State Capitalism(s) Redux?: Theories, Tensions, Controversies
41 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2019
Date Written: February 26, 2019
This article interrogates the notion of state capitalism, exploring the contributions and limits of the concept as a means of theorizing the more visible role of the state across the world capitalist economy. We critically synthesize the key arguments, outlining commonly cited properties and practices of state capitalism, in three bodies of literature: strategic management, comparative capitalism, and international political economy. We find that the term not only lacks a unified definition, but actually refers to an extremely wide array of policy instruments, strategic objectives, institutional forms, and networks, that involve the state to different degrees. For this proliferation of competing usages to be productive and not lead to analytical impasses, we argue that there is a need for a heightened level of reflexive scrutiny of state capitalism as a category of analysis. In that spirit, we identify three issues that the literature must further grapple with for the term to be analytically meaningful, that is, capable of rendering (state)capitalist diversity amenable to analysis and critique:
(1) the ‘missing link’ of a theory of the capitalist state,
(2) the time horizons of state capitalism, or the question of ‘periodization’,
(3) territorial considerations, or the question of ‘locating’ state capitalism.
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