Social Scientist. v 24, no. 282-83 (Nov-Dec 1996) p. 1.


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INTRODUCTION

In the ongoing effort to characterize the current conjuncture in world capitalism two tendencies have dominated the discussion. First, evidence of a dramatic increase in the cross-border flow of goods, services and capital, especially financial capital, over the last decade, which are taken as signs of a new process of 'globalization'. Second, evidence of a shift in the focus of growth in the international economy to East and Southeast Asia, because of relatively high and persistent rates of growth of GDP and manufacturing output in a few economies.

Faced with this evidence, a number of social scientists including some who are avowedly Marxist have argued that both the conventional Left characterization of imperialism and the resulting perceptions on the potentiality for capitalist development and industrialization in the Third World are. under challenge. Not only is globalization challenging the notion that the mechanisms of international capitalism are fundamentally unequal in their distribution of the 'costs' of capitalist growth, but no more does imperialism or for that matter international inequality constitute a constraint on the industrialization of the less-developed or underdeveloped nations in the world system.

There are a number of strains to this argument. To start with it is held that the fluidity of international capital flows has resulted in the loss of control of national governments in both developed and developing countries over developments in what was hitherto considered a national economic space that was demarcated from the world economy. This loss of manoeuverability on the part of national governments is seen to underpin the collapse of virtually all forms of interventionism, whether in the developed industrial nations or the developing countries. This challenges the idea that any one developed country or a combination of such couhtries can dominate and influence trends in the world system, making any notion of imperialist influence difficult to sustain. Autonomous forces rather than interventionist strategies, it is argued, determine the course of the international system, and the role of national governments is merely to facilitate the operation of such forces.

This, however, is not seen to be a cause for concern, because those autonomous forces are not merely considered benign but in fact positive from a growth and welfare point of view. It is to defend this idea that the experiences of East and Southeast Asian countries are periodically marshaled and presented as so many instances where a facilitating State has ensured that individual nations garner the benefits that more or less autonomously flow



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