International Political Economy scholars miss THE question of the 21st century: the rise of a global labor class living in poverty

In the recent years, more and more International Political Economy (IPE) scholars are dissatisfied with the current state of this field of research and desire to identify the ‘Big Questions’ of the 21st century. In this (open access) article, Benjamin Selwyn (University of Sussex) argues, however, that they miss the Really Big Question of the 21st century: the rise of a planetary labouring class of over 3 billion (and counting), living, for the most part, in poverty or near-poverty.
While this class’s existence is not new (although its size is), International Political Economy’s ignorance of it, as well of capital–labour relations in general, is as old as the discipline’s institutional formation. This important article shows that mainstream International Political Economy’s sidelining of class relations disables it from explaining the global systemic transformations that underpin changes in the relations between states and markets (International Political Economy’s traditional focus). Selwyn illustrates the long-term making of the global labouring class by discussing three examples of global systemic transformation: the rise of capitalism; the post-1945 embedded liberalism–development project conjuncture; and contemporary globalisation.
Workers are not considered to be active constituents of global capitalist relations and processes. Can Marxism rise to the challenge of providing the basis for an alternative class-based and anti-Eurocentric IPE? In its essence, “Twenty-first-century International Political Economy: A class-relational perspective” is an eye-opening and agenda setting paper which calls for a different IPE, based upon the analysis of globally constituted class relations. Such a perspective will better explain global systemic transformations and enable to potentially overcome the elitism of much IPE scholarship.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s