Both Phillip Bobbit and Richard Robison offer accounts of what a market-state is. Bobbit contends that the core features of the market-state are a crisis of the nation-state, a transformation of core state functions, relations of national states to transnational markets, and cosmopolitan culture. Finance is at the center of the culture, the money economy. Governments are more centralized but weaker because power is allocated by the money men, the banks, the managers of finance and capital, and governments are merely their footstools. According to Robison, on the other hand, market-states are neo-liberal, techno-managerial and instrumental, and citizens are clients and consumers. Both describe the materialistic, consumerist society, yet each has its own theoretical approach and unique conceptualization. This paper will compare Bobbit's and Robison's accounts of market-states and use the writings of Smith, Keynes, Marx and others to help illustrate the nature of the two.
Differences of What a Market State Entails
Bobbit points out that the nation-state is changing to a market-state in today's word because of a "crisis of legitimation" (Bobbit 2011:213). Its former self has been forgotten, or cast off, and replaced by a new ruling authority that is for the moment officially unidentified, though behind the scenes it operates within the context of the "deep state," described by Peter Dale Scott (2015). The new constitutional archetype, which exists willy-nilly a constitution, or with frequent amendments to the "constitution" that presently exists but which is reinterpreted by judges, lawmakers, pundits, politicians, power-brokers, to reflect the will of the powers-that-be, is what is reflected in the emerging market-state. A new security apparatus follows, one that has terrorism as a primary concern -- a threat against civilians from anywhere at anytime (and which strips civilians, accordingly, of the right to be anywhere at anytime). The market-state is the dissolution of the nation-state, of nationhood, of national identity: its overriding aim is to preserve the market. It is global only because it has not found a market outside the planet. It has stretched to the extent that it can stretch, and is thus transnational, merging all cultures, all ethnicities into one melting pot of commoditization, of consumerism, of brand loyalty. It is the demise of any remnant of Old World culture, Old World spirit, Old World vestiges. It is tyrannical (as Robison also points out), while at the same time appearing as though it has the consumer-citizen's best interests at heart because it, after all, has the means of giving it what it needs: wealth and prosperity. Bobbit's outlook is relatively Realist while Robison's focuses on the neo-liberal idealist.
Robison takes the position that the market-state views itself as the nurturer of the world, a motherly advancement that has grown out of the progress of civilization. It is a neo-liberal dream in which economies are dictated by moneyed interests, whose philanthropic attitudes have the world's peace and prosperity at heart. The market-state for the neo-liberal is a triumph over democracy for it guarantees "individual property rights and contracts" (Robison 2006:3). The neo-liberal champions of the market-state distrust both "society" and "the state," which is why they strip control from both and place it within their own hands -- surreptitiously if necessary, out in the open so long as no one can help it. The neo-liberal emerged from the public choice theory that replaced liberal pluralism. "Technopols," also known as bankers, Fascists (although that term is not a kind one or in vogue), technocrats, and come in the guise of many an institution (IMF, ECB), are the leaders in the market-state. Legitimacy is not a character of the new market-state, though leaders do appreciate that it is helpful. Mass media is their tool for acquiring this legitimacy in citizen's minds, yet their control of this is not as complete as it once was, with the emergence of the Internet and the popularity of alternative media. Nonetheless, alternative media weighs...
Bobbit attributes the end of "epochal" war with technological developments of long war leading to the fall in legitimacy of the nation-state (as the state cannot protect its citizens due to nuclear weapons and other legitimating factors). Out of this paradigm of fear and the need for security, rises the new market-state with new legitimating factors. Robison on the other hand attributes the rise of the market-state to the fall in practicality of the welfare state and the rise of capitalist democracy which grew to maturation during the Thatcher-Reagan era. Both attribute different reasons to the birth of the market-state, but see the time frame for its conception as the late 1970s, early 1980s.
Bobbit's assertion that the market-state is due to the de-legitimation of the nation-state, which has collapse in its essence because of a failed ability to protect citizens from a new threat -- terror. Robison proclaims that it is the collapse of the welfare state's ability to provide actual welfare -- an effect of the politics of Reagan Republicans. The determining factor, however, is related to the rise of globalization and its effects on isolated societies. Technology has diminished distances and reduced time, allowing peoples all the over the planet to be more closely and intimately connected. Bobbit's view of the effects of globalization on the rise of the market-state are intertwined with his view on the escalated nature of transnational conflict. Weapons of mass destruction are more prevalent than ever and more nations than ever have them. There is a greater threat and greater need for security in the new global community, but there is also more distrust, as the characteristics of a new Cold War 2.0 develop. The market-state rises out of these tensions and needs to secure commodity exchange, support nations in threat of bankruptcy, default, implosion, civil war, invasion. It is the market-state that has what all peoples need: access to fiat currency -- and it is this which drives the current system, the ability to print money.
Robison views the situation in less realistic terms. For him, the market-state is an evolution that has developed in spite of globalization. The "hijacking of neoliberalism" by technocrats, bureaucrats, bankers and world leaders in order to facilitate reform in third world countries, whose materials, minerals, resources, etc. are a tempting prospect for the world leaders is part of the problem of the market-state today (Robison 2006:7). Yet neo-liberalism is not welcome in every corner of the globe, as Robison notes, pointing to Russia with the showdown between Putin and the oligarchs, like Khodorkovsky, who seized control of Yukos Oil under Yeltsin. Putin recognizes the complexity of issues facing the global economy and has wrested control away from the neo-liberals (Robison 2006:8).
As Adrian Pabst notes, society has been "subordinated to the centralized state and the 'free market'" -- which signifies the triumph of capitalist democracy post-Industrialization (Pabst 2010:44). The centralized state, of course, was advocated by Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury in America. Centralization has been a key aspect of the 20th century, at the start of which the Federal Reserve received its power from Congress to supply the nation's money supply. This Act essentially destroyed what was left of the "free market." But for some it represented the triumph of capitalism.
Karl Marx, for instance, reacted powerfully against Hegel's dialectic and produced a more poetic and yet more materialistic vision of mankind. Dispensing with Hegel's rational spirit, Marx turned Hegel's "dialectical history of spirit" upside down by creating "historical materialism." The means of production was Marx's focus. Marx examined Capitalism, Industrialism and ideology, and by viewing life in solely material terms developed the Communist Manifesto. This was a radical departure from Hegel's attempt to spiritualize the world. If Hegel was the embodiment of one extreme, Marx was the embodiment of its opposite. Yet it is Robison who asserts that "Marxists have also argued that the internal maturing of capitalism and the increasing interest of business in an orderly system of rules and open markets will ultimately ensure transition to a more generalized and regulated system of capitalism" (Robison 2006:17). Is the market-state this fully matured form of capitalism? It appears to some that this was the intended goal or else the inevitable outcome all along.
But whether society was being spiritualized or materialized, it was all one. As Andrew Gamble asserts, Neo-liberalism always had two faces. But whatever one chooses to call the systems that emerged, or however one chooses to define the concepts that shaped the latter half of the 20th century, culminating in the birth of the market-state in the 1980s, it was always the moneyed interests who were most invested. With the eradication of Old World culture, or at least, in the West, of the remnants of Christian culture, in the 1960s,…
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