15: The Challenge of State Capitalisms


Chapter 15, The Challenge of State Capitalisms, considers state capitalism in a generic sense as an economy in which the state plays a major coordinating role in a capitalist economy. Three types of political economy in which the state has a predominant role are distinguished: state socialism, state-capitalism (with a hyphen), and state-controlled capitalism. All three present theoretical alternatives to liberal capitalism. In the light of definitions of these terms, the chapter outlines the ways scholars apply these terms to describe societies. Notably, in what sense, if any, the Soviet Union was, and contemporary China is, state capitalist. Lenin’s notion of ‘state capitalism’ as applied to Russia after the October Revolution is contrasted with later developments. Whereas earlier theoretical approaches emphasised state ownership controlled by a bureaucratic class, as a constituent factor defining state capitalism, more recent discussion has emphasised the form taken by the extraction of surplus value. The discussion highlights whether countries can move from pre-capitalism to socialism missing out the stage of capitalism. In this framework, the debate on political capitalism presented by contemporary China is distinguished from other capitalist societies.

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