Friday, 11 March, 12.00 – 14.00h, Silverstone Building (SB 309): Frido Wenten (SOAS), ‘Workingman’s Dead? Workers’ Agency and the Convergence/Divergence Debate’.
Frido just submitted his PhD in the Department of Development Studies at SOAS. His doctoral work, based on extensive fieldwork, examines industrial relations in the automotive industry in China and Mexico. Frido’s presentation is based on his theory-chapter, re-assessing the question of intra-capitalist variety (convergence/divergence in terms of national economies and more specifically industrial sectors) and the lack of agency-sensitve approaches therein, especially when it comes to the agency of non-elite groupings of people, i.e. workers. It reviews the questions of convergence and divergence in mainstream economics and Marxism, and then goes more deeply into Silver’s world system approach, and in particular into institutionalism (VoC, NIE, Streeck, and Régulation School-insipired industrial sociology) and problems of comparative ideal-type construction. The second part briefly propose an agency-centric mode of inquiry to questions of intra-capitalist variety that takes up a few insights from the institutionalist tradition – and concludes with a reflection on the category of ‘working class’.
Frido’s paper will be circulated in time.
Friday, 22 April, 12.00 – 14.00h, Silverstone Building (SB 309): Book-Discussion, Alex Anievas & Kerem Nisancioglu (2015), How the West Came to Rule: The Geopolitical Origins of Capitalism (London, Pluto Press 2015).
From the blurb:
‘Mainstream historical accounts of the development of capitalism describe a process which is fundamentally European – a system that was born in the mills and factories of England or under the guillotines of the French Revolution. In this groundbreaking book, a very different story is told. How the West Came to Rule offers a unique interdisciplinary and international historical account of the origins of capitalism. It argues that contrary to the dominant wisdom, capitalism’s origins should not be understood as a development confined to the geographically and culturally sealed borders of Europe, but the outcome of a wider array of global processes in which non-European societies played a decisive role. Through an outline of the uneven histories of Mongolian expansion, New World discoveries, Ottoman-Habsburg rivalry, the development of the Asian colonies and bourgeois revolutions, Alexander Anievas and Kerem Nisancioglu provide an account of how these diverse events and processes came together to produce capitalism.’
The book will be introduced by Pedro Dutra Salgado. Maia Pal’s review of the book will be circulated before the meeting.
Friday, 6 May: Adrienne Roberts (University of Manchester) http://www.manchester.ac.uk/research/adrienne.roberts/, jointly organised with CGPE, Gendered States of Punishment and Welfare: Feminist Political Economy, Primitive Accumulation and the Law.
Adrienne did her postgraduate work at York University, Canada, and will present her doctoral thesis which she is currently turning into a monograph. It looks at the gendered nature of the criminalisation and policing of poverty in Canada, the US and the UK from mercantilism to the present era of disciplinary neoliberalism.
Room & Time tbc.
Friday, 10 June, 12.00 – 14.00h: Benno Teschke, Arts A103, ‘British Grand Strategy, the Peace of Utrecht, and the Invention of the Balance of Power: Historicising Diplomatic Agency in International Historical Sociology‘.
What theoretical revisions are required to capture the efficacy of diplomatic agency in International Historical Sociology? Most grand theories in IR – from Neorealism to Marxism – rely on structural-functionalist modes of reasoning, collapsing foreign policy formation and diplomatic agency back into permissive or antecedent contextual causes. This procedure externalises international politics – the multiple sources of foreign policy formation and their negotiated multilateral resolutions – from the remit of IR Theory. In this perspective, decisions are not made, but reduced to outcomes. This paper seeks to examine this problematique theoretically and historically by developing the historicist promise of Political Marxism in relation to the case study of the Peace Treaty of Utrecht (1713). The historical argument is that Utrecht constitutes a pivotal moment in the evolution of British grand strategy, decisively altering the constitution and political geography of Europe and beyond in ‘the long 18th Century’. Analytically, the paper proceeds in three steps: (1) tracking multiple (British, French, and Dutch) and open-ended pre-Settlement trajectories of intra-state socio-political conflicts around state power and social purpose; (2) assembling the changed institutional context for post-1688 British foreign policy making and how this affected British war-time strategy and its peace plan; (3) and showing how the multilateral peace negotiations led to a specific European-wide peace settlement whose intended and unintended effects led to a-sysmmetric inter-state relations, new post-conflict political geographies, and specific socio-political post-Settlement responses by the defeated peace parties. Utrecht codified a new and unique type of British foreign policy – the dual ‘blue-water policy’ – for the geopolitical management of European international relations and beyond. It cleaved into a defensive policy towards the Continent, involving the ‘rationalisation’, i.e. de-ideologisation, de-confessionalisation, and de-territorialisation of Britain’s continental objectives, plus the invention and active manipulation of power balancing towards continental rivals; and an offensive policy overseas, expressed in the unilateral pursuit of oceanic mercantile primacy. This strategy was grounded in an altered institutional foreign policy context – the post-1688 ‘revolution in foreign affairs’ – subsequent to constitutional changes in the British polity during the 17thC Revolution. It allowed the co-articulation of British foreign policy by Parliament, henceforth grounded in the bi-partisan deliberation of the ‘national interest’. This implied the socialisation and domestication of British foreign policy making and the contested construction and calculus of the secular interest of the ‘political nation’, as opposed to the whims of executive dynastic interests. The British peace plan, enacted at Utrecht, constitutes a sui generis phenomenon that cannot be exhaustively captured with prevailing IR concepts, including hegemony, formal or informal imperialism, automatic power-balancing, collective security, or hierarchy.
Room and time tbc.