[Updated/article version of the introduction to the new book Globalization and Transnational Capitalism in Asia and Oceania]
By: Jeb Sprague
News headlines warn of rivalries and competition between nations across Asia and the Pacific, even as powerful, cross-border relations form on an unprecedented scale. This article looks at the reality behind this façade of nation-state competition, examining the new forms of social, economic, and political integration and conflict fostered by a global capitalist system rife with contradictions, inequalities, and crises. We move beyond traditional conceptualizations of the interstate system, with its nation-state competition as the core organizing principle of the world economy, and the institutional framework in which global social forces operate. In this paper I will look at the important studies that have examined and debated over how there is a growing transnationality of material (economic) relations in the global era, as well as an emerging transnationality of many social and class relations. I will look in particular at how such studies have taken into consideration social formation in regions of Asia and Oceania.[i] To what degree are transnational processes taking place? How do transnational capitalist-class fractions, new middle strata, and labor undergird capitalist globalization in Asia and Oceania? These social classes are relationships generated and reproduced through the productive processes and economic life of a type of society (or what Marx referred to as a “mode of production”). As components of a society, these classes contain individuals who are carriers of productive relationships. So in the present global/transnational phase of world capitalism, how do state and institutional apparatuses connect to these shifting social and class relations? How do local/national and international processes clash or link with transnational processes?
For the purposes of this paper, it is important to first emphasize the difference between national, international, and transnational processes. Whereas national processes occur within the frontiers of the nation-state, international processes occur across borders. Transnational processes, while occurring across borders, also take place through functional integration. Functional integration refers to how amalgamations of different components (or agents) are constituted through their joint-operation. Processes that take place across frontiers in this integrated manner alter the very ways in which space and geography are implicated in material and social production. Political economists in recent years, for instance, have shown how transnationally oriented class relations have developed through the shift from the international phase of world capitalism to the global phase of world capitalism (Carroll, 2010; Harris, 2006; Liodakis, 2010; Robinson, 2004, 2014; Sklair 2001). This transition has occurred as earlier indicative planning (with a view to foment national economy development) has fragmented and as markets have become integrated into new transnational circuits of accumulation. Read the rest of this entry »