This on-line version is the pre-copyedited, preprint version. The published version can be found here:
‘Accumulation strategies, state forms, and hegemonic projects’, Kapitalistate, 10, 89-111, 1983.
Despite the burgeoning literature on the state in capitalist societies, we are still ill-equipped to deal with some fundamental theoretical problems. The search for solutions has often led Marxists quite properly to draw on non-Marxist concepts and approaches but this sometimes involves the risk of dissolving a distinctively Marxist analysis into a broadly pluralistic, eclectic account of the state.’ Among the more problematic issues in the field of state theory are the alleged “relative autonomy” of the state, the sources of the class unity of state power, the periodization of the state, its social bases, the precise nature of hegemony and its articulation with coercion, and the role of the nation-state in the changing world system. No doubt a much longer list could be compiled. But these issues alone are more than enough to occupy us in the present paper. I approach them through the more general topic of form analysis and its implications for the economic and political spheres of capitalist society. In particular I will argue that the value form and state form are indeterminate and must be complemented by strategies that impart some substantive coherence to what would otherwise remain formal unities. It is in this context that I will elaborate the concepts of “accumulation strategy” and “hegemonic project.”2 Let us begin with the fundamental concept of any serious Marxist economic analysis by considering the implications of the value form.
The Capital Relation and the Value Form
Capital is a form-determined social relation. The accumulation of capital is the complex resultant of the changing balance of class forces in struggle interacting within a framework determined by the value form. The value form is the fundamental social relation that defines the matrix of capitalist development.3 It comprises a number of interconnected elements that are organically linked as different moments in the overall reproduction of the capital relation. In the sphere of circulation these elements include the commodity, price, and money forms through which the exchange of goods and services is mediated. In the sphere of production the value form is embodied in the pressures to the requirements of reduced costs and/or increased output. In relation to the work force the value form is associated with the cornmodification of labor-power, its subordination to capitalist control in the labor process, and its remuneration and reproduction through the wage-form. More generally, the value form is linked to the law of value. This is the mechanism governing the allocation of labor time among different productive activities according to the fluctuation of market prices around prices of production which reflect the socially necessary labor time embodied in different commodities. In capitalist economies this mechanism is mediated through fluctuations in profits (market price less cost price) and the uncoordinated decisions of competing capitals about the opportunities for profit associated with different patterns of investment and production. These interconnected elements of the value form define the parameters in which accumulation can occur and also delimit the sorts of economic crises which can develop within capitalism.
Although it is impossible to understand the historical specificity of capitalism without reference to the complex ramifications of the value form, the value form itself does not fully determine the course of accumulation. Indeed the very substance of value (the socially necessary labor time embodied in commodities) depends in large part on the ability of capital to control wage-labor in the production process. And this in turn depends on the outcome of an economic class struggle in which the balance of forces is molded by many factors beyond the value form itself. Moreover, the complex internal relations among the different moments of the value form possess only a formal unity, i.e., are unified only as modes of expression of generalized commodity production. The substantive unity and continued reproduction of the circuit of capital depend on the successful coordination of these different moments within the limits of the value form. But this coordination is necessarily anarchic (since it is only through the competitive logic of market forces with all their unintended consequences that the essentially private economic decisions and activities of the capitalist system receive any social validation) and there are many points at which the circuit can be broken and economic crises emerge. Further, while the possibilities and forms of such dislocations and crises are inherent in the circuit of capital, their actual emergence, timing, and content depend on many factors extending beyond the matrix established by the value form. These factors include not only the vagaries of competition among individual capitals and the changing conjunctures of the economic class struggle but also the contingent provision of the various external conditions (such as legal and political systems) needed for capitalist production and market forces to operate. In short, although the basic parameters of capitalism are defined by the value form, form alone is an inadequate guide to its nature and dynamics.
This means there is no necessary substantive unity to the circuit of capital nor any predetermined pattern of accumulation. Within the matrix established by the value form there is considerable scope for variation in the rhythm and course of capitalist development. In this sense the value form constitutes a terrain for various attempts to reproduce the capital relation and the nature of accumulation depends on the success or failure of these attempts. In examining these attempts we need to develop notions for the analysis of economic strategies. Hitherto Marxist analyses have tended either to adopt a “capital logic” approach which subsumes different patterns of accumulation under general economic “laws” and/or to reduce them to specific “economic-corporate” struggles among various fractions and classes.4 To fully comprehend this variation in accumulation patterns we need “strategic-theoretical” concepts that can establish meaningful links between the abstract, “capital-theoretical” laws of motion of the value form and the concrete modalities of social-economic struggles analyzed by a “class-theoretical” approach which neglects form in favor of content.5 The concept of “accumulation strategy” is particularly useful here, and it is worth considering its implications in some detail.
An “accumulation strategy” defines a specific economic “growth model” complete with its various extra-economic preconditions and outlines the general strategy appropriate to its realization. To be successful such a model must unify the different moments in the circuit of capital (money or banking capital, industrial capital, commercial capital) under the hegemony of one fraction (whose composition will vary inter alia with the stage of capitalist development). The exercise of economic hegemony through the successful elaboration of such a strategy should be distinguished from simple economic domination and from economic determination in the last instance by the circuit of industrial capital. The heart of the circuit of capital is the production process itself (in popular parlance, wealth must first be created before it can be distributed). This means that the performance of productive (or industrial) capital is the ultimate economic determinant of the accumulation process and that the real rates of return on money capital (including credit) and commercial capital taken as a whole (and thus abstracted from competition) depend in the long term on the continued valorization of productive (or industrial) capital. Economic domination can be enjoyed by various fractions of capital and occurs when one fraction is able to impose its own particular “economic-corporate” interests on the other fractions regardless of their wishes and/or at their expense. Such domination can derive directly from the position of the relevant fraction in the overall circuit of capital in a specific economic conjuncture and/or indirectly from the use of some form of extra-economic coercion (including the exercise of state power).
In contrast, economic hegemony derives from economic leadership through general acceptance of an accumulation strategy. Such a strategy must advance the immediate interests of other fractions by integrating the circuit of capital in which they are implicated at the same time as it secures the long-term interests of the hegemonic fraction in controlling the allocation of money capital to different areas of investment advantageous to itself.6 Thus, whereas economic domination could well prove incompatible with the continued integration of the circuit of capital and result in the long-run devalorization of the total social capital (owing to its adverse effects on industrial capital as the ultimate determining moment in the overall circuit), economic hegemony is won through the integration of the circuit and the continued expansion of industrial capital even where a non-industrial fraction is hegemonic. It is only through a systematic consideration of the complex forms of articulation and disarticulation of economic determination in the last instance, economic domination, and economic hegemony that we will be able to understand the equally complex dynamic of the capitalist economy.
In presenting this definition of economic hegemony I am not arguing that acceptance of a given accumulation strategy abolishes competition or transcends conflicts of interest among particular capitals or fractions thereof. Nonetheless, such acceptance does provide a stable framework within which competition and conflicting interests can be fought out without disturbing the overall unity of the circuit of capital. In turn this depends on the general willingness of the hegemonic fraction to sacrifice certain of its immediate “economic-corporate” interests in order to secure the equilibrium of compromise among different fractions that will sustain its long-term interest in the allocation of money capital to those areas of investment where its specific form(s) of revenue are maximized.7 In the absence of such sacrifices on the part of a hegemonic fraction (whether due to subjective and/or objective limits), a crisis of hegemony will occur and the role of economic domination in the process of accumulation will increase.
There is considerable scope for variation in the hegemonic fraction. It can vary in terms of its primary function in the circuit of capital (banking, industrial, commercial), its mode of accumulation (competitive, monopoly, or state monopoly),8 and its location in the international economy (national, comprador, international, interior).9 But all such variation is conditioned by the determinant role of industrial capital in the overall accumulation process. Thus, even if banking or commercial capital enjoys hegemony and/or economic domination, this must ultimately be compatible with the continued valorization of industrial capital. If such valorization does not occur on an appropriate national or international scale, there will be a declining mass of surplus value for distribution among all capitals. In turn this will provoke a general crisis of capital accumulation and/or long-run decline that can be resolved within a capitalist framework only by the development of a new and relevant accumulation strategy. This can be illustrated from the British case. For, whereas the hegemony of the City was compatible with industrial growth in the nineteenth century when international loans could be used to finance the sale of goods produced in the principal “workshop of the world,” the rise of American and German industrial capital disrupted this community of interests. The subsequent pursuit of the “economic-corporate” interests of banking capital has contributed to the steady de-industrialization of the British economy.’10
In general terms we can say that an accumulation strategy that is not to be merely “arbitrary, rationalistic, and willed” must take account of the dominant form of the circuit of capital — liberal, monopoly, or state monopoly; of the dominant form of the internationalization of capital — commercial, banking, industrial; of the specific international conjuncture confronting particular national capitals; of the balance of social, economic, and political forces at home and abroad; and of the margin of maneuver entailed in the productive potential of the domestic economy and its foreign subsidiaries. Within these constraints there will typically be several economic strategies which could be pursued (especially if we abstract from more general political and ideological considerations) with contrasting implications for the different fractions and dominated classes. This sort of space for conflicts over economic hegemony and/or domination exists not only for national economies (even supposing these could be completely isolated from the world economy), but also for the integration of the global circuit of capital under the leadership of one (or more) national capitals. Where various national strategies are compatible with the global hegemonic strategy, the conditions will have been secured for accumulation on a world scale.’12
In this context it is worth noting that economic hegemony may best be secured where it is backed up by a position of economic domination. Just as Gramsci considers that state power is best interpreted as “hegemony armored by coercion’ the expanded reproduction of capital is best viewed as “economic hegemony armored by economic domination.” The skillful use of a position of economic domination through the allocation of money capital can bring recalcitrant capitals into line and/or encourage activities beneficial to the overall integration and expansion of the circuit of capital. With the transition from liberal capitalism to simple monopoly and state monopoly capitalist forms, the state comes to play an important role in this respect through the expansion of the public sector, the increasing role of taxation as a mechanism of appropriation, and the crucial role of state credit in the allocation of money capital. More generally one should also note the role of extra-economic coercion (mediated through the exercise of state power), in securing the various preconditions for an accumulation strategy.
Finally it should be emphasized that an accumulation strategy must not only take account of the complex relations among different fractions of capital and other economically dominant classes but must also consider the balance of forces between the dominant and subordinate classes. A strategy can be truly “hegemonic” only where it is accepted by the subordinate economic classes as well as by non-hegemonic fractions and classes in the power bloc. Nonetheless, insofar as a combination of “economic-corporate” concessions, marginalization, and repression can secure the acquiescence of subordinate classes, the crucial factor in the success of accumulation strategies remains the integration of the circuit of capital and hence the consolidation of support within the dominant fractions and classes. Since these issues are also relevant to the elaboration of “hegemonic projects,” we return to them below.
Some Implications of the Concept of “Accumulation Strategy”
These general comments can be illustrated in various ways. At the level of the pure CMP (capitalist mode of production), in the monopoly or state monopoly stage, the role of “Fordism” as an accumulation strategy needs little introduction (although its application in different metropolitan formations and at the periphery certainly shows extensive variation). Perhaps the best-known examples of accumulation strategies at the national level are the “import substitution” and “export promotion” growth models developed in Latin America and more recently succeeded by the so-called “export substitution” model.13 Other national examples include the fascist notion of Grossraumwirtschaft (cf. Japan’s Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere), the postwar West German strategy of Sozialmarktwirtschaft, the more recent West German development of the Modell Deutschland strategy, the attempt of British banking capital to subordinate industrial capital to its long-term strategy of restoring the international economic domination of “City” interests after 1945, Japan’s “rich country and strong army” strategy from the Meiji Restoration through to its military defeat in 1945, Japan’s postwar strategy of peaceful export-led growth under the aegis of state-sponsored finance capital trusts, and the nationalist strategy of indicative planning and modernization in postwar France. At the international level we can refer to pax Britannica and pax Americana and, most recently, the abortive proposals for a pax trilateralis or a new, international Keynesianism oriented to the North-South problem. These strategies and others certainly merit extended discussion. But for the moment I would prefer to bring out some of the theoretical implications of the concept of accumulation strategies.
Firstly, if there is no necessary substantive unity to the circuit of capital nor any predetermined pattern of accumulation that capital must follow, how can one define the interests of capital? At the most general level of abstraction we could perhaps say that the interests of capital consist in the reproduction of the value form along with its various conditions of existence such as law, money, and the state. This is clearly implied in the very definition of capitalism and might seem purely tautological. But even at this level of abstraction several ambiguities and dilemmas are apparent. It is not at all clear how the interest of particular capitals in their own expanded reproduction mesh with the requirements of the reproduction of capital in general, and there is considerable scope for conflict between what we might call the “will of all” and the “general will.” At the same time there is a permanent strategic dilemma confronting capital in general as well as particular capitals in the dependence of the value form upon non-value forms of social relations and the simultaneous threat to the value form posed by the expansion of non-market relations. This dilemma holds not only for the provision of material conditions of production (such as economic infrastructure), but also for the provision of labor-power and its reproduction outside the wage-form. In this sense the interests of capital even at the most general level of abstraction consist in the reproduction of a contradictory and ambivalent nexus of value and non-value forms whose reciprocal effects can sustain capital accumulation. The balance among these forms can be struck in various ways and is typically unstable and provisional. In this sense the capital relation actually comprises an indeterminate terrain on which different particular capitals compete to establish a definite course of accumulation which successfully articulates their own particular interests with those of capital in general. In short, the collective interests of capital are not wholly given and must be articulated in and through specific accumulation strategies which establish a contingent community of interest among particular capitals. Hence the interests of particular capitals and capital in general will vary according to the specific accumulation strategy that is being pursued. By drawing out all the implications of this conjunctural, relational approach to economic interests we can produce a radical break with the familiar theoretical dilemmas posed by the choice between the “capital logic” and “class-theoretical” approaches.
A second enduring problem in Marxist analyses of capitalism concerns the question of stages (or periodization), and its implications for the operation of capitalism’s “basic laws of motion.” It is now widely recognized that attempts to “periodize” capitalism need not imply that there is a necessary, unilinear succession of stages, that stages are irreversible, or that all national economies will be at the same stage of capitalist development. Moreover, it is not clear that it is possible to periodize capitalism into distinct stages involving definite breaks as opposed to the gradual accumulation of specific trends or tendencies. This problem occurs not only at the level of the pure CMP viewed in isolation from the existence of different national capitals, but also at the level of the circuit of capital considered in its international dimension and/or with reference to its articulation with other modes of production and forms of social and private labor.’4 In considering this problem of stages or trends there would seem to be at least four possible solutions.
One could deny the theoretical validity of attempts at periodization and simply talk about different forms of articulation of the circuit of capital and their historical rather than necessary succession. Alternatively, one could argue that any general periodization will necessarily be indeterminate (or underdetermined), and must be limited to the identification of possible changes in the form of the capital relation, its conditions of existence, and its implications for accumulation. Conversely, the factors which influence the timing, successes, and substance of any transition (including the sharpness or gradualism of any break) must be determined at more concrete and complex levels of analysis. Third, if one wanted to introduce some principles of explanation into the question of timing, it might be possible to link these potential changes to a crisis theory or long-wave theory of capitalist development. Such a crisis theory or long-wave theory would identify specific obstacles to continued accumulation and consider the areas where the circuit of capital and/or its preconditions need to be reorganized in order to restore its expanded reproduction.’5 Finally, one could give more weight to the restructuring of the state apparatus in the periodization of capital accumulation. For, regardless of whether one emphasizes the accentuation of specific tendencies or trends, or stresses the discontinuities linked with periodic long-wave crises, changes in the form and content of state intervention are typically required to consolidate the dominant features of succeeding stages. The political discontinuities associated with this restructuring of the state could then provide the basis not only for a periodization of the capitalist state but also for the periodization of capitalist economies. What is significant in all of the latter three solutions is the crucial role played by changing accumulation strategies in periodization. Whether one focuses on the general problem of the timing, substance, and success of transitions, on the reorganization of the circuit of capital in response to long wave crises, or on the restructuring of the state apparatus, it would be difficult to provide satisfactory explanations without referring to shifts in accumulation strategy. Indeed, the analysis of such changes seems particularly appropriate in attempts at periodization because it enables us to avoid both a rigid “capital logic” determinism and a simple denial of significant alterations in the nature of the capital relation.
Posing the problem of periodization in these terms nonetheless raises some issues about levels of abstraction. In particular, how should one identify a shift in the dominant accumulation strategy? Martin has recently argued, for example, that there is a specific dynamic to Keynesian full employment policies which requires specific changes in order to counteract the stagflationary tendencies of earlier policies. Thus we find a shift from simple reliance on macro-level demand management to incomes and manpower policies and then to the socialization of investment funds in the Swedish case, and analogous shifts in other countries committed to full employment. Does movement from one stage of Keynesianism to another imply a change in the nature of capitalism? Our answer clearly depends upon the level of abstraction and complexity in terms of which capitalism is defined. On one level Keynesianism is a general accumulation strategy found in various capitalist economies and marking a long wave of accumulation from the 1930s through to the 1970s. It then can be specified through introducing a more detailed account of national variations reflecting the particular balance of forces in each economy (e.g., military Keynesianism in the United States as opposed to Butskellism in Britain or social democratic Keynesianism in Sweden). And it can be specified in terms of stages permitting a periodization of Keynesianism itself. But in all cases there is a clear break between Keynesian and pre-Keynesian periods, enabling us to distinguish definite stages rather than simple accentuation of tendencies or trends.
Linked to this issue is a more general problem of the variety of tactics within a given accumulation strategy and the plurality of strategies possible in a given conjuncture. It would clearly be wrong to argue that only one accumulation strategy is ever followed at one time and even more so to suggest that only one tactic is tried in its pursuit. Instead we must recognize that there are various possible strategies with different degrees of support within and across fractions of capital. This reflects different positions within the circuit of capital and/or different modes of economic calculation. Even where there is a dominant accumulation strategy we can expect to find supplementary or countervailing strategies. It is in this context that the capacity to reinforce economic hegemony through a resort to the structurally inscribed power of economic domination becomes important. At the same time it is important to recognize that there will be several tactics which can be followed in pursuit of a given strategy. The availability of alternative tactics (even if they are not all equally preferred) is essential for the flexible implementation of accumulation strategies. Indeed, insofar as the requirements for expanded reproduction are ambivalent or contradictory and the social validation of economic activities is anarchic and often post hoc in character, it is imperative to have a range of tactics available for use on a trial-and-error basis. Moreover, insofar as alternative tactics will have differential repercussions on the position of various particular capitals, fractions, and dominated classes. It is also imperative to have such a range available in order to manage the balance of forces and secure the provisional, unstable equilibrium of compromises in which accumulation depends. This plurality of tactics thereby creates a margin of maneuver for non-hegemonic fractions and dominated classes to pursue their respective “economic-corporate” demands.17 This may pose threats to the successful implementation of the dominant accumulation strategy. However, if the pursuit of these interests is conducted within the framework of the dominant strategy (thus moderating the demands of all), it is more likely to contribute to the equilibrium of compromise.
Finally, it is worth asking whether the significance we have attributed to accumulation strategies in the dynamic of capitalist economies implies a voluntarist or idealist approach. We have emphasized that capital accumulation involves a form-determined relation of forces and related accumulation strategies to the value form. In opposition to structural super-determinism and idealist approaches alike we insist on treating capital accumulation as the contingent outcome of a dialectic of structures and strategies. Structures are given through the various moments of the value form and the emergent properties of social interaction (such as the celebrated effects of “market forces”), whereas the development and pursuit of accumulation strategies reproduce and transform these structures within definite structural limits. There is a complex dialectic at work here. The effectiveness of strategies depends on their adaptation to the margin of maneuver inherent in the prevailing structures and their repercussions on the balance of forces. But it is through exploiting this margin of maneuver that the balance of forces and structures themselves can be changed in the medium and long term. It is for this reason that we insist on the relational, conjunctural approach to the analysis of capital as a form-determined condensation of the balance of class (and class relevant)’ 8 forces. In this respect it is important to consider not only the value form and directly economic forces but also political and ideological structures, forces, and strategies. Accordingly, we now turn to consider the problem of the state form and political practices.
On the Form of the State
State power is also a form-determined social relation. This means that an adequate analysis of the capitalist state must consider not only its distinctive institutional form(s) but also how the balance of political forces is determined by factors located beyond the form of the state as such. The most important general aspect of the form of the capitalist state is its particularization (its institutional separation from the circuit of capital). This is facilitated by the value form insofar as the relations of capitalist production exclude extra-economic coercion from the circuit (or subordinate such relations to the logic of market forces as the material expression of the law of value). The state is required by the value form insofar as there are certain crucial extra-economic preconditions of the circuit of capital that must be secured through an impartial organ standing outside and above the market. At the same time this particularized state form makes the functionality of the capitalist state problematical. For, notwithstanding the loud and frequent proclamation by some Marxist theorists that the state is simply the ideal collective capitalist, it is quite clear that its institutional separation permits a dislocation between the activities of the state and the needs of capital. Conversely, although some theorists (such as Hindess and Hirst) sometimes seem to suggest that there is a necessary non-correspondence between the state and the economic region, it would seem that correspondence can occur but must be constituted in the course of a struggle whose outcome is always contingent. This follows from the fact that both the value form of the CMP and its particularized state form are indeterminate in certain respects and that any correspondence or dislocation between them or their substantive content will depend on many factors beyond purely formal mechanisms. Let us see how this problem can be specified for further study.
Although its particularization is the most important general aspect of the capitalist state, there is much else that needs to be considered for an adequate account of the state. Three aspects of the state-as-form need exploring: forms of representation, forms of intervention, and forms of articulation of the state considered as an institutional ensemble. All three aspects are crucial in the mediation of the rule of capital. Forms of political representation shape the ways in which the interests of capital in a given accumulation strategy are articulated and, through the “structural selectivity” inscribed in such forms, can privilege some strategies at the expense of others. Different forms of intervention also have differential implications for the pursuit of particular accumulation strategies. Finally, the hierarchical and horizontal distribution of powers in the state apparatus and the relative dominance of specific branches of the state will have significant effects on the exercise of state power in the interests of accumulation. There is still much to investigate in these areas of form-determination, and Marxist theories could learn a great deal here from more orthodox political analyses.
In addition to these formal aspects of the state system we must also examine its substantive aspects. As well as the specific policies implemented by the state apparatus there are two more general determinations: the social bases of support for and resistance to the state, and the nature of the “hegemonic project” (if any) around which the exercise of state power is centered. By the social basis of the state we understand the specific configuration of social forces, however identified as subjects and (dis-)organized as political actors, that supports the basic structure of the state system, its mode of operation, and its objectives. This support is not at all inconsistent with conflict over specific policies as long as such conflict occurs within an agreed institutional framework and accepted “policy paradigm” that establishes the parameters of public choice. It should be noted that political support of this kind is not reducible simply to questions of “consensus” but depends on specific modes of mass integration which channel, transform, and prioritize demands, and manage the flow of material concessions necessary to maintain the “unstable equilibrium of compromise” which underpins such support’.19 It should also be noted that the social bases of the state are heterogeneous and the different social forces will vary in their degree of commitment to the state. At the same time there will be considerable variation in the mix of material concessions, symbolic rewards, and repression directed through the state to different social forces. These variations in support and benefit are typically related to the prevailing hegemonic project (if any) and its implications for the form and content of politics.
In broad terms hegemony involves the interpellation and organization of different “class-relevant” (but not necessarily class-conscious) forces under the “political, intellectual, and moral leadership” of a particular class (or class fraction) or, more precisely, its political, intellectual, and moral spokesmen. The key to the exercise of such leadership is the development of a specific “hegemonic project” which can resolve the abstract problem of conflicts between particular interests and the general interest. In abstract terms this conflict is probably insoluble because of the potentially infinite range of particular interests which could be posited in opposition to any definition of the general interest. Nonetheless, it is the task of hegemonic leadership to resolve this conflict on a less abstract plane through specific political, intellectual, and moral practices. This involves the mobilization of support behind a concrete, national-popular program of action which asserts a general interest in the pursuit of objectives that explicitly or implicitly advance the long-term interests of the hegemonic class (fraction) and which also privileges particular “economic-corporate” interests compatible with this program. Conversely those particular interests which are inconsistent with the project are deemed immoral and/or irrational and, insofar as they are still pursued by groups outside the consensus, they are also liable to sanction. Normally hegemony also involves the sacrifice of certain short-term interests of the hegemonic class (fraction), and a flow of material concessions for other social forces mobilized behind the project. It is thereby conditioned and limited by the accumulation process.
But it should be emphasized here that hegemonic projects and accumulation strategies are not identical even though they may overlap partially and/or mutually condition each other. While accumulation strategies are directly concerned with economic expansion on a national or international scale, hegemonic projects can be concerned principally with various non-economic objectives (even if economically conditioned and economically relevant). The latter might include military success, social reform, political stability, or moral regeneration. Moreover, while accumulation strategies are oriented primarily to the relations of production and thus to the balance of class forces, hegemonic projects are typically oriented to broader issues grounded not only in economic relations but also in the field of civil society and the state. Accordingly hegemonic projects should take account of the balance among all relevant social forces, however these may be organized. It is in this sense that we can refer to hegemonic projects as concerned with the “national-popular” and not simply with class relations. Lastly, given the differentiation between the value form and the form of the state as well as the differential scope and content of accumulation strategies and hegemonic projects, there is obviously room for some dissociation or inconsistency between them in specific conjunctures. In general it would seem obvious that accumulation and hegemony will be most secure where there is a close congruence between particular strategies and projects. But this is not the same as saying that accumulation needs to be the overriding objective of a hegemonic project. Other cases worth exploring would occur where an accumulation strategy is successfully pursued in the absence of hegemony, where the pursuit of an “arbitrary, rationalistic, and willed” hegemonic project undermines the conditions for accumulation, and where demands of continuing accumulation associated with a particular strategy override the requirements of the prevailing hegemonic project.
What exactly is involved in a successful hegemonic project? I want to suggest that the realization of a hegemonic project ultimately depends on three key factors: its structural determination, its strategic orientation, and its relation to accumulation. The structural determination of hegemony involves the structural privileges inscribed in a given state form (including its forms of representation, intervention, and internal articulation), for some forces and their interests at the expense of other forces and interests. This aspect is sometimes referred to as the “structural selectivity” of the state. At stake here is the form of political struggles and the implications of form for the strategic relations among different political forces. Within these objective limits there is nonetheless some scope for short-term variations in hegemony at the level of political practices. These could include periods of unstable hegemony, dissociation between hegemony over the power bloc and that over the popular masses, crises of hegemony, and even short-term shifts of hegemony in favor of subordinate classes such as the petty bourgeoisie or the working class (or social categories such as the military, bureaucrats, or intellectuals). But the structural selectivity of the state form means that these variations are essentially short-term and that hegemony will return in the long term to the structurally privileged class (or class fraction), provided that its strategic orientation and relation to accumulation prove adequate. This proviso is crucial. For, although a stable hegemonic position depends on the form-determination of the state, it is not reducible to structural determination.
In addition to the aspect of structural determination, attention must also be paid to the development of a hegemonic project which successfully links the realization of certain particular interests of subordinate social forces to the pursuit of a “national-popular” program which favors the long-term interests of the hegemonic force. The conquest of hegemony involves three areas of political, intellectual, and moral leadership. First, it involves the integration of various strategically significant forces as subjects with specific “interests” and the repudiation of alternative interpellations and attributions of interest.20 Second, it involves the formulation of a general, “national-popular” project whose realization will also advance the particular “economic-corporate” interests perceived by subordinate social forces. Finally, it involves the specification of a “policy paradigm” within which conflicts over competing interests and demands can be negotiated without threatening the overall project.
It is quite possible for subordinate classes and/or social categories rooted in non-class relations to develop alternative hegemonic projects. But they will always remain vulnerable to the dissolution of any such hegemony as attempts to implement such projects run up against obstacles grounded in existing economic and political forms. It is for this reason that the conquest of ideological hegemony must be coupled in the long term with the reorganization of a new form of state that offers structural privileges to the hegemonic force in question. More generally it should be emphasized that there is no need for the social forces mobilized behind a given hegemonic project to be directly interpellated as class forces (even though they may well have a definite class belonging and/or also have a clear “class relevance”). Indeed it is quite normal for hegemony to be associated with the repudiation of an antagonistic class discourse and an insistence on the primacy of individual and/or pluralistic bases of social organization. In this sense we might suggest that “pluralism” is the matrix within which struggles for hegemony occur.
Third, it should be emphasized that there is no compelling reason to expect that hegemonic projects should be directly economic in character or give priority to economic objectives. But it is important to recognize that successful pursuit of a hegemonic project will depend on the flow of material concessions to subordinate social forces and thus on the productivity of the economy. It follows that those hegemonic projects will prove most successful which, other things being equal, are closely linked with an appropriate accumulation strategy or, in the case of a socialist hegemonic project, an adequate alternative economic strategy.
Finally, it is worth noting that hegemonic projects also have a crucial role in maintaining the substantive unity of the state apparatus as a complex institutional ensemble. Even where there is a well-defined distribution of functions and powers within the state system and it is organized in a formal, “rational-legal” manner, it is still necessary to translate this formal unity into substantive unity. Consensus on a hegemonic project can limit conflicts within and among the various branches of the state apparatus and provide an ideological and material base for their relative unity and cohesion in reproducing the system of political domination. The fundamental problem of articulating certain “particular interests” into a “general interest” favorable to capital (and discouraging the assertion of other “particular interests”), occurs within the state apparatus as well as in the economic domain and civil society. Thus it affects not only the representation of economic and social interests inside the state but also the sui generis interests of political categories such as bureaucrats, deputies, the police, and judges. Indeed the problem of avoiding a merely particularistic reproduction of competing and contradictory “economic-corporate” interests and securing some coordination and cohesion of the state apparatus becomes more pressing with the expansion of that apparatus and the extension of its activities well beyond formal facilitation of capital accumulation to include a wide range of social reproduction and directive activities. In the absence of a modicum of substantive as well as formal unity, however, the state is deprived of the relative autonomy it needs to act as an “ideal collective capitalist” in relation to accumulation and/or to secure social cohesion more generally in its promotion of “national-popular” goals. In this sense we can argue that the relative autonomy of the state is bound up with its substantive unity (a concept preferable to that of class unity), and that both depend on the exercise of state power according to a specific hegemonic project.
Some Implications of the Concept of “Hegemonic Project”
So far I have implied that hegemony is typical or normal in capitalist societies, that hegemonic projects somehow manage to secure the support of all significant social forces, and that the hegemonic force itself is bound in the long term to be an economically dominant class or class fraction rather than a subordinate class or non-class force. In each case these implications are misleading or false. Accordingly, in this section I want to specify the arguments more carefully and draw out some of the fundamental theoretical problems posed by the analysis of hegemony in terms of hegemonic projects. Let us begin with the question of whether such projects gain the support of all significant social forces.
To suggest that hegemony wins almost universal support is misleading. Alternatively, this formulation creates far too large a residual category of states characterized by a crisis of hegemony (and thereby implies that hegemony is far from typical of capitalist societies). The problem can be clarified by distinguishing between “one nation” and “two nations” hegemonic projects. Thus “one nation” strategies aim at an expansive hegemony in which the support of the entire population is mobilized through material concessions and symbolic rewards (as in “social imperialism” and the “Keynesian-welfare state” projects). In contrast, “two nations” projects aim at a more limited hegemony concerned to mobilize the support of strategically significant sectors of the population and to pass the costs of the project to other sectors (as in fascism and Thatcherism). In periods of economic crisis and/or limited scope for material concessions, the prospects for a “one nation” strategy are restricted (unless it involves a perceived equitable sharing of sacrifice), and “two nations” strategies are more likely to be pursued. In addition, where the balance of forces permits, such strategies may also be pursued during periods of expansion and may, indeed, be a precondition of successful accumulation. In both cases it should be noted that “two nations” projects require containment and even repression of the “other nation” at the same time as they involve selective access and concessions for the more favored “nation.” Recent work on the Modell Deutschland provides particularly interesting illustrations of a “two nations” strategy (cf. Hirsch’s contribution to this issue of Kapitalistate).
Once we distinguish between “one nation” and “two nations” hegemonic projects, there would seem less reason to question the normality of hegemony in capitalist societies. But a number of problems still remain. In the first place the distinction is in certain respects “pre-theoretical,” i.e., it is basically descriptive in character and requires more rigorous definition of its various dimensions and preconditions. As with the more general concept of “hegemony” and the attempt to clarify it through the introduction of the notion of “hegemonic project;’ this definitional task poses serious difficulties concerning the appropriate level of theoretical abstraction and simplification. While questions of “form” can be discussed in isolation from specific historical cases (as in discussion of the commodity form, money form, or wage-form), it is difficult to discuss hegemony, hegemonic projects, or “one nation” strategies without reference to specific examples and the substance of particular political, intellectual, and moral discourses. The solution must be sought in the combination of a formal analysis of discursive strategies (drawing on linguistics and similar disciplines)21 and specific references to concrete differences and equivalences established in pursuing particular hegemonic projects (and their corresponding patterns of alliance, compromise, truce, repression, and so forth). In short, while it is possible to give indications about the nature and dynamics of hegemony at a general theoretical level, it is only through reference to specific projects that significant progress can be made.
In this context an important question is what distinguishes “one” or “two nation” projects from political, intellectual, and moral programs that are non-hegemonic in character. The work of Gramsci is particularly useful here. This work suggests a continuum between an expansive hegemony (or “one nation” project) through various forms of “passive revolution” to an open “war of maneuver” against the popular masses. An expansive project is concerned to extend or expand the active support of a substantial majority (if not all) of the popular masses, including the working class (whether or not interpellated as such). This is to be achieved through a combination of material and symbolic rewards whose flow depends on the successful pursuit of a “national-popular” program that aims to advance the interest of the nation as a whole.
Short of such expansive hegemony can be found various forms of “passive revolution.” This involves the reorganization of social relations (“revolution”) while neutralizing and channeling popular initiatives in favor of the continued domination of the political leadership (“passive”). 22 For Gramsci the crucial element in “passive revolutions” is the statization of reorganization or restructuring so that popular initiatives from below are contained or destroyed and the relationship of rulers-ruled is maintained or reimposed. What is missing in “passive revolution” as compared with a full-blown “expansive hegemony” is a consensual program that provides the motive and opportunity for popular participation in the pursuit of “national-popular” goals which benefit the masses as well as dominant class forces. Instead “passive revolution” imposes the interests of the dominant forces on the popular masses through a war of position which advances particular popular interests (if at all) through a mechanical game of compromise rather than their organic integration into a “national-popular” project. It must be admitted that 3ramsci’s analyses are indicative rather than definitive of this mode of leadership. They could be extended through more detailed consideration of different forms of “passive revolution” ranging from the transitional case of “two nations” projects (which combine features of an expansive hegemony and “passive revolution” but direct them differentially towards each of the “nations”) through normal forms of “passive revolution” (as defined above) to the use of “force, fraud, and corruption” as a means of social control (which can be considered as a transitional form between “passive revolution” and “war of maneuver”).23 Generally speaking we would expect to find these forms combined in actual societies and it is important to define these combinations in particular cases.
At the other extreme from an “expansive hegemonic project” is an open “war of maneuver” against the organizations of the popular masses, especially those with close links to the working class (where accumulation is at stake), and/or those that express widespread popular support for basic popular-democratic issues and thereby threaten the system of political and ideological domination (e.g., the “new social movements”). Such open wars indicate a crisis of hegemony but they need not be associated with corresponding crises in accumulation strategies. It should also be noted that, although open wars of maneuver sometimes last for many years (especially in dependent capitalist societies), they are often transitional and prepare the ground for a new period of hegemony. In this sense a war of maneuver may well prove to be short-term (at least as the dominant feature of ruling-class strategy) and be coupled with an ideological offensive to redefine the relationships and “interests” of the popular masses and link these to a new (typically “two nations”) project. Or there can be a resort to normalization through a “passive revolution’. The emergence and consolidation of “exceptional” forms of state, such as fascism, military dictatorship, or Bonapartism, provide numerous examples of such transitions from war of maneuver to more stable (albeit non–democratic) forms of political domination.
Successful hegemonic projects are noteworthy for their capacity to cement a “historical bloc” involving an organic relation between base and superstructure.24 In this sense they bring about a contingent correspondence between economic and non-economic relations and thereby promote capital accumulation. Does this mean that the hegemonic force is always and inevitably an economically dominant class or class fraction? If hegemony can only be enjoyed by those who take a leading role in the formulation of hegemonic projects, the answer must be negative. For it is typically the role of organic intellectuals (such as financial journalists, politicians, philosophers, engineers, and sociologists), to elaborate hegemonic projects rather than members of the economically dominant class or class fraction. In the case of the short-run fluctuations in hegemony within the framework of the structural determination inscribed in the state form, there is even more scope for variation in the protagonists of specific hegemonic projects. However, if a hegemonic position can derive from the net impact of a given project on the promotion of class (or fractional) interests, the answer can be affirmative. Indeed, as long as capitalism is reproduced without a transition to socialism or collapse into barbarism, an economically dominant class (but not necessarily one that enjoys hegemony), is bound to exist simply by definition. But we still need to establish whether there is a dominant fraction within the dominant class, whether capital (or one of its fractions) enjoys economic hegemony, and whether capital (or one of its fractions) enjoys political, intellectual, and moral hegemony. Given the possibilities for dislocation between economic domination and/or economic hegemony and hegemony in broader terms, these issues can only be settled in the light of specific overdetermined conjunctures. Clearly only concrete analyses of concrete situations will resolve these issues.
Finally, let us consider the implications of hegemony for the periodization of the state. In periodizing capitalism we have already stressed the role of changing accumulation strategies and their associated changes in state intervention. But this latter approach is too one-sided to provide an adequate basis for a periodization of the state. For it focuses on changing forms of state intervention and executive-legislative changes and ignores changes in forms of representation, social bases, and hegemonic projects. It is not too difficult to establish theoretically how the forms of intervention and role of the executive and legislative branches, of the state must change to correspond to different modes of articulation of the circuit of capital in relatively abstract terms. It is far less clear how these will change at the level of specific national economies in relation to particular accumulation strategies. It is even more problematic whether there are any necessary changes in the forms of representation and social bases of the State to ensure it correspondence with changes in the circuit of capital. Certainly the recent analyses of corporatism have a poor track record in accounting for the form of the modern state through the differential development and stability of corporatist institutions and programs.
Likewise, Poulantzas’ work on “authoritarian statism” remains indeterminate on forms of representation and social bases associated with this new state form.25 These theoretical problems derive from the underdetermination of the state system by the value form. Moreover, because it is located at the level of actually existing societies rather than the pure CMP or abstract international circuit of capital, the state is necessarily the target and the site of various struggles which extend beyond economic or class issues. These arguments suggest that the periodization of the state must also involve criteria which extend beyond economic or class issues.
Accordingly, it seems that any theoretical periodization of the state must operate on several levels of abstraction and with different degrees of “one-sidedness” or complexity. Just as we need to flesh out the periodization of the circuit of capital with reference to changing “accumulation strategies’ so we also need to flesh out the periodization of the state seen in its capacity as “ideal collective capitalist” (e.g., liberal state, interventionist state, authoritarian state), with an account of changing hegemonic projects and/or crises in hegemony. In this context it should be recalled that hegemony has three aspects: its structural determination (which points up the need to study forms of representation and the internal structure of the state as well as forms of intervention), its relation to political practices (which points up the need to study the social bases of state power), and its relation to the prevailing accumulation strategy. Clearly there will be some variation in the relative weight to be attached to these different aspects in a given periodization. In considering “normal” states more importance would be attached to the prevailing forms of political representation, for example, whereas more weight would be given to the relative power of different branches of the state system in considering “exceptional” states. But a full account would consider both aspects in dealing with democratic and non-democratic states alike.
In conclusion I shall try to bring out some implications that may not be evident and which merit further exploration. First, in following the sort of analysis of the value form suggested by Itoh in Japan or Elson in Britain, I have tried to break with the final bastion of economism in Marxist analysis while retaining the fundamental contribution of Das Kapital to the critique of political economy. On the one hand, I have tried to show that there is no essential unity of substance to the value form or the circuit of capital and that any unity that exists — even at the purely economic level — depends on the successful implementation of an appropriate accumulation strategy oriented to all the complex economic, political, and ideological conditions necessary to accumulation in a specific conjuncture. On the other hand, I have tried to retain Marx’s account of the specificity of the value form and its implications for the dynamic of accumulation rather than dissolve the specificity of the CMP into an all-encompassing, all-flattening “discourse theoretical” approach of the kind adopted in some recent analyses.
Second, in introducing this mode of analysis of the value form and the substance of value, I have attempted to prepare the ground for a parallel approach to the state form (Staat als Form) and state power. Far from trying to dismiss the contributions of the Staatsableitungdebatte, I have accepted the importance of its analysis of how form problematizes function and have suggested how we might explore this crucial insight more fruitfully. However, while hinting at three different aspects of state form and suggesting that each of these aspects can problematize state functions, I have also noted two aspects of the substance of state power that need investigation. It is in this context that the idea of “hegemonic project” is crucial. For the successful propagation of a hegemonic project secures an adequate social basis for the exercise of state power and also imposes a degree of substantive unity on the state apparatus to complement its formal unity.
Third, by introducing the distinction between “accumulation strategy” and “hegemonic project:’ I have tried to provide a more satisfactory method of analyzing the dilemmas posed by the often contradictory relations between “accumulation” and “legitimation?’ The approach suggested here seems better on two counts. It emphasizes that “accumulation” is not just an economic issue but extends to political and ideological matters, and has a crucial “strategic” dimension. It also suggests the possibility that the contradiction between “accumulation” and “legitimation” can sometimes be resolved through the elaboration of “hegemonic projects” which successfully assert a general interest in accumulation which also advances the particular interests of subordinate social forces. In turn this possibility depends on specific political and ideological activities that interpellate subjects, endow them with interests, and organize them in conjuncturally specific ways. In this way I hope to have brought out the “relational;’ contingent character of power relations, interests, and subjectivities, and to have revealed the difficulties in positing “objective” interests in an essentially abstract manner.
Fourth, by treating hegemony in terms of specific “hegemonic projects:’ I have tried to overcome the tendency inherent in many uses of Gramsci to reduce hegemony to a rather static consensus and/or a broadly defined common sense. Instead I have emphasized the dynamic movement of leadership towards definite aims in specific conjunctures. This approach is hopefully more useful in capturing the nature of hegemonic crises and enables us to distinguish them more clearly from ideological crises. For a hegemonic crisis is a crisis of a specific hegemonic project and could well be resolved through a respecification of goals and tactics within the same basic ideological matrix. An ideological crisis is more general in form and requires a more radical re-articulation of practical moralities, common sense, and ultimate values.
Finally, in locating the concept of hegemonic projects at the level of the social formation and linking it to the “national-popular,” I have tried to indicate the importance of non-class forces in securing the hegemony of the dominant class. The class character of a given hegemonic project does not depend on the a priori class belonging of its elements or any soi-disant class identity professed by its proponents; it depends instead on the effects of pursuing that project in a definite conjuncture. In many cases a bourgeois hegemonic project involves the denial of class antagonism (and sometimes even the existence of classes) and/or emphasizes the pursuit of non-economic or non-class objectives, but such objectives still depend on the accumulation process (among other things), and are thus still economically conditioned as well as economically relevant. In addition it should be noted that the interpellation of classes in non-class terms means that provision must be made for the representation of such non-class interests and the satisfaction of their demands. It is in this respect that the growth of new social movements causes problems for existing hegemonic projects insofar as neither parliamentary nor corporatist forms can provide the means to integrate them into the social basis of the capitalist state. But referring to such problems is already to pose issues that demand much more detailed treatment. Hopefully enough has been said to provoke others to work along similar lines.
1. In part this constitutes a self-criticism, the conclusions to my own recent work tend to neglect the fundamental importance of the value form in Marxist analysis and thereby run the risk of eclecticism. Cf. B. Jessop, The Capitalist State (Oxford: Martin Robertson, 1982), passim.
2. The arguments presented here draw on those of another paper but modify them in some respects: see B. Jessop, “Business Organizations and the Rule of Capital: Some Theoretical Problems,” West European Politics (forthcoming, 1983).
3. The following comments on the value form are heavily indebted to two works: D. Elson, ed., Value: The Representation of Labour in Capitalism (London: CSE, 1979) (especially the article on “The Value Theory of Labour” by Elson, pp. 115-180); and M. Itoh, Value and Crisis (London: Pluto Press, 1980). Nonetheless, in compressing and simplifying their arguments for the current paper, I have modified their language and have introduced some differences of interpretation. For further discussion, the reader is urged to consult the above works.
4. For further analysis of the distinction between “capital-theoretical” and “class-theoretical” approaches, see: Jessop, The Capitalist State.
5. One of the most interesting developments in recent Marxist analysis is precisely the increasing concern with problems of socialist strategy; the field of capitalist strategies is still somewhat neglected.
6. Money capital is the most elemental expression of capital in general; according to the law of value it is allocated among different areas of investment according to variations around the average rate of profit; but it is also important to recognize that this allocative process depends on the decisions of specific capitals whose choices are subject to social validation through market forces only in a post hoc and anarchic manner. Power over the allocation of money capital (either directly or indirectly) is an important attribute of economic domination and economic hegemony.
7. Although all fractions of capital share in the total mass of surplus value created within the circuit of productive (or industrial) capital, it is appropriated in different forms according to the position of a specific fraction within the circuit: profits of enterprise, rent, interest, etc.
8. For further discussion of the differences between these modes of accumulation, see B. Fine and L. Harris, Re-Reading Capital (London: Macmillan, 1979), and Jessop, The Capitalist State, pp. 32-62.
9. The concept of “interior” bourgeoisie was introduced by N. Poulantzas: it refers to a largely industrial, domestic bourgeoisie which is not directly subordinate to foreign capital (as with the comprador bourgeoisie) nor yet completely independent thereof (as with a national bourgeoisie); instead it enjoys a margin of maneuver for independent development within the framework of dependent industrialization (typically under the aegis of American capital). See N. Poulantzas, Classes in Contemporary Capitalism (London: NLB, 1975), pp. 69-76 and passim.
10. For further discussion, see S. Pollard, The Wasting of the British Economy (London: Croom Helm, 1982). 11. Gramsci argues that there is a world of difference between historically organic ideologies and ideologies that are “arbitrary, rationalistic, and willed”; the same argument can be applied to accumulation strategies. See A. Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1971), pp. 376-377.
12. For a useful analysis of the complementarity between national accumulation strategies, see the recent article by M. Aglietta, “World Capitalism in the Eighties:’ New Left Review, no. 136 (November-December 1982), pp. 5-42.
13. On “export substitution:’ see: A. Lipietz, “Towards Global Fordism?” New Left Review, no. 132.
14. A particularly useful periodization of the pure CMP and the internationalization of capital is found in Fine and Harris, Re-Reading Capital.
15. A technological variant of this approach can be found in E. Mandel, Late Capitalism (London: NLB, 1975); see also Itoh, Value and Crisis.
16. Cf. A. Martin, “The Dynamics of Change in a Keynesian Political Economy: The Swedish Case and Its Implications:’ in C. Crouch, ed., State and Economy in Contemporary Capitalism (London: Croom Helm, 1979), pp. 88-121.
17. This analysis of strategy and tactics is indebted to the work of N. Poulantzas: see especially Crisis of the Dictatorships (London: NLB, 1976), pp. 34-39; similar arguments can be found in the work of M. Foucault, especially The History of Sexuality, vol. 1 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981).
18. On the distinction between class forces and class-relevant forces, cf. Jessop, The Capitalist State, pp. 242-244.
19. The concept of “mode of mass integration” was introduced by Joachim Hirsch: see his article on “The Crisis of Mass Integration: On the Development of Political Repression in Federal Germany,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 2 (ii) 1978.
20. Interpellation is an ideological mechanism through which subjects are endowed with specific identities, social positions, and interests. The concept has been introduced into ideological analysis by Louis Althusser: see his essay on “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses’ in idem, Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays (London: NLB, 1971).
21. For examples of this sort of approach, see the work of E. Laclau, Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory (London: NLB, 1977); “Populist Rupture and Discourse’, Screen Education, 34, 1980; and “Togliatti and Politics,” Politics and Power 2 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980).
22. On Gramsci’s analyses of “passive revolution;’ see: C. Buci-Glucksmann, “State, Transition, and Passive Revolution;’ in C. Mouffe, ed., Gramsci and Marxist Theory (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979), pp. 207-236; A. Sassoon, Gramsci’s Politics (London: Croom Helm, 1980), pp. 204-217 and passim; and idem, “Passive Revolution and the Politics of Reform;’ in idem, ed., Approaches to Gramsci (London: Writers and Readers, 1982), pp. 127-149.
23. On “force, fraud, and corruption,” see: Gramsci, Prison Notebooks, pp. 80, 95, and passim.
24. On the concept of “historical bloc;’ see: ibid., pp. 137, 168, 360, 366, 377, and 418.
25. On “authoritarian statism,” see N. Poulantzas, State, Power, Socialism (London: NLB, 1978), pp. 203-249.