|Maldevelopment - Anatomy of a Global Failure (UNU, 1990, 246 pages)|
|3. The crisis of state|
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.