O neoryddfrydiaeth i boblyddiaeth: gwaddol yr argyfwng ariannol a thrywydd yr economi wleidyddol fyd-eang tua’r dyfodol

gan Llŷr ab Einion

Mae neoryddfrydiaeth wedi bod yn arbennig o ddylanwadol yn fyd-eang ers diwedd y Rhyfel Oer, ac yn y Gorllewin ers diwedd y 1970au. Ymddengys bod canlyniadau argyfwng ariannol 2008 wedi datgelu goblygiadau negyddol rhai o bolisïau argymhellol neoryddfrydiaeth ac o ganlyniad mae nifer o ragdybiaethau ac egwyddorion canolog neoryddfrydol yn cael eu herio a’u beirniadu’n gynyddol. Mae’n debyg hefyd bod cynlluniau llymder ariannol caled yn dilyn yr argyfwng ariannol wedi cael effaith negyddol ar dwf economaidd, wedi cyfyngu cynnydd mewn safonau byw ac wedi cyfrannu at gynnydd mewn anghydraddoldeb economaidd o fewn cenhedloedd. Ystyrir yr effeithiau hyn yn bennaf gyfrifol am yr ymchwydd diweddar mewn poblyddiaeth sy’n herio sylfaeni’r Drefn Byd Rhyddfrydol cyfoes ac sy’n creu amodau anffafriol ar gyfer cydweithio rhyngwladol. Yn wir, mae’r tueddiadau diweddar yn y dirwedd wleidyddol ac economaidd fyd-eang yn peri pryder ac mae’n ymddangos bod gwaddol yr argyfwng ariannol am barhau dros yr ychydig flynyddoedd nesaf. Fodd bynnag, er gwaethaf yr ystyriaethau hyn, mae’r Pedwerydd Chwyldro Diwydiannol sydd ar dro yn cynnig rhagolwg hirdymor mwy gobeithiol. Er bod yr erthygl hon rhywfaint yn feirniadol o neoryddfrydiaeth, mae’n galw am adolygiad o fewn rhyddfrydiaeth yn hytrach na gwrthryfel yn ei herbyn.

Mae argyfwng ariannol 2008 yn drobwynt pan ddechreuodd neoryddfrydiaeth fynd yn llai buddugoliaethus wrth i feirniaid ddatgan bod yr argyfwng wedi amlygu gwendidau a chyfyngiadau sylfaenol o fewn economeg neoryddfrydol (Farnsworth ac Irving, 2008: 461). Yn ôl Croach (2011: vii) y brif thema economaidd o fewn neoryddfrydiaeth ers diwedd y 1970au oedd bod ‘marchnadoedd rhydd… yn darparu’r ffordd orau i fodloni dyheadau dynol’, ac eu bod yn fwy dymunol na strwythurau’r wladwriaeth. Gwnaeth yr argyfwng ariannol godi amheuaeth gan fod gweithredoedd prif fanciau’r byd, ‘y puraf o’r marchnadoedd’ (Croach, 2011: vii), ynghyd â dadreoleiddio ariannol (Beder, 2009: 17), wedi ymwneud llawer ag argyfwng. Fodd bynnag, nid yw’r amheuaeth hon wedi arwain at ffordd arloesol arall ymlaen yn ymarferol (Aalbers, 2013: 1083).

Yn y lle cyntaf, yr ymateb economaidd byd-eang i’r argyfwng ariannol oedd dychwelyd at Keynesianiaeth rannol a oedd yn cynnwys lleddfu ariannol ac o ganlyniad cafwyd adferiad yn yr economi fyd-eang, ond dim dros dro oedd hyn yn bennaf ac o fewn ychydig flynyddoedd penderfynwyd troi cefn ar y datrysiad yma i raddau helaeth ac yn lle dechreuwyd cyni ariannol fel dull o leihau dyledion y llywodraeth (Grey, Cox a Kitson, 2018: 394). Fel y dengys Farsnsworth a Irving (2018: 461), mae caledi ‘yn ymgorffori’r awydd neoryddfrydol i leihau’r wladwriaeth (les)’ ac er bod maint y mesurau caledi yn amrywio o wladwriaeth i wladwriaeth, heb os, y consensws ymysg yr elît gwleidyddol yn dilyn yr argyfwng oedd bod gweithredu rhaglen llym o gynni ariannol yn angenrheidiol (Lobao et. al., 2018: 399). Digon teg, felly, yw awgrymu nad oedd unrhyw ddadfeiliad o’r ideoleg neoryddfrydol y cafwyd o ganlyniad i’r argyfwng ariannol yn ddigon i atal ehangiad cyffredinol llywodraethu neoryddfrydol, yn enwedig rhwng 2010-2015. Yn eironig, yn ogystal â datgelu rhai gwendidau o fewn neoryddfrydiaeth, efallai bod yr argyfwng ariannol mewn gwirionedd wedi ei alluogi ddatblygu ymhellach mewn rhai ffyrdd trwy roi lle i gynni ariannol sy’n lleihau maint y wladwriaeth (Farnsworth a Irving, 2018: 41-42).

Ar ben hynny, mae yna achos cryf bod rhai syniadau neoryddrydol wedi eu cynnal yn llawn, neu hyd yn oed wedi cryfhau am gyfnod yn dilyn yr argyfwng ariannol, o ystyried bod rhesymeg llymder ariannol yn seiliedig ar y cysyniad neoryddfrydol o unigoliaeth (Lynch a Kalaitzake, 2018: 6). Wrth wraidd unigoliaeth mae gweledigaeth ontolegol o’r byd cymdeithasol sydd wedi’i llunio o amgylch pobl annibynnol unigol yn ogystal ag ymgais normadol tuag at hunanddibyniaeth dynol (ibid). Mae hyn yn arwain at y safbwynt mai pobl sy’n gyfrifol am eu gweithredoedd a’u lles eu hunain yn y pen draw (Lynch a Kalaitzake, 2018: 7-8). Felly, gellid dehongli ymgiliad y wladwriaeth a gwasanaethau cyhoeddus sy’n gysylltiedig â chyni ariannol fel rhywbeth sy’n gyrru amcanion unigolyddol am ei fod yn golygu bod angen i bobl fod yn fwy hunan-ddibynnol.

Dim ond erbyn y flwyddyn 2016 y daeth erydiad neoryddrydiaeth ynghyd â’r Prosiect Rhyddfrydol ehangach i’r amlwg yn llawn. Gyda Trump yn ennill Etholiad Arlywyddol UDA a’r DG yn pleidleisio i adael yr UE, daeth yn ddiamheuol bod y Drefn Byd Rhyddfrydol o dan straen a dweud y lleiaf (Tomeny a Pike, 2018: 29). Âi Ikenberry (2018: 17-18) ymhellach, gan awgrymu bod y Drefn a arweinir gan yr UDA ‘mewn argyfwng’ ac nid yw’r argyfwng wedi’i gyfyngu i’r Gorllewin yn unig; honna bod ‘cytundebau a sefydliadau rhyngwladol byd-eang — ar draws masnach, rheoli breichiau, yr amgylchedd, hawliau dynol — yn ymddangos i fod yn gwanhau’ a chyfeiria hefyd at drefnau rhanbarthol yn y Dwyrain Canol, Dwyrain Asia a hyd yn oed yng Ngorllewin Ewrop sydd naill ai ‘mewn trawsnewidiad neu’n torri i lawr’.

Yn y blynyddoedd diwethaf, mae neoryddfrydiaeth wedi cael ei herio i raddau helaeth gan gynnydd mewn poblyddiaeth (Tomaney a Pike, 2018: 29). Awgryma Voss (2018: 5) bod poblyddiaeth yn cynnwys tair cydran ganolog: gwrth-elitiaeth, gwrth-luosogrwydd, a galw am adennill asiantaeth wleidyddol. Mae hi wedi dod i’r amlwg mai amrywiad asgell dde o boblyddiaeth sy’n gwrthwynebu mewnfudo ac sy’n cymryd safiad negyddol yn erbyn globaleiddio yw’r math mwyaf cyffredin o boblyddiaeth (van der Waal a de Koster, 2018: 562, 572). Mae’r math hwn o boblyddiaeth, yn arbennig, yn tanseilio nodau sy’n hanfodol i gynnydd dynol er enghraifft ymdrechion i wella hawliau dynol rhyngwladol a hwyluso cydweithrediad amlochrog (Alston, 2017: 1-6). Prif arwyddocâd hyn o bersbectif economaidd yw bod pob math o boblyddiaeth, yn enwedig poblyddiaeth asgell dde, yn dueddol o ffafrio diffyndollaeth dros agoredrwydd masnachol (van der Waal a de Koster, 2018: 569). Dadleua Tomaney a Pike (2018: 29) bod twf poblyddiaeth yn ‘fynegiant o anfodlonrwydd’ gan leoedd sydd wedi dioddef o anghydraddoldebau cymdeithasol a gofodol cynyddol, sy’n gysylltiedig ag agweddau o neoryddfrydiaeth, megis goruchafiaeth y farchnad rydd dros ddiwydiannau traddodiadol. Mae hyn, yn ôl Tomaney a Pike (2018: 30), yn esbonio pam fod poblyddiaeth wedi ei ganoli’n arbennig mewn hen ranbarthau diwydiannol.

Fodd bynnag, nid yw agendâu poblydddol yn cynnig ffordd adeiladol arall ymlaen yn lle neoryddfrydiaeth. Dengys tystiolaeth empeiraidd bod yna berthynas achosol gadarnhaol rhwng agoredrwydd masnachol a thwf economaidd yn gyffredinol (Huchet-Bourdon et al., 2017: 59, 64). Felly, mae cynnydd mewn trethi masnach byd-eang, fel yr anogir gan boblyddwyr, yn bygwth twf economaidd byd-eang; mae tensiwn masnach rhwng yr Unol Daleithiau a Tsieina yn enghraifft glir o’r ddeinameg hon ar waith (IMF, 2019: xiii). Mae bod yn agored yn fasnachol hefyd yn bwysig am ei fod yn cynyddu cyd-ddibynnedd economaidd rhwng gwladwriaethau, ac fe’i honnir i gael yr effeithiau dymunol o leihau’r tebygolrwydd o wrthdaro rhyngwladol a gwrthdaro sifil hyd yn oed (Powell a Chacha, 2016: 528).

Ar y llaw arall, dylid nodi bod rhai achosion lle gall bod yn agored o ran masnach gael effaith negyddol ar dwf economaidd lleol mewn gwlad sy’n allforio cynhyrchion o ansawdd isel yn bennaf (Huchet-Bourdon et al., 2017: 65) . Mae ymchwil gan y Comisiwn Ewropeaidd (2017: 6) hefyd yn canfod bod agoredrwydd masnachol (a buddsoddiad uniongyrchol tramor) yn cael yr effaith o gynyddu anghydraddoldeb incwm mewn gwledydd llai datblygedig a gwledydd sy’n datblygu ond nid oes ganddo unrhyw arwyddocâd ystadegol yn achos gwledydd mwy datblygedig. Mae hyn yn egluro pam ei bod yn bosibl i rai o’r gwledydd mwyaf datblygedig, er enghraifft Sweden, gael lefelau isel o anghydraddoldeb economaidd a lefelau uchel o fod yn agored o ran masnach tra nad yw hyn mor wir yn achos gwledydd llai datblygedig (OECD, 2019; Banc y Byd, 2019). Mae’n ymddangos, felly, fod y neoryddfrydiaeth yn darparu athrawiaeth sy’n rhy gyffredinol ac nad yw’n sensitif i wahanol anghenion economaidd gwladwriaethau (Harrison, 2018: 274-275).

Nid agweddau ar agoredrwydd masnachol yw’r unig risg i’r economi wleidyddol fyd-eang yn y blynyddoedd i ddod. Mae’r IMF (2019: 2019: xiii) yn cydnabod rhybudd yr IPCC y gall pegynnu gwleidyddol, effaith newid hinsawdd a chynnydd mewn anghydraddoldebau gael effaith negyddol ar y rhagolygon economaidd tymor canolig. Y tu hwnt i’r ychydig flynyddoedd nesaf, fodd bynnag, gallai’r Pedwerydd Chwyldro Diwydiannol gynnig rhywfaint o obaith i’r economi wleidyddol fyd-eang. Awgryma Xu et. al. (2018: 92) y gallai arloesedd technolegol, gan gynnwys datblygu deallusrwydd artiffisial (AI) ac argraffu 3D gynyddu cynhyrchiant sy’n gyrru twf economaidd. Fodd bynnag, mae’n debygol hefyd y bydd rhai effeithiau llai deniadol i’r trawsnewidiad cymdeithasol a gynhyrchir gan y Pedwerydd Chwyldro Diwydiannol. Un pryder penodol yw bod technoleg yn fwy tebygol o ddisodli swyddi sgil isel na swyddi sgil uwch, ac y gallai’r deubarthiad cynyddol yma yn y marchnadoedd llafur hefyd ysgogi mwy o densiynau ac anghydraddoldeb cymdeithasol (Xu et. Al., 2018: 93). I wrthsefyll yr effaith hon, bydd angen i lywodraethau roi mwy o bwyslais ar ailddosbarthu cyfoeth a lles cymdeithasol, yn enwedig o ystyried bod yr agweddau hyn wedi cael eu tanbrisio o dan neoryddfrydiaeth yn ddiweddar (Lobao et. al., 2018: 384, 399). Bydd yr addasiad yma yn arbennig o bwysig i wladwriaethau sydd â’r system les fwyaf cyfyngedig a’r lefelau uchaf o anghydraddoldeb cyfoeth, megis yr Unol Daleithiau (Lobao, 2018: 398; Banc y Byd, 2019). Fodd bynnag, ar hyn o bryd ychydig o dystiolaeth sydd o newid amlochrog ar raddfa fawr i’r cyfeiriad hwn.

Mae’r erthygl hon wedi ceisio rhoi mewnwelediad a mynd i’r afael â rhai o’r materion allweddol sy’n wynebu’r economi wleidyddol fyd-eang ers argyfwng ariannol 2008. Mae hefyd wedi beirniadu rhai agweddau ar feddwl ac economeg neoryddfrydol sydd wedi dominyddu yn y Gorllewin, ac yn fyd-eang i ryw raddau yn yr ychydig ddegawdau diwethaf. Yn fwy diweddar, mae’r hegemoni economaidd neoryddfrydol wedi cael ei herio gan gynnydd mewn poblyddiaeth. Er y gallai’r troad poblyddol helpu i amlygu’r angen am les gwladol cryfach yn y tymor hir trwy ddatgelu’r caledi a’r anfodlonrwydd cymdeithasol sy’n bresennol, anffodus yw canlyniadau uniongyrchol y troad hwn. Wrth edrych tua’r dyfodol, mae’r Pedwerydd Chwyldro Diwydiannol yn cynnig cyfle i chwalu cysgod hir yr argyfwng ariannol. Os bydd llywodraethau’n addasu’n llwyddiannus i gyfleoedd a heriau’r trawsnewidiad hwn, mae’n bosib y bydd yr ymchwydd poblyddol presennol yn gostegu ac yn rhoi lle i newid mwy adeiladol yn yr economi wleidyddol fyd-eang.

Llyfryddiaeth

Aalbers, M. B. (2013) ‘Neoliberalism is Dead … Long Live Neoliberalism!’. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 37(3), tt. 1083-1090.
Alston, P. (2017) ‘The Populist Challenge to Human Rights’. Journal of Human Rights Practice, 9(1), tt. 1-15.
Copelovitch, M., Frieden, J. and Walter, S. ‘The Political Economy of the Euro Crisis’. Comparative Political Studies, 49(7), tt. 811-840.
Craske, J. a Loschman, L. (2018) ‘On Rationality’. Political Studies Review, 16(4) tt. 306-317
Crouch, C. (2011) The Strange Non-death of Neo-liberalism. Cambridge, UK: Polity. Ar gael yn: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=575112&site=ehost-live [Cyrchwyd 5 Mai 2019].
Comisiwn Ewropeaidd (2017) ‘Globalisation and Income Inequality Revisited’. Lwcsembwrg: Swyddfa Cyhoeddiadau’r Undeb Ewropeaidd.
Farnsworth, K. ac Irving, Z. (2018) ‘Austerity: Neoliberal dreams come true?’. Critical Social Policy, 38(3), tt. 461-481.
Harrison, G. (2018) ‘Authoritarian neoliberalism and capitalist transformation in Africa: all pain, no gain’. Globalizations, 16(3), pp. 274-288.
Hart, N. (2011) ‘Mainstream Macroeconomics: A ‘Keynesian’ Revival?’. The Economic and Labour Relations Review, 22(1), tt. 17-40.
International Monetary Fund (2019) ‘World Economic Outlook: Growth Slowdown, Precarious Recovery’. Washington D. C.: World Economic Outlook.
Lobao, L., Gray, M., Cox, K. a Kitson, M. (2018) ‘The shrinking state? Understanding the assault on the public sector’. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 11(3), tt. 389-408.
Lynch, K. and Kalaitzake, M. (2018) ‘Affective and calculative solidarity: the impact of individualism and neoliberal capitalism’. European Journal of Social Theory, XX(X), tt. 1-20 OECD (2019) ‘OECD: Data’ [ar-lein]. Ar gael yn: https://data.oecd.org/trade/trade-in-goods-and-services.htm [Cyrchwyd 9 Mai 2019].
Powell, J. a Chacha, M. (2016) ‘Investing in stability: Economic interdependence, coups d’état, and the capitalist peace’. Journal of Peace Research, 53(4), tt. 525-538.
van der Waal, J. a de Koster, Willem (2018) ‘Populism and Support for Protectionism: The Relevance of Opposition to Trade Openness for Leftist and Rightist Populist Voting in The Netherlands’. Political Studies, 66(3), tt. 560-576.
Banc y Byd (2019) ‘GINI Index (World Bank Estimate)’ [online]. Ar gael yn: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/si.pov.gini [Cyrchwyd 9 Mai 2019].
World Bank (2019) ‘Poverty’ [ar-lein]. Ar gael yn: https://data.worldbank.org/topic/poverty [Cyrchwyd 5 Mai 2019].
Xu, M., David, J. M. and Kim, S. H. (2018) ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Opportunities and Challenges’. International Journal of Financial Research, 9(2), tt. 90-95.
Ikenberry, J. (2018) ‘Why the Liberal World Order Will Survive’. Ethics & International Affairs, 32(1), tt. 17-29.

Advertisements

From neoliberalism to populism: the long shadow of the financial crisis and a future trajectory for the global political economy

by Llŷr ab Einion

Neoliberalism has been particularly prevalent globally since the end of the Cold War, and in the West since the late 1970s. The aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis seems to have exposed undesirable consequences of some of Neoliberalism’s prescriptive policies and as a result several of its central assumptions and principles have become subject to increasing scrutiny. Harsh austerity programmes following the financial crisis seems to have impacted negatively on economic growth, hindered progress in living standards and increased economic inequality within nations. These impacts are deemed largely responsible for the recent surge in populism that fundamentally challenges the current Liberal World Order and produces unfavourable conditions for international cooperation. Indeed, the recent trends in the global political and economic terrain is concerning and the long shadow of the financial crisis looks set to continue for the coming few years. However, notwithstanding these considerations the incoming Fourth Industrial Revolution offers a more hopeful long-term prospect. Whilst somewhat critical of neoliberalism, this article calls for a revision within liberalism rather than a revolt against it.

The Financial Crisis of 2008 marks a turning point when neoliberalism began to lose its triumphancy, as critics proclaim that the crisis has exposed fundamental weaknesses and limitations of neoliberal economics (Farnsworth and Irving, 2008: 461). According to Croach (2011: vii) the dominant economic theme within neoliberalism since the late 1970s, was that ‘free markets… provide the best means for satisfying human aspirations’, and are preferable to state structures. The financial crisis casted doubt over this paradigm as the actions of the world’s leading banks, ‘the purest of markets’ (Croach, 2011: vii), along with financial deregulation (Beder, 2009: 17), were heavily involved in causing the crisis. However, this doubt has not translated into a grand new alternative in practice (Aalbers, 2013: 1083).

Initially the global economic response to the financial crisis was a return to partial Keynesianism that involved financial easing and helped a recovery in the global economy, but this was mostly temporary and within a couple of years it largely gave way to the implementation and onset of strict austerity measures as a method of reducing government debts (Gray, Cox and Kitson, 2018: 394). As Farsnsworth and Irving (2018: 461) illustrate, austerity ‘incorperates the neoliberal desire to shrink the (welfare) state’ and although the extent of austerity measures varied from state to state, there were certainly a consensus of a strict austerity programme by the financial and political elite following the crisis (Lobao et. al., 2018: 399). Suffice is to suggest therefore that any fragmentation of the neoliberal ideology as a result of the financial crisis was not enough to deter the overall expansion of neoliberal governance, especially between 2010-2015. Ironically, as well as exposing some weaknesses within neoliberalism, the financial crisis may have in fact enabled neoliberalism to advance further in some respects by providing a scope for state-reducing austerity (Farnsworth and Irving, 2018: 41-42).

Moreover, there is a compelling case that some neoliberal ideas may have been fully maintained, or even strengthened for a while following the financial crisis, considering that the logic of austerity is deeply embedded in the neoliberal concept of individualism (Lynch and Kalaitzake, 2018: 6). At the heart of individualism is an ontological vision of the social world that is orientated around separated independent people as well as a normative pursuit of human self-reliance (ibid). This leads to the view that people are ultimately responsible for their own actions and welfare, (Lynch and Kalaitzake, 2018: 7-8). The reduction in the welfare state and public services that is associated with austerity could therefore be interpreted as propelling individualistic desires by requiring people to live more self-reliantly.

Only by the year 2016 did the erosion of neoliberalism, as well as the broader Liberal Project fully came to light. With Trump winning the US Presidential Election and the UK voting to leave the EU it became undeniable that the Liberal World Order is at least under strain (Tomeny and Pike, 2018: 29). Ikenberry (2018: 17-18) goes further to suggest that the US-lead Order is ‘in crisis’ and that the crisis is not merely confined to the West; he claims that ‘Global international agreements and institutions—across the realms of trade, arms control, environment, human rights—seem to be weakening’ and refers to regional orders in the Middle East, East Asia and even in Western Europe that are either ‘in transition or breaking down’.

In recent years, neoliberalism has been challenged predominantly, albeit not exclusively through the rise of populism (Tomaney and Pike, 2018: 29). Voss (2018: 5) suggests that populism contain three central components: anti-elitism, anti-pluralism, and a demand of regaining political agency. It has come apparent that the right-wing variant of populism that opposes immigration and takes a negative stance against globalisation is the most common form of populism (van der Waal and de Koster, 2018: 562, 572). This type of populism, especially, undermines goals that are essential to human progress for example efforts to improve international human rights and facilitate multilateral cooperation (Alston, 2017: 1-6). The main significance of populism from an economic perspective is that all forms of populism, especially right-wing populism tend to favour protectionism over trade openness (van der Waal and de Koster, 2018: 569). Tomaney and Pike (2018: 29) argue that the rise of populism is an ‘an expression of discontent’ from places that have suffered from increasing social and special inequalities associated with aspects of neoliberalism, such as the primacy of the free market over traditional industries. This, according to Tomaney and Pike (2018: 30), explains why populism is especially concentrated in former-industrial regions.

However, populist agendas do not offer a constructive alternative to neoliberalism. Empirical evidence indicates that there is a positive causal relationship between trade openness and economic growth overall (Huchet-Bourdon et al., 2017: 59, 64). Therefore, an increase in global trade tariffs, as encouraged by populists, threatens global economic growth; the US-China trade tension is a clear example of this dynamic taking place (IMF, 2019: xiii). Trade openness is also important because it increases economic interdependence between states, which is claimed to have the desirable effects of reducing the likelihood of international and even civil conflicts (Powell and Chacha, 2016: 528).

On the other hand, it should be noted that there are some instances when trade openness can have a negative effect on local economic growth such as in a country that exports primarily low-quality products (Huchet-Bourdon et al., 2017: 65). Research by the European Commission (2017: 6) also finds that trade openness (and foreign direct investment) has the effect of increasing income inequality within emerging and developing countries but has no statistical significance in the case of more developed countries. This explains why it is possible for some of the most developed countries for example Sweden to obtain low levels of economic inequality and high levels of trade openness whilst this is not as true in the case of less developed countries (OECD, 2019; World Bank, 2019). It seems, therefore, that the neoliberalism provides a doctrine that is overly universalistic and is not sensitive to the differing economic needs of states (Harrison, 2018: 274-275).

Trade openness is not the only risk to the global political economy in the coming years. The IMF (2019: 2019: xiii) recognises the IPCC’s warning that political polarisation, climate change impact and raising inequality could affect negatively on the medium term economic outlook. Beyond the next few years, however, the Fourth Industrial Revolution might provide some hope to the global political economy. Xu et. al. (2018: 92) suggests that technological innovation, including the advancement in artificial intelligence (AI) and 3D printing could deliver gains in productivity and effectivity that drives economic growth. However, there are also likely to be some undesirable effects to the societal transformation produced by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. One particular concern is that technology is more likely to replace low-skilled jobs than higher-skilled jobs, and this increased dichotomization of the labour markets could yield more social tensions and inequality (Xu et. al.,2018: 93). To counter this effect, more emphasis on wealth redistribution and social welfare will be needed by governments, especially considering that these aspects has been undervalued under neoliberalism in recent times (Lobao et. al., 2018: 384, 399). This adaptation will be of greatest importance to states that has the most limited welfare system and the highest levels of wealth inequality, such as the United States (Lobao, 2018: 398; World Bank, 2019). However, currently there is little evidence of a large-scale multilateral change in this direction.

This article has attempted to give an insight and address some of the key issues facing the global political economy since the 2008 financial crisis. It has also critiqued some aspects of neoliberal thought and economics that has been dominated in the West, and globally to some extent in the last few decades. More recently the neoliberal economic hegemony has been challenged by the rise of populism. Although the populist turn might help to reveal the necessity of a stronger state welfare in the long term by exposing the existing social hardship and discontent, the direct consequences of this turn is regrettable. Looking towards the future and the Fourth Industrial Revolution offers a chance to finally dispel the long shadow of the financial crisis. If governments will successfully adapt to the opportunities and challenges of this transformation, it is possible that the current populist surge will subside and give way to a more constructive turn in the global political economy.

Bibliography
Aalbers, M. B. (2013) ‘Neoliberalism is Dead … Long Live Neoliberalism!’. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 37(3), pp. 1083-1090.
Alston, P. (2017) ‘The Populist Challenge to Human Rights’. Journal of Human Rights Practice, 9(1), pp. 1-15.
Copelovitch, M., Frieden, J. and Walter, S. ‘The Political Economy of the Euro Crisis’. Comparative Political Studies, 49(7), pp. 811-840.
Craske, J. and Loschman, L. (2018) ‘On Rationality’. Political Studies Review 16(4) pp. 306-317.
Crouch, C. (2011) The Strange Non-death of Neo-liberalism. Cambridge, UK: Polity. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=575112&site=ehost-live [Accessed: 5 May 2019].
European Commission (2017) ‘Globalisation and Income Inequality Revisited’. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.
Farnsworth, K. and Irving, Z. (2018) ‘Austerity: Neoliberal dreams come true?’. Critical Social Policy, 38(3), pp. 461-481.
Harrison, G. (2018) ‘Authoritarian neoliberalism and capitalist transformation in Africa: all pain, no gain’. Globalizations, 16(3), pp. 274-288.
Hart, N. (2011) ‘Mainstream Macroeconomics: A ‘Keynesian’ Revival?’. The Economic and Labour Relations Review, 22(1), pp. 17-40.
International Monetary Fund (2019) ‘World Economic Outlook: Growth Slowdown, Precarious Recovery’. Washington D. C.: World Economic Outlook.
Lobao, L., Gray, M., Cox, K. and Kitson, M. (2018) ‘The shrinking state? Understanding the assault on the public sector’. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 11(3), pp. 389-408.
Lynch, K. and Kalaitzake, M. (2018) ‘Affective and calculative solidarity: the impact of individualism and neoliberal capitalism’. European Journal of Social Theory, XX(X), pp. 1-20.
OECD (2019) ‘OECD: Data’ [online]. Available at: https://data.oecd.org/trade/trade-in-goods-and-services.htm [Accessed 9 May 2019].
Powell, J. and Chacha, M. (2016) ‘Investing in stability: Economic interdependence, coups d’état, and the capitalist peace’. Journal of Peace Research, 53(4), pp. 525-538.
van der Waal, J. and de Koster, Willem (2018) ‘Populism and Support for Protectionism: The Relevance of Opposition to Trade Openness for Leftist and Rightist Populist Voting in The Netherlands’. Political Studies, 66(3), pp. 560-576.
World Bank (2019) ‘GINI Index (World Bank Estimate)’ [online]. Available at: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/si.pov.gini [accessed 9 May 2019].
World Bank (2019) ‘Poverty’ [online]. Available at: https://data.worldbank.org/topic/poverty [Accessed 5 May 2019].
Xu, M., David, J. M. and Kim, S. H. (2018) ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Opportunities and Challenges’. International Journal of Financial Research, 9(2), pp. 90-95.
Ikenberry, J. (2018) ‘Why the Liberal World Order Will Survive’. Ethics & International Affairs, 32(1), pp. 17-29.

Become a Managing Editor!

*WORK EXPERIENCE OPPORTUNITY*

Have you thought about publishing a respected academic journal and managing work of its editorial team?

Interstate is looking for a new Managing Editor for the coming academic year 2019/2020. The offer is directed at both undergraduate and postgraduate students from Aberystwyth University.

Please, send your CV and a short note about yourself, including why you are interested in the post and how you will contribute to the team as its Managing Editor: interstate1965@gmail.com.

Deadline for applications is 21/04/2019.

To find out more about our work, please visit: www.interstate1965.wordpress.com

If you have further questions, please contact: interstate1965@aber.ac.uk

– Agata Kusiak, Managing Editor

In defence of strange obsessions: heritage, curiosity, and PhD research

o-XENOPHOBIC-ATTACKS-SOUTH-AFRICA-900                                                                                                                                                                                    Photo copyright: Ihsaan Haffejee

By Tom Vaughan

One of the great pleasures of self-designed PhD research is an unparalleled freedom to craft a vocation and professional identity from personal interests and convictions. Many of my peers here in the Department have been moved into academic research by their political passions, wielding their projects as intellectual weapons in many urgent and necessary battles. Unfortunately, I cannot claim such admirable motives.

When I began my PhD on South Africa and the global nuclear order in 2016, I was interested by questions of international equity and the possibilities for global nuclear disarmament. I wondered what insights this under-researched corner of the world nuclear complex (and pioneer of unilateral nuclear disarmament) could offer towards a retheorizing of international nuclear politics and the distant goal of a nuclear-free world.

However, as I got to grips with the subject matter, old curiosities and fascinations got the better of me. I found myself scouring ever-more-neglected corners of the internet and searching for increasingly scarce books to read about the technical specifications of long-decommissioned uranium enrichment plants and the whereabouts of filled-in warhead test shafts. I dug up images of boarded-up research centres populated only by dusty Bakelite telephones and eerie stacks of empty, unused bomb casings. I pored over satellite images searching for the ghostly imprints of long-gone supply roads leading to secret Kalahari military bases.

Remembering my exploits as a teenage ‘urban explorer’, a slightly strange hobby entailing ‘gaining access’ to and photographing abandoned buildings, it dawned on me that I was no activist-academic, however much I might like to claim that mantle. Rather, what drives and focuses my research is a fascination with the past; in particular its obscure, arcane, and often morbid relics, and their spectral presence in contemporary political life. South Africa’s nuclear infrastructure—some of it repurposed for civilian uses, much of it dismantled or left to rot—reminded me of the Victorian asylums and hulking East End flour mills which had captivated me as an oddball Sixth Former.

I was then, and am now, bewitched by heritage: not the mythic stories of national heroes or opulent National Trust mansions, but the ways in which we have inherited the actions, beliefs, and infrastructures of past generations, and how we attempt to organize contemporary public life around the physical and ideational ruins of the past.

In this sense, postcolonial scholarship is concerned with heritage. Put very crudely, postcolonial thinkers contextualize today’s global issues by looking to the past, exposing the genealogies of political structures and dominant ideologies by locating their intellectual heritage in imperial and theological thought which took root many centuries ago. I do not call myself primarily a postcolonial scholar but find such literature immensely helpful in framing the empirical questions of project on South Africa, a still-fractured state with a tumultuous past.

Ann Laura Stoler has famously written about ‘imperial debris’: the physical remnants of imperial formations, which ‘harbor political forms that endure beyond the formal exclusions that legislate against equal opportunity, commensurate dignities, and equal rights’ (2008: 193). Material ruins become deeply political when they are imbued with political significance, continuing to affect our daily lives and our politics but ‘ceasing to function in the ways they once did’ (ibid: 203). South Africa, as a post-colonial and post-apartheid state, is littered with debris. Keith Breckenridge and Antina von Schnitzler are two innovative researchers who have investigated the lingering socio-political effects of ‘apartheid debris’ on everyday life in South Africa, by examining how apartheid-era utility metering techniques and biometrics (respectively) have been inherited and put to use—in very different ways—by successive African National Congress (ANC) administrations. However, like many other aspects of South African politics, the ongoing significance of South Africa’s abortive nuclear weapons programme—not only in South Africa, but also internationally—has received precious little attention within the Western academy.

One aspect of my research is the quest to uncover the continued, albeit hidden, influence of apartheid through South Africa’s nuclear infrastructure. Gabrielle Hecht (1998) has defined ‘technopolitics’ as the pursuit of political goals through technological projects and choices, and the apartheid regime of 1948-1994 sought to bolster its power, enforce social control (von Schnitzler, 2016) and stoke pride in Afrikaner identity through state-backed scientific and technical projects (Dubow, 2006). These projects included relatively benign public infrastructure like the Orange River Dam and the Koeberg nuclear power station, but—combined with Pretoria’s fears of encirclement, the growing influence of anti-colonial ideology in Southern Africa, and a Soviet-backed ‘Total Onslaught’—also encompassed the construction of nuclear weapons research labs, a uranium enrichment facility, six and a half functional nuclear warheads, and intermediate-range missiles to deliver them.

The National Party government, under Prime Minister F.W. de Klerk, had fully dismantled its nuclear weapons and facilities under supervision by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by 1991 (foreseeing a transfer of power to a black majority administration), but only publicly confirmed their existence in 1993. Under Nelson Mandela and the ANC, South Africa quickly cemented its status as a disarmament success story and became a leader in global disarmament and non-proliferation efforts, putting pressure on the nuclear-weapons states and highlighting the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war.

This is an uplifting narrative, and we should certainly not discount the efforts of South Africa’s diplomats, many of whom like Abdul Samad Minty are veteran anti-nuclear activists, in pushing for a nuclear-free world and helping to bring about milestone agreements like the UN’s nuclear ‘Ban Treaty’ of 2017. However, I am interested in the ways in which apartheid’s legacy, specifically in the form of nuclear ‘debris’, might still affect the conduct of South African nuclear politics and diplomacy. The nuclear research infrastructure, technical expertise, ideas about South Africa’s position in the nuclear world, and even the highly-enriched uranium (HEU) that once made up the cores of nuclear warheads all remain from the apartheid years and continue to influence how South Africa relates to nuclear technology and politics.

Needless to say, much has changed since apartheid, and successive ANC governments have worked to repurpose South Africa’s inherited nuclear resources towards the ends of liberal democracy and international co-operation. However, technopolitical choices and the ideologies and attitudes they create (which Hecht calls ‘technopolitical regimes’) are durable and may well have persisted beyond the point of formal political ‘transition’. My research poses, and hopefully will answer, several intriguing questions about this heritage:

What happened to the scientists and officials involved in the apartheid weapons programme? How is their knowledge passed on and used? Have their attitudes towards nuclear technology and South Africanism persisted? If so, where? How do the technological and material choices embedded in the inherited nuclear infrastructure affect what the ‘new’ South Africa can do with it? How does the ANC use its inherited nuclear resources, domestically and internationally? Does South Africa need nuclear technology to stay globally relevant? Do today’s anti-nuclear activists see links between nuclear technology and the apartheid regime, and if so, does holding on to this heritage affect the pace or nature of ‘transition’? Is the international nuclear order itself complicit in these impacts, or responsible for any of South Africa’s historic violations of its own rules and norms? I anticipate that my fieldwork in South Africa, starting next year, will throw up unexpected answers to these questions, and of course present many more new questions which I have not yet thought to ask.

When my broader conceptual framework is applied to these questions and the data I collect overseas, I hope to sketch a broader picture of nuclear South Africa past and present, its interactions with the institutions of the international nuclear order, and question some of the assumed relationships between ‘local’ and ‘global’ political activity, between the material and ideational components of international politics (influenced by the work of Daniel Deudney and Gabrielle Hecht. While an ethnographic project would be an immense contribution to the state of the field, this is unfortunately not where my skills and expertise lie. Instead, I aim to foreground the role of technology in IR theorizing, as many scholars are increasingly advocating (Mayer et al. 2014; Fritsch 2014). Most of all, through my thesis I will try to demonstrate that South Africa’s tortured history and erstwhile nuclear encounter can provide scholars with a fresh perspective on the complexities of international nuclear politics, as well as the implications of nuclear technology for place-specific claims to democracy and post-colonial justice.

All of this is very complex, and perhaps sounds as ambitious and high-minded as anything that an ‘activist academic’ might hope to produce through their research. However, what motivates my intellectual curiosity is not, alas, the very honourable impulse to make the world a better place. It is a long-standing, perhaps odd, and definitely geeky fascination with the hidden, the abandoned, the off-limits: the inherited. Activist approaches to academic research are immensely valuable and perhaps needed more than ever. However, I have come to believe that an attraction to the esoteric, the arcane, and the downright weird might be just as good a place to start.