Alexander Anievas (ed.) Marxism and World Politics: Contesting Global Capitalism, Routledge: London, 2010; xii + 279 pp.: 9780415478038 26.99 [pounds sterling] (pbk)
The essays in this volume mostly originated in debates in the Cambridge Review of International Affairs over the question of how Marxism deals with the historical fact that capitalism has developed within a multiplicity of states. This seems to be a problem mostly for academics working in the field of international relations (IR), where Marxism has, with considerable success, carved out a space from which to challenge the dual hegemony of realist and liberal approaches. IR is constituted for realists by the permanent existence of a system of rivalrous polities; for liberals, on the other hand, this system can be refashioned by political agency, guided by the Kantian ideal of a cosmopolitan world order. Marxism, however, turns first one way and then the other: on one hand, theories of imperialism and global hegemony show affinities with realism; while on the other hand, the ambition 'workers of the world, unite!' seems to stand firmly in the Kantian tradition.
In his editorial introduction, Anievas suggests that a Marxist IR should be characterised by 'four principles of analysis--historicism, critical realism, methodological holism, theory-praxis nexus' (pp. 3-4). Yet with regard to the deployment of these worthy principles, each remains subject to sharp debate, as the subsequent essays show. He groups them under two headings: first, the geopolitics of capitalist modernity (exploring connections between capitalism and the states system); and second, Marxism and the international (exploring the standing of the study of the states system within Marxism). However, there is in practice no visible difference in the subject-matter of the two parts.
The great virtue of this collection is that it reveals, in the convenient form of brief and mostly well-presented essays, the views of a range of major contributors to recent debates on these issues. Unfortunately, there are some important absentees, and while the contributions of Robert Brenner, David Harvey and Ellen Meiksins Wood are repeatedly invoked, the Open Marxists are studiously ignored, along with the large progressive wing of mainstream international political economy whose empirical analyses also merit attention. Given that it would take far too long to summarise each contribution, what overall themes emerge?