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This list of keywords provides essential concepts for the project.

Critiques, corrections, additions : brian.holmes (at)

Ces mots-clé fournissent une base conceptuelle pour le chantier.

Informal intergration (East Asia)


Overaccumulation crisis

Polanyi's double mouvement



Informal integration
"In general, informal cooperation in East Asia has been based on three yuan (special relationships): ethnic ties, industrial linkages and geographical proximity . All three types of informal integration share several features. They are all 1) Market driven. Whatever the linkages are, it is the economic returns that ultimately lead to the formation of the informal integration. Other factors only facilitate the integration. This is different from formal integration, where many decisions are politics-driven. 2) Privately-sponsored. In all cases of informal integration, the actual integrative activities have been conducted by private firms. 3) Network-based. East Asia is a region where intergovernmental cooperation has been lacking. But privately, all kinds of networks have developed among Asians in different countries. At the macrolevel, there are production networks and ethnic business networks. At the micro-level, these two major networks consist of numerous networks formed through long-term corporate ties, (real or imaginary) kinship, voluntary organizations, etc . 4) Non-institutional. Integration through the informal mechanisms does not rely on formal international organizations. In many cases it is even non-contractual. Therefore informal integration involves much lower transaction costs than formal cooperation and is much easier to materialize .
Despite the substantial reductions in trade barriers over the past two decades in most East Asian countries, East Asia still has very strong informal trade barriers. Formal economic cooperation is particularly impotent in dealing with those "subjective resistances" to trade. But informal integration can be an effective way to get around those barriers. The RPN [Regional Production Network] creates structural dependence of the lower-tier economies on the higher-tier ones, so that Japan can maintain high trade surpluses with East Asian countries, despite the substantial trade protection (mostly non-tariff) of those markets.
For Japan, establishing a regional production network through the informal multi-tier division of labor is preferable to establishing a formal exclusive regional free trade area in East Asia. Other than causing suspicions from other East Asian countries, a Japan-led formal East Asian bloc would also certainly alienate the United States, on which much of Japan's export depends. An invisible "bloc" will enable Japan to play a major role in Asia while keeping a relatively low profile."

[Excerpts from Dajin Peng, "The changing nature of East Asia as an economic region," Pacific Affairs, Summer 2000, text here]
As economic integration progressed institutionally (at the government level) in Europe and North America, it was happening as a matter of course in Asia, as companies themselves built cross-border dynamic divisions of labor. Regarding this point, Professor Fukunari Kimura of Keio University said, ?An international network of production and distribution has been created in East Asia in the past decade, centering on the electric and electronic sectors. A production network on this scale is unseen on the American Continent or in Europe.? From 1985 to 2003, global trade grew four times in value. Surprisingly, the value of regional trade in East Asia, comprising Japan, China, the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and ASEAN countries, surged 7.8 times, or nearly double the growth in global trade during the same period. The move in the region is now toward concluding free trade agreements (FTAs) and economic partnership agreements (EPAs). It is my feeling that an ?East Asian Free Business Zone? will be a reality by as early as 2010. This progression is similar to how Canada, the United States and Mexico eventually became linked through NAFTA.?

[Excerpt from the keynote speech of Osamu Watanabe, Chairman and CEO of the Japan External Trade Organization, at the JETRO-International Trade Canada Investment Seminar in Toronto, Canada, May 27, 2005, text as PDF]

?Politics, and with it, all the other dimensions of contemporary experience, is subject to an economic rationality. To put it another way, the human being is entirely conceived as homo oeconomicus, and all the dimensions of existence are shaped by market rationality. Consequently, every action and every political decision obeys considerations of profitability, and, what is equally important, every human or institutional action is conceived as the rational action of a businessman, based on a calculation of usefulness, gainfulness and satisfaction, in accord with a morally neutral micro-economic analysis whose variables are rarity, supply and demand. Not only does neoliberalism conceive everything in social, cultural and political life as reducible to such a calculation, but it also develops the institutional practices and rewards that allow its conception to be fulfilled. In other words, the discourse and politics that convey its criteria are what allow neoliberalism to fashion rational actors and decision-making processes that are guided, in every domain, by the logic of the marketplace. One thing must therefore be stressed: in its effort to promulgate economic rationality, neoliberalism is more normative than ontological; and for this reason it proposes an institutional framework, a series of political measures and a discourse. Neoliberalism is a constructivist project: for it, the strict application of economic rationality to all walks of society is not an ontological given; therefore it actively works towards the development, dissemination and institutionalization of that rationality.?

[Excerpt from Wendy Brown, "Néolibéralisme et fin de la démocratie," Vacarme n° 29]

Overaccumulation Crisis
"The basic idea of the spatio-temporal fix is simple enough. Overaccumulation within a given territorial system means a condition of surpluses of labour (rising unemployment) and surpluses of capital (registered as a glut of commodities on the market that cannot be disposed of without a loss, as idle productive capacity and/or as surpluses of money capital lacking outlets for productive and profitable investment). Such surpluses can be potentially absorbed by (a) temporal displacement through investment in long-term capital projects or social expenditures (such as education and research) that defer the reentry of capital values into circulation into the future, (b) spatial displacements through opening up new markets, new production capacities and new resource, social and labour possibilities elsewhere, or (c) some combination of (a) and (b) .
The general picture which then emerges, is of a networked spatio-temporal world of financial flows of surplus capital with conglomerations of political and economic power at key nodal points (New York, London, Tokyo) seeking either to disburse and absorb the surpluses down productive paths, more often than not in long-term projects across a variety of spaces (from Bangladesh to Brazil or China), or to use speculative power to rid the system of overaccumulation by the visitation of crises of devaluation upon vulnerable territories. It is of course the populations of those vulnerable territories who then must pay the inevitable price, in terms of loss of assets, loss of jobs, and loss of economic security, to say nothing of the loss of dignity and hope . Capitalism survives, therefore, not only through a series of spatio-temporal fixes that absorb the capital surpluses in productive and constructive ways, but also through the devaluation and destruction administered as corrective medicine to what is generally depicted as the fiscal profligacy of those who borrow. The very idea that those who irresponsibly lend might also be held responsible is, of course, dismissed out of hand by ruling elites .
In the current conjuncture, an obvious candidate to absorb surplus capital is China . Net foreign direct investment rose from $5 billion in 1991 to around $50 billion in 2002 . Since 1998, the Chinese have sought to absorb their vast labour surpluses (and to curb the threat of social unrest) by debt-financed investment in huge mega-projects that dwarf the already huge Three Gorges dam . This effort is far larger in toto than that which the United States undertook during the 1950s and 1960s, and has the potential to absorb surpluses of capital for several years to come. It is, however, deficit-financed, and that entails huge risks since if the investments do not return their value to the accumulation process in due course, then a fiscal crisis of the state will quickly engulf China with serious consequences for economic development and social stability. Nevertheless, this proposes to be a remarkable version of a spatio-temporal fix that has global implications not only for absorbing overaccumulated capital, but also for shifting the balance of economic and political power to China as the regional hegemon and perhaps placing the Asian region, under Chinese leadership, in a much more competitive position vis-à-vis the United States .
A second possible outcome, however, is increasingly fierce international competition as multiple dynamic centres of capital accumulation compete on the world stage in the face of strong currents of overaccumulation. Since they cannot all succeed in the long run, either the weakest succumb and fall into serious crises of localized devaluation or geopolitical struggles arise between regions. The latter can get converted via the territorial logic of power into confrontations between states in the form of trade wars and currency wars, with the ever-present danger of military confrontations (of the sort that gave us two world wars in the twentieth century) "

[Excerpts from David Harvey, The New Imperialism (Oxford UP, 2003/2005), pp. 109, 134-35, 123-24.]

Polanyi's double movement
"For a century the dynamics of modern society was governed by a double movement: the market expanded continuously but this movement was met by a countermovement checking the expansion in definite directions. Vital though such a countermovement was for the protection of society, in the last analysis it was incompatible with the self-regulation of the market, and thus with the market system itself.
That system developed in leaps and bounds; it engulfed space and time, and by creating bank money it produced a dynamic hitherto unknown. By the time it reached its maximum extent, around 1914, every part of the globe, all its inhabitants and yet unborn generations, physical persons as well as huge fictitious bodies called corporations, were comprised in it. A new way of life spread over the planet with a claim to universality unparalleled since the age when Christianity started out on its career, only this time the movement was on a purely material level.
Yet simultaneously a countermovement was on foot. This was more than the usual defensive behavior of society faced with change; it was a reaction against a dislocation which attacked the fabric of society, and which would have destroyed the very organization of production that the market had called into being."

[Excerpt from Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation (Boston: Beacon, 1945/2001), p. 136]

"The study of subjectivation is inseparable from the conception of modernity as subject to the continual expansion of the rationalization process, i.e. the expansion of coordination, planning and prediction into all the spheres of social life (from economy to law, from politics to art, as Weber indicated). Against the backdrop of this movement toward social control arises the fundamental problem of subjectivation: How to imagine a possibility of human emancipation?....

The earliest major study of subjectivation associates the notion of a collective subject with the project of emancipation.... Faced with capitalist exploitation and the alienation it engenders (rationalization), a particular actor stands forth: the proletariat, identified as the collective subject of history and invested with a universal mission of emancipation.... For [Lukacs], as for all of Western Marxism, and indeed for most thinking of emancipation until the 1970s, it was because of the place it occupied within the productive process and because of its class interests that the proletariat could apprehend society as a totality. As compared with the bourgeoisie, "the superiority of the proletariat must lie exclusively in its ability to see society from the center as a coherent whole. This means that the proletariat is able to act in such a way as to change reality; in the class consciousness of the proletariat theory and practice coincide, and so it can consciously throw the weight of its actions onto the scales of history" (Lucaks 1923, Yet this is an indirect superiority. To make it materialize, the proletariat must go beyond the dispersion of events and the reification into which it is plunged by the capitalist organization of production, and gain access to its veritable consciousness and class mission. Only at this price can the proletariat become the "identical subject-object of history" (Lukacs, 1923). Put more simply: the proletariat (via the Party) is the actor, the collective subject, wherein self-knowledge can coincide with the knowledge of society as totality....
Today this language might seem like a joke. Nonetheless, it perfectly describes the analytic structure of the entire matrix [of subjectivation]: a principle of domination (here, the reification engendered by capitalism) and a principle of emancipation organized around a collective subject (here, the proletariat)... The action of a subject of history (the bourgeoisie or the proletariat, then later, many other social groups ? including ethnic minorities, the Third World, women, students...) always formed the narrative through which this possibility was explored.

This perspective was to undergo a rupture in the 60s and 70s. What was called "the death of the subject" (in various senses of the word) led to the more or less definitive exhaustion of the positive formulation of subjectivation. ... With this weakening the normative, emancipatory substrate on which the collective project of subjectivation rested, its negative side took center stage, leading to a more pessimistic and disenchanted vision. Domination could even take on an insidious, all-embracing form that blocked off the possibility of any kind of emancipatory subjectivation.

This displacement and reversal can be summed up as the "Foucaultian moment," which itself is marked by two major turns. The first, and no doubt the most important, transforms the collective and emancipatory project of subjectivation into an individualizing process of subjection. The subject becomes an effect of power; s/he is the result of the full set of "the insidious leniencies, unavowable petty cruelties, small acts of cunning, calculated methods, techniques, 'sciences' that permit the fabrication of the disciplinary individual" (Foucault, 1975). ... But the "Foucaultian moment" does not only signal the radically critical exit from the emancipatory version of the collective subject, and the advent of an absolute reign of subjection; it also marks a problematic and sometimes uncertain opening to individual subjectivation. Indeed, this is the fundamental paradox of his work: his constant will to demonstrate increasing power and subjection, and his less evident but no less constant will to envisage a possibility of emancipation. Foucault's response, in the final phase of his intellectual life, after a long detour through classical Antiquity up to the early centuries of Christianity, consisted in identifying an ethical model which constrains individuals to seek out, always in a singular way, their own "technique of living." Each one must fin in him or herself the way to behave, and above, to govern themselves. The freedom to be attained is "more than non-slavery, more than a release from servitude that would render the individual independent from any exterior or interior constraint; in its full and positive form, it is a power that one exercises over oneself through the power one exercises over others" (Foucault, 1984, p. 93). ...

Returning in a quite critical way to the Marxist tradition, certain [contemporary] authors attempt to establish a new link between the dimensions of the historical and personal subjects, notably by studying the possibilities for self-construction produced collectively in the new social movements; but unlike the former Marxists, they take a particular interest in individual realizations. It is often a matter of demonstrating the extent to which a group of themes taken on by the new social movements have become individual concerns and chances for emancipation. Whether in the experiences of women, of sexual or ethnic minorities, or in diverse explorations associated with the counter-culture, it is always a matter of circumscribing the new forms of personal fabrication of the self induced by the process of collective subjectivation. Whatever the particular emphasis, it is therefore always a matter of studying the relation between emancipation and subjection. For the authors working in this perspective, it is simply false to think that individuals can create their "own existence" in a free or autonomous way. Subjectivation is always defined, directly or indirectly, in relation to collective action, and it is therefore inseparable from social conflict and power relations."

[Excerpts from Danilo Mertilucci, "Les trois voies de l'individu sociologique" (Three Paths toward the Sociological Individual), text here]
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