Department of Development Studies
SOAS, University of London
This paper addresses two foundational claims of transnational state theories (TSTs), namely a) that such an emergent state form is the logical corollary of the contemporary transnationalism of capital, and parallels the recent emergence of a transnational capitalist class; and b) that nation-states have ‘lost’ sovereignty to these transnational formations. Critiques of TSTs have also been organised along showing that either these assertions are not borne out empirically, or that they are inadequately or erroneously conceptualised. This has created something of an impasse.
I ask another set of questions based on a history and genealogy of developmentalist states (DS), the generalised state form in ‘the developing world’ in the post-war world until its supposed replacement by the transnational state. DS had succeeded colonial states, and these in turn were transnational from the outset. DS are assumed to have lost the considerable relative sovereignty over population-territory-resource configurations of the ‘national economy’ to transnational states. In contrast I show that transnational formations of power were critical for postcolonial states to discharge their developmental functions.
Drawing a lineage of ideas, institutions and practices from the East India Company, the colonial state, the developmentalist state and the neoliberal state in India, I suggest three new starting points for approaching TSTs,
A. Despite some evidence of state-like attributes in transnational formations, I suggest that such formations are better conceptualised as regimes.
B. Instead of thinking that transnational formations are a recent phenomenon requiring us to amend state theory, we have to rethink state theory by taking transnationality as constitutive of the state form and its generalisation across the world through colonialism. This has implications for how state-class relations are brought in to understand transnational regimes.
C. Instead of thinking of them as mutually exclusive, leading to problematic assertions of the ‘end of the nation-state’, we have to show how transnational regimes and nation-states are mutual conditions of possibility.