The State of Capitalist Globalization

Shah 'Alam, Mughal Emperor (1759–1806), Conveying the Grant of the Diwani to Lord Clive, August 1765 (Benjamin West, 1818)
Shah ‘Alam, Mughal Emper­or (1759–1806), Con­vey­ing the Grant of the Diwani to Lord Clive, August 1765 (Ben­jamin West, 1818)

The State Stripped Bare

It seems almost a para­dox, or per­haps just an anachro­nism, to sug­gest that it is pos­si­ble to describe the glob­al sit­u­a­tion from the van­tage point of the state. Flows and scapes, transna­tion­al cor­po­ra­tions, migra­to­ry move­ments, finan­cial­iza­tion, sup­ply chains, the “unholy trin­i­ty” of the World Bank, IMF, and WTO – these are the actors, process­es, and enti­ties to which analy­ses of the glob­al most fre­quent­ly refer. Over­whelm­ing­ly the focus has been on oper­a­tions and dynam­ics that in some way exceed or dis­place state pow­er and bor­ders. So much is this the case that argu­ments about the decline of the state have become pre­dictable and over­fa­mil­iar. Par­tic­u­lar­ly in the ear­ly hey­day of glob­al­iza­tion talk in the 1990s, these per­spec­tives were so com­mon that they prompt­ed an oppo­site and reac­tive argu­ment – that the state con­tin­ues to dom­i­nate the glob­al polit­i­cal land­scape, and claims about its decline are both inflat­ed and mis­guid­ed. This argu­ment gained trac­tion in the wake of grow­ing secu­ri­ty con­cerns in the first decade of this cen­tu­ry, par­tic­u­lar­ly among schol­ars and polit­i­cal actors who con­sid­ered dis­cus­sions of glob­al­iza­tion to be more dis­cur­sive and rhetor­i­cal than actu­al devel­op­ments war­rant­ed. Thank­ful­ly, we now have more com­plex accounts of how glob­al­iza­tion has changed the state from with­in, and of the roles played by states (some more than oth­ers) in fos­ter­ing glob­al­iza­tion1. Although we agree with these argu­ments, our point in this essay is dif­fer­ent. Mov­ing beyond dis­cus­sions about the decline or main­te­nance of the state, we crit­i­cal­ly inter­ro­gate the very base­line mod­el of the state that has thus far informed argu­ments about the chang­ing posi­tion of the state in cap­i­tal­ist glob­al­iza­tion.

Our argu­ment evolves both in dia­logue with and reac­tion to the wide debate con­cern­ing the trans­for­ma­tions of the state in the most recent waves of cap­i­tal­ist tran­si­tion, restruc­tur­ing, and dis­rup­tion. The very uni­ty of the state has been at stake in this debate. The promi­nence of argu­ments about gov­er­nance and the gov­ern­men­tal­iza­tion of the state is one reg­is­ter of a wide­spread approach that high­lights the dis­ar­tic­u­la­tion of the state and its func­tions, by call­ing into ques­tion the uni­ty of the insti­tu­tion­al sys­tem and polit­i­cal body of the state. In con­trast to these approach­es, there has emerged an equal­ly preva­lent series of argu­ments that tend to take the uni­ty of the state for grant­ed, but point to pow­er­ful and more or less endur­ing instances of excep­tion that both under­lie and under­mine the clas­si­cal nar­ra­tive of state sov­er­eign­ty. Although these lines of argu­ment are often opposed and have giv­en rise to reams of polemic and com­pro­mise, we tend to see them as com­plic­it. While the first line of argu­ment points to the strip­ping away of pow­ers from the state and the rise of new polit­i­cal, legal, and ter­ri­to­r­i­al assem­blages that blur the bound­ary between eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal forms of rule, the sec­ond sheds light on the blind spots of this approach. In our book Bor­der as Method 2 we have forged the con­cept of the sov­er­eign machine of gov­ern­men­tal­i­ty to grasp both the salience of process­es of gov­ern­men­tal­iza­tion and the muta­tions of sov­er­eign­ty beyond the state. The con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion of the state with­in impe­r­i­al visions of glob­al­iza­tion that high­light decen­tered forms of sov­er­eign­ty and mixed con­sti­tu­tion has pro­vid­ed an impor­tant advance in dis­cus­sions of the shift­ing rela­tions between the state and cap­i­tal.3 This frame­work con­tin­ues to pro­vide a guide rail for crit­i­cal analy­sis of the present glob­al predica­ment – but there is a need to assess the role of the state with­in an altered land­scape marked by expe­ri­ences of war, cri­sis, and per­sis­tent tur­bu­lence.

This unsta­ble glob­al sit­u­a­tion can­not be ful­ly appre­hend­ed with­in the clas­si­cal frame­work of uni­lat­er­al and mul­ti­lat­er­al inter­na­tion­al rela­tions. The chang­ing sta­tus of ter­ri­to­ry and its rela­tion to juridi­cal regimes of ter­ri­to­ri­al­i­ty has com­pli­cat­ed ques­tions of juris­dic­tion and pushed con­sti­tu­tion­al arrange­ments well beyond the admin­is­tra­tive and geo­graph­i­cal lim­its of the state. From a per­spec­tive that high­lights the glob­al dynam­ics of cap­i­tal, the effects have been by no means con­sis­tent. Per­sis­tent process­es of finan­cial­iza­tion have shift­ed the scale and tech­niques of reg­u­la­tion in ways that extend beyond any sin­gle nation­al econ­o­my. The US-based archi­tec­ture of glob­al­iza­tion has weak­ened its grip on the world’s cir­cuits of cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion and mon­e­ti­za­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the wake of the eco­nom­ic cri­sis of 2007-8. Ambi­tious glob­al plans such as those devel­oped with­in the frame­work of the WTO have giv­en way to more mod­est region­al and ocean­ic visions for the pro­jec­tion of US eco­nom­ic pow­er (one thinks for instance of the Trans-Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship or the Transat­lantic Trade and Invest­ment Part­ner­ship). At the same time, new eco­nom­ic nation­alisms have arisen to coun­ter­point these visions and sug­gest alter­na­tive pat­terns and paths of glob­al ascen­den­cy. One thinks of the activ­i­ties of Chi­na in Africa, Latin Amer­i­ca, and even Antarc­ti­ca. The pres­ence of the state in these diver­gent pat­terns of glob­al expan­sion is man­i­fest, even if it relates to enti­ties such as the mar­ket or the polit­i­cal par­ty in spe­cif­ic ways. From India to Japan, Brazil to Rus­sia, South Africa to Ger­many, states have made tan­gi­ble invest­ments that shape and enforce vari­able geome­tries of eco­nom­ic expan­sion and devel­op­ment. In doing so, they have entered into shift­ing arrays of pow­er in which their rela­tions to pop­u­la­tions and strate­gies of gov­er­nance have changed in mul­ti­far­i­ous ways. They have also been com­pelled to come to terms with a regime of cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion that is increas­ing­ly char­ac­ter­ized by the pri­ma­cy of finance and by what we have described else­where as “extrac­tive” oper­a­tions of cap­i­tal.4 The ques­tion is how much, in these reck­on­ings with cap­i­tal, states them­selves have changed.

To come to terms with the new roles and forms of the state it is nec­es­sary to account for the glob­al scale of process­es and dynam­ics that dis­rupt estab­lished polit­i­cal as well as eco­nom­ic geo­gra­phies. The cri­sis of US hege­mo­ny, care­ful­ly ana­lyzed by Gio­van­ni Arrighi5, pro­vides an impor­tant inter­pre­tive back­ground for these trans­for­ma­tions. The per­sis­tence of war (with the shat­ter­ing of colo­nial and post­colo­nial bound­aries in the Mid­dle East, the tear­ing apart of the Ukraine, or the strug­gles over vast stretch­es of land in Africa) is an impor­tant part of this sce­nario, in which the over­whelm­ing mil­i­tary pow­er of the US does not seem to pro­vide any kind of sta­bi­liza­tion. The emerg­ing for­ma­tions and defor­ma­tions of the state in these war-rid­den ter­ri­to­ries deserve a more detailed inves­ti­ga­tion. At the same time, the cur­rent glob­al predica­ment can­not be described in terms of an impend­ing lin­ear hege­mon­ic tran­si­tion. The emerg­ing land­scape of pow­er at the world scale increas­ing­ly abides a dif­fuse and mul­ti­po­lar, or even “non­po­lar,” pat­tern. Although some of the most cru­cial con­tem­po­rary oper­a­tions of cap­i­tal, (for instance in the fields of finance, logis­tics, and extrac­tion) are char­ac­ter­ized by a high lev­el of homo­gene­ity, the ways in which they “hit the ground” are pro­found­ly het­ero­ge­neous. The junc­ture between the glob­al oper­a­tions of cap­i­tal and their spe­cif­ic and ground­ed instan­ti­a­tions pro­vides an impor­tant point of entry for the analy­sis of the con­tem­po­rary muta­tions of the state. States are cru­cial actors at this junc­ture, but they are far from being able to claim a monop­oly in its man­age­ment and over­see­ing. They are rather com­pelled to nego­ti­ate their role with a mul­ti­far­i­ous array of agen­cies and reck­on with het­ero­ge­neous legal orders, logis­ti­cal pro­to­cols, finan­cial algo­rithms, and mon­e­tary arrange­ments that exceed the con­trol of any state. These nego­ti­a­tions and reck­on­ings also con­tribute to the long­stand­ing ten­den­cy toward a preva­lence of the exec­u­tive and admin­is­tra­tive branch­es of pow­er with­in the state and a mar­gin­al­iza­tion of its rep­re­sen­ta­tive bod­ies. This is clear even in impor­tant expe­ri­ences such as those of Latin America’s new “pro­gres­sive” gov­ern­ments in the last decade, where the cel­e­brat­ed “return of the state” has been made pos­si­ble by an inten­si­fi­ca­tion of extrac­tive activ­i­ties and by the dynam­ics of the glob­al mar­ket for com­modi­ties.

The con­tem­po­rary state is far from being autonomous, and it is impor­tant to point to the lim­its of its action in order to counter the easy opti­mism sur­round­ing for instance the above-men­tioned dis­course of the “return of the state” in Latin Amer­i­ca. We are con­vinced that there is also a need to move beyond the focus on the “neg­a­tive” strip­ping away of state func­tions and capac­i­ties that has char­ac­ter­ized many crit­i­cal dis­cus­sions of the state in glob­al­iza­tion. Whether the focus is put on the rolling back of wel­fare, the desta­bi­liza­tion of the state monop­oly on vio­lence through the rise of pri­vate secu­ri­ty actors, or the mul­ti­ple and wide­spread tech­niques of pri­va­ti­za­tion that have altered the state’s posi­tion in mat­ters of own­er­ship and eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty, the over­whelm­ing ten­den­cy has been to con­cep­tu­al­ize the state in rela­tion to that which has been sub­tract­ed from it. Main­stream cri­tiques of neolib­er­al­ism, whether this is under­stood as an eco­nom­ic doc­trine or a gov­ern­men­tal tech­nique, have only entrenched this ten­den­cy. What we pro­pose is a more “pos­i­tive” descrip­tion (pos­i­tive in ana­lyt­i­cal terms) of what states are doing nowa­days with­out pre­sum­ing to know already what the state is or might be. In oth­er words, our approach dif­fers from a nor­ma­tive under­stand­ing of the state – both in terms of a qual­i­ta­tive appraisal of its sup­posed capac­i­ty to deliv­er order through reg­u­la­tive or legal means and a juridi­cal fram­ing of its activ­i­ties, rela­tion with sub­jects, and indeed very found­ing. Focus­ing rather on what con­tem­po­rary states are doing leads us beyond the bound­aries of tra­di­tion­al state the­o­ry, which is shaped by these nor­ma­tive assump­tions. As we show lat­er in this arti­cle, such assump­tions are usu­al­ly pred­i­cat­ed on a par­tic­u­lar his­tor­i­cal geneal­o­gy of the mod­ern state with pre­cise geo­graph­i­cal cor­re­lates. Open­ing alter­na­tive his­tor­i­cal archives, which are not nec­es­sar­i­ly lim­it­ed to the rise of a stan­dard state-form, pro­vides a way to shift both con­cep­tu­al­ly and empir­i­cal­ly ground­ed approach­es to the state across dif­fer­ent scales and frames of ref­er­ence. This is a prob­lem that does not only con­cern tra­di­tion­al juridi­cal the­o­ries of the state, or the var­ie­gat­ed elab­o­ra­tions of the immense­ly influ­en­tial Weber­ian ide­al type of the mod­ern ter­ri­to­r­i­al state. Dif­fer­ent his­tor­i­cal genealo­gies and alter­na­tive archives also allow us to frame in new and pro­duc­tive ways debates about the cri­sis of the state that have unfold­ed since the 1970s.

Multiple Crises, Multiple Beginnings

To speak of a cri­sis of the state is elu­sive, since a long debate sur­round­ing this claim extends at least from the late nine­teenth cen­tu­ry. Inter­na­tion­al law, increased inter­nal social plu­ral­ism, impe­r­i­al entan­gle­ments, and process­es of orga­niz­ing cap­i­tal­ism all con­tributed to this ques­tion­ing of the auton­o­my of the state and its capac­i­ty to exer­cise an absolute sov­er­eign pow­er. Nev­er­the­less, for most of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, the state remained intact and main­tained a dom­i­nant posi­tion as a world polit­i­cal actor, through wars, eco­nom­ic crises and growth, strug­gles of decol­o­niza­tion, and the expand­ing admin­is­tra­tion of social life. It was only in the late 1960s/early 1970s that amid tumul­tuous social strug­gles and unprece­dent­ed eco­nom­ic changes this dom­i­nant posi­tion was test­ed and chal­lenged. Par­tic­u­lar­ly in the North Atlantic coun­tries, a fis­cal cri­sis of the state was matched by a cri­sis of legit­i­ma­tion. This dou­ble cri­sis reg­is­tered the grow­ing dif­fi­cul­ty of the state in fram­ing the repro­duc­tion and social­iza­tion of labor pow­er, which had been a key aspect of its activ­i­ties at least since the eco­nom­ic shocks of 1929. In his impor­tant chap­ter on the work­ing day in Cap­i­tal, Vol­ume 1, Marx had already point­ed to this func­tion of the state. As the state con­front­ed increas­ing bar­ri­ers to its reg­u­la­tive func­tion in the 1970s, the social­iza­tion of labor pow­er became inex­tri­ca­bly linked to process­es of sub­jec­ti­va­tion and strug­gle that nei­ther cap­i­tal nor the state could con­tain.

Wolf­gang Streeck6 has stressed the impor­tance of the neo-Marx­ist debate on the cri­sis of the state in the 1970s, involv­ing such thinkers as Jür­gen Haber­mas, Claus Offe, and James O’Connor. Streeck high­lights the absence from this dis­cus­sion of a deep con­sid­er­a­tion of the role of the bank­ing sys­tem and finan­cial mar­kets in the spe­cif­ic strate­gies adopt­ed by cap­i­tal as a polit­i­cal actor and form of social pow­er. Such an absence did not char­ac­ter­ize all crit­i­cal strains of argu­ment that emerged in this peri­od. In the tra­di­tion of Ital­ian operais­mo, for instance, there was a rapid appre­ci­a­tion of the epoch-mak­ing con­se­quences of the delink­ing of the US dol­lar from gold in 1971. The new wave and scale of finan­cial­iza­tion, which fig­ure promi­nent­ly among these con­se­quences, dra­mat­i­cal­ly changed the very con­di­tions of the repro­duc­tion of labor pow­er. They also strate­gi­cal­ly altered the state’s posi­tion with regard to the medi­a­tion of the con­trast­ing inter­ests of dif­fer­ent “frac­tions” of cap­i­tal and to the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of “total cap­i­tal” (or the gen­er­al inter­est and over­all repro­duc­tive log­ic of cap­i­tal). This lat­ter con­cept, elab­o­rat­ed by Marx in the sec­ond and third vol­umes of Cap­i­tal, is not to be under­stood in rei­fied terms. It rather points to a field of forces and dynam­ics char­ac­ter­ized by insta­bil­i­ty and elu­sive­ness. Friedrich Engels’ def­i­n­i­tion of the state in Anti-Dühring as the “ide­al col­lec­tive cap­i­tal­ist” nice­ly cap­tures the impor­tant roles played by the state in the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a “total cap­i­tal” whose hori­zon has nev­er­the­less always been the world mar­ket.7 The operaista dis­cus­sion of the state in the 1970s focused on the cri­sis of plan­ning as a strate­gic junc­ture between the state’s activ­i­ties in tar­get­ing the repro­duc­tion and social­iza­tion of labor pow­er (which also means the artic­u­la­tion of capital’s com­mand over these process­es) and its labor in the field of the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of “total cap­i­tal.”8 While this debate was char­ac­ter­ized by a polit­i­cal empha­sis on strug­gles and the trans­for­ma­tions of class com­po­si­tion under­ly­ing the cri­sis of the state, there was also an acute aware­ness of the reac­tive strate­gies of cap­i­tal, at both the nation­al and inter­na­tion­al lev­els. The analy­sis of the cri­sis of the “plan­ner-state” (Sta­to-piano) point­ed there­fore to a set of vio­lent dis­lo­ca­tions of the repro­duc­tion of labor pow­er and the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of “total cap­i­tal,” which in many ways antic­i­pat­ed the trends lat­er dis­cussed in debates on neolib­er­al­ism and glob­al­iza­tion.

Although this nar­ra­tive of the cri­sis of the plan­ner-state remains sem­i­nal, there is a need to rec­og­nize that it is not the only dis­rup­tion that marks the polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic tur­moil that inau­gu­rates the glob­al era. To ful­ly appre­hend the depth and range of the cri­sis faced by the state since the 1970s, it is nec­es­sary to widen the geo­graph­i­cal scope of analy­sis and con­front the deep process­es of het­ero­g­e­niza­tion that remake polit­i­cal spaces in their tense entan­gle­ment with spaces of cap­i­tal. Plan­ning was a gen­er­al fea­ture of the state-form that dom­i­nat­ed in the peri­od fol­low­ing World War II, although it assumed dif­fer­ent shapes depend­ing on polit­i­cal con­texts and eco­nom­ic con­di­tions. In quite schemat­ic and abstract terms, it is pos­si­ble to iden­ti­fy three vari­eties of state that became promi­nent in these decades: the demo­c­ra­t­ic wel­fare state, the social­ist state, and the devel­op­men­tal state. It is easy to see how these cat­e­go­riza­tions cor­re­spond to the “three worlds” mod­el of polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic geog­ra­phy that emerged with the clash­es and tur­bu­lence of decol­o­niza­tion. In invok­ing these instan­ti­a­tions of the state, we are aware of the lim­its of typo­log­i­cal analy­sis and seek only to pro­vide guide­lines for assess­ing the changes that emerge with the triple cri­sis that affects them all. Dis­cus­sions of the impact of glob­al­iza­tion on the demo­c­ra­t­ic wel­fare state and the social­ist state are rife. For our pur­pos­es, it is more inter­est­ing to give atten­tion to the devel­op­men­tal state, by which we refer to a huge vari­ety of polit­i­cal regimes and expe­ri­ences that grew out of state-build­ing process­es after the end of colo­nial­ism in Asia and Africa or took new forms in Latin Amer­i­ca where they con­front­ed process­es of indus­tri­al­iza­tion, con­test­ed democ­ra­ti­za­tion, and per­sis­tent con­di­tions of depen­dence. In these con­ti­nen­tal con­texts it is pos­si­ble to observe fric­tions and dis­tor­tions that marked attempts to match the con­di­tions and strug­gles of devel­op­ment to the mod­ern state-form. Such fall­out shaped the cri­sis of the devel­op­men­tal state. What attracts our atten­tion is how this cri­sis fore­shad­ows more gen­er­al fea­tures and trends of the state that would come to the fore glob­al­ly.

The devel­op­men­tal state reg­is­tered a cer­tain glob­al­iza­tion of the state-form that emerged with the con­tain­ment of anti-colo­nial strug­gles and the instal­la­tion of tech­ni­cal mea­sures and stan­dards by which a state’s progress along a devel­op­men­tal path could be tracked. In this way, the devel­op­men­tal state was dri­ven both by strong imper­a­tives of cen­tral­ized plan­ning and state-build­ing, and by more region­al or inter­na­tion­al dis­ci­plines of eco­nom­ic restruc­tur­ing and polit­i­cal clien­telism. The ques­tion of the repro­duc­tion of labor pow­er and the state’s posi­tion with respect to “total cap­i­tal” looks quite dif­fer­ent in this optic. To put it sim­ply, the attempt to repro­duce labor pow­er accord­ing to the norm of “free” wage labor was severe­ly lim­it­ed by the pres­ence of infor­mal, coerced, and mobile labor forces, as well as by house­hold con­di­tions and gen­der regimes that could not eas­i­ly be man­aged by tech­nolo­gies such as the Fordist fam­i­ly wage. In addi­tion, the script of so-called prim­i­tive accu­mu­la­tion in devel­op­men­tal states did not eas­i­ly fol­low the nar­ra­tive of tran­si­tion from agrar­i­an to indus­tri­al work, cre­at­ing myr­i­ad sur­plus pop­u­la­tions that could not read­i­ly be cor­ralled into stan­dard regimes of repro­duc­tion. At the same time, the real­i­ty of “total cap­i­tal” took on impe­r­i­al and neo-colo­nial guis­es, gen­er­at­ing com­prador class­es and weak­en­ing the state’s pow­ers of inter­ven­tion and nego­ti­a­tion. This posi­tion­ing of the state pos­es chal­lenges for any attempt to under­stand the devel­op­men­tal state with ref­er­ence to the clas­si­cal Weber­ian def­i­n­i­tion of the mod­ern state, with its empha­sis on insti­tu­tion­al and bureau­crat­ic orga­ni­za­tion and the state’s suc­cess­ful claim to the “monop­oly of legit­i­mate phys­i­cal force” with­in “a giv­en ter­ri­to­ry”9 Such dif­fi­cul­ties in match­ing the devel­op­men­tal state to the Weber­ian tem­plate were not the effect of belat­ed moder­ni­ty, or deficits to be recu­per­at­ed through eco­nom­ic growth, but arose from var­ie­gat­ed his­tor­i­cal and geo­graph­i­cal cir­cum­stances that would only become more pro­nounced with the tran­si­tions that opened glob­al­iza­tion.

There is no need here to remem­ber in detail how the cri­sis of the devel­op­men­tal state was fuelled by and entan­gled with bru­tal dic­ta­tor­ships, the sup­pres­sion of pop­u­lar polit­i­cal and social pow­er, struc­tur­al adjust­ment pro­grams, or hot and cold forms of war­fare. Such phys­i­cal, admin­is­tra­tive, and eco­nom­ic vio­lence should fig­ure promi­nent­ly in any attempt to recon­struct the cri­sis of the devel­op­men­tal state as well as the strug­gles and tran­si­tions that marked the emer­gence of new enmesh­ments of cap­i­tal and pow­er in the 1980s. Our main con­cern here is to sur­vey the var­ie­gat­ed post­de­vel­op­men­tal sce­nar­ios that began to emerge in the wake of the changes, since they are impor­tant ana­lyt­i­cal­ly as well as his­tor­i­cal­ly for any under­stand­ing of the con­tem­po­rary state writ large. These vis­tas of change encom­passed the emer­gence of more flex­i­ble polit­i­cal tech­nolo­gies of rule, het­ero­ge­neous ter­ri­to­r­i­al arrange­ments, and increas­ing­ly decen­tered ways of medi­at­ing the rela­tion of cap­i­tal to the state. We will reserve a fuller dis­cus­sion of these trans­for­ma­tions for lat­er inter­ven­tions. For now, we want to sug­gest that such post­de­vel­op­men­tal ten­den­cies are best under­stood not as irreg­u­lar­i­ties with respect to a sup­posed norm or “ide­al type” of the mod­ern state, but rather as muta­tions that adapt to but also spur the tumul­tuous and asyn­chro­nous tem­po­ral­i­ty, expan­sion, and inten­si­fi­ca­tion of con­tem­po­rary cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion. In this respect, these ten­den­cies are by no means lim­it­ed by the geo­graph­i­cal axes of North and South, or cen­ter and periph­ery, which they have large­ly super­seded and replaced with more com­plex spa­tial dis­tri­b­u­tions of pow­er and wealth. To rec­og­nize this, how­ev­er, is not to sug­gest that these arrange­ments are with­out his­tor­i­cal prece­dents, which can pro­vide pow­er­ful points of ref­er­ence for an alter­na­tive geneal­o­gy of the mod­ern state.

History Matters

The­o­ret­i­cal under­stand­ings of the state have been shaped by a par­tic­u­lar his­tor­i­cal account of state for­ma­tion, which usu­al­ly departs from ear­ly mod­ern Europe. The empha­sis falls on how the con­cen­trat­ed pow­er of the monar­chy pro­vides the basis for the polit­i­cal form of the mod­ern state, with its uni­form and lim­it­ed notions of ter­ri­to­ry, sub­ject­hood, and coher­ent­ly linked admin­is­tra­tive bod­ies. In the wake of the rev­o­lu­tions that spread across Europe and the Atlantic world, there emerged a con­sti­tu­tion­al state that estab­lished a con­ti­nu­ity of legal order and firm­ly embed­ded the state-form in new arrange­ments of nation and cit­i­zen­ship. Need­less to say, this is an extreme­ly rough sketch of his­tor­i­cal process­es that have been the sub­ject of many con­tes­ta­tions and rein­ter­pre­ta­tions. Nonethe­less, the basic premis­es of this vision have pro­vid­ed the scaf­fold­ing for the con­struc­tion of many dif­fer­ent tra­di­tions of state the­o­ry – those that build on Marx as much as those that draw on Weber. These premis­es have also sup­plied an implic­it ontol­ogy that has made the ques­tion of what the state is super­flu­ous in many debates, includ­ing attempts to take stock of the most recent changes to the state in glob­al­iza­tion. We would like to ques­tion the extent to which this geneal­o­gy can ade­quate­ly facil­i­tate an under­stand­ing of the chang­ing shape and roles of the state in the present glob­al sit­u­a­tion. If one looks at the his­tor­i­cal efforts of Euro­pean empires to estab­lish effec­tive con­trol over vast stretch­es of land and pop­u­la­tions across the sur­face of the globe, a dif­fer­ent his­to­ry of sov­er­eign­ty and pow­er emerges.10 Clear­ly these impe­r­i­al ven­tures must be ana­lyzed in ways atten­tive to their huge vari­ety, as well as their his­tor­i­cal and geo­graph­i­cal dif­fer­en­ti­a­tions. Nonethe­less, the mod­el of homo­ge­neous ter­ri­to­r­i­al integri­ty, the con­struc­tion of sys­tem­at­ic legal order, and the ver­ti­cal dia­gram of state pow­er and sub­ject­hood do not pro­vide ade­quate ana­lyt­i­cal coor­di­nates with­in which to grasp the extent of these dif­fer­en­ti­a­tions. Far from being inci­den­tal to the his­to­ry of the mod­ern state, his­tor­i­cal research on these com­plex colo­nial arrange­ments and entan­gle­ments shows how impe­r­i­al expan­sion becomes a cru­cial moment in state build­ing itself. The Euro­pean world of states took shape and evolved with­in such an impe­r­i­al envi­ron­ment, where the sheer exer­cise of vio­lence was accom­pa­nied by legal and polit­i­cal dis­putes that would even­tu­al­ly shape the path of glob­al his­to­ry in ways just as impor­tant, if not more so, than the peace of West­phalia.

In this per­spec­tive the evo­lu­tion of the mod­ern state does not run direct­ly through the coor­di­nates of nation and cit­i­zen­ship, but instead pass­es through a panoply of com­mer­cial and legal arrange­ments that a new gen­er­a­tion of his­to­ri­ans has begun to inves­ti­gate. The result is a much more frag­ment­ed view of the his­to­ry of the mod­ern state, which we con­sid­er to be much rich­er and more fecund for a crit­i­cal under­stand­ing of the state in the present era. If one con­sid­ers, for instance, the his­to­ry of char­tered com­pa­nies, it is pos­si­ble to see them as body pol­i­tics in their own terms. These appar­ent­ly com­mer­cial enti­ties com­bined fea­tures of gov­ern­ments, cor­po­ra­tions, juris­dic­tions, and colo­nial prop­er­ty to exer­cise “a pre­car­i­ous but poten­tial­ly potent form of ‘struc­tur­al auton­o­my’ and thus cor­po­rate sov­er­eign­ty” enabled by the volatil­i­ty of their con­sti­tu­tions.11 In his book The Com­pa­ny State, Philip Stern turns Edmund Burke’s famous dis­par­age­ment of the East India Com­pa­ny as “state in the dis­guise of a mer­chant” into a pos­i­tive descrip­tion of its polit­i­cal exis­tence. How­ev­er, it is not only in the “fac­to­ries” and out­posts estab­lished by char­tered com­pa­nies that we can observe this more frag­ment­ed his­to­ry of the mod­ern state. The sys­tem of plan­ta­tions, trans­port, and own­er­ship that char­ac­ter­ized the trans-Atlantic slave trade, as well as the move­ment of “coolies” and oth­er kinds of inden­tured labor­ers, required the inven­tion of inno­v­a­tive forms of ter­ri­to­r­i­al pow­er and legal reg­u­la­tion. The estab­lish­ment of pro­tec­torates, con­ces­sions, and treaty ports was part of the main­stream of Euro­pean impe­r­i­al expan­sion and cre­at­ed scat­tered legal and polit­i­cal spaces. From the late nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, these already com­plex spaces were fur­ther com­pli­cat­ed by mul­ti­far­i­ous defor­ma­tions of sov­er­eign­ty, giv­ing rise to a wide array of “qua­si-sov­er­eign” and “par­tial­ly sov­er­eign” colo­nial poli­ties.12 More­over, the sys­tem of inter­na­tion­al law, which is clear­ly impor­tant to the his­to­ry of the mod­ern state, is unthink­able in sep­a­ra­tion from impe­r­i­al prac­tices in the Amer­i­c­as, Asia, and Africa. As Partha Chat­ter­jee explains, these prac­tices “had a pro­found effect in shap­ing the so-called law of nations, and defin­ing the place with­in it of the mod­ern sov­er­eign nation-state.”13 Impor­tant­ly, the evo­lu­tion of these sys­tems took place in con­fronta­tion with het­ero­ge­neous forms of polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion – such as the trib­ute sys­tem that struc­tured China’s rela­tion with its depen­den­cies, and the patch­work of rule and influ­ence that char­ac­ter­ized Mughal India.

When viewed in the light of these refrac­tions of impe­r­i­al polit­i­cal and legal for­ma­tions, the post­de­vel­op­men­tal sce­nario we dis­cussed ear­li­er appears much less “anom­alous” than it does when com­pared with the dom­i­nant state forms of the post-World War II era. It is easy to see the sim­i­lar­i­ties between the dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed geog­ra­phy of colo­nial rule and sub­ject­hood and con­tem­po­rary strate­gies of zon­ing, grad­u­at­ed sov­er­eign­ty, mul­ti­level gov­er­nance, and dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion of rights. This is the case even though the for­mer was part and par­cel of a con­test­ed process of ter­ri­to­ri­al­iz­ing the world, while the cur­rent trans­for­ma­tions take place with­in the frame of a ter­ri­to­ri­al­ized world that is forced to adapt to chang­ing con­di­tions of cap­i­tal, and thus tests the lim­its of estab­lished notions of ter­ri­to­ri­al­i­ty. The range and vari­ety of actu­al­ly exist­ing states in the present is even more com­pli­cat­ed than the bewil­der­ing array of polit­i­cal and legal forms present in the colo­nial era. As Akhil Gup­ta writes: “All claims about the state” today “should be coun­tered with the ques­tion, Which state?”14 Gup­ta is refer­ring here to India and the con­found­ing pro­lif­er­a­tion of dif­fer­ent lev­els of gov­ern­ment, het­ero­ge­neous agen­cies and bureaus, and the var­i­ous poli­cies, pro­grams, and peo­ple that con­sti­tute the state in that con­text. But his ques­tion also has rel­e­vance at the glob­al lev­el, where it is pos­si­ble to observe a daz­zling array of dif­fer­ent kinds of states way beyond the realms usu­al­ly iden­ti­fied with post­de­vel­op­men­tal dynam­ics.

One need only think of the wide vari­ety of pre­fix­es and adjec­tives that pop­u­late dis­cus­sions about the trans­for­ma­tions of the state-form today, giv­ing rise to a range of denom­i­na­tions from gate­keep­er state to par­ty state, con­ti­nen­tal state to rogue state, failed state to qua­si-state. Far from being applic­a­ble only to the spe­cif­ic real­i­ties they evoke, these cat­e­gories pro­vide ana­lyt­i­cal lens­es through which it is pos­si­ble to grasp some of the changes and trends that are reshap­ing the state-form at the glob­al lev­el. For instance, there is some­thing to be gained ana­lyt­i­cal­ly by approach­ing the UK as a gate­keep­er state (medi­at­ing the US-cen­tered finan­cial world into Europe) or the mem­ber states of the Euro­pean Union as qua­si-states (con­sid­er­ing the mixed con­sti­tu­tion of sov­er­eign­ty at the Euro­pean scale). More­over, the imbri­ca­tion of sov­er­eign­ty and com­mer­cial pow­er instan­ti­at­ed by the his­tor­i­cal char­tered com­pa­ny has assumed new forms and heights in the con­tem­po­rary world. In the frag­ment­ed polit­i­cal and insti­tu­tion­al land­scape of present glob­al­iza­tion the bor­der between state and cap­i­tal is con­tin­u­ous­ly test­ed, whether through imper­a­tives of state entre­pre­neuri­al­ism, the direct polit­i­cal pow­er exer­cised by many transna­tion­al cor­po­ra­tions, or the role of inter­na­tion­al agen­cies in orches­trat­ing polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment. Remem­ber­ing the quip from Edmund Burke cit­ed ear­li­er, we might say today that there are many mer­chants act­ing in the dis­guise of a state.

Reckoning with the State

Above we have offered two dis­tinct but inter­con­nect­ed genealo­gies through which to approach the state in times of glob­al­iza­tion: first, we fol­lowed the tra­jec­to­ries that break down the devel­op­men­tal state, giv­ing rise to legal and polit­i­cal arrange­ments that have become increas­ing­ly preva­lent at the glob­al scale; sec­ond, we have focused on the longue durée of frag­ment­ed state-forms that devel­op through the his­to­ry of mod­ern impe­ri­al­ism and colo­nial­ism. Both of these nar­ra­tives allow us to see some­thing spe­cif­ic about the con­tem­po­rary state but tak­en togeth­er they high­light the com­pli­cat­ed and frac­tured land­scape of present state for­ma­tions and defor­ma­tions. Crit­i­cal­ly ana­lyz­ing the state nowa­days means tak­ing into account this land­scape in its widest scope and impli­ca­tions rather than focus­ing on sin­gle instances, or priv­i­leg­ing a base­line mod­el from which var­i­ous empir­i­cal changes are mea­sured or dis­missed as extra­ne­ous to the state. Our main inter­est is not in the com­par­a­tive analy­sis of dif­fer­ent states, iden­ti­fied accord­ing to the estab­lished geo­gra­phies of the world map, but rather in dis­cern­ing and fol­low­ing res­o­nances between trends and process­es that tra­verse the state in het­ero­ge­neous con­texts. In this regard, to come back to a point we men­tioned at the begin­ning of this piece, it is impor­tant to look at how states these days tend to meld or be increas­ing­ly enmeshed with emerg­ing assem­blages or regimes that tran­scend them. Often these assem­blages and regimes blur the bound­aries between legal norms, tech­ni­cal stan­dards, and polit­i­cal con­sen­sus in ways that facil­i­tate and pro­mote the oper­a­tions of cap­i­tal across diverse geo­graph­i­cal scales. Recent research in geog­ra­phy and urban the­o­ry has giv­en us a new vocab­u­lary with which to describe and ana­lyze these process­es of mix­ing and rescal­ing – from Neil Brenner’s dis­cus­sion of state spaces15 to Keller Easterling’s explo­rations of extrastate­craft.16 The issue of how the state fits into these emerg­ing pat­terns and sce­nar­ios tests our very notions of the state and recasts famil­iar ques­tions about mat­ters such as polit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion, hege­mo­ny, civ­il soci­ety, and the role the state can play in con­trast­ing or even tam­ing glob­al cap­i­tal­ist dynam­ics. For us, grap­pling with these impor­tant ques­tions means approach­ing the dif­fi­cult task of exam­in­ing the state’s deep entan­gle­ment with glob­al eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal forces with­out revert­ing to tra­di­tion­al con­trac­tu­al or nor­ma­tive con­cep­tions that imag­ine they can put the state back in con­trol.

In explor­ing the terms of this entan­gle­ment, it should be clear that our posi­tion is that states still mat­ter. We have already affirmed that we sub­scribe to nei­ther argu­ments that posit the state’s with­er­ing away, nor those that in guard­ed cel­e­bra­tion argue that glob­al­iza­tion has left its core unchanged. In point­ing to a more frag­ment­ed his­to­ry of the state, we do not mean to sug­gest that such frag­men­ta­tion is suf­fi­cient to ground a the­o­riza­tion of the state. As much as argu­ments about the gov­ern­men­tal­iza­tion of the state are use­ful in high­light­ing the dif­fuse oper­a­tions of con­tem­po­rary rule over ter­ri­to­ries and pop­u­la­tions, the claim for uni­ty con­tin­ues to be a defin­ing fea­ture of the state and its con­test­ed legit­i­ma­cy. Indeed, the ten­sion between the dis­ar­tic­u­la­tion of the state’s uni­ty and its con­tin­ued rein­state­ment defines the field in which the state oper­ates today. There are many dif­fer­ent empir­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tions of this ten­sion, which is evi­dent, for instance, in rhetoric that denies the influ­ence of glob­al forces on the state or on a dif­fer­ent lev­el in the gap between the col­lec­tion and accu­ra­cy of sta­tis­tics and their aggre­ga­tion into data­bas­es that pro­fess to under­gird coher­ent nar­ra­tives about a state’s growth or des­tiny. We do not believe this ten­sion can be resolved. Although the nation has always promised the pos­si­bil­i­ty of such a res­o­lu­tion, its abil­i­ty to deliv­er this is high­ly uneven and often depen­dent on vari­ables that dis­play the frac­tures in the state that nation­al­ism can be so effec­tive in cov­er­ing over or fill­ing up. Equal­ly repres­sive state mech­a­nisms, which with var­i­ous degrees of inten­si­ty and bru­tal­i­ty can cre­ate the pati­na of state uni­ty, also show the cracks in the state’s arma­ture. This expos­ing of cracks can occur through his­tor­i­cal exca­va­tion that sheds light on the excess and unre­paired wounds of past state regimes, or the sheer auda­cious­ness of con­tin­ued oppo­si­tion in many parts of the world, whether orga­nized or spon­ta­neous. States con­tin­ue to be repres­sive, for instance in the face of dis­sent, the test­ing of their bor­ders by mobile pop­u­la­tions, chal­lenges to the work­ings and dis­ci­pline of cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion, or the unruli­ness of racial­ized minori­ties. Increas­ing­ly, how­ev­er, the repres­sive work of states, which is clas­si­cal­ly con­sid­ered part of their core busi­ness, is out­sourced to pri­vate inter­ests or pur­sued through the per­verse log­ic of the pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship.

Going back to what we wrote above about Marx­ist dis­cus­sions of the state, there is a need to stress that glob­al­iza­tion has fos­tered an increas­ing bifur­ca­tion between the repro­duc­tion of labor pow­er and “total cap­i­tal.” It has become dif­fi­cult for the state, for any state, to pro­vide an effec­tive medi­a­tion between them. In its rela­tion with cap­i­tal the state is com­pelled to reck­on with log­ics of cap­i­tal accu­mu­la­tion that large­ly exceed nation­al denom­i­na­tions and bound­aries. In this sit­u­a­tion, the state emerges as an eco­nom­ic actor that holds par­tic­u­lar rela­tions with spe­cif­ic frac­tions of cap­i­tal, whether these rela­tions involve the pro­mo­tion of nation­al eco­nom­ic inter­ests through neo-mer­can­tilist strate­gies, or efforts to attract for­eign invest­ment through fis­cal mech­a­nisms, labor law arrange­ments, or var­i­ous kinds of ter­ri­to­r­i­al con­ces­sions. In mak­ing such moves the state does not nec­es­sar­i­ly act as the “ide­al col­lec­tive cap­i­tal­ist,” to recall the phrase we used from Engels above. Rather, it emerges as one cap­i­tal­ist actor among oth­ers, although it may be in a stronger or weak­er posi­tion with respect to the inter­ests and agen­cies with which it inter­acts. “Total cap­i­tal” today is more a bun­dle of log­ics, ratio­nal­i­ties, and dynam­ics in which diverse cap­i­tal­ist actors col­lab­o­rate and com­pete, giv­ing rise to pow­er­ful alliances that some­times oper­ate at the con­ti­nen­tal or even glob­al scales. States are enmeshed in these mixed con­sti­tu­tion­al rela­tions that make up the only pos­si­ble approx­i­ma­tion of the real­i­ty of “total cap­i­tal” in the glob­al age. Even where the state still plays a role in the repro­duc­tion of labor pow­er (for instance through nation­al health, edu­ca­tion schemes, or sys­tems of labor mar­ket reg­u­la­tion and indus­tri­al arbi­tra­tion), it is under­stood as a “pos­i­tive exter­nal­i­ty” to cap­i­tal­ist enter­prise. More per­ti­nent­ly, repro­duc­tive func­tions have been reshuf­fled by finan­cial­iza­tion and the entre­pre­neur­ial ratio­nal­i­ty that has infil­trat­ed state wel­fare schemes, imbu­ing every­day rou­tines with the dis­ci­pline and tem­po­ral­i­ty of indebt­ed life.

This dis­place­ment of repro­duc­tive activ­i­ty from the state in tan­dem with the state’s repo­si­tion­ing with­in the mixed con­sti­tu­tion of “total cap­i­tal” calls for a more extend­ed analy­sis, which nec­es­sar­i­ly must con­front a wide array of instances in which the shift­ing rela­tions of state and cap­i­tal take diverse and some­times nov­el forms. This means tak­ing stock of the lat­est devel­op­ments and muta­tions in the world of cap­i­tal, plac­ing equal empha­sis on and explor­ing the com­plic­i­ty of het­ero­ge­neous modes of extrac­tion and the seem­ing­ly meta­phys­i­cal qual­i­ties of abstrac­tion today. The analy­sis of finance, logis­tics, and extrac­tion we have pur­sued else­where allows us to shed light on a set of prin­ci­ples and log­ics that increas­ing­ly dri­ve eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment well beyond these “sec­tors.”17 In these prac­tices and domains we see the inter­twin­ing of harsh­ly mate­r­i­al aspects of extrac­tion and the almost ethe­re­al pro­to­cols, tech­niques, and algo­rithms that guide capital’s oper­a­tions. We are con­vinced that this inter­twin­ing points to present cap­i­tal­ist con­di­tions and ratio­nal­i­ties that are quite dis­tinct from the clas­si­cal form of indus­tri­al cap­i­tal­ism and that states nowa­days are com­pelled to come to terms with this emerg­ing and glob­al­ly exten­sive cap­i­tal­ist for­ma­tion. The ways in which states adjust to these con­di­tions are clear­ly het­ero­ge­neous, and thus a ground­ed obser­va­tion of how states actu­al­ly con­front these cir­cum­stances must be a cru­cial ele­ment of any ana­lyt­i­cal and polit­i­cal appraisal of cur­rent state trans­for­ma­tions. Such ground­ed obser­va­tion will inevitably encounter issues of fram­ing, loca­tion, artic­u­la­tion of state struc­tures, and the need to nego­ti­ate the gaps and clash­es between crit­i­cal analy­sis and see­ing like a state. It will also need to be informed by and con­tribute to the fur­ther elab­o­ra­tion of a the­o­ret­i­cal per­spec­tive that reck­ons with the accu­mu­la­tion of cap­i­tal, prac­tices of dai­ly life, the pol­i­tics of geo­graph­i­cal scale, and the state’s imbri­ca­tion with the rup­tures and antag­o­nisms that criss­cross social coop­er­a­tion.

We do not expect that such an approach to the state will con­jure away a series of clas­si­cal ques­tions that have always haunt­ed polit­i­cal debates – ques­tions about the col­lec­tive will, rep­re­sen­ta­tion, par­tic­i­pa­tion, polit­i­cal plu­ral­ism, and the capac­i­ty of states to pro­vide grounds for eman­ci­pa­tion. Far from the vision of soci­ety with­out the state, these ques­tions con­tin­ue to be posed with regard to the state and thus are nego­ti­at­ed or dis­placed against the back­ground it pro­vides. Nonethe­less, there is a need to take very seri­ous­ly claims about the exhaus­tion of these cat­e­gories before the emer­gence of pow­er­ful branch­es of state admin­is­tra­tion and gov­er­nance that seem to oper­ate inde­pen­dent­ly of their sup­posed rep­re­sen­ta­tive legit­i­ma­tion and guid­ance. More­over, these branch­es of pow­er are increas­ing­ly sus­cep­ti­ble to forms and prac­tices of cor­rup­tion, result­ing, on the one hand, from the direct influ­ence of cor­po­rate actors, and on the oth­er hand from the pen­e­tra­tion of entre­pre­neur­ial log­ics into the state’s most rou­tine work­ings. This is not to deny that the state’s capa­bil­i­ties can be effec­tive­ly appro­pri­at­ed, way­laid, or nego­ti­at­ed to rad­i­cal polit­i­cal ends. But the suc­cess of such maneu­vers is entire­ly depen­dent on assem­blages of pow­er that exceed and enfold the state. In con­fronting such issues, it is there­fore a polit­i­cal imper­a­tive not to over­ly trust the state or to act in state ser­vice. It is not a mat­ter of oppos­ing an abstract “state-pho­bia,” to remem­ber a word used by Michel Fou­cault,18 to the state-phil­ia that is wide­spread in not only main­stream dis­cours­es but also those strands of crit­i­cal the­o­ry that claim a monop­oly on the real­is­tic reck­on­ing with issues of pow­er. Rather, a real­is­tic obser­va­tion of cur­rent trends and trans­for­ma­tions across diverse spaces and scales demon­strates that the state is not pow­er­ful enough to con­front the oper­a­tions of glob­al cap­i­tal and thus to pro­vide an effec­tive frame­work for projects of rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion with­in and against con­tem­po­rary cap­i­tal­ism. While the approach to the study of the state that we have sketched in this arti­cle high­lights the rel­e­vant roles states con­tin­ue to play in the present, it also stress­es the struc­tur­al lim­its that are imposed on their actions. There is a need for social move­ments and strug­gles to take stock of both sides of this predica­ment, invent­ing ways to con­front the state capa­ble of com­bin­ing a tac­ti­cal under­stand­ing of dif­fer­ent polit­i­cal con­junc­tures with the capac­i­ty to mate­ri­al­ly open the hori­zon of a pol­i­tics beyond the state.


  1. See, for exam­ple, Sask­ia Sassen, Ter­ri­to­ry, Author­i­ty, Rights: From Medieval to Glob­al Assem­blages (Prince­ton: Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2006). 

  2. San­dro Mez­zadra and Brett Neil­son, Bor­der as Method, or, the Mul­ti­pli­ca­tion of Labor (Durham: Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2013). 

  3. Michael Hardt and Anto­nio Negri, Empire (Cam­bridge: Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2000). 

  4. San­dro Mez­zadra and Brett Neil­son, “Extrac­tion, Logis­tics, Finance. Glob­al Cri­sis and the Pol­i­tics of Oper­a­tions,” Rad­i­cal Phi­los­o­phy 178 (2013): 8-18 

  5. Gio­van­ni Arrighi, The Long Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry: Mon­ey, Pow­er, and the Ori­gins of Our Times (Lon­don: Ver­so, 1994); Gio­van­ni Arrighi, Adam Smith in Bei­jing: Lin­eages of the Twen­ty-First Cen­tu­ry (Lon­don: Ver­so, 2007). 

  6. Wolf­gang Streeck, Gekaufte Zeit. Die vertagte Krise des demokratis­chen Kap­i­tal­is­mus (Berlin: Suhrkamp Ver­lag, 2013). 

  7. Friedrich Engels, Her­rn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wis­senschaft (Anti-Dühring), in Marx Engels Werke, vol. 20 (Berlin: Dietz Ver­lag, 1975), 260. 

  8. See Anto­nio Negri, Crisi del­lo Sta­to piano. Comu­nis­mo e orga­niz­zazione riv­o­luzionar­ia. (Milano: Fel­trinel­li, 1974); Anto­nio Negri, La for­ma Sta­to. Per la crit­i­ca dell’economia polit­i­ca del­la cos­ti­tuzione (Milano: Fel­trinel­li, 1977). 

  9. Max Weber, “Pol­i­tics as Voca­tion,” in Max Weber’s Com­plete Writ­ings on Aca­d­e­m­ic and Polit­i­cal Voca­tions, ed. John Drei­j­ma­n­is (New York: Algo­ra Pub­lish­ing, 2008), 160-61. 

  10. Lau­ren Ben­ton, A Search for Sov­er­eign­ty. Law and Geog­ra­phy in Euro­pean Empires 1400-1900 (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2010). 

  11. Philip J. Stern, The Com­pa­ny-State. Cor­po­rate Sov­er­eign­ty & the Ear­ly Mod­ern Foun­da­tions of the British Empire in India. (Oxford, New York: Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2011), 14. 

  12. See Lau­ren Ben­ton, 293-94. 

  13. Partha Chat­ter­jee, The Black Hole of Empire. His­to­ry of a Glob­al Prac­tice of Pow­er (Prince­ton, NJ: Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2012), 187. 

  14. Akhil Gup­ta, Red Tape. Bureau­cra­cy, Struc­tur­al Vio­lence, and Pover­ty in India (Durham: Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2012), 52. 

  15. Neil Bren­ner, State Spaces. Urban Gov­er­nance and the Rescal­ing of State­hood (Oxford: Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2004). 

  16. Keller East­er­ling, Extrastate­craft: The Pow­er of Infra­struc­ture Space (Lon­don: Ver­so, 2014). 

  17. San­dro Mez­zadra and Brett Neil­son, “Extrac­tion, Logis­tics, Finance. Glob­al Cri­sis and the Pol­i­tics of Oper­a­tions;” San­dro Mez­zadra and Brett Neil­son, “Oper­a­tions of Cap­i­tal,” in South Atlantic Quar­ter­ly 114, no. 1 (forth­com­ing 2015). 

  18. Michel Fou­cault, The Birth of Biopol­i­tics: Lec­tures at the Col­lège de France 1977-78. Trans. Gra­ham Burchell (Hound­mills: Pal­grave Macmil­lan, 2008), 76. 

Authors of the article

is a researcher at the Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney. He is currently involved in the tricontinental research project Logistical Worlds: Infrastructure, Software, Labor. With Sandro Mezzadra, he is working on a writing project that examines the operative dimensions of capitalism in relation to contemporary politics.

teaches Political Theory at the University of Bologna, has long been engaged in activist projects, and is an active participant in the "post-workerist" debate (see particularly Euronomade). Among other books, he is, with Brett Neilson, author of Border as Method.