Free Essay On The Marxist Approach On International Political Relationships
Understanding international political relationships can be quite difficult to understand especially for the public given the various factors that may be involved in the process. Issues such as political or economic agenda, costs and benefits for both parties and the future implications of such alliance often causes confusion in understanding such relationships. Several studies have already tried to determine as to why states are pushed to various political relationships. One of these studies is the Marxist approach, highlighting that international political relationships are determined by the underlying global capitalist economy. However, with the availability of other studies pointing out other explanations to the underlying causes of political relations, it is difficult to determine which study is correct. The Marxist arguments are correct in saying that international political relationships are undermined by the global capitalist economy as the capitalist economy not only bolsters expansionism to increase capital, but it also highlights how the economy influences socio-political/socio-economic decisions.
The Marxist thought can be considered one of the most prominent and oldest international theories still used today in determining the nature of the international political economy. The theory gained its prominence in the beginning of the 20th century as an opponent to the arguments raised by western capitalism through the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Under the theory, Marxism argues that the Capitalist system ensures continuous inequality that permits the higher class or the bourgeoisie to exploit the working class. Classical Marxism also discusses the nature of the social classes and its consistent struggle, stressing how one group dominates the other. When the collapse of communism occurred at the end of the Cold War, it was perceived that Marxism has died alongside the collapse of the Communist model. However, several branches of Marxism have been created throughout the years to continue the arguments raised in the classical model. Some examples of the newer branches of Marxism are Western Marxism, Leninism, Gramcian Theory, Critical Theory and Structural Marxism. Western Marxism was introduced in 1923 by Gyorgy Lukacs through his book “History and Class Consciousness”. The book depicted themes on class consciousness, reification and totality of the human mind. Leninism had been established under the thoughts and works of former Soviet Premier Vladimir Lenin and how he understood the Marxist argument. Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci also established his own translation of Marxism which discusses the concept of hegemony and its impact to society. The Frankfurt School in Germany had introduced the Critical Theory which discussed the totality of society in the social sciences. Finally, Structural Marxism is also another example of Marxism which presented a scientific version of the Marxist argument with regards to the composition of the society .
In today’s context, the arguments raised by Marxist scholars is correct when it comes to the argument that the global capitalist economy determines the course of international political relationships. Collectively, Marxism argues that the political economy is not about the relationship between economic principles such as commodities, prices and the state of the supply and demand. The political economy is determined by the people and the social relationships within them that can either have political, social, and historical impacts to economics. Karl Marx stressed that the capitalist political economy ensures that there is always a class struggle not just within the society but also between states. The economic situation of states is also the most crucial determinant of any society and covers the superstructure of society. Marx has often been seen as a “materialist” as the dominant ideas within society in his opinion is due to the materialist and economic conditions of societies. With this perception, it is often that Marx finds himself in disagreement with ideological reformers as he believes it could not change society. Societies, Marx argues, can only be understood by understanding the mode of production and in a capitalist society, capital, machineries, mines and other forms of production are key productive factors and utilized by capitalists rather than the majority of the public.
In a local aspect, the capitalist economy causes actors to engage in competitive innovation as a means to gain further capital and gain an advantage over its rivals. However, this also ensures that the workers are caught up in the middle and replaced with “dead labor”. Capitalists would also use the same fervor in keeping up with their peers to ensure competition . In a global extent, the capitalist economy would press advance countries to find low wage economies to reduce the possibility of failed profit. Through partnerships with these smaller nations, advanced countries not only would find a new market to invest in, but they can also have access to resources and cheaper labor to maintain the economy.
As history narrates regarding the development of politics, countries have shown a powerful impulse to expand their capital through trade because of the embedded capitalist economies each nation had develop. Other theories, as argued by Marxists, emphasized the same phenomenon as classical liberal economists indicated that economic growth and the accumulation of capital tends to influence the return of capital that causes a decline. Regardless of the fact the decline can be due to the unwavering changes within international trade, foreign investment and the like. Although trade often ensures surplus capital is absorbed through imports and exports, foreign investment would ensure a reduction of capital. Both liberals and Marxists even agree to the fact capitalist economies ensures both surplus capital and export goods. In addition to this increased impulse, Marxism also stresses that capitalism is international and encourages outward expansionism. Expansionism would permit continuous improvement in productivity and technological advancement, as well as population growth. On the other hand, if states remain isolated from one another in a closed capitalist economy that has surplus capital and a decline in profit, it would become a stationary state .
Individually, the other branches of Marxism also offers various insights as to how the global capitalist economy influences political partnerships and stress as to where capitalism makes its influence known. Soviet Premier Vladimir Lenin’s version of Marxism indicated that political relations and capitalism are inter-related and any position one has on the theory of capitalist imperialism showcases the tensions between globalization and nationalism within political communities. In one of his statements, Lenin stressed that:
“Developing capitalism knows two historical tendencies in the national question. The First is the awakening of national life and national movements, the struggle against all national oppression, and the creation of national states. The second is the development and growing frequency of international intercourse in every form, the breakdown of national barriers, the creation of the international unity of capital, of economic life in general, of politics, science, etc. “
In the case of the Gramscian model, this branch of Marxism is seen as an answer to the lapses offered by the classical Marxist theory when it came to the move of Western Europe to socialism. In terms of the political or economic relationships, the Gramscian argument highlights that the superstructure (means of production (base) to political systems, legal system, etc. (superstructure)) should be taken seriously because while the structure of society is a clear image of the social relations within the economic front, it is the superstructure that highlight as to whether or not a society is vulnerable to change or transformation. Gramsci also stressed that both the base and the superstructure are reinforcing and reciprocal to one another and ensure that there is an existing order present in society. Interaction is also very crucial between these two sectors to narrow down the extent of economic relationships between the two sectors. The idea of the hegemony is also a critical argument from the Gramsci model because if the hegemony of the ruling class is a key element of ensuring its dominance, the society could only be transformed once such hegemony is challenged. Eventually, this would trigger a hegemonic struggle in civil society and ensure the creation of a ‘historic bloc’ that solidifies the relationship between the base and the superstructure. As the ruling classes often gain their power through the global capitalist economy, the hegemon often leads states and political, legal and representative factions and provide them with some autonomy. This ensures free movement of information and the right to exercise their freedoms to ensure the system remains together .
In terms of Robert Cox’s explanation on the Gramscian model, the relationship between the capitalist economy and political relations is written in his 1996 book, “Approaches to World Order”, which highlights how the hegemony influences peripheral states through a passive revolution. Cox argued that a world hegemony is the effect of both individual and collective social forces of the dominant advanced industrial states which allows such states to influence developing states. He also writes:
A world hegemony is thus in its beginnings an outward expansion of the internal (national) hegemony established by a dominant social class. The economic and social institutions, the culture, the technology associated with this national hegemony become patterns for emulation abroad. Such as expansive hegemony impinges on the more peripheral countries as a passive revolution. These countries have not undergone the same thorough social revolution, nor have their economies developed in the same way, but they try to incorporate elements from the hegemonic model with disturbing old power structuresIn the world hegemonic model, hegemony is more intense and consistent at the core and more laden with contradictions at the periphery ”
Since the time of the post-Cold War era, the policies used by the periphery countries permitted nations to establish unified socio-economic and political structures within the hegemony and transform it as a system that would create universal norms and mechanisms that would spell out general guidelines for national and international protocols for states and other influential actors. Most of these guidelines would then be used for sociopolitical and economic interactions between states .
The Critical Theory, on the other hand, introduced the idea of practical philosophy which aims to interpret understanding, evaluation and practice. In the international political and economic arena, the Critical Theory hopes to determine which aspects of human freedom should be strengthened across the globe. It also handles the question on “the problem of community” in its efforts to understand the trend within states in both inclusion and exclusion aspects. The Critical theory can also be considered a problem-solving theory, which concentrates on understanding how “good” should be determined or how relationships should be created. Robert Cox had even stressed that this theory “allows for a normative choice in favor of a social and political order different from the prevailing order.”
The Critical theory also has three major components in further understanding the relationship between states and the inclusion of capitalism. The first aspect of this theory entails a normative inquiry on emancipation and universalism. Next, a historical sociological inquiry is done to determine the conditions of the emancipation and finally, a praxeological inquiry into the means of emancipation in any given order. The first component tackles emancipation as it enunciates freedom within political relations as every opinion may affect everyone in the alliance or partnership. It is then the hope of the critical theory to ensure that each actor is committed in including themselves in the political situation in the planet and not remain neutral. However, there are several risks regarding this theory as a rejection in believing the assumptions placed by either neutrality or objectivity .
Finally, a structural Marxist approach also has its interpretation of the relationship between international political relationships and the global capitalist economy. The structuralist point of view argues that the bourgeoisies in Europe have now become international bourgeoisies and are now willing to strike class issues at home. For these elite leaders, granting workers their well-deserved rights domestically would allow further surplus value to increase overseas. This increase in surplus exports would then aid profit to enter for the national economy. The previous model introduced by colonialism provides a perfect model to achieve this level of profitability. Imperialism, in the past, was then seen as an important economic advantage both at home and abroad. In recent years, structuralism has retained many supporters as seen in the World Systems Theory or Dependency Theories. In the World Systems theory, the capitalist economy is divided into three economic regions: core, periphery and semi-periphery. On the other hand, the Dependency Theory indicates that the unequal development of developing nations is due to the fact these countries had to keep up with the disparity on development that developed countries currently possess. In both branches of the structural Marxist theory, the consistent attempts of developed countries to ensure they remain top highlights the existing global order .
At present, the current onset of globalization can be considered a clear proof that the Marxist approaches are correct in stressing that the capitalist economy determines how states interact and build relationships. In the 1970s, capitalists had difficulties finding means to create profitable investments that would be covered by the consistently growing capital each capitalist had around the globe. As a solution to this problem, globalization was seen as a means to ensure that new markets can be created while unifying the various economies around the globe. With the open market roads done by globalization, capitalists now have a means to establish new investments and financial institutions can now invest and trade freely without facing strict laws and regulations by states on foreign investments, financial institutions and the like. Previously, governments establish stricter policies on foreign investment and trade to protect local investments and ecosystems, which can be scarce in Third World Countries or developing nations. With the dawn of globalization, economic success had been a means for several companies, banks and partnerships to flourish in foreign territories.
With the capitalist economy flourishing due to the freer laws and policies and embedded in the current economy, political relations are fueled by globalization in order to channel more leverage and capital. Deregulation and privatization would then be ordered by the government to ensure that these foreign and local investors continue to bring in more capital and investors. For the Third World Countries, governments often adhere to the Structural Adjustment Programs proposed by the World Bank to bolster the efforts for globalization and increase exports. Marxists argue that globalization is the consequence or future brought in by capitalism as governments would consistently try to earn other favors to continue accumulating more capital and reduce the barriers to facilitate investments and market shares. As a result of this continuous drive to continue capital accumulation, inequality between the richer and poorer nations continue to persist. Transnational corporations also continue to siphon resources of developing nations for their benefit rather than allot these resources for the locals .
Nowadays, it is difficult to keep up with the changes within international political economy especially when it comes to political relationships. Some of these partnerships may be created as a key to peace or political agenda while others are created in the spirit of alliances or friendships. However, the Marxist approaches highlight a more realistic reasoning as to how these political relationships came to be as the capitalist economy determines the environment in which states or critical actors take into consideration. No matter which aspect of Marxism is considered, it is visible that there is a sense of expansionist sentiment between political leaders as a means to both gain capital and allies. Currently, such expansionist sentiment is visible around the globe due to the onset of globalization and the necessity to sustain the growing capitalist economy.
Anon., 2006. Marxist Theory of Political Economy. [Online] Available at: http://www.fifthinternational.org/content/marxist-theory-political-economy[Accessed 19 January 2015].
Conteh-Morgan, E., 2001. International Intervention: Conflict, Economic Disolocation, and the Hegemonic Role of Dominant Actors. International Journal of Peace Studies, 6(2).
Cox, R., 1996. Approaches to World Order. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Heywood, A., 2007. Politics. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillian.
Hobden, S. & Jones, R., 2011. Marxist theories of international relations. In: J. Baylis, S. Smith & P. Owens, eds. The Globalization of World Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 132-142.
Linklater, A., 2009. Marx and Marxism. In: S. Burchill, et al. eds. Theories of International Relations. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 111-135.
Little, R. & Smith, M., 2006. Perspectives on World Politics. 3rd ed. Oxon: Psychology Press.
Reus-Smit, C. & Snidal, D., 2008. The Oxford Handbook of International Relations. Oxford: Oxtord University Press.
Trainer, T., 2010. MARXIST THEORY: A brief introduction. [Online] Available at: https://socialsciences.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/Marx.html[Accessed 20 January 2015].
Watson, M., 2014. The Historical Roots of Theoretical Traditions in Global Political Economy. In: 4th, ed. Global Political Economy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 25-49.