The transnational capitalist class, social movements and alternatives to capitalist globalization By Leslie Sklair
The transnational capitalist class, social movements and alternatives to capitalist globalization (2016), is an interesting and quite useful read, particularly if you want to get a general picture of the scholarly debate on global capitalism. Leslie Sklair does not offer any grand, novel idea in this article. However, he quite skilfully demonstrates his experience in this field and provides a concise but comprehensive literature review of the major works on global capitalism. His literature review contains reference to publications back to the 60s.
The old Marxist argument that the workers have no nation has to be turned on its head—today globalizing capitalists have no nation
Of course, as anybody else, Sklair is biased in presenting the ideas and thus, mostly makes reference to the works by the Network for Critical Studies of Global Capitalism (NCSGC), of which he is a member. But I did not mind this bias at all. I like the ideas of the members of the network. Also, now I can better use my time, not read all those publications, and just read the important ones.
Sklair uses Marxist notion of class and clearly opposes (neo)Weberian separation of class, status and command. He bases his argument on three hypotheses:
- A transnational capitalist class (TCC) is emerging and beginning to act as a ruling class in some spheres.
- A key feature of the recent era of globalisation is “profit-driven culture-ideology of consumerism”
- The TCC is consciously working to hide the unsustainability of the system and its tendency to create poverty
Sklair’s study is based on the concept of transnational practices, which are organised in three (superimposed) spheres:
- The economic: Transnational corporations
- The political: Still-evolving transnational capitalist class
- The culture-ideology: Consumerism
Sklair divides TCC into four fractions:
1) Those who own and control the major transnational corporations and their local affiliates (corporate fraction);
2) Globalizing politicians and bureaucrats (political fraction);
3) Globalizing professionals (technical fraction);
4) Merchants and media (consumerist fraction).”
To distinguish the transnational sector, Sklair defines domestic firms as “those serving an exclusively sovereign state market, employing only local conationals, whose products consist entirely of domestic services, components and materials.”
Sklair enumerates five general aspects of the TCC:
- The economic interests of the TCC’s members are not bound by nation-state borders but are transnational.
- The TCC uses the rhetoric of consumerism and global competition to exert its economic, political, and culture-ideological spheres.
- On most issues, TCC members are more globally oriented.
- TCC members are somehow similar in lifestyle, e.g. having higher education or consumption of luxury goods and services.
- TCC members seek to present themselves as citizens of both their countries and the whole world.
The TCC members are also board members of many economic, scientific, and cultural institutions. In this way, they can ensure that the culture of the society is aligned with their interests.
Sklair (particularly in the article, The Emancipatory Potential of Generic Globalization (2009)) makes a distinction between generic globalisation and its alternative forms. The characteristics of the generic one are:
- The electronic revolution
- The emergence of transnational social spaces
- New forms of cosmopolitanism
In each country, there are tensions between the global and domestic fractions of the capitalist class. These tensions demonstrate in:
- Liberal or restrictive foreign investment regimes and trade policy
- Multiculturalism or chauvinism
- The level of intrusiveness of foreign economic relations agencies
- The power of inter-governmental agencies
Finally, Sklair makes some suggestions for an alternative, post-capitalist system:
- Spread of the networks of small producer-consumer co-operatives (PCC)
- Use of the digital revolution to fight housing prices and various discriminations
- Challenge the idea of the necessity of ever-increasing growth
- Ignore the market
- Replace the hierarchic state
- Acknowledge Achilles heel of global capitalism: Consumer sovereignty
Sklair, L (2009), ‘The Emancipatory Potential of Generic Globalization’, Globalizations, vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 525-539.
Sklair, L (2016), ‘The Transnational Capitalist Class, Social Movements, and Alternatives to Capitalist Globalization’, International Critical Thought, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 329-341.
Photo Credit: Globalization – Capitalism and its alternatives