Production, Power and World Orders

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  • Book: Robert W. Cox: Production, Power and World Orders. Social Forces in the Making of History.


Orsan Senalp:

"After serving long time as an ILO expert, Cox became a scholar in Colombia University and delivered his seminal book which introduced the ‘Gramscian turn’ in IR academic discussion: Production, Power and World Orders: Social Forces in the Making of History. The book successfully translated the basic concepts of Gramsci (like hegemony, historic bloc) to the international level. Cox’ original concepts like state-society complex, internationalisation of production, internationalisation of state, and international class formation has made a great contribution to the major debates on the state, classes and globalisation; as well as his implementation of historical materialist method to the analysis of transnational relations. His work has later developed by Kees van der Pijl, Stephen Gill, Henk Overbeek, Otto Holman and many others. This strand is widely known today as Neo-gramscian global political economy perspective. Since Cox’s book which based his analysis of internationalisation of production on earlier and current theories (like those of 'post-fordism') as well as his direct observations as an ILO expert, most of the scholarly work delivered in this strand have mainly relied on either Cox’ original analysis, or those of later post-fordism theories of ‘regulation school’ (Aglietta, Lipietz etc.).

On the other hand, there has also been important analyses rising in other places. Critical social theorists like Habermas, Touraine, Castells, Gorz, Hist & Thompson so on -most can be named as post-Marxist, on the new developments in forces and relations of production, like the impact of communication and transportation technologies, networks, informalisation, TNCs and so on. Based on this latter strand fInally Hardt and Negri delivered their magnum opus: ‘Empire’, which can be tagged as a comprehensive postdisciplinary global political economy analysis. The Empire, when argues on production has been successful in identifying the link between the new productive forces, rising networked relationships within the production processes, power structures and the new world order. The work of Hardt and Negri actually has done what Cox has achieved in late 80s in the present time, while their work has not been informed by and thus has included very limited analysis of the relationship between networks and transnationalization of production. The ‘Empire’ has also accelerated an intriguing theorisation of peer production, p2p relationships and networks. What is missing in this front yet is the historical and materialist understanding of transnational social relations, especially those of related to production.

With this short intervention I wished to highlight the possible line of fruitful exchange between the global political economy theory [started with Cox] and p2p theory. Potentially a p2p update on the understanding of the 'transnationalization of production' which as process totally overlaps with the informatization of economy, networkisation of societies, and neoliberal globalisation offensive; or vice versa a global political economy upgrade for p2p theory, would provide much more clear understanding of global power structures -the capital and state elite partnerships that creates divisions & scarcities among masses in order to rule and take advantage of the societies- and possibilities to build up more efficient alternatives and counter strategies that would eventually diminish all sort of alienations in and between societies and favour the people globally." (