension: the example of the crisis in the arab world today - the end of the Nahda?7

Think back to the image we could have of the probable or desirable future for the Arab world some 30 years ago, or even in the 19th century. Most Arab thinkers envisaged a modernized society, very similar to Western society in state organization, production and life styles, and an active partner in the modern world. As they saw it, this modernization, far from effacing Arab culture and language or undermining religious beliefs would have the opposite effect of showing their purity by freeing them from the stigmas of the decadent centuries of Ottoman domination. Without illusions as to Europe's hostility to the plan, these Arab thinkers were gradually radicalized along with the national liberation movement, and adopted an anti-imperialist element open to a perception of a more or less socialist future. A quarter of a century ago achievement of this aim seemed to be on the threshold. Nasserism appeared to be transferring the plan from the Egyptian domain to the entire Arab nation. A description of the more recent reality - civil war in Lebanon, the Gulf war. Israel's arrogant expansionism, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and anachronistic inward-looking, abandonment of the aim of Arab unity not only by the authorities but also by the popular masses, the impact of oil, petrodollars and the Gulfs influence - might have seemed a scarcely possible nightmare. What is the explanation of this step backward? What we offer here brings together in part a general analysis of capitalist expansion and in part a particular analysis of the plan of the Arab Nahda. The story is not unique.

Is not the entire modern history of the Third World one of repeated - and always abortive - attempts to establish a bourgeois national state as a partner in the world capitalist system? Time after time the failure leads to a closer integration into the infernal mechanism of worldwide expansion, renewing and widening the inequality inherent to capitalist expansion and showing more clearly the objective necessity for national and popular delinking to launch the long and complex transition 'beyond capitalism'.

Surely the worldwide expansion has reached the point where it dooms the Third World bourgeoisies to abandon their own plan once and for all, and accept 'neo-comprador' subordination. Nabda was the singular ideological and cultural form of the plan for Egypt and the Arab world; its time is past. The shortcomings and limitations of the Nahda, and the particular challenges confronting the region (oil and Zionism) will be discussed within this general framework.

The first manifestations of the modern Arab national plan precede what is generally called Nahda (whose first usage is attributed to Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, in the second half of the 19th century). In Egypt at the end of the 1 8th century, in the era of Ali Bey al-Kabir, these first manifestations were to crystallize in the reign of Mohamed Ali. They had a pan-Arab dimension from the start, clearly expressed by Ibrahim Pasha. From the start too, they expressed a plan of building a modern national state, that is, an objectively bourgeois state. It was, therefore, a bourgeois nationalist plan in the full meaning of the phrase - without any pejorative sense.

The most widespread view of the development of capitalism relies on the thesis that the societies of Africa and Asia before the irruption of colonialism were not capable on their own of transformation into capitalist societies, as they were still at a too backward state or were 'blocked' in the impasse of the notorious 'Asiatic' mode of production. Without repeating here our overall critique of this bizarre Western-centric reduction, we merely recall that in some non-European societies as advanced as Europe on the eve of the capitalist explosion, the struggles under way were precisely over the possible passage to capitalism, but aborted by European expansion which went on to distort the further development of these societies and peripheralize them. Egypt is one such case.

Current historiography treats the Mameluke regime on the eve of the French landing as a despotic and mouldering feudal regime and the country as abandoned to decline for several centuries. Ali Bey al-Kabir's attempt, in the second half of the 18th century, to turn Egypt into a modernized Arab state autonomous in regard to the Ottomans and to Europe, a kind of dress-rehearsal for what Mohamed Ali would do - in part at least - in the first half of the 1 9th century, does not fit into this historiography. It is attributed entirely to the individual's 'personality', that of an 'enlightened despot', along the lines of Peter the Great, just as the later modernization of Egypt was attributed entirely to the will of Pasha Mohamed Ali. But if in the latter instance the Napoleonic model may be cited as inspiration, there is no 'external' explanation for what inspired Ali Bey.

Eighteenth-century Egypt was flourishing, a bustling prelude to the imminent birth of capitalism. The Mamelukes were no longer the basic military cells of a tribute-paying organization and had become a political aristocracy in close symbiosis with the great trade and manufacture of an Egypt close to the European mercantilist model. The main class struggles were between the embryonic grand bourgeoisie (Mameluke aristocracy and great mercantile fortunes) and the numerous plebeian mass of the middle bourgeoisie: notables, artisans and rich peasants. Expansion of the internal and external market had the effect in the Delta of reinforcing private ownership of land, accentuating the differentiation between a (kulak) peasant bourgeoisie and poor and wage-earning peasants, just as it disrupted the urban corporations and began the transition from crafts to manufacture. All these violent social changes underlay the collapse of the old ideological, moral and religious order, and the birth of a new culture. The key question that arises is what was the underpinning for the reinforced and modernized central authority required for the transition to capitalism? The Mameluke aristocracy tried to replace the support of the Egyptian plebeian bourgeoisie with an alliance with foreign mercantilist interests, with particular emphasis on the minority big traders (Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire, agents and proteges of the French who had taken over from the Italian cities). Within this struggle between two unequally advanced mercantilisms (of France and Egypt) there were already two lines: one to lead to a crystallization of an autonomous Egyptian capitalism and another to lead to subsequent 'peripheralization'.

France's invasion has its place in this struggle. Here again bourgeois historiography is inadequate, as it attributes Napoleonic glory entirely to the logic of military strategy (cutting the route to India) that was unreliable (as it left Britain in control of the sea). What is overlooked is France's anxiety to reconstitute an empire after the losses of 1763, because of its shortfall in cereals: France's agricultural backwardness was a handicap to overall capitalist development of the country, as the famine on the eve of the French Revolution shows. Marseilles imported from Egypt the cereals needed in the French Midi. The conflict for control of a rapidly growing trade was between French and Egyptian mercantilisms. After Egypt's failures France continued its objective with the conquest of Algeria from 1830 on.

In Egypt Napoleonic power was initially supported by the plebeian bourgeoisie in order to destroy the Mameluke state. But when it put Egyptian trade under its tutelage by turning to Levantine Christians, it alienated and eventually lost that bourgeoisie.

Mohamed Ali did the same. He relied on the big foreign traders and Levantine Christians as he sought to modernize his administration and army with the assistance of foreign technicians, relinquishing broad reliance on the plebeian bourgeoisie. Rather the reverse, he destroyed their economic status. In the countryside he imposed a return to the tribute-paying mode of production and, through a trading monopoly, established control over production and markets. In the towns he replaced the private enterprise of the bourgeoisie with state manufacture. Why this option? Largely of course because he observed the wide gap between Egypt and Europe and that modernization of the army, the essential instrument to give Egypt autonomy, would be costly. He was therefore obliged to make a heavy exaction on the peasantry and appropriate the utmost from the profits of industry and trade, and could not therefore share with the rural and urban plebeian bourgeoisie. But he then became the prisoner of the bureaucratic aristocracy, the only class he could rely on, and in the end to succumb to their exclusive control of the countryside. In 1837 he began handing out the land to the members of the aristocracy - in the form of tchifliks - in a process completed by Khedive Ismail, and establishing a comprador bourgeois agrarian aristocracy in Egypt and turning Egypt into an export cotton plantation. For Mohamed Ali's option also had the effect of condemning the country to eventual external dependence. It was the combination of this factor with external aggression in 1840 that brought the attempt down and drove Egypt inexorably along the path of peripheralization.

The abortion of Mohamed Ali's plan was followed by a series of attempts to reconcile the establishment of a modernized Egyptian national state (a rejection of the aspect of Arab unity) with integration in the capitalist economy. Khedive Ismail tried this first with the deliberate option for cotton specialization. It is well known that this attempt ended up with exploitation of Egyptian indebtedness by European finance capital and then the occupation of Egypt in 1882. Then the Wafdist liberal bourgeoisie tried it in the aftermath of the 1919 revolution. It is also well-known that despite progress in social organization (political independence, attempts at imposing parliamentarianism on the King and the British, educational development, as so on) and in the economy (the industrialization bid by the Misr Bank). Egypt was unable to overcome its 'underdevelopment' to put itself forward as a genuine partner in the world capitalist system. Nasser's plan tried it again in new circumstances that made it become more radical, through bitter conflict with imperialism, more open to a socialist perspective and ready to recover the Arab dimension hitherto lost.

Before Nasserism, power in Egypt was in the hands of social classes that may only loosely be described as bourgeois, despite their integration in the world capitalist system. The same was true elsewhere in the Arab world which, in the Maghreb, was still colonial as elsewhere in Asia and Africa until well after the Second World War. But gradually in the 1950s and 1960s, power in the newly independent states passed to the local bourgeoisie through various processes (land reform, nationalizations, coups d't, among others): and this bourgeoisie tended to become the local hegemonic class. The bourgeoisie in power then tried to advance its plan for building a bourgeois national state as a partner in the world capitalist system. In the Arab world, attempts at capitalist modernization, previously exceptional like those of Eygpt (the only examples are the attempt of Kheireddine Pasha in Tunisia in the 19th century and of the liberal bourgeoisie in Syria and in Iraq in the 1930s) became widespread. We have described this as the Bandung plan.

Analysis of evolution in internal politics and international politics would of itself provide an understanding of the historical process that led to the failure of the crystallization of new autocentric capitalist centres from peripheral departure points. An examination of the ideology of the attempts in question would further illuminate the external/internal forces dialectic. In this respect we return to the 18th century and the first half of the 19th in Egypt. The cultural stage was filled by the conflict between Ahl al-Hadith and Ahl al-Kalam, which too many historians regard as nothing but an absurd religious squabble. On the contrary, it marked the beginning of a potential reform of Islam, similar in many ways to the Protestantism-Catholicism conflict. The stress placed on discussion of the Hadith (the sayings and traditions of the Prophet - or attributed to him) encouraged an inventive spirit allowing the adaptation of the religion to the needs of the time. In reopening the 'gate of effort' (bate al-ijtihad), there was to be found a true Calvinist interpretation of Islam (and all the Eurocentrism known as necessary to believe, along with Weber, in Protestant exclusivity). At the same time in the popular milieu of the victims of the social changes underway the critique was mixed with a promising mystical odour, in the tradition of some Sufism. The analogy is inescapable with the currents that cries-crossed British religious ideology in the mercantilist era (Anglicans, Calvinists and radicals - Levellers). By contrast, the state bureaucratic power, such as Mohamed Ali's, preferred the Kalam, that is, a closed system of formally logical scholarly philosophy. Gradually, however this turned into pragmatism: the all-encompassing philosophy was relinquished in favour of acceptance of individual sciences. This evolution went along with peripheralization and is a good indicator of the comprador bourgeoisie's acceptance of a subordinate role. Pragmatic 'moderation' with a sprinkling of orthodox, conventional and conservative Islam was to become the creed of this acculturated bourgeoisie.

From the middle of the 19th century the process of integration of the Arab and Ottoman world in the world capitalist economy was such that the scope for autonomy enjoyed by Mohamed Ali's Egypt shrank to the point of virtually vanishing. The movement of reaction to this colonization was principally determined by rejection of colonization and thus acquisition of a prevailing anti-imperialist dimension. This was the case of the Nahda.

This movement is often reduced to its religious dimension through an emphasis on successive Muslim reformers: Jamal al-Din al-Afghan). Mohamed Abdu and Rachid Rida. This is, in fact, an intolerable simplification. Nahda is also a modernizing movement in language and culture, society and politics. In the field of language, Egypt and Syria underwent a veritable revolution creating an effective instrument for the revival of Arab unity. The critique of customs, to be found on a reading of Qassem Amin's writings on women's liberation and codifications of juridical and administrative systems was no less important. This all led quite naturally to a modernist view of politics. The national movement in Egypt, far from being exclusively 'an/i-foreigner', was, from the end of the 19th century, imbued with the ideas of the Western bourgeoisie: its most radical wing encountered socialism even before 1914. It was to be the same to a varying degree with the liberation movements that would later come to the fore in other Arab areas.

Consideration of this chapter of religion reveals the historical limitations and shortcomings of the Nahda. The latter did not overcome the duality for which Mohamed Ali opted: the juxtaposition of modern ideas in the civil domain and a moderately conservative interpretation of Islam. These historical limitations explain the gradual drift from reformist readings to the current anachronistic fundamentalism. This is why it may be useful to begin with an examination of the actual language of this history, with a study of the propositions of fundamentalism.

The fundamentalist state of mind looks at history from the standpoint of another language than that of a rationalism seeking the reasons for the evolutions in the real world. A particular view of society is put forward, that is endowed with the virtues of being able to resolve once and for all the problems of society and humankind. To reject this view is to opt for Evil against Good. History is regarded as the locus of this confrontation.

In contrast with the rationalist point of view, the prolonged historical resistance by those religions that have been able to withstand social change shows their flexibility. This capacity to outlive the historical circumstances of their birth makes it impossible to speak of 'Christianity' or 'Islam', as Christians or Muslims do. As social phenomena there are Christianities, Islams, which have been a living reality to Christians and Muslims at various times and places. Divergent interpretations of observances, sects and schisms, de facto differences of attitude to the role accorded to the fundamental value system in social life, all bear witness to this. The fundamentalists are aware of this malleability, but reject it: the betrayal of principles worries them more than an explanation of the malleability.

The fundamentalists are not primarily interested in knowing why things have been and are what they are. What interests them more is to know how things have moved away from principles. They apply this method with much vigour if not rigour when they examine their own history, that of the Muslim world in this instance. By contrast, when they venture into the history of others, the history of Christianity and Europe for example, they are no longer impelled by a concern to distinguish the moments and attitudes that accord with their principles from those that betray them, and they seem more open to reason in understanding the evolution. But this other history is of little interest to them, since it has nothing to teach them; they are concerned only to the extent that Europe has had an impact on their own lives, by imposing its universal order through its imperialism.

An examination of the view of the past held by the fundamentalists is essential for anyone who seeks to understand how they pose the questions of today and how they articulate their responses into a plan whose feasibility can then be considered.

According to the fundamentalist reading, the history of 14 centuries of the Muslim peoples is little more than the history of their betrayal of principles. As soon as the Prophet was dead, the 'deviation' began. It was marked by the accentuation of material inequality, the appropriation of land and wealth for the benefit of a minority who monopolize and abuse power. But the 'deviation' is never explained, merely noted. The question remains unanswered: could Islam have avoided the evolution it has undergone? Could the small, relatively poor community, organized first as a sect at Mecca then as a city-state at Medina, have preserved its real mode of organization once the opulent Byzantine and Sassanian Orient was integrated into a great state?

The rest of the history of the Muslim peoples is, according to the fundamentalists, no more than a sorry tale of betrayal of principles. The condemnation is total, without nuances or exceptions. Philosophical debates are impious, condemnation covers all Arabo-Muslim philosophy and there is vilification of the interpretations by the Arab liberal bourgeoisie who wanted to revive the reputation of the 'centuries of Muslim enlightenment' (Mohamed Heykal. Taha Husayn, the Nahda of the 19th century and the Muslim reformers, the efforts at opening up by the Azhar and so on, are treated as manifestations of betrayal). A fortiori, it is easy to imagine how the fundamentalists regard the attempts at a reinterpretation of the 'heritage', that is, of this philosophy, in terms of struggles between progressive ideas and those of conservative mysticism.

On this basis, the fundamentalists believe that the choice before the Muslim societies is: an Islamic society or a non-lslamic society? But if there is no 'one' undeniable Islamic response to any of the questions life poses to our societies, there are always various, differing, responses that may well be justifiable in terms of compatibility with the dogmas of Islam. That is why the fundamentalists are destined to recruit across the widest spectrum of political attitudes: from the right to the left. That is why they are destined to tear themselves apart, as can be seen day after day, without really understanding why they are incapable of forming an unambiguous social plan. For Islam, according to them, is different and specific since it does not separate the religious (faith) from the social (organization of power, family, economic life). This unity was certainly a fact at the time of the birth of Islam. Islam was certainly an option (among other possibilities) and was chosen by the Arab society of the 7th century, facing its own problems. The unity has certainly been maintained subsequently in the Muslim world: although, if the faith has changed little, the social life associated with it has undergone giant transformations.

But is that something specific and unique? The European societies of the Middle Ages and the Ancien Regime also believed that they were 'Christian' in the sense that they could not imagine a separation between their religious faith and the forms of their social life. The faith itself was, in our opinion, little different from that of Islam, or at least the differences separating it from Christianity do not explain the differences separating the social lives of Muslim societies (through the ages) from those of Christian societies (likewise through the ages). The principles to regulate social life associated with each of these two faiths are equally flexible and have demonstrated this through their adaptation to social change.

Fundamentalism postulates the Islamic society-non-lslamic society opposition as an absolute. By this token, it prevents itself understanding what the non-lslamic societies are, as evidently they cannot be reduced to a single unity through time and space. In particular, to define 'modem society' as merely 'non-lslamic' makes it impossible to understand what it is. Fundamentalism's explanation of the modern 'non-lslamic' world is drawn from a mythical picture of 'Christendom' that bears no relation to its real history. According to this explanation, Christianity is an individualist religion that does not concern itself with the organization of society. A modern Protestant might perhaps subscribe to this interpretation of what Christianity must be, but the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages would not recognize itself there.

The fundamentalists, taking this position, are obliged to deny any social reality other than the religious. One is a Muslim or one is not. Among other things national reality disappears from the analysis. It is an old debate. Since the 19th century the peoples of the Arab and (largely) Muslim Orient have been asking themselves: what are we in the face of European imperialism? On what bases can we unite to resist it? As Ottoman subjects. Muslim believers or members of the Arab nation (or nations)? Islam, like any other social reality, may be the binding force, in certain circumstances. In Pakistan, quite evidently, it is synonymous with the nation, since the latter is nothing more than a non-Hindu but Muslim Indian nation. But in the Orient, history seems to have determined another social reality for the benefit of nationality. The (Arabic) language seems to be the unifying factor, going further than religious diversity among other factors (since there are Christian Arabs).

Space does not permit a closer examination of the evolution that led from Jamal al-Din al-Afghan) and Mohamed Abud to Sayed Qotb and current fundamentalism by way of Rachid Reda and the foundation of the Muslim Brothers. Just as it does not allow a closer examination of the current debates on the question of the 'heritage' (al tiras), its character and internal contradictions, and the discussions and polemics on Arab-lslamic philosophy of the Middle Ages. In brief, let us say that our views on these issues may be summarized in the following three propositions.

First: Islam as a social reality (and not as a religious belief) is, like Christianity or any other ideology, flexible and susceptible of varying interpretations according to the evolution of social needs and the strategies of the social forces confronted with the issue. There have been and will continue to be conservative readings (notably put forward by authorities in situ) or reformist readings just as there are readings in support of social revolution and others in support of anachronistic utopias. The danger of the latter is that they do not decide between the possible (reformist or even revolutionary) justification for social changes and (conservative or even reactionary) formalism. This gives them their appeal, but also their objective weakness. In that sense we have argued that to remain bound in this problematic is to make a choice that could lead to the society's collective suicide. There are certainly objective reasons to illuminate the drift in this direction. We have proposed two complementary lines of research on this: (i) the inadequate maturity of the Egyptian (and Arab and wider) bourgeoisie in the 19th century, whose reflection can be found in the fact that the Nahda did not decide between these readings and did not root out the anachronistic nostalgia, while the authorities since Mohamed Ali opted for duality and reformist-conservative Islam; (ii) the shortcomings of peripheral capitalist development, taking into account the amorphous local class structure, the low penetration of contemporary issues among the broad strata on the population, for example. Undoubtedly, oil earnings and the migrations accompanying the recent upsurge of the Gulf have been a factor in this turn to the past. But it is mainly a result of the despair engendered by the failure of radical national efforts. If this despair is due in part to the contradictions and internal limitations of the Nasserist plan, it should not be forgotten that Western hostility and the aggressions of its age-old weapon of Zionism are the ultimate cause. There is an element of hypocrisy on the part of the West in lamenting current Islamic fundamentalism when it has fought in every way possible against the progressive alternative.

Second proposition: the Muslim societies have in the past accomplished a first great cultural revolution, thanks to which Islam has been able to adapt to the demands of the management of advanced societies in the Orient, to make them aware of their heritage and take them forward into development. It is this first revolution that the fundamentalists 'complain' of instead of celebrating. Furthermore, for complex reasons that cannot be reduced to an 'external' factor (the Turkish conquest of the Khalifate in this instance), the Arab-Ottoman world began a long decline (this is not the place to repeat the arguments presented elsewhere on this subject). To escape this, a second cultural revolution is needed to enable Islam to adapt to the needs of the present and the future, to the capitalist world and even to its socialist supersession. There is nothing in Islam to prevent this possible evolution, but the Muslim societies have so far rejected it. The Nahda itself did not pose the question in the decisive terms required.

Third proposition: the cultural renovation and reconstruction of the Arab nation have not been welded together. Here again this is not the place to reiterate the theses we have put forward elsewhere on the concept of nation and the - necessarily peculiar - history of the Arab peoples: the movement that leads in an early phase to the tribute-paying and commodity centralization of surplus for all the Arab world, then, with decline, to its enfeeblement and fragmentation; the resulting characteristics of a 'multi-stage nation'; the reinforcement of the particular interests of the local bourgeoisies crystallized by the formation of modern Arab states in the wake of worldwide capitalism; the disaster occasioned by the oil revenue and 'wealth' of the Gulf; the inappropriateness of the ideology of formal pan-Arab nationalism, and so on.

New forms of the social movement

All observers are agreed that the organizational forms through which societal movements are expressed have begun a phase of challenge whose outcome is unpredictable. This challenge is general and affects West East and South.8

For a century or more it has been customary for the particular organizational forms of various currents in society to follow the logic of a certain political practice. In the developed capitalist society this organization was based on two main axes. The first, the axis of class struggle, was a justification for the industrial working-class organization (trade unions, socialist and communist workers' parties), modelled sometimes on other popular classes (the peasant or agrarian syndicate parties, small traders' parties). The second, the axis of political ideology, was a justification for the clash between the conservative right and the reformist left. Communist powers emerged from this history, whose forms they retained, even where gradually the state-party monopoly, by calling an official halt to 'crass struggle' and electoral swings, stripped them of meaning. In Africa and Asia the history of the past century has been one of polarization of the social movement around the struggle for national independence. Here the typical model was of the unifying party, with the aim of grouping the social classes and various ethnic strands into a vast, disciplined movement (often ranged behind more or less charismatic leaders) and effective in action for a single goal. The powers that emerged with independence are largely immobilized in this inheritance, with the single party-state retaining its legitimacy solely from the achievement of the aim of national independence.

These practices were rationalized by what might appear to be a scientific theory of society. The ideology of the Enlightenment was the main source of its mix of values (humanist values of freedom, well-being) and 'scientific' theories of their operation (competition between individuals governing the economic mechanism). The socialist movement, including Marxism, retained the values of the inheritance of the Enlightenment and at the same time denounced the hypocrisy of the bourgeois content of the societal plan they entailed, with a call to go beyond them - by way of reform or revolution - on the basis of class struggle. The national liberation movements were inspired by one or the other approach in varying proportions according to the aims of the leading class - or stratum - in the movement.

In the end, the two practices were put on equal footing with the notion of political rationality. It was forgotten that the social movement was differently expressed in earlier periods, in Europe and elsewhere, through the channel of religion among others. It was forgotten that even in the apparently stable West, this rationality was not strong enough to resist the violent social crisis of the 1930s when large masses were rallied under the 'irrational' banners of racism and murderous folly.

Nowadays - in three parts of the world: West East and South - the models of management of social life penned within these organizational forms seem to have exhausted their historical potential.

In the West the consensus is so broad as to reduce the historical impact of the socialist movement and the right-left polarization. The spontaneous response of the system is the 'Americanization' of political life, that is, the organization of 'lobbies' in which partial interests are crystallized (production sectors, regions, various groupings...) and which, without any ideological concern for an overall plan for society, compete for scraps of power. In the East the civilian society tries to break the shell of the party-state, to provide scope for the dialectic of the genuine contradictions within the society. In the Third World the legitimacy founded on a restoration of independence has worn very thin for the younger generations.

In all cases it is striking how the speeches of the authorities are linked to the past. We have built the best available society, say the candidates to elections in the West; we just need this or that adjustment (followed by the details). We have built socialism, say the authorities in the East; we just need to improve the efficiency in this area. We have built the nation and embarked on economic development, it is said in the South; we just need to keep up the effort. Here too there is no social plan to break with the logic of current reality.

Is it any wonder in these circumstances that the expression of unsatisfied social needs takes another form? The irruption of these new forms has already begun: feminist movements, ecological movements, local community action movements (for towns and neighbourhoods), ethnic or religious community movements. Their rationale in terms of broad ideologies may be still embryonic, but it is already possible to identify certain contour lines, appealing to lines that may not be entirely new but have hitherto hardly been touched upon (such as the critique of sexism or concern with ecology), or overtly the heritage of the past down-played by the 'modem' world: hence the religious renaissance, especially of the fundamentalist currents.

Are the new forms of social expression the germ of a future very different from our contemporary world? Or just the soap bubbles of a passing crisis, bound to burst when everything returns to order?

On the former hypothesis, will the future represented by the development of these new expressions (or renewed when they draw on ancient inheritances) bring progress for humankind, or will it rather be a sign of a collapse into barbarism? Andre Malraux, with his well-known intelligence and pessimism, said that the 21 st century would be the century of religions, meaning not only the revival of tolerant faith but also of fanatically violent conflicts. In the 1930s and 1940s Nazi barbarity had already caused it to be said that ours was an age of intolerance; but the defeat of fascism had rekindled hopes: the nightmare was over, it was only an accident on the way.

Without any doubt we share Immanuel Wallerstein's view that the old organizations' (trade unions, popular and workers' parties, national liberation movements) struggle to take power from the monopoly of the bourgeois and foreign imperialist classes, achieved it to varying degrees - through reform or revolution, negotiation or war - and had in fact accomplished a great deal, if not "everything': the welfare state, economic development and power, national dignity

On this view these movements, which were recently 'anti-system' to the extent that they really clashed with the existing system, have nowadays been 'recuperated' and are part of the 'system', in the sense that they have turned into relatively conservative forces unwilling that anybody should want to go 'further' then they have and above all overtake them to do more.

But what is the 'system' against which, or within which, the old or new social forces operate?

Would it be wrong to describe it as capitalist in the West and in the Third World? It has certainly not yet exceeded the limits of 'existing capitalism as the world system', that is, it has not overcome the centres-peripheries polarization. It is, therefore, a system that continues to be intolerable to the great mass of people in the Third World, with or without 'development'. For them it means the squalor of the shanty-towns, the frustrations of impossible consumer hopes, cultural humiliation, the arrogance of corrupt dictators, and sometimes simply famine. But in the West, despite the social calm procured by capitalism in its advanced centres, there is a malaise indicative of the limitations of the system's capabilities. In the countries of the East, it would seem inaccurate to describe the system as capitalist, even if it is far from the image of socialism held by the Marxism from which it seeks inspiration. There the real social forces want something else, amid the confusion of conflict between the often mixed aspirations of socialists and capitalists.

'Really existing capitalism' remains the objective obstacle to the advance of the peoples. There is no alternative to popular national transformation in Third World societies. At the same time this transformation begun by the so-called 'socialist' revolutions has not completed the agenda of aims to be achieved.

In such a case it is difficult yet to say if the 'new' movements are or are not capable of going forward, with a response to the objective challenge.

Some of the movements appear to have reached an impasse. This is the case for the religious fundamentalist revivals or the 'ethnic' communal retreats. They are symptomatic of the crisis and not solutions, exclusive products of disillusionment, and they should fold-up as soon as they show their powerlessness to meet the real challenge. That is, an expression of optimism in contrast to Malraux's pessimism - that reason will triumph.

Other movements, however, may have a place in the reconstruction of a plan for society that. 'beyond capitalism', would, after learning form the failures of the other movements, resolve the contradictions that really existing capitalism cannot overcome.

It seems to us that this is the case whenever the 'new (or old!) movements' operate not exclusively on the ground of 'winning the state', but on that of an alternative conception of social power to be won. The choice is not between 'struggling for power or struggling for an alternative' (whet?), but as to the conception of power for which the struggle is waged. The organizational forms constructed out of the prevailing 'traditional' concept of power (power = state) are bound to lose much of their legitimacy as peoples take the mettle of this conservative state.

Conversely, the organizational forms emphasizing the multiple social continent of power that must be developed will reap increasing success. In this category the theme of non-party politics, expounded in India by Rajni Kothari on the basis of Gandhian culture, could be very fruitful. Likewise the anti-authoritarianism in Latin America, where Pablo Gonzales Casanova identifies the main quality of the 'new' movements: rejection of authoritarianism in state, party or leadership, and rejection of doctrinaire aspects of ideology. This is a reaction against the heavy burden of the historical formation of the continent, and is undoubtedly a reaction that encourages progress. But similarly for the same basic reason, feminism in the West, with its aim of attacking at least some of the roots of autocracy, stems from the same logic of an alternative concept of social power. To some extent the West is in the vanguard of the new advances in the liberation of society. Whether these advances mean a penetration 'beyond capitalism', or can be 'rescued' by the social system is still wide open to argument. It seems, that at least in the medium term, the advantages of a central capitalist position are such that the movements in question will not rock the foundations of capitalist management of society.

The future of the 'new movements' is uncertain, which is why it cannot be ruled out that they will collapse in the current crisis.

Extrapolating from the propositions of Frank and Fuentes and by bringing into the open what is probably implicit in their comments, it seems to us that the 'effectiveness' of the social movement cannot be judged by the same criteria at all times. In periods of 'prosperity' (the A phases of the long cycle) the movements easily adopt centralized organizational forms. The reason for this is that they operate in a system where the rules of the game are known. They can then, according to circumstance, achieve some of their aims (pay increases for example). By contrast the periods of structural crisis (the B phases of the cycle) are marked by doubts as to the rules of the game, under challenge when the 'new order' emerging from new international and internal balances has not yet crystallized. The crisis of society must surely bring a crisis of ideologies, political practices and thereby organizational forms? But is it not precisely in those periods that the new ideological forces are crystallized, to sketch the outlines of new social plans, that, to paraphrase a famous quotation, 'by seizing the masses, become material forces'?


1. Amin, Samir, 'Nation et ethnic dans la crise'. Bulletin du FTM. No. 6. 1986, and Am in, Samir, Class and Nation, Historically and in the Current Crisis. New York, Monthly Review Press, and London, Heinemann, 1980; The Arab Nation: Delinking. London. Zed Books.

2. Mukherjee, Rawkrishna. The Rise and Fall of the East India Company, New York. Monthly Review Press, 1974.

3. Vergopoulos. Kostas, La Grece 1920-1940. Paris. 1970.

4. Amselle, Jean-Loup and M'Bokololo, Elikia, (eds) Au coeur de l'ethnie: ethnics, tribalisme et Etat en Afrique. Paris, La Duverte, 1985. Cf, our observation in 'Nation et ethnic dans la crise', op, cit.

5. See articles by J. P. Dozon, J. Razin and P. Chren in Au coeur de l'ethnie, op, cit.

6. Yachir, Faysal, 'La dimension culturelle du dloppement': de Andrade. Mario and Carmoreis, Maria do Ceu. 'Dimension culturelle du dloppement en Afrique'. Bulletin du FTM. No. 7, 1987.

7. See Amin, Samir. 'La fin de la Nahda'. Revue d'des Palestiniennes, No. 19. 1986: 'Y a-t-il une nomie politique du fondamentalisme islamique'. Peuples Mterrans. No. 21. 1982;'Contradictions in the Capitalist Development of Egypt'. Monthly Review. No. 4.1984;'Development and the Cultural Issue'. Bulletin du FTM, No. 7. 1987: L'Eurocentrisme. Paris, Economica, 1988. The crisis of Arab society (in Arabic) (Azamat al-mujtama' al-arabi), Cairo. 1985; (in Arabic). Post-capitalism, 1987.

8. On the social movement cf. Amin. S.. Wallerstein, I., Arrighi, G., Frank, A. F, and Fuentes, M.. collective work in preparation.