How to understand the different kind of economical structures reproducing power relations and oppression in a global political economy? To do so, let’s try to understand some Marxist theory to analyse some underlying mechanisms of our modern global economy and its class inequalities.
What is a social class? Kees Van der Pijl(1998) proposes this definition of class [as a processus] embodying the structural inequalities of the social order, classes constitute the living reality of these structures. ”.
In a conflictual approach the conception of classes is use to explain History as explains Marx in his first line of the communist manifesto. He tried to produce an historical, sociological, economic and political analyse of the world he lived in, through the inquiry of class conflict.
So we can say that in a classical Marxist perspective, the bourgeoisie, are the owners of the means of production, that exploits the working class or, in other words, the proletariat. The working class is constituted by workers how own on average the strict minimum wages needed to keep them alive as a worker! This minimal wage is only there to reproduce labour force. And the working class, only owns their labour force aversely of bourgeois that own, the means of production, right.
This exploitation happens through the appropriation, of the plus value by the bourgeois who are always looking for a larger profit were the proletariat, is seeking to increase their wages.
This is tied up with the surplus value, which can be defined as the part of labour work appropriated by the bourgeois and not redistributed to the proletariat. Karl Marx explains the existence of a contradiction in the exchange of wages against labour power. Labour power in exchange of its production receives less use value (wages) than it produces. Wages are as low as possible such as only achieve a reproduction of the labour power. Labour power generates more value than it receives in exchange.The contradiction is that If the lowest the labour wages are ,the less purchasing power will have the labour class.
So capitalism has a contradiction in between the micro level, where production means owner looks forward to increase the profit; and the macro point of view, where they are preventing the re injection of capitals through consumption.
This same phenomena has a dehumidifying cost on individuals which it is called alienation. Workers been alienated from what they produce is when they have been working, mechanically and repeatedly on a chain work and, at the end of the day they are not able to consume the fruit of their work. Having as a consequence , been a mass of people sharing a same situation in the productive chain, undergoing same processes.
We can interpret the investment of profit as a way for capitalism to reinvent itself. When profit is re inserted in the economy as an investment, is the base of capitalism expansion. Capitalism not only exploit people, it also exploits the nature, exhausting all the resources.
Capitalism is a model based on markets expansion, on consumption and destruction of new resources.This expansion, now days has became global. While Marx had the opportunity to explain historical change through economical processes in a period where the unit of social organisation, where empires that where enduring changes. They where becoming Nations, in fact the arisen of bourgeoisie is intrinsically linked with national industries. Now days is a little bit different argues Robinson (2004a).
In his book a theory of Global capitalism he states that as capitalism expands its influence through the world hogging more resources, the social structures follow. If today we can observe how much power transnational organisations have accumulated we can also be talking on the development of a transnational capitalist class. He redefines class no more necessarily relating them with a certain territory. Classes can be now days deterritorialized. With the emergence of a global economy, there is also an emergence of a ruling class of this global economy.
Robinson highlights that national ruling classes, local bourgeoisies, and transnational capitalist class, especially in the 90′, began a confrontation to handle political power in States Nation. Political power, is here a political tool to frame local economies. National ruling class where aiming for a protectionist economy versus transnational capitalist class that was looking for political power to push through liberal economies.
But then can we ask ourselves what would happen once all the globe is totally under a capitalistic influence? What would happen then when there will be no more resources at all to take control over?
john Ravenhill, J. (ed.) (2014) Global Political Economy. 4th edn. Oxford University Press. p41
Robinson, W. (2004a) A Theory of global political capitalism: Production, Class, and state in a transnational world (themes in global social change). Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. pp33-85