Shifting the Frame from Nation-State to Global Market

Class and Social Consciousness in the Advanced Capitalist Countries

in Social Analysis
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This paper examines the relationship between the globalization of capital, changes in class structure, and the development of new forms of social consciousness. ‘Globalization’ is not a new historical phenomenon, as many scholars have pointed out. There have been repeated episodes of global expansion in the history of capitalism, followed by periods of contraction or near collapse, and as Friedman and numerous others have properly insisted, episodes of expansion and contraction have been characteristic of the relations among societies and cultures long before the appearance of capitalism (Friedman 2001; 1994). The last major episode of global expansion in the history of capitalism took place at the end of the nineteenth century, from 1880 to 1914. It is often pointed out that roughly the same levels of capital export and trade were reached in that period as in the present resurgence of transnational expansion. It is important, however, not to overlook an important difference between the two episodes, which is that in the previous period of globalization, the nation-state was still the fundamental economic unit, whereas in the present phase, capital, in the form of transnational corporations and financial markets, has escaped the limits of state fiscal and political controls, and now increasingly operates in an effectively stateless environment. The difference is reflected in the contrasting forms assumed by imperialism as the political framework of nineteenth century globalization and the present system of putatively independent nation-states.

Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology