For a Unified History of the 20th Century

For a Unified History of the World in the Twentieth Century

Charles Bright and Michael Geyer

Radical History Review Vol. 39 (September, 1987)

 

Historians no longer need to invent the world in order to study world history. The world exists as a material fact and everyday practice in the global organization of production and destruction. It is this fact of global integration at the end of the twentieth century that makes the current crisis of world history so serious.' The venerable western tradition of world history, embedded in the grand themes of German idealism and the naturalistic metaphors of growth and development, ceased to produce explanations precisely at the moment when advanced means of communication, production and coercion began to integrate the world technically and materially.:! The tradition survives in the recurrent attempts to explain the "rise of the West" and to account for that unique combination of factors that enabled the North Atlantic region to encapsulate the world. But eighty years into the twentieth century, it is clear that these formulations are no longer sufficient for the problems of contemporary history.3 It becomes less and less useful to rethink the origins of western expansion unless we can also begin to think systematically about the nature of the world that has been created as a consequence of western expansion and the processes of global integration it established. The problem is to understand the embattled efforts to establish order on a globe that has become one, yet is also becoming more self-consciously diverse. The central themes of this world history cohere around the ever more radical disjuncture between global integration and local autonomy.

In this context, the problem of world history appears in a new light. At its core is no longer the evolution and devolution of world systems, but the tense, ongoing interaction of forces promoting global integration and forces recreating local autonomy. This is not a struggle for or against global integration itself, but rather a struggle over the terms of that integration. The struggle is by no means finished, and its path is no longer foreordained by the dynamics of western expansion that initiated global integration. The world has moved apart even as it has been pulled together, as efforts to convert domination into order have engendered evasion, resistance and struggles to regain autonomy. This struggle for autonomy--the assertion of local and particular claims over global and general ones--does not involve opting out of the world or resorting to autarky. It is rather an effort to establish the terms for self-determining and self-controlled participation in the processes of global integration and the struggle for planetary order.

At the center of this study is the question of who, or what, controls and defines the identity of individuals, social groups, nations and cultures. This is as much a political as an intellectual formulation, for it involves a critical reassessment of the practice of globalism. Is the path of integration to be defined by the systems of control and the increasingly elaborate efforts to manage people in the service of production? Or is the oneness of the world to be defined as the common human struggle for freedom, expressed in terms of cultural diversity and autonomous integration of production, power and social organization? Posed in this way, the study of world history reaffirms, from the vantage point of the late twentieth century, the old agenda of enlightened thinking about the progress of humankind toward freedom.

This same struggle between integration and autonomy has engendered much of the endemic violence that has characterized twentieth-century history. Old ethnocentric views, born in relative isolation as images of Self and Other, have been transformed into direct, often vicious, confrontations: the quest for global order has taken shape around containment and control, the deployment of coercive power. Under these conditions, the creation of difference can only be seen as a threat to the unity of the world. The place for a truly global agenda of civil rights, then, lies not just in redressing inequalities, but in affirming the creation of difference in the context of understanding the common destiny of human beings.

 

The Politics of Global Development

 

The explosive expansion of the European-North Atlantic region during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries bound the world together in dense networks of economic and power relations. This expansion of western power proceeded according to the logic of competition. This competition was essentially the outgrowth of European capitalism and the rivalry of European nation-states.4 Material in-

 

tegration was accompanied and underwritten by a hegemonic extension of western culture, glorifying and scientifically sanctifying competition as the foundation of human progress. This competitive extension of western control, although it was a powerful universalizing force, was highly unstable and prone to violence. At one end, the logic of competition generated intense lateral struggles among industrial powers; at the opposite pole the competitive extension of western power entailed a selective but intense penetration of specific regions around the world, creating complex patterns of evasion, resistance and renewal.

The struggle for local autonomy proceeded according to a distinct logic of its own: the logic of community building. This logic included

the creation of coherent meanings, cultural identities and social solidarities--or organizing the relations of gender, class and ethnicity. That is, we must be careful not to assume that the forces of integration were, themselves, the driving forces of twentieth-century global development. This would only reduce world history to the history of western domination, where, in fact, power and production must be organized again and again, locally and socially, in the social relations that control labor and render it productive and in the modes of social organization that accommodate and reproduce subordination.

The key point here is that global integration and local autonomy were nor alternative trajectories or possibilities, but parallel and mutually interactive processes. In the interaction of "the West and the rest," people who had long been shaping their history continued to shape

it in new ways. Global systems of control did penetrate and break up

regional concentrations of production, power and social organization. Yet the more societies became part of the processes of global integration, the more powerful became the possibilities of reinventing or reasserting social and cultural difference. This is most apparent in the imperial context, where the consolidation of the colonial state and economy promoted both collaboration and new patterns of resistance, leading ultimately to decolonization. But these were worldwide dynamics in the twentieth century. Twentieth-century history, then, points in exactly the opposite direction of what even the most sophisticated advocates of world systems would argue. The hallmarks of "development" in this century are the creation of difference and the defense of separate, autonomous paths in the wake of worldwide social and economic transformation .

Hence, a unified world history of the twentieth century must establish the interactions between the logic of competition and the logic of community building in the social organization of production and power; it must also try to grasp the interplay between these opposites which, together, establish the course of global development.

 

The Regional Origins of Global Integration

 

As long as we assume that the world is moving toward a single, homogeneous and "modernist" civilization in which "traditional" societies are left behind in favor of a new, global civilization, discrete regional histories remain mere "prehistories," so much skin to be shed6 with more or less pain, in the process of "entering the third world. Once we give up the cherished knowledge of the trajectories and outcomes of world history, however, the autonomous histories of diverse regions and cultures become immediately relevant to the study of global development. For prior to the explosive surge of western power in the late nineteenth century, global development rested on a series of over-

lapping, interacting, yet essentially autonomous regions, each engaged in distinct processes of self-organization, the characteristic feature of which was the regional integration of power, production and social organization. Any interpretation of world history in the twentieth century ought to begin with a decisive emphasis on regionalism in global politics.

There are considerable difficulties in elaborating and examining the inner workings of a world of autonomous regions.7 In studying the nineteenth century, however, we can reconstruct the organization of production and the trade links within and between regions, the regional configurations of military and administrative power--especially those relatively few power centers around which regional processes of production and exchange cohered-and the patterns of cultural identity that allowed people of one region to distinguish themselves from others. From this, we can delineate the distinct, though not necessarily territorial, boundaries between regions of the world and establish the analytic bases for studying global development. What emerges from this perspective are parallel paths of regional development, driven by quite similar forces-expanding populations, intensified agricultural production, denser patterns of exchange, and the struggle to maintain extractive relationships between producers and their overlords. Linkages between regions always existed and the density and intensity of interaction tended to increase as they became linked by European, mainly British, industrial commerce and a growing western demand for third "world foods" and commodities.8 I " ~~~- ~-~ ---r---- --·-b But until the mid-nineteenth century, the major regional centers of the world remained distinct, engaged in increasingly competitive processes of self-improvement.

From the mid-nineteenth century, these patterns of competitive self-improvement underwent a substantial shift in nature and direction, marked by a global crisis in the organization of the social relations of power and production. What was important at this juncture was not that Europe took over, but that all regions of the world were engaged in sustained and parallel struggles over self-improvement in the face of global competition, and that distinct regional crises occurred together at mid-century. Regional histories were lifted to a new plane of global interaction whose central dialectic--from the very beginning--involved the struggle to preserve or enhance autonomy and difference. Ultimately, the most striking feature of the western industrial world in the 1860s and '709 was neither its wealth nor its superiority of technical means, but its extreme instability--its failure to control competition and conflict among various micro-centers of power within the region and, concurrently, the inability to stabilize social relations of production and reproduction within the confines of these national power configurations. Europe was unable to regenerate itself from within, since none of its "national" fragments could reproduce itself on its own

and, yet, they together were incapable of cohering, except in the myth of "western civilization" and in the practice of establishing supremacy over the "rest.

The resulting threats of war and revolution set the region as a whole on a highly volatile, competitive course of expansion in which the problems of organizing social relations of production and power were resolved by a quite unprecedented projection of power and production 10 outward and overseas. This external solution to regional crisis was made possible by a global revolution of power and an unprecedented intensification of production which, from the 1860s on, decisively tilted the balance of power among regions in favor of the North Atlantic European region.ll The rapid, increasingly ruthless extension of

 

western rivalries to the world as a whole broke ~~p regional systems elsewhere, redirecting autonomous trajectories of development and forcing regional centers and their subordinate systems to reorganize the social relations of production and power under the pressure of the rapid formation of global politics.

Great Britain championed an accelerated process of global integration, hinging on the spread of industrialization and the intensification of production and exchange within the context of an increasingly global division of labor between manufacturing and primary commodity producing areas. Increased global integration also involved a tier of newly-industrializing countries that benefited from Britain's penchant for exporting its industrial revolution; this tier initially included the United States, Germany and Japan, rapidly industrializing powers that soon challenged British domination directly. Also included were a diverse group of societies around the world that engaged in a process of self-transformation leading toward full incorporation within the emerging, British-led imperial division of labor. The reorientation of Latin American agrarian and extractive economies, especially in Argentina and Chile, is perhaps the best known example, but the phenomenal rise of peasant-based agricultural production in West Africa in the wake of the collapse of slave trading, and the expansion of rice production in Burma and Thailand in response to the restructuring of the Indian 12 Ocean economy, were equally significant. Much of eastern and southern Europe also followed this trajectory. In each of these cases, though in quite different and specific ways, state power turned into an instrument of, or a conduit for, producers who were increasingly engaged in world-market exchanges. As a result, these societies retained only residual powers to resist encroachment on their autonomy. While few were formally subordinated to colonial power, they functioned as dependent elements, constituting highly developed regional enclave economies serving the industrial producers according to the rules of free trade.

This global organization of production and exchange rested to a sig-

nificant degree on the capacity of primary producing countries to export their goods to industrial countries on fairly equal terms of trade.l3 Although European colonial possessions certainly participated in this exchange, they were only a small pan of a much larger expansion of production and trade worldwide. This has led some authors to dismiss the importance of colonies in the organization of the imperial world order. Yet it was not by chance that Great Britain, the foremost champion of world economic integration, also became the most aggressive and successful colonial power at the end of the nineteenth century. For the organization of accumulation on a worldwide scale and the reproduction of multilateral exchanges depended on colonial societies and most specifically on India, which remained the centerpiece of a large east Asian network of production and exchange. As the only great land-based empire of Eurasia to be hilly controlled by a European power, India stood at the heart of Britain's imperial order. It was Asia's leading trading and manufacturing power, earning trade surpluses with every country in the world except Great Britain well into the twentieth century. Under colonial domination, however, India never converted these earnings into national savings or domestic consumption. Rather, the surpluses were transferred, in a variety of forms, to Great Britain. This not only provided the British with large capital reserves, but it enabled them to translate their paramount position as a colonial power into a central role as the world's banker, supplying liquidity for world trade and investment and for managing the global system of settlements based on the gold standard.l5

 

This link between empire building and economic integration--between economic expansion, extra-economic forms of surplus extractions, and financial hegemony over the exchange of goods--helped the imperial world order cohere. Britain could organize exchange globally in an international division of labor that left production largely to indigenous producers around the world (as long as they threw open their regional markets to British goods). The reproduction of this system of exchange and accumulation on a world scale depended on the expansion of state power through empire building and on the capacity of the colonial state to extract and transfer surpluses.

The path of global integration championed by the British was profoundly conditioned from the outset by its opposite--the quest for autonomy. Within the industrial and industrializing world, this took the form of national consolidations of productive power, which attempted, in very different ways, to break clear of subordinate integration and to carve out independent, national paths of development. Despite all the obvious differences, newly industrializing countries like Germany, Japan, the United States and Russia had one thing in common: they all eschewed the British path and turned in upon themselves, mobilizing national societies and organizing productive power in an essentially Listian project of self-improvement and self-exploitation designed to overtake the industrial lead of Great Britain or at least to escape subordinate integration in a British-dominated world order.l6 In

 

the case of both the United States and Russia, this effort involved the effective segregation of large, state-protected national markets which, in the wake of social and political renovation (the American Civil War, the Russian emancipation of the serfs) promoted a rapid expansion into the territorial hinterland and a large increase in agricultural surpluses as a foundation for indigenous industrialization. In the case of Germany and Japan, with much smaller domestic bases, the effort involved the national consolidation of state power, grounded in universal military service and the cultural homogenization of state education and nationalist ideology, which subordinated social order to an institutionally organized and increasingly planned drive toward efficiency and economies of scale--all aimed at breaking into the process of global integration and challenging British control over the terms of integration.

In each case, efforts to mobilize national societies in institutionally controlled processes of self-transformation had serious domestic consequences, producing heightened struggles over class relations and social values which at times threatened to undermine, even paralyze, the institutional drive for industrial development. Where the effort succeeded, it took the form of a corporate reorganization of society that attempted to solve the problems of mass participation in the context of a rapid concentration of industrial and coercive power.l7

The strain of this effort and the explosive social tensions it generated made it a most problematic path.

In the United States, where a large domestic marker gave capital room to maneuver and a highly developed democracy absorbed and deflected mass dissent, corporate consolidation occurred very rapidly, and an intense period of industrial development allowed corporations, by the 1920s, to begin extending control outward along the backward and forward linkages of the national economy toward the organization of resources and markets--and eventually production itself--on a global scale. In the case of Russia, where capitalist development was far less robust and the autocracy too rigid to solve the problems of mass mobilization and participation, the concentrated drive toward state centered industrial transformation ended in revolution. In the case of Germany and Japan, where the absence of a large internal market reduced the freedom to maneuver and forced industries into highly competitive export drives, the enormous strain of the domestic reorganization of the nation and the struggle for mass participation tended to get displaced into a fervent nationalism that culminated in military activism. For Japan, this rook the form of wars against China and Russia; for Germany, it took the form of a direct challenge against France and Great Britain--a bid for the place in the imperial sun--which ended in world war.

The rise of the new corporate powers at the end of the nineteenth century intensified the lateral competition among industrial nations over control of the means of production, and this competition, in turn, shaped the nature of imperial order. Faced with the challenge of industrial competitors, the British and French rapidly shed their earlier preoccupation with markets and access overseas in favor of a more systematic effort to organize production, to maximize state power in the extraction of colonial resources, and to harness the colonies to the cause of "national efficiency" and the creation of global positions of strength. In effect, imperialism ceased to be mere expansionism and became, as it were, conscious of itself as a world ordering concept. The self-conscious ordering of the imperial estate gave the imperial order its final and distinct form in the consolidation of the colonial promotional state overseas--and also proved its ultimate undoing.l8 The more colonial state power bore down upon subject societies to insure the surplus extraction necessary to maintain place in the lateral competition of industrial nations, the more it had to contend with the resistance, evasion or counter-mobilizations of subject peoples--all of which tended to raise significantly the costs of colonial control.

These counter currents were of two essential kinds. On the one hand, the old land based empires of Asia and some Latin American states showed much tenacity in preserving their political and even economic autonomy in the face of the tightening forces of global integration. The continuing struggle for renewal that took place in China and the Ottoman Empire--culminating in the Young Turk revolt of 1908 and the Chinese revolution of 1911--testified to an ongoing campaign to maintain the integrity of these regional centers of power by adapting western techniques to the autonomous processes of social organization. The reconstruction of Brazil in the wake of slave emancipation and, in different forms, the Mexican revolution, moved at least partially against the tendency, widespread elsewhere in Latin America, toward dependent integration in the imperial world economy. While only partially successful, these efforts at self-renewal preserved separate centers of power. Their success--significant in the light of the Indian experience--consisted in limiting the extension of European, state-led forms of surplus extraction and, hence, the process of universalizing the imperial mode of accumulation on a global scale.l9

There were, in the second place, equally important subterranean processes of social self-organization throughout the colonial world. The subordination of production to colonial state power had the effect of pushing autonomous development into the seemingly depoliticized and ahistorical spheres of "native" and "nativist" culture where the struggle to reintegrate production, power and social relations and to establish internally generated forms of domination and subordination continued. These took the form of evasion, "laziness," open sabotage and "nativist" practices, but increasingly, with the imposed reorganization of economic and political relations, these struggles cohered in new social mobilizations around subordinate, but indigenous concentrations of production and coercion.20 This process had only begun to unfold in

 

the years before 1914, and, initially, colonial state power was able, wherever applied, to destroy or deflect autonomy drives. Yet, in the longer run, colonial peoples mounted an escalating challenge to the consolidation of state power, which, it should be noted, was not resolved by decolonization, when independence movements seized state power, but continued in the subsequent crises of post-colonial states during the 1960s and '709.

 

Benchmarks of Global Development

 

In the decades before 1914, two axes of conflict coalesced which were, between them, to shape the course of global development down into our own time. Both expressed the tense dialectic between integration and autonomy.

On the one hand, there was an axis of lateral competition that took shape around the bid to forge global integration on the basis of imperial power and the counter-bids to establish autonomous bases of national development on the basis of self-exploitation. Competition along this axis led directly to the First World War. In the long inter-war crisis of imperial order, it increasingly took the form of a straight-up rivalry between imperial and corporate forms of organizing production and power. World depression and another world war ended with the American attempt to reconstruct world order on the basis of corporate and nuclear power. The triumph of corporatism under American hegemony in the great postwar boom yielded the basic elements of a supranational organization of production on a global scale.

Yet this struggle to control the terms of global integration has continually had to contend with, on the other hand, an axis of struggle against subordination. This struggle for self-improvement included strenuous worldwide debates between the options of resistance and collaboration, between efforts to evade or escape subordination through selective adaptations and efforts at self-improvement through dependent integration, between appeals for the defense or reinvention of "traditional" values and pleas to plunge ahead with the economic and social transformation set off by processes of global integration. Along this axis congregated, as well, the various populist, revivalist and right- or left: wing radical movements of the industrial and industrializing world. Conflict along this axis intensified during the interwar period, as the inconclusive conflict between imperial and corporate forms of world order opened avenues for alternative visions. The Second World War and the Cold War effectively eliminated, or contained, contention within industrial societies, but these global conflicts also finally destroyed imperial power, thus releasing forces of political independence and economic development. From this post-colonial crisis emerged the basic elements for a defense of autonomy in the recreation of a world of disparate entities and distinct cultural identities.

 

The Transition Toward a Global Organization of Production

 

The First World War set off a long transitional crisis that led ul timately to a basic restructuring of global order. This enduring crisis between 1910 and 1950 can be interpreted not simply in terms of a long depression and yet another furious world war, but as an intense struggle over the possible ways and means of shaping global integration. Three developments profoundly affected the general course of global development in these years. In the first place, world ordering capabilities shifted from imperial systems, which had been dominant and apparently permanent in 1910, to corporate forms, which undertook a global organization of production on the back of American military and industrial power during the 1950s. This shift was gradual, intermittent and, during most of the transitional period, inconclusive. On the one hand, imperial power found it difficult to reinstitute the global division of labor between manufacturing and primary commodity producers. In the process of trying, however, they transformed colonial regimes into hill-fledged promotional states, which now entered and reshaped directly the relations of production--a development that allowed imperial powers to weather the world economic crisis and only culminated during and just after the Second World War.

On the other hand, American corporate power, riding the crest of an enormous domestic boom, made its first bid to supplant Great Britain as the world's source of liquidity and linchpin of global order. During the 1920s, the United States began a process of extending control overseas, running along the backward linkages of raw material suppliers in Latin America and the Pacific basin and the forward organization of production and markets in Europe. Yet this corporate extension failed to establish a cyclical system of exchange relations and payments that would guarantee the reproduction of this new order, and it failed eventually to sustain the domestic expansion of production that underwrote the entire endeavor. With the economic collapse of the 1930s, the United States effectively withdrew from the world economy, and the transition attempted in the 1920s was abandoned. There was thus no linear continuity between the decline of imperial and the rise of corporate order; rather, the transition was wrenched out of a global depression and forged in a worldwide struggle with new forces that arose in the 1930s to challenge both corporate and imperial power.

This inconclusive conjuncture created the opening for the explosive rise of two militant challengers, Germany and Japan. Both countries had followed a very extreme course of rapid self-transformation in order to participate in the lateral competition over the terms of global integration before 1914, and both had faced massive domestic resistance ever since the 18909. This opposition first turned into open revolt in the 19109, was temporarily suppressed by the corporate-led recovery of the 1920s, and then burst again to the surface in the 19309, when corporate industrial and state power could no longer guarantee economic reproduction within national boundaries, and political elites in Germany and Japan were no longer able to stomach or impose a further intensification of self-exploitation to salvage the social relations of production and power. Both countries turned toward neo-imperial solutions, attempting to create by conquest self-contained regional concentrations of power and production and to set free participatory drives through the racist subordination of other societies. The challenge of Germany and Japan revealed with lethal precision the changing trajectory of global development, for this neo-imperialism was a struggle against all forms of global integration, imperial and corporate. It linked the struggle for mass-participation-at its core a challenge to corporate rule within each country--to supremacist dreams of social reconstruction in an imperial counter-world, based on racist domination and the destruction of all possibilities for autonomous development on the part of subordinated societies. It thus reconciled large-scale organization with social mobilization.

The crisis of imperial order and the depression that followed the collapse of a corporate alternative provided the context for a second development. It deepened worldwide struggles for autonomy. The world crisis destroyed the integrated process of global accumulation and, in effect, devolved surplus extraction onto regional and local levels where it came increasingly to depend on the control of state power. The strengthening of the colonial state, as an instrument for the promotion of development within empires, encouraged the formation of anti-colonial independence movements. Paralleling this elsewhere was the emergence of authoritarian, nationalist regimes engaged in programs of indigenous development, often with populist overtones. These currents were most pronounced in areas that had followed a path of subordinate integration or had remained marginal to the imperial world order before 1914, but then found themselves hard pressed in the 1920sand '30sto escape the effects of that order's collapse.

In either case, efforts to establish or defend autonomy in the organization of production and power were profoundly affected by the brutal effects of the world economic crisis. Everywhere the general col-

lapse of commodity prices led to a massive impoverishment of raw material and agricultural producers, driving apart industry and agricul ture, city and countryside, and subordinating the latter to the imperatives of reviving and maintaining production in the former. Although this global process of starving the countryside eased up because of the war-induced raw material boom of the 19409, it was not fundamentally changed by it, and it was reinforced again by the precipitate decline of commodity prices after 1953.24 Thus the deepest and most persistent

 

cleavage that resulted from the inter-war years was between industrial centers--including the manufacturing and urban enclaves of the non-industrial world that profited from the collapse of an integrated global system of accumulation--and impoverished agricultural zones that carried the burden of maintaining a highly fragmented, yet intensified process of accumulation.

Outside the colonial systems, the drive for autonomy found its dearest expression in a dozen or so state-centered, military or authoritarian regimes that appeared across eastern and southern Europe, the Near East (Turkey, Iran), Latin America (Brazil, Argentina, Mexico) and as far as Guomindang China. Though often conservative and repressive, these regimes were committed to programs of national development and self-strengthening, and they shared a reliance on a strong state as the means for staving off the negative effects of global ~integration and establishing autonomous bases of social cohesion. While these regimes experimented with various forms of indigenous industrialization, based mainly on import substitution, they were also engaged in a latent or open civil war against their own countryside, and most of them were successful in subordinating either the agricultural sector as a whole or, at least, peasant production and landless labor. Despite significant advances in industrialization, internal civil and class conflict ultimately weakened the quest of these regimes for autonomy.2 5

 

Some made common cause with the neo-imperial challengers of the 19309 and, after the Second World War, fell easy prey to subordination within a corporate world order, once the process of integrating global accumulation was renewed under American supervision.

Within colonial empires, there was less room to organize shelters for autonomous development. Colonial societies were far less buffered against the ravages of depression. Development policies in the 1920s had strengthened state control over the organization of labor and extraction and deepened the integration of colonial producers into world market and pricing structures. In the 1930s imperial powers were generally able to pass off the costs of their recovery strategies onto their colonial subjects. At the same time, however, this strengthening of colonial control made the colonial state an object of nationalist agitation. On the one hand, radical nationalists aimed to seize state power and use it to destroy dependency and recreate autonomy; on the other hand, the strengthening of the colonial state's extractive capacities and the devastating impact of the depression upon agriculture set off vicious communal, ethnic and class conflicts that threatened to ruin the movements for national independence and destroy the nationalist dream of inheriting the colonial state and grounding it in a mass popular base.

Thus the final drive toward independence was shaped by two parallel forces: mass political mobilizations aimed at closing the deep cleavages that had been opened up within colonial societies, while nationalist elites scrambled to control state power as the only effective means of organizing society and managing the economy. The key question in the context of decolonization was whether the techniques of mass action or of state formation would prove most effective in holding societies together and defending independence. Ultimately, it was the path of state strengthening, pioneered in the 19309 by colonial powers and by autonomy movements outside the colonial empires, that prevailed. The postwar order was built not on the basis of mass mobilizations and mass participation, but on the devolution of power to independent state apparatuses, which sponsored a subordinate integration into the corporate order of Pax Americana. Thus in the end, expanding state power led "not to autonomy, but to new forms of subordination.2 This in turn prompted a general crisis of the postcolonial state throughout the Third World in the 1960s and ';1970’s. If was this crisis of the state after independence reopened multiple possibilities for establishing autonomy on the basis of new forms of social and cultural mobilization.

These struggles to establish the bases of autonomy in the long transitional period are best understood in the context of a third development: the appearance and successful defense of a revolutionary organization of social relations as the foundation of autonomy. The essential prerequisite of this autonomous path was social revolution, something that most anti-colonial movements and developmental state building were unable or unwilling to attempt. Yet the revolutions in Russia and China, which mark the beginning and the end point of this period of transition and form its most enduring legacy, demonstrated against extraordinary odds that autonomous paths of development were possible, albeit at a very high, and some say crippling, cost. The Bolshevik victory in 1917 united very briefly the fragmented elements of resistance against both corporate and imperial order, calling upon the colonial and peasant masses to join the industrial working class in overthrowing a common oppression. However, through much of the interwar period, the Soviet Union was more a witness than a factor in the crisis of imperial order and the onset of world depression. Cauterized and contained, the Soviet regime turned to a program of autonomous industrial development-socialism in one country--and emerged by the end of the 1930s as a major industrial power outside the capitalist world.

In pursuing this course of state-led industrialization, based on the terroristic transformation of the Russian countryside, the Soviet Union sharply distinguished itself from the other, nationalist attempts to establish defensive autonomy by its revolutionary willingness and growing ability to rework social relations in favor of industrial growth. At the same time, in pursuing this grim course, the Soviet Union moved along a trajectory quite distinct from the revolutionary movement in China, which in battling the nationalist regime of the Guomindang expressed more clearly the impoverishment of primary commodity producers and explored more hilly the possibilities of mass insurgency as a basis of social reconstruction and autonomy. The seminal decisions of China and the Soviet Union in 1927-28--when Stalin launched his first Five Year Plan and Mao Zedong successfully inaugurated the course of peasant revolution-captured the tantalizing possibilities of pursuing revolutionary autonomy from entirely opposite poles.28

Both the Soviet Union and China became rallying points, as examples of revolutionary autonomy, for anti-colonial nationalists and their subsequent struggles for social reconstruction. Despite all their differences, these two revolutionary powers remained the lone survivors of the much broader transitional struggle for autonomy that had challenged and undermined imperial world order from below and continued to seek strategies for resisting both the allure and the threat of a new corporate order. They thus expressed the extreme difficulties, the internal strains and contradictions, of an autonomous road, and in grappling with the problems of revolutionary self-transformation, they continued to oscillate between the equally massive efforts of breaking into, or breaking our of, the process of global integration.

 

The Consolidation and Crisis of Corporate World Order

 

The Second World War brought the transitional struggles to an end. The gigantic American domestic economy, hilly restored by war production and generating an enormous surplus of goods and capital, was ideally positioned to attempt a global organization of production and exchange. The Cold War, while instrumental in the consolidation of American control over the processes of global integration, did not fundamentally condition development after 1950, because most of the world was on the American side of the Cold War divide and subject to its terms of world ordering.29 The United States, in blunting the appeal of a Soviet or Chinese alternative, managed for a brief time to solve three key problems that had thwarted world order in the transitional period. It contained internal opposition to corporate rule from both the Left and the Right; it contained lateral international competition among industrial nations over the terms of global integration; and it deflected global challenges to subordination. In the latter instance, the United States fostered a rapid process of decolonization and deployed developmentalist strategies to shore up the post-colonial stare in the wake of the dismantled empires. The two decades of the American epoch thus brought a brief moment of synchronization.

The corporate world order established under American auspices was based on quite different premises than the preceding imperial order. Domestic compromises blunted resistance to large-scale institutional rule: productive pacts calmed trade unionists, while Cold War mobilizations around private property, the family and the state effectively integrated nationalist opponents to corporate rule. Growth· oriented trilateral compromises fostered regional recovery in Europe and (more slowly) in the Pacific, and curbed lateral competition among industrial nations. The Cold War alliance systems effectively combined the strongest national institutions-large-scale enterprise and the military--into a transnational elite network which, especially in Germany and Japan, turned the staunchest supporters of national power into the foremost proponents of a new world order under American leadership. The reproduction of this system was insured through a mixture of productivity increases, inflation and unequal terms of trade. Above all, it was ensured by the opening of the American market, which facilitated a mutually beneficial circulation of goods and capital and fostered an increasing specialization in the division of labor among industrial and industrializing nations. This promoted a much higher level of global integration than had been possible before 1914, but it also produced a profound transformation in the bases of world order. The imperial world order had organized exchange relations globally, leaving production to indigenous producers, and had insured both production and social reproduction through the expansion of state power. The

 

American-led corporate order, in contrast, organized production globally, while fostering regional exchange networks within the industrial world and creating monopolistic exchange relations between industrial and non-industrial nations.30

In the industrial world, stabilization depended on the effective suppression of insurgencies against subordination. The Soviet Union con tested this corporate dispensation, but managed to ensure the survival of an autonomous socialist alternative only through a rigorous suppression of autonomy drives in Eastern Europe and (less successfully) China, and through a sullen, economically debilitating acquiescence in its own containment within a militarized regional block. The Americans were thus able to brand all popular oppositionist or autonomy movements on their side of the Cold War divide as communist-inspired. Consequences of this ideological consensus spread to the colonial world, where the balance tipped against mass insurgencies in the movement for independence.

Decolonization in the corporate world order, instead, involved the devolution of state power to local and regional actors who used it to attract investment and expand production within a transnationally coordinated economic system of surplus extraction. Developmental policies led to a remarkable expansion of primary commodity production, achieved largely through investments in economies of scale. At the same time, a general cheapening of products resulted from tradeoffs between indigenous elites of poor countries (who benefited from transnational investments) and corporate elites whose principal motive in investment was to control and cheapen the costs of raw materials. Thus industrial and primary producers were bound together in an integrated global system of accumulation. It is in this context, as a specific feature of the formation of a corporate world order, that the notion of the development of underdevelopment makes sense, and explains both the crisis of the post-colonial state from the late 1960s and the continuing 32 It is hardly surprising, in the light viability of popular insurgencies.

of these developments, that the stabilization of corporate order came increasingly to depend on exertions of military force. A general militarization of the world, a global integration of coercion under American supervision, was a concomitant to the control of autonomy. Not only did the containment of the Soviet Union come to depend on weapons of enormous sophistication and destructive power, but the dissemination of these technologies of destruction to state elites and clients throughout the Third World contributed both to the fiscal crises of postcolonial states and to the rising levels of repressive violence that were

 

necessary in the reproduction of internal order.

The U.S.-centered corporate order thus proved highly unstable. Signs of impending trouble became evident in the early 1960s, and in the 1970s the system entered general crisis. A third transitional phase has opened which is bringing to a close the century of western control over the processes of global integration.

The tremendous expansion of the world economy since the 1950s has produced a climactic advance in the processes of global integration. The internationalization of production since the late 1950s, followed by the proliferation of global banking operations in the late 1960s, fostered both the rapid expansion of manufacturing sectors in selected Third World countries and a dramatic decentralization of production worldwide. The increasingly tight integration of global systems of finance, production and exchange gave corporate forms of control enormous leverage and maneuverability. This in turn produced increasing crises of adjustment for local and regional economies seeking to participate in world development. Western industrial nations, every bit as much as the newly industrializing nations of the southern tier, had to accommodate national economic policies to the logic of competition within a formally integrated world economy. This brought both austerity programs and export drives among industrial nations seeking markets, and engendered further impoverishment and indebtedness among poorer nations seeking to participate in what was, still, an era of global growth. The logic of global competition thus came to overshadow the integrity of national politics.34

 

Control over the global organization of production is no longer centered in the United States. Rather, it is spread out among industrial powers and increasingly crosses the North-South divide. With this development, the process that has characterized the last century--that of a simultaneous expansion of industry worldwide and a concentration of control in the North Atlantic world--may be coming to an end. But the newly emerging competition over global order, in which Asians, Latin Americans and Near Easterners actively participate, has not led to a more egalitarian world. Instead, the renewal and spread of lateral competition for control is slicing up whole regions and countries anew, establishing new focal points of production and power. This process is commonly called a new international division of labor: an apt enough description as long as we recall that this division of labor is based no longer on exchange between independent producers but on the global and competitive management of production. This process incorporates newcomers, yet pushes others to the margins.

No one escapes the impact of a global organization of production. The victims are not only in an impoverished "fourth world" or the regions of endemic violence and protracted civil war, but in the United States itself. The process of global integration produced a general crisis of American hegemony in the 1970s. The internationalization of capital and productive capabilities had the long-term effect of draining investment and running down domestic plants and equipment, reducing productivity and increasing inflationary pressures. The crisis of American power was passed off on others in the form of exported inflation, capital shortages, an intensified debt crisis, and deepening militarization. The United States sought to defend global stability with projections of military strength. Its embattled clients, who had depended on the American promise of development, resorted to military solutions in the face of the general crisis of state power.35 These patterns bear all the marks of a transitional crisis. If the first period of transition, in the mid-nineteenth century, was characterized by a projection of productive and coercive power from one region onto the rest of the world; and if the second period of transition, between the wars, was characterized by national struggles over the global organization of production and power; then this third transitional period is marked by a truly global competition over the terms of integration itself.

In this passage, the North Atlantic world clings to the social or-

ganization of production and power that has given it the edge in global competition for so long, while other regions of the world launch crisis prone efforts to carve out new modes of social organization to preserve some semblance of coherence and identity. The strains are enormous and the failures are numerous. Thus the shift to high productivity factories in parts of the Third World has rendered obsolete the generalized mobilization of labor power typical of the imperial era. In the process, one of the more important twentieth-century footholds of contention has dissolved. Instead, mobilization of labor power takes place more and more on the initiative of impoverished people themselves and at their own expense: Mexicans, Africans, Turks, and others migrate across continents in search of jobs. Moreover, whole areas and whole peoples have been pushed out of the processes of global integration. Bangladesh and much of Africa are rendered irrelevant to global development, so marginal that their only real resource is to call upon the pity of the world by threatening to die in mass starvation on television.

Globally organized capitalism nevertheless maintains its allure. It may destroy social cohesion and it may give rise to terroristic regimes, but it also holds out the promise of plenty and a better life. The emergence of a universalizing, global culture is apparent, not only in the corporate boardrooms of the transnationals, but in the worldwide appeal of such artifacts of American consumerism as "Dallas". In response, regional moves for autonomy entail the elaboration of new cultural forms. That is, culture cannot be taken at face value, as sole authentic" expression waiting to be ruined by missionaries, Coca-Cola and Donald Duck. At the end of the twentieth century, cultural repre sentations (arising as expressions of the relations of gender, class and ethnicity) have become a contested terrain in which the use of symbols and of goods is at stake. One of the crucial contests over global control has shifted from the general mobilization of labor power to the generalized reworking of social relations and their cultural representations.

The open-ended nature of this struggle is evident. Against the impoverishment of African culture, which is an extension of the general spoliation of Africa, we can set the attempts of China or India to reintegrate production, power and social cohesion. In China, these efforts have revived old issues: how to maintain central power and social cohesion while fostering economic development; how to maintain a moral, non-economic order of society and a separate Chinese identity while establishing closer ties with world systems of production and exchange. In India such efforts have led to a new surge of religious and sectarian extremism and to widespread communal violence, threatening to break up the unity of the subcontinent at precisely the moment when a distinctly national, technocratically modern middle class is taking shape. One may note the tendency of more overtly militant societies, like Iran, to open some distance between global technique and in-

digenous culture, to attempt " arms-length " appropriations of technique that reintegrate society and establish defensible cultural coherence against a global power structure. And one may observe West Africans trying to cope with the balkanization of their region and the collapse of the post-colonial state: creating "informal" economies and social networks new modes of social organization and new centers of power.

The current crisis of transition is thus characterized by the inability of political systems to control global production and global integration, and also by the inability of regional social formations to assert fully distinct processes of social and cultural reproduction. World order fails, while disparate entities cannot yet organize autonomous histories. this is the current configuration of the century-old struggle between global integration and the local organization of society. In this tense and tenuous combination of material integration and cultural fragmentation, we mark the end of the era of purely western domination and the reappearance, in dramatically altered forms, of a world of disparate entities and autonomous regional centers. Women in veils work at computer terminals, dispatching oil tankers to distant markets or military supplies to troops engaged in holy war. This is not Spengler's decline of the West, but the beginning of a global reordering in which the West seeks its place in a world order it must now share with radically different societies. It is the beginning of a truly global politics.