The Globalization of Capital and the Transformation of the State


An evolution of the world market is presently underway. The appearance of an information network, without borders, virtually without barriers, has led to significant economic changes, and to manifest transformations of the capitalist state, or at least to the way it functions. We have here a movement of adaptation on the part of capital. This evolution must be understood as an historic change within the capitalist mode of production. It is apparent that a loom or a computer are productive forces capable of transmitting value, but such material forces are always invented, developed, and deployed in the context of determinate social relations of production, and have significant consequences for both the economic evolution itself and on the state administration.

The evolution of the state is an historical fact. It is only normal that with the technological changes brought about by informatization, and that within the context of the real domination of capital, changes also occur in the functioning of the modern state. These changes in the economy and the state have significant repercussions on the struggles of the proletariat, and we must analyze the present development to ascertain whether or not it strengthens the political control of the bourgeoisie.

We therefore raise the question of the historical relation between state and market, the impact of technological innovation on the process of accumulation, and its repercussions on the state, so as to historically situate the ongoing changes and their impact on the proletariat.

What is happening today ?

Privatization of enterprises, liberalization of markets, a "new economy": have we, therefore, entered a new era? Are we seeing a weakening of the state? Does the movement of privatization constitute a reason to put in question the analysis of state capitalism? Can one speak of the triumph of the theses of neoliberalism? Bourgeois thinkers have not hesitated to raise these questions and to propose triumphalist answers by forging the concept of a new economy.

In the 1970's, in World Capitalism, Michalet proposes that we substitute the paradigm of a world economy for that of an international economy. He points to the role of multinational firms and their rise since the 1950's. Caillé speaks of a "megacapitalism" completely impervious to attacks launched on a purely national basis. Other authors, like Latouche put forward the idea of a market that has become planetary under the control of a megamachine linked to the technostructure. In The Globalized Economy, devoted to capitalism in the 21st century, Reich indicates that the extension of the commodity sphere to the scale of the entire planet puts in question the concept of a national economy and makes the national particularisms of capitalism obsolete. With respect to the future, Michel Beaud, in his Histoire du capitalisme writes: "We think that capitalism is more powerful and alive than ever; what has begun is a new age of capitalism, characterized by the growing mobilization of technoscience for innovation on the part of firms, the creation of new products and new processes, and a permanent struggle, through competition, to recreate monopolistic situations."

It is undeniable that the economy is still evolving, and that a new market economy is being created. Every trader must become globally competitive. Competition is no longer local; it knows no borders. There are financial networks, aerial networks, information networks which control the flow of available information. There is the matter of e-commerce, that is to say the emergence of the internet as an international network for the distribution of goods and services -- and of jobs for its operatives and specialists. Innovation has accelerated at a dizzying rate in the scientific and technical domains.

In 1968, in the US, 40% of products lasted less than 15 years, and ten years later the proportion was 60%. The methods used to produce them change just as fast. The rapid growth forseen for cybernetics and telematics in the operation of enterprises further increases the uncertainty about the future of labor. A permanent change has also occurred in all the domains of knowledge, in particular in those of ethics and aesthetics.

Today, the average volume of daily transactions on the international exchange market has practically reached 2 trillion dollars. This is a hundred times greater than the daily growth in goods and services. In the 1970's, the corresponding figure for such transactions was around 10-20 billion dollars. It reached 80 billion in 1980, 500 billion in 1990, and multiplied fourfold from 1990 to 2000. Only 7-8% of these monetary transactions correspond to regular commercial settlements or to transfers of capital destined for productive investment. In 1995, the total growth of world trade in commodities corresponded to only three and a half days worth of transactions on the exchange markets! In other words, more than 90% of those transactions serve as speculative monetary operations. It is a short-term exchange market (operations of purchase followed by re-sale), the site of a frantic pursuit of maximum profit. According to the figures of the Bank for International Settlements, 82% of these operation have a duration of less than seven days, and 43.5% a duration of less than two days. We could multiply these examples to illustrate this evolution. How are we to understand the development of this market? Is it -- as some maintain -- the triumph of a "new economy" that has freed itself from the shackles of the state?

The historical development of the world market in connection with the formation of the state

The movement of capital is always characterized by a close interaction between market and state. Significant technological innovations can result in important changes in the accumulation of capital, without putting the system in question. This confronts us with the need to be more precise in our understanding of the state, the market, and their reciprocal relations. Economists forged the notion of a "market" without integrating into it the existence of the state, just as sociologists elaborated their concept of the "state" without taking into account the existence of economic mechanisms. We are therefore in the presence of two close concepts which are nonetheless strangers one to another.

The international circulation of commodities is not a novelty, because, as Braudel emphasizes (he was the one to forge the term "world-economy"), this phenomenon already existed in the distant past, even as did the market, dear to the Phoenicians. The existence of a vast economic space is not a new phenomenon in itself. The Roman empire already constituted, in its time, a "world" (in the sense of the Mediterranean) market. Later, one could scarcely count the routes of international exchange -- salt road, gold road, spice road, silk road. It was a matter of international exchanges functioning to the rhythm of equestrian and maritime transport at first, then of motorized transport, which implied further transformations. The process of territorial expansion accompanied the movement of the accumulation of capital, within the limits politically imposed by what could be termed the state. The state intervened to protect the movement of accumulation, either through closing borders, through customs protection, or by opening them.

Braudel has emphasized the importance of trading cities: Venice, Amsterdam, London, New York, which have succeeded one another as centers, first of the European economy, then of the the world economy. These cities constituted the convergence points for the great flood of commodities, and the starting point for their subsequent transfer to internal consumption. During the Middle Ages, when Islam, India, or China were more developed than Europe, Venice imported luxury goods, and spices from the Levant and the Orient, and redistributed them. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the two centers for the development of trade, and of economic transformation, were Italy and Flanders. These two regions, long linked, won control of the quasi-totality of world trade, then in rapid expansion, because of the voyages of discovery and the nascent colonization.

The Netherlands, Antwerp and Amsterdam, became -- in the 16th and 17th centuries -- the major centers for the re-export of gold and silver coming from America, and for textiles, and, indeed, international trade in general. In Europe, the middlemen of Amsterdam bought and sold within ever more dense networks of commerce. In Colbert's time, the Netherlands possessed 16,000 ships against 200 for France. That fleet cast anchor from practically every port in the world. The Europe of the 16th and 17th centuries can be seen as a unified economy in which the Italian cities and then the Netherlands dominated finance and commerce.

Certainly, that international economy only affected a small part of society at that time. It would be later, with the emergence of nation-states and their power politics and mercantilist spirit, that protectionist measures would make their appearance. Europe was an agglomerate of national economies, each one relatively closed. These two apparently contradictory features -- open to world trade and yet the creation of nationally protected economic spaces -- made possible a first spurt of industrial growth through the extension of international markets and internal markets as well.

That evolution of the international market had consequences for the development of the state. Machiavelli in his The Prince proposed to a rising bourgeoisie an identification with the modern state, one rid of the alienating influence of religion, so as to be able to meet the challenge of the economic transformations. The nation-state, which is without a doubt one of the major creations of modernity, and due in no small part to the genius of Machiavelli and Hobbes, has made it possible to separate politics from religion, and to establish the bases of the modern state, whose power and autonomy have not ceased to grow since the 17th century. The idea of the nation-state was born from political doctrines in which it was attached to individual freedom and collective dependence by basing onself on reason and on the lived experience of communal solidarity and structures of centralized power. But at the same time, it was also very concretely shaped by the advent of a new reality: bourgeois society. To the individualistic minds of the Renaissance, it seemed that acquisition, the exercise and guarantee of their privileges, needed as a framework a kind of human association no longer based on the clan or the divine right of the monarch, but rather on mutual consent, respectful of freedom and of personal engagements. If the nation then appeared not as a "natural," but rather an artificial construction, it had to serve the particular interests of elites, and, above all, of the rising class -- the bourgeoisie.

The bourgeois individualism of the 17th century did not oppose state to individual. On the contrary, one was implied by the other. Locke, who knew that individual freedom could not develop in anarchy, but rather in order, clearly noted: "It would be contradictory to suppose that an individual would associate to others so that his property could be protected, but that his land, the title to which must be regulated by the laws of society, would escape the jurisdiction of the government to which he is himself subject in his quality as a proprietor." That state had as an essential component the concept of sovereignty, such as it was defined by Jean Bodin, in 1576, in his La République, and which would prevail until the first world war.

It was the "rational" state theorized by Hegel, which made it possible to to free man from insecurity, through the rational mastery of nature, although this utilitarian domination ensnared him in an implacable network of social domination.If Hegel conceived of civil society as a free market in which particular interests confronted one another, in the manner of Adam Smith, he was opposed to Smith when it came to the consequences for social existence. In civil society left to itself, each atomized individual according to the principle of self-interest becomes the enemy of all others, This is what, for Hegel, justifies the appearance of the state. The state, for Hegel, consecrates the passage from civil society to political community, which is at the same time the passage from the pursuit of particular interests to the accomplishment of a general will. For Hegel, it is in and through the state that the interest in freedom becomes the object of the general will, a will to organize collective existence in such a way as to insure the establishment of conditions permitting each to realize his own freedom.

Emancipated under the aegis of the Enlightenment, the rational state, positivist, utilitarian, and utopian, fully became the instrument of servitude when it was rapidly put in the service of capitalism. This state would assure the national unity of the territory, defend the national market at first, permit the bourgeoisie to extend its economic control over the national territory and then begin the conquest of other markets, thereby developing an imperialist policy. The state imposed regulation by violence in order to defend the integrity of its territory.

At the end of the 17th century, England supplanted the Netherlands. London became the major center for commercial exchanges. The maritime vocation of England was encouraged by the state. At that time England was engaged as a world power in colonization, and the trade in tropical products, of which the most profitable became the cotton from its Indian possessions.

As Habermas has shown, the 18th century saw the birth of a bourgeois public sphere, governed by reason, a reason that could contest the power of king and court. At the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, the Ancien Régime rid itself of its heavy interventionist attributes. Relegated to its natural role of protector of goods and persons, the state let market forces operate on their own. Economic initiative had finally freed itself from its fetters. From the 19th century, an extraordinary economic expansion reshaped European society, opened the entire world to trade and industry, and produced wealth on a scale that previous centuries could only have dreamed about.

There thus developed a liberal theory of the state. In that vision, state and market are completely different entities. As such, they are separate and distinct from one another. But, can we accept the liberal assertion presenting the 19th century as a period of economic laissez-faire? Contrary to liberal ideology, the state is not external to the economic sphere. Were it, one could point to perfectly separate entities, which is not the case. It is impossible, even historically, to envisage two totally separate entities, with a "market" functioning without state interference, or a state created independently of any economic activity, which perforce entails the involvement of the market.

The market is not a natural phenomenon, as liberal thought supposes. According to that vision, there would exist within society a closed space -- the market -- within which the state would have to first intrude. Historically, the market has never functioned without the existence of the constraints of the state

-- a common currency, the defense of private property by the state and its laws, courts, stock exchanges. It is a matter of social creations in which the state directly interferes. Thus, the railroads correspond in a decisive fashion to the very development of modern capitalism. However, the state played a considerable role in that phenomenon. Adam Smith, whom one would never suspect of statist sympathies, as is clear from his Wealth of Nations, in which he did not hesitate to qualify politicians as "insideous and sly animals," defended certain state interventions: regulation of bank reserves and interest rates, encouragement and subsidies for education, culture, and even certain types of production (agriculture, breeding), the utilization of fiscal powers to encourage or discourage certain activities.

Germany overcame its economic backwardness in the second half of the 19th century, thanks to its political unification in 1871, and to a policy of willful industrialization. The German state provided the push for industrial development by directing the construction of the railroads, on which it imposed a centralized direction. But its most spectacular role was in education where it established a complete system of technical education, and in the social domain, with the social security laws of the 1880's. These examples show the link between the state and the development of the market that has continued in the 20th century, and which has adapted itself to the new information technologies.

The first world war, the 1929 crisis, and the second world war, profoundly changed this state of affairs. Until the second world war what prevailed was a capitalism split into rival and sovereign states, separated by their frontiers. The attempt at international regulation through the League of Nations was condemned to failure. After the war, the state assumed a more and more important role, and took responsibility for economic reconstruction. The rationality of the state also changed. If for Hegel, the state's rationality derived from its realizing the ends of reason, for Max Weber, by contrast, rationality depended on the calculation of the adequacy of means to ends, and functioned purely in terms of efficiency: instrumental rationality in the service of economic values, which are themselves not determined rationally. It justified state intervention in economic life in the name of the concept of economic rationality.

The state intervened more and more in the administration of the economy, and at certain times raised protectionist economic barriers and controlled the movement of workers. After the second world war, Truman's "Fair Deal" (which continued Roosevelt's "New Deal"), the social market economy of Konrad Adenauer, the French conception of planning, were all the manifestations of a new role confided to the state, which would henceforth play the role of regulating the economy. With the accentuation of the passage from the formal to the real domination of capital, accumulation necessitated the opening and conquest of new markets, and provoked a movement towards unification, which would at first manifest itself in small, and later in more fundamental, structural changes. The world-economy, a concept banalized by Wallerstein and Braudel, was characterized by the existence of hierarchical networks, with centers and peripheries, a world divided between two great powers possessing nuclear weapons. That does not mean that the earlier situation was one of order: nuclear order, monetary order, financial order, commercial order, an order which was shattered at the beginning of the 1970's with the financial crisis and then the oil crisis.

A new model for the organization of labor appeared in the industrialized countries of Europe in the 1970's, based on the notion of "enlarged or enriched work" and constituting a counter-point to the Taylorist dynamic. We have raised this point in our articles devoted to the recomposition of the working class in Internationalist Perspective 15, 21, 22, and 24. And beginning in the 1980's, with Reagan in the US, and Thatcher in Britain, if the vision of an interventionsit state declined, this was a result of the new technological transformations that were occurring. Privatization and deregulation are the new watchwords of the new state policy, the market becoming the only mechanism whose authority cannot be questioned, as we have shown in Internationalist Perspective 25.

The influence of technological innovation on the accumulation process

New technologies can affect the way the economy functions, and change the strategy of the state. At the beginning of the development of capitalism, a revolution occurred in the 15th century with the invention of the printing press. After 1440, within fifty years, that invention had transformed Europe and radically changed its economy and its psychology. Thanks to the printing press, Luther's Bible would change society. It made it possible for Protestantism to conquer half of Europe, and forced the Catholic church to reform itself. The printing press created a new type of capitalist investment. The greats of the world, the public powers and the Church invested in publishing houses. The most celebrated example of a typographical factory created by such investment was Christophe Plantin's in Antwerp. Thanks to Antwerp capital, and then the support of Philip II and his state, Plantin made himself the most powerful manufacturer of books.

From 1770 to 1840, inventors created machines and technical processes that would increase the profitability of textile manufacturing in an exponential fashion. The accumulation of capital due to world trade during the 16th and 17th centuries, the agricultural revolution of the 18th century, the technical innovations which transformed Northern Europe and North America in the 19th century, all bear witness to this phenomenon. Factories expanded, employing ever greater masses of workers, and their location was henceforth determined by the availability of coal and the proximity of a pool of labor. The diffusion of industrial and manufacturing products improved throughout the 19th century, thanks to a constant improvement in the transportation network, as a result of the active complicity of the state.

At the beginning of the 19th century, with the impact of the steam engine, the Western world underwent the greatest technological boom in economic history, that stimulated by the railroad. The veritable leaven for the industrial revolution, the railroads transformed, in their turn, geographical relations between men, making possible an acceleration of exchanges. Humans aquired a new mobility, making frontiers recede. All that made it possible for Great Britain, based on its enormous colonial and imperialist power, to impose a financial unity on the world through its pound sterling.

Repercussion of the new information technologies on the role of the state

It is apparent that the introduction of new information technologies has had repercussions on the economic functioning of capital. What has been designated the information revolution is in fact a revolution in knowledge. It is not the machine that makes it possible to standardize production operations; the computer only served as a means. As Lyotard points out, knowledge has changed its status. Knowledge is produced to be sold, to be exchanged. It becomes an informational commodity, and the major stake in the quest for world power, accentuating globalization such as Parsons understood it.

The constitution of multiple networks implies that the traditional nation-state no longer has control over the circulation of commodities. In the present process of globalization, a revolution of the same amplitude as the industrial revolution of the 19th century is occurring. Commerce, the new technologies, and exchanges of all kinds, are shattering the framework of the nation-state inherited from the 20th century. This challenge to the nation-state by these networks concerns the capacity of governments to levy taxes, and that of national cnetral banks to issue money. The network can become a fiscal paradise where all sorts of -- a-national -- transactions will be effected with virtual money, outside of any fiscal exactions by a state. State's could see themselves deprived of their means of subsistence, their fiscal receipts. The freedom of international transactions, the opening and deregulation of stock and commodity exchanges, have removed from the state the control that it previously exercised. The "big bang" of this tendency was the deregulation of the London stock exchange in 1986.

We are, therefore, seeing a technological redeployment, technical mutations, an evolution of the state requiring it to dispose of information so as to accentuate the criteria of efficiency, of performance. There are new issues concerning the education of workers, which privilege information, changes in the criteria for qualifications, which accompany this "postmodern" society. The nation-state can no longer pretend to assure the regulation of an economy which has been redeployed in large part thanks to new technologies.

There exists an unbelievable gap between an economy developing in spaces that transcend the nation-state, and institutions, international organizations, like the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD, essentially created following the second world war, which remain fundamentally attached to the nation-state. These institutions, each in their own sector, have played an important role over the last fifty years. Parallel to this, a very complete, and complex, ensemble of international accords, still between nation-states, has been elaborated in the most diverse domains. Today there are more than five hundred. But in spite of their number, these organizations and the accords that they administer, are no longer on the cutting edge of problems posed by the world-economy. And they cannot prevent crises. They remain largely absent from certain of the great networks that are being constituted. They do not make it possible to grasp the interdependences born of globalization. This gap between a very advanced economic technology and a very retarded political and cultural internationalization is a menace for capital.

In suppressing distance and borders, the present economic technology has given new life to an old question: is it possible to establish a single world government? This technological movement is also characterized by the emergence of new powers at the base. Thanks to the new tools of infomatics, it favors the expression of agents until now handicapped by the weakness of their means: the regions and diverse individualisms specific to "postmodernity." While internationalization was based on the nation-state, the globalization of technological means, by mobilizing other actors, has escaped their control. Unlike internationalization, globalization supposes an expansion of exchanges, a network of localized globalisms and globalized localisms. The rupture of national frontiers at first reinforces the effect of fragmentation. With the explosion of the flux inherent in globalization, and the porosity of frontiers that results, the coincidence of law and sovereignty is shattered. A new international law also appears, a contractual law produced by transnational actors, like the offices for commercial arbitrage, a law which finds its pertinence in its adaptability to the market.

Everything was simple in the past. The state was the central player on the world stage, internally and internationally. Today, the national state is no longer the sole actor. The multiplication of actors changes everything. More and more events escape the control of the state. We live in a world in which an inter-state system and a globalized flux of financial capitals coexist. One of the connections of territory and power is in the process of disappearing. Imperium once meant the capacity to determine the site of production. Today, powers and countries do not need to control territory, and deploy their power through multinationals. The exchange of products increasingly takes place through new technologies. That increases efficacity and flexibility in the short run, but increases the risk for each enterprise. These new forces on the international scene, not linked to territory, have -- with the new technologies -- new and more effective means of manipulation too.

We are thus confronted by a crisis of sovereignty. It is the disappearance of the monopoly of organized violence, the disappearance of the single general interest rationalized in the figure of the state. The nation-state was at the center, but technological globalization has created a void where that center once existed. The sovereignty of states has been eroded. Governments lose control over global economic development. the new technologies reduce their margin for maneuver. The nation-state, the determinate historical framework for the regulation of the economic field, is thus attacked at its very foundations.

To summarize, the process of technological globalization, which has become generalized over the last ten years, has brought two principal changes to the world economy: markets have become the dominant mode for the regulation of the economy, which means that public policy has lost its importance vis a vis private agents; the principal countries of this new economic order are largely open to the world economy, thereby reinforcing the interdependence of national economies. Globalization has always come about through states. The first question to be asked on a world scale is whether the world is now a unified society. The answer is no, But there are important changes that have occurred not at the level of the unification of social classes, but rather at the lecvel of the structure of the state. The nation-state is not dead. Globalization is accompanied by a growing fragmentation of the world. There were forty-six nation-states at the beginning of the 20th century, there are now more than two hundred!

A new role for the state

We must not forget the state of the present economic crisis, which is without a doubt the most serious in terms of its depth and the number of countries afflicted. After having begun in Asia in 1997, the crisis destabilized Japan, then generalized to other emerging countries of Europe (Russia) and America (Brazil, Mexico). It is a matter of a general crisis, not reducible to a financial accident, but affecting the very bases of world growth. Financial globalization has been especially affected. Debacles have succeeded one another at an accelerated rate: a stock market crash in 1987, European and then Mexican monetary crises in 1994, the crises of the emergent Asian countries in 1997, the ongoing Russian crisis.

Preceding crises had been mastered by public actors playing a still more important role. Thus the Latin-American debt crisis of the early '80's concerned the public debt of countries on the road to industrialization, and not the private sector. Today, the configuration is completely different. The financial swamp into which Asia has sunk essentially concerns private actors. It results from complex interactions between a multitude of actors obeying a micro-economic logic. The strong interdependence of national economies engendered by globalization increases its gravity. One is thus confronted by the difficulty, indeed the incapacity, of the globalized market economy to regulate itself. Capital therefore faces the necessity of finding another mode of regulation for the world economy, by limiting the exorbitant power of markets, and restoring the importance of state intervention through the taxation of financial operations, and by attempting to reduce the negative effects of the interdependence of economies.

The administration of risk is transferred to the financial system by means of the system of insurance. But to return it to the financial system is to return it to the state. The interpenetration of the state and the financial system permitted the survival of bankrupt banks in Norway and Finland at the beginning of the '90's, where the state repurchased all the banks. In France, the repurchase of the Crédit Lyonnais by the state cost 2,000 Francs per person. The IMF did the same thing on an international scale. The new role of the state contradicted the talk about the disappearance of the state from the economy. the state disappeared from immediate production, but controlled the process as a whole.

Why did the technological and economic revolution, marked by a phase of growth and the exceptional creation of jobs, occur first in the USA, and only much later in Europe? On economic and monetary questions, Germany had acquired a weight and capacity almost as important as that of the US. From 1958, decisions concerning the common commercial policy of the European Union were taken by majority vote; since 1999, a European Central Bank watches over the euro. Globalization gives a supplementary justification to European integration today. With the birth of the euro, a wave of corporate mergers occurred at the European level.

At the beginning of this new millenium, the bourgeoisie has accentuated political changes with respect to the administration of the state. The necessity and urgency for the state to reform its institutions demonstrates the intensity of the crisis of the state. It tries to restructure itself, to refit itself, but it poorly masters the task of overcoming the contradiction between its old, nation-state, form and the reality of its latest developments under the form of a state-network. If the nation-state imposed its republican or monarchist centralism through the idea of the same public service for all throughout its territory, the state-network deterritorializes its presence by closing rural schools, post offices, and small town hospitals. Service is to be maintained without agents of the state, by telematics and virtualization, with more and more private agents. Thus in Belgium, the Flemish region already functions on that model, while in Wallonia the restructuratiion is now happening. But this movement is not effected without contradictions. There is no "Plan of Capital" of which the state would be the operator. Without a true vision of the whole, the state-network is torn between the demands of its rival factions.

New governmental teams, embodying a progressive liberalism, are being tested in Europe, replacing the old populist and conservative formations. In Italy, in France, in England, in Holland, in Belgium, in Spain, Christian-Social formations are in the opposition, replaced by Centrist coalitions with a democratic coloration. These changes correspond to the evolution of capitalist society confronted by the need to modernize its state apparatus, while permitting the growth of nationalist formations of the extreme right, which can recuperate the discontent of populations facing the contradictions of globalization. This latter entails a necessary rationalization of the divers centers of bureaucratic command, a rationalization that cannot take place without the consent of the social-democrat and union apparatuses that control that sector.

Thus, we see a double movement in Europe, corresponding to the evolution of the USA: a federal centralization at the level of Europe; and an accentuated regionalization at the level of the national states, permitting the constitution of a new economic pole. One must not confound the tendency and the end-point of capitalism. Several times, we have believed that we could see the final point in the evolution of capitalism, and each time its evolution continued on bases previously unknown.

Implications for the proletariat

With the increase in the capacity to transmit information, a software enterprise can employ workers in India at low wages and transmit the product to Europe. Another example: a pharmaceutical company utilizes the labor-power of illiterate workers in Central America training them through images on the computer screen for the specific needs of production. In the US, labor-power can be rapidly shifted from place to place without any consideration of the social consequences of such upheavals. This is has also happened of late in Britain, and continental Europe is now experiencing the same phenomenon. This is not a matter of one simple change among others. Structural changes are more rapid than ever before, and do not only affect the information sector. Pressure is growing on the financial sector. The law of value penetrates all aspects of the economy, and even social life, in an immediate way. This also affects the possibilities of class struggle: it's difficult to take action against strike-breakers when they do not even work at the same place as those on strike.

Meanwhile multinational firms must adapt and strengthen themselves. Certain global enterprises have succeeded in constituting world monopolies, which have an economic clout greater than that of many countries. At the same time, American enterprises, notably in the high tech sector, have a problem of worker loyalty. Highly skilled workers have no sort of identification to their firm.

Today, disorder seems to prevail, even as society engenders an ever more thoroughgoing economic globalization. Why? The answer to that question is to found in the dialectical movement that accompanies this globalization, and which engenders a contradictory movement of regionalist, localist, reaction, effectively posing not the question of identity, but rather a nationalist projection favored by the diverse institutions linked to production. The ongoing globalization is perceived as a threat, leading to a loss of cultural reference points and bonds. The process of the disappearance of the nation-state is felt as a danger. As Roland Bruner has pointed out: "Man questions himself about the place of symbolic relations in a world essentially regulated by money and the economy. The state as a protective paternal metaphor is more and more felt to be an absentee and powerless father, delivering a part of his family to pauperization and misery." "Postmodern society" in this sense means the retraction of social and individual time, even as it imposes still more the necessity to regulate and organize collective time. What is at stake is the difficulty that workers have under these conditions of developing a collective consciousness, a feeling of belonging to a class.


F.D.



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