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20 September 2012


By Andrew Robinson
Delinking versus Capitalist Expansion
Samir Amin, an Egyptian economist currently based in Senegal, is one of the leading theorists of World Systems Analysis and dependency theory. He is a major influence on the grouping around Monthly Review journal. His main contributions to radical theory have been in the field of international political economy.
In contrast to mainstream economics, which compares national economies as distinct units or ‘billiard balls’, dependency theory views the world economy as a single, integrated system. The system of exploitation of labour and the system of states are indistinguishable.
As such, the system of states is an effect of the global expansion of capital. Hence, rich and poor nations are analytically inseparable; they cannot simply be juxtaposed. This is as true in the present phase as in earlier history. Amin views globalisation as an extension of capitalist imperialism.
Dependency theory has been very much out of fashion in development studies of late; but, in my view, this is for political rather than empirical reasons. The dependency model still fits closely with the reality of uneven development premised on the enrichment of globally-dependent local middle-classes in the South.
It is very much relevant to the issue of globalisation. It is out of fashion mainly because this stratum has obtained power in most of the South, to such a degree as to make alternatives invisible. Amin’s work is thus very relevant in understanding global inequalities and capitalist structures today.
Global Accumulation and Maldevelopment
According to Amin, underdevelopment is not a lack of development. It is the reverse side of the development of the rich countries. The rich countries depend on the active exploitation of other countries, which renders the latter ‘underdeveloped’.
In works such as Accumulation on a World Scale and Maldevelopment, Amin argues against neo-classical economics from a class perspective. In common with other dependency theorists, he argues that the global economy systematically favours the continued enrichment of rich countries at the expense of poor countries.
Throughout its history, capitalism constantly expands. Amin argues that mainstream economics simply theorises the management of capitalist expansion, and ignores the role of social conflicts in development.
He argues that capitalist expansion starts at a certain place and time, but tends to expand globally.
Historically, it is divided into three phases. In the mercantilist phase (1500-1800), international exchange is created, partly through the looting of countries such as India and China. It is only after this looting that other parts of the world ‘fall behind’ European development. In the second, competitive phase (1800-1880), capitalism expanded through competition, based on the advantages it had already established. In the third and current stage (1880 to today), ‘monopoly’ capitalism, capitalism prevents declines in the rate of profit through the mechanism of unequal exchange.
Amin disagrees with Marx’s view of crisis resulting from the declining rate of profit, which he thinks has been moved beyond today through the device of monopoly. The global model is monopolistic, establishing monopolies for the core countries on technology, control of financial flows, military power, ideological and media production, and access to natural resources.
Unequal exchange is the main means whereby capitalism reproduces inequalities. The rich countries create an international division of labour in which they subordinate and exploit other countries (Originally, they did this directly, by colonial conquest). Monopoly systems lead to ‘super-profits’, above the level which can be made in competitive markets. This means the beneficiaries of imperialism can’t be out-competed in world markets. The global rankings are locked in place, despite ‘free’ market processes.
Development in poor countries in this context tends to be a ‘development of underdevelopment’. They undergo economic growth, but in ways which do not contribute to long-term development. Their surpluses are expropriated by rich countries, rather than used locally. Today, major means of surplus-extraction include structural adjustment and debt repayment.
The world is divided between rich ‘centre’ countries and poor ‘peripheral’ countries. Centre countries are less structurally dependent than peripheral countries, and tend to produce mainly capital goods and consumer goods. Accumulation in centre countries is cumulative over time, whereas accumulation in peripheral countries is stagnant. This is because of differences in pricing mechanisms for raw materials and produced goods. Produced goods tend to go up in price over time, whereas raw materials stay at the same price or are unstable.
In addition, whereas wages in rich countries keep up with development, those in poor countries do not. This is because wages in poor countries are not connected with global labour markets, and because states in poor countries tend to suppress social movements which would win increased wages.
The global market is, according to Amin, distorted, because equally productive workers are paid at different rates in different countries. Workers with the same skills may be earning dozens of times as much money if they are in rich rather than poor countries. This is unequal exchange: it exchanges one hour of productive work in a Northern country for many hours of similarly productive work in a Southern country. Amin does not believe that globalisation will affect unequal exchange, because unequal exchange is the major motive for companies to outsource to poor countries.
Global capitalism thus integrates commodities and capital, but refuses to integrate labour. This provides connections between issues of global policy and struggles around migration, which in principle could integrate global labour markets. Another recent movement to address unequal wealth, from a perspective distinct from Amin’s, is the Fairtrade movement, which aims to provide fairer rates of pay for producers. Overall, however, the mechanism of unequal exchange remains intact.
The world-system functions through a division of labour among countries. Poor ‘peripheral’ countries are assigned the role of providing low-value inputs into global processes, at below their actual value. The periphery specialises in producing primary goods – such as agricultural crops and mined ores – which are mainly exported to the centre. Unlike the centre, the periphery is primarily focused outside itself.
The agrarian sector thus tends to predominate in the economy of poor countries. Furthermore, the local bourgeoisie tends to develop in a dependent way, subordinate to foreign capital. A local (state or middle-class) elite, known as the ‘comprador’ class, act as the local enforcers of global power on the basis of their own class benefit in obtaining payoffs from exploitation.
A series of economic distortions emerge, relative to the development of rich countries during their own emergence into capitalism. These include bureaucratic overspending, excessively rapid urbanisation, structural imbalances within the economy, reliance on external aid flows, and the redistribution of local incomes towards the comprador class.
The effects of the global market are taken to ‘distort’ production towards export, primary raw materials, and light rather than heavy industry. In agriculture, peasant production is replaced by commercial agribusiness, which depends on imported components and export markets.
This does not preclude temporary economic ‘miracles’, but the long-term tendency is towards stagnation and blockage. The structure is self-reinforcing. It becomes impossible in almost all cases for a peripheral country to ‘develop’ out of its peripheral position.
Peripheral capitalism also differs from core capitalism in other ways. In the periphery, capitalism is only loosely articulated with culture. While dominant, it is also articulated with pre-capitalist economic forms. Amin sees Southern states as operating in a partly ‘tributary’ mode of production with pre-capitalist features.
Often, reproduction costs (the cost of making sure capitalism has workers to exploit) are subsidised by non-capitalist economies. For instance, childcare might be supported in rural subsistence economies, allowing workers to be paid lower wages.
Poor countries are also financing their own exploitation. For instance, profits from Gulf oil, invested in American banks, American government debt or extracted through the profits of foreign oil firms, financed the recolonisation of the Gulf by American forces. Dominance over natural resources (in this case, oil), and in military technology, is used to reproduce global monopoly power. The relationship between rich countries and poor countries in Amin’s theory is very similar to the relationship between bosses and workers in Marxism.
Such events have affected the rest of social life. In politics, neoliberalism has disconnected the actual functioning of the class struggle (which is now global) from the level at which political contestation occurs. Politics across the world is resultantly empty, and is filled by distractions such as populism and social conservatism.
Amin refers to this trend as ‘low-intensity democracy’, since elected regimes have little power in relation to the forces of global capital and therefore conditions of life. He believes we are in a ‘hollow’ or ‘reflux’ period, in which compromise is to be expected, and the conditions for rupture are so far absent. Yet he continues to insist on a necessity to swim against the tide and to refuse to yield to the demand for international competitiveness.
Amin’s critique is similar in some respects to postcolonial theory. In Eurocentrism, Amin argues that it is a mistake to view Europe as a historical centre of the world. Only in the capitalist period has Europe been dominant. Earlier phases taken as ‘European’ were actually centred on a Mediterranean region, which was the core of the ancient world economy.
For Amin, Eurocentrism is not only a worldview but a global project, homogenising the world on a European model under the pretext of ‘catching-up’. In practice, however, capitalism does not homogenise but rather, polarises the world. Eurocentrism is thus more of an ideal than a real possibility. It also creates problems in reinforcing racism and imperialism. Fascism remains a permanent risk, because it is nothing more than an extreme version of Eurocentrism.
Amin’s recent works have analysed the current, neoliberal phase of the world-economy and the ‘war on terror’. In The Liberal Virus, he argues that the network society is simply a lyrical outburst of ideology. The reality is an increasingly stark global apartheid. He also argues that the concept of ‘poverty’ is problematic in its assertion of a brute fact.
According to Amin, the poor are not simply lacking, they are actively impoverished by processes which are constantly reproduced, and which are getting worse. Hence, he refers not to poverty but to ‘pauperisation’. He argues that the global popular classes are increasingly being pauperised through resource grabs and surplus extraction.
In analysing the ‘war on terror’, Amin suggests that it is an effect of a particular historical conjuncture. The especially crude American version of capitalism, lacking in nuances and long-term perspectives, is seeking to globalise itself through resource grabs. This is partly to compensate for its uncompetitiveness relative to other central capitalisms.
America is also taken to have an extreme ideology in which the existence of others is conditional on not obstructing the American ‘herrenvolk’ in taking what it needs. He argues that American aggression should be contained by an alliance of other states. He also argues that a split has emerged between an integrated core economy and a political system dominated by one state. America has taken on the role of policing the world economy by suppressing peripheral revolt.
Nationalism is criticised as a bourgeois ideology, through which the proletariat are integrated into nation-states. The nation did not pre-exist the nation-state. It is a product of capitalism, and was created by state violence as well as capitalist markets. It is also incomplete. It assimilates to the nation the virtues formerly claimed by the aristocrat, leading to racism and jingoism.
Nationalism was artificially exported to Eastern Europe and much of the South: it does not spread everywhere due to capitalism. The state is the actor which sometimes creates or recreates the nation, and sometimes fails to do so. Amin does not believe that liberation movements in the South are nationalist. However, he sees possibilities for nationalist and populist currents to be drawn into movements for “delinking”.
Amin also dismisses ‘fundamentalisms’ and ethno-nationalisms as politically reactionary and irrational. They are simply something people use to fill the vacuum of the lack of class politics. For instance, he analyses political Islam as primarily a form of cultural belonging through a ritual assertion of group membership.
This obscures actual class dichotomies. While political Islamists provide some effective services, these are ultimately simply charity because they fail to provide means to destroy the conditions which create misery to begin with. Furthermore, political Islamists tend in the last instance to side with capitalism and with elite interests in Muslim countries. He also denies they have their own theory of political economy. Rather, they reproduce features of the tributary mode of production. He also considers Green thought to be a variety of fundamentalism, mainly based on a superficial reading of certain theorists.
In his works before the current phase, Amin also gave considerable attention to the eastern bloc. Eastern European and Chinese ‘socialism’ was a stage of separation from the world economy to pursue autocentric development. They did this in pursuit of rationalities separate from capitalism, though he maintains Eastern Europe was actually statist rather than socialist in its economics. Amin has been proven wrong on his view that reintegration of the eastern bloc into global capitalism is unlikely.
Amin also theorises further divisions into stages, based partly on Kondratieff wave theory. The current composition of the world-system was created after World War 2, with America as the global leader. This phase was expanded from 1945-55, and was expanded through autonomy movements in the poor countries.
During this ‘Bandung era’ (1955-75), poor countries tried to ‘catch up’ with rich countries through industrialisation on unequal terms. The third period (1976-91) saw the three pillars of this world order – Fordism, Soviet growth and the Bandung project – go into crisis. Capitalism has responded to this crisis in the current period with neoliberalism – attacking wages and welfare provision, and curtailing the economy which peripheral elites had obtained. Capital has shown that it prefers second place in a world market to first place in an autonomous economy.
Amin refers to one effects of neoliberalism as ‘recompradorisation’ – the restoration of the comprador nature of local elites in peripheral countries, through the destruction of their autonomy. According to Amin, peripheries have now been industrialised, but are still subordinated to the centre’s monopolies. He also believes capitalism has been disintegrating for most of the last century.
Amin insists on the importance of struggle to a greater degree than many world-systems analysts. He criticises other world-systems analysts, such as Arrighi, for seeing capitalism as more inexorable and total than it actually is. Amin believes that history is created through a series of clashes between the capitalist logic and social forces which resist it, which he terms ‘anti-systemic’ forces. The latter make history as much as does capitalism. Indeed, future developments are mostly shaped from the outside in, starting from resistance at the periphery.
Andrew Robinson is a political theorist and activist based in the UK. His book Power, Resistance and Conflict in the Contemporary World: Social Movements, Networks and Hierarchies (co-authored with Athina Karatzogianni) was published in Sep 2009 by Routledge. His ‘In Theory’ column appears every other Friday.

By Andrew Robinson
Amin’s alternative to global capitalism is constructed around the concept of delinking. Amin calls for each country to delink from the world economy and subordinate global relations to domestic development priorities, creating ‘autocentric’ development. This does not necessarily mean refusing external contact, but insulating domestic policies from external economic power (It does not necessarily require autarky). It is meant to involve a national ‘law of value’ which is both ‘rational’ and has ‘popular relevance’, defined without reference to the global ‘law of value’ of the capitalist system. In other words, it involves creating a national economy with different rules from the global economy. Domestic economic priorities must be set without reference to global capitalist demands.
The argument for delinking links to a conjuncture where neo-colonialism has replaced classical colonialism. Independent states exist in the global South, with relative autonomy from the world-system. But the old pattern of ‘development’ causing ‘underdevelopment’ has continued. Delinking uses the autonomy won by peripheral countries as a lever against systemic power.
Amin believes that delinking could destroy the world-system from the outside in. He sees it as the only possible path to a different world order and a supersession of global capitalism. The possibility of global change is thus rooted, not at the heart of capitalism as Marx maintained, but in the peripheral countries. Amin believes that the need to question capitalism is felt most sharply in the periphery. The centre-periphery division is the primary, or most explosive, contradiction in the current world.
It also aims to expand the autonomy of nations, peoples and exploited classes. According to Amin, the decomposition of the existing world-system is necessary for a new world system to be created. It is illusory to seek rebuilding without first delinking. Delinking would involve abolishing dominant forms of private ownership, taking agriculture as central to the economy, and refusing land grabs for industrialisation.
Instead of defining value by dominant prices in the world – which result from productivity in the rich countries – Amin suggests that value in each country should be set so that agricultural and industrial workers are paid by their input into the society’s net output. The main effect of this move would be to raise wages in agriculture. Amin sees national states redistributing resources between sectors, and centralising and distributing a surplus. Full employment should be guaranteed, and the exodus from rural to urban areas discouraged.
Playing to ‘comparative advantage’ (the driving force of the global economy) would be reduced. Instead, attempts would be made to avoid deficits in basic goods. For instance, a country following this strategy would not usually become dependent on imported food. In contrast, many globalising countries have lost their ‘food sovereignty’ and become dependent on imported food.
Delinking could either lead to socialism, or to a more egalitarian capitalism. It is likely to occur through the power of the popular classes, rather than the bourgeoisie. Ultimately, it can only avoid a return to international values if it goes down a socialist path. Amin calls for a socialist delinking. He hopes that capitalism can be comprehensively overthrown. However, he seeks for an eventual return to a different kind of world-economy or world-system.
Amin still assumes a historical progression of stages. He is seeking a passage from one stage of the world to another, similar to the passage from tributary production to capitalism. Although he seeks respect for different paths to development, Amin denounces the ‘right to difference’ and maintains what he terms a ‘universalist ambition’, complete with modernist tropes such as progress, reason, law and justice. In relation to postcolonial and poststructuralist critiques, Amin’s approach looks decidedly continuous with capitalist modernity.
Delinking will be carried out by a new social subject: the popular liberation movement. This is defined against both traditional classes (which are too national to be of use) and nations (which are caught-up in the world-system). It is connected to the popular classes (poor peasants, marginal workers and the urban poor) who are affected by pauperisation. Delinking is thus a politics of the excluded, but of a type which goes by way of state power.
Preconditions for delinking include the development of a political will for egalitarian reform – the main reason delinking has not happened in countries like Brazil and India. Amin expects delinking to come from a strong national and popular component in state-formation. The main ‘losers’ in this arrangement would be the middle-class who sustain consumption based on global flows and models.
It also requires progress in the fields of democracy and collective rights, pan-Third World unity, and self-reliance of each nation. The achievement of a multipolar world is also a desirable means to the end of delinking. It also involves a strong form of non-alignment, though various tactical compromises are permitted.
Delinking is not the same as autarky. A country which delinks need not reject foreign technology, but at the same time, is more likely to seek to balance it with local technological development. It should pursue industrialisation at the service of agricultural development.
Amin rejects criticisms that delinking repeats older import-substitution models. The apparent failure of delinking in Africa and Asia is, according to Amin, illusory. The newly independent postcolonial regimes did not, Amin argues, delink. They increased imports of technology, capital imports and state debt. Nascent delinkings were actually cut short violently by the debt crisis.
A similar politics is possible in rich countries. For the North, delinking is defined by models of alternative development, anti-globalisation, and pacifism. Northern countries can only delink if they break with capitalism entirely. Europe also faces a cultural battle to preserve its distinctiveness against an American cultural onslaught. This onslaught is viewed as attempting to reproduce America’s aggressive nationalism and rejection of welfare states within Europe.
In the North, the dominant project since the 1980s has been insertion in the world market. This has gone in line with restructuring in accordance with dominant capitalist priorities. A Keynesian response is not possible because it prevents capitalist restructuring. Furthermore, any global redistribution requires reduced consumption in the core countries. The social-democrats have failed, because they lack space for their traditional responses. Hence, they tend to fall into Third Way conformity, barely different from neoliberals.
Amin suggests that the only viable responses in the North move beyond the commodity economy – for instance, Green proposals for economic decentralisation, moves towards industrial policies disconnected from financial profitability, autocentric development within European countries, or the broadening of non-commodity opportunities.
Amin believes there is a stark choice between an alternative trajectory based on delinking, and the continuation of a barbaric world-system which is a mortal threat to the global poor. As long as the system is not overthrown, it will keep reproducing itself through genocide and dispossession. Amin sees the issue as a very sharp choice between two poles: socialism (through delinking) or barbarism, including the self-destruction of humanity.
Amin is sometimes criticised (by authors such as Sheila Smith and Ira Gerstein) for overemphasising exploitation through uneven exchange, to the exclusion of exploitation at the level of production and exploitation at the national level. While it is untrue that he neglects class divisions within society, and while production certainly has a place in his theory, it is true that he places an overwhelming emphasis on exchange and on the global level. Delinking would address problems in exchange, without necessarily redressing those in production. It is also questionable whether it would redress power-asymmetries within ‘nations’ in which it occurs.
Another question which could be raised is whether the rapid growth of countries such as China, India, Singapore and Korea, or the growing importance of global cities in some peripheral countries, has destroyed the old centre-periphery division. These are common reasons why theories such as Amin’s are unfashionable today.
I would respond that dependency theory has already handled such obejctions. Firstly, growth in countries such as India and China has been highly uneven. Tiny pockets of ‘advanced’ production exist alongside massive ‘underdeveloped’ regions. Secondly, growth has continued to be premised on low wages. Thirdly, while global cities in East Asia and China rival those of Europe and America in the density of trade flows, command and control functions remain centralised in the old core countries. Fourthly, there are geopolitical reasons why certain East Asian countries (especially small ones like Singapore and Hong Kong) have been allowed to raise wages above those typical of the South. Fifthly, these growth ‘miracles’ are deeply unstable, dependent on footloose global financial flows – as the 1999 East Asian crisis, and similar events in Mexico, Russia and Argentina have shown.
The general pattern of globalisation confirms Amin’s account: average incomes have increased, but this increase is concentrated in the middle-class. Further, it mainly consists of increased availability of imported consumer goods. The poor are either getting poorer or staying where they are. If the ‘social wage’, income security, subsistence, and cost of living are considered, there can be little question that most people in poor countries are becoming worse-off, in spite of economic growth.
In China for instance, major coastal cities have undergone rapid enrichment, but unskilled workers have seen only small income rises. On the other hand, people have lost jobs-for-life, access to land, free housing, and state welfare provision. Growth is still stagnant in rural areas. Millions have been displaced from rural areas by land grabs and pollution. China has gone from self-sufficiency in food production to importing food.
Although China entered into globalisation to build up state power, and remained determined to protect its independence, the actual effect has been the opposite. Its ability to set an independent foreign policy line has been undermined by dependence on oil imports and foreign investors.
A more significant problem is Amin’s rejection of many of the developments in critical theory of the last 50 years. Amin is an unrecalcitrant modernist. Although he opposes dominant developmentalist narratives, he is ultimately in favour of developmentalism. He also believes in eventual progress towards a world-system which is fully inclusive and socialist. In other words, he remains within a framework of concentrated power, even while criticising existing power-distributions.
The future sought by states which delink is assumed to be a future of economic development along lines similar to those of the North, though more egalitarian. For critics with a deeper sense of the problems with capitalism – its instrumentalism, its alienation of social life its subordination to objects, its hostility to subjective knowledge and ecology – the link has only partially been broken. There is a need to abolish the law of value far more deeply than Amin suggests. In many respects, Amin’s approach is followed through and radicalised by ecologically-oriented authors such as Maria Mies.
Despite his critique of nationalism, Amin continues to rely on national forces as the source of delinking. Questions can be asked regarding his theory of the state. If each state is formed as a colonial entity, forcibly integrating territories in hierarchical ways, it makes sense that states also link into the world-system externally. In Amin’s model, states remain determinant, for instance, of the value of activities through national wage-setting. Peasants are rewarded for contributing to ‘national’ output. This is still in many respects a capitalist society, but one where the state takes a greater role in production.
On the level of power, the problem would be how to ensure that states actually favour development and equality, instead of falling into the neo-patrimonial patterns which are all too common both in imperialist and anti-imperialist states. In other words, how to prevent power-holders in the state from grabbing resources for their own enrichment. It would seem that, for this to be prevented, popular movements would have to exercise considerable power over and against the state. Yet it is difficult to see how this could occur with economic power held so firmly by the state.
Amin tends to assume that theories fall into one of three camps: Marxist, bourgeois (such as mainstream economics), or fundamentalist (meaning reactionary, and seeking a return to tributary production, and/or nostalgic and essentialist about culture). I would suggest the actual theoretical field is far more diverse, particularly in relation to poststructuralism, postcolonialism, anarchisms of various kinds, indigenous worldviews, and theories connected to social movements.
It is possible to reject the Marxist baggage of stages, progress, economic advancement and residual statism without replacing these with essentialised cultures or earlier forms of oppression. The key point is, rather, to carry out a more systematic delinking which also covers the field of state power (replacing concentrated power with diffuse power), alienation (replacing repressed life with intensity), and epistemology (replacing arborescent thought with nomad thought).
The problem is that Amin has not delinked enough: he remains linked to key aspects of the modernist project, such as universalism, national integration and economic growth. A delinking which breaks with capitalist logic might also require decomposing the localised loci of hierarchical power. Local autonomy ultimately leads to the prioritisation of subsistence over commodity production, and hence of situated local belongings over states and nations. It would require forms of diffuse power which override the centralised power of the state and world-system, allowing local scales to predominate over the global scale.
This said, Amin’s work has been a huge inspiration to theorists seeking to move beyond modernist conceptions, particularly in the subsistence perspective. It is a necessary counterbalance to the emphasis on orthodox Marxism on the core countries. It provides a clear sense of how global inequalities emerge and are maintained.
Another qualification should be added. Today’s world is not only characterised by exploitation of peripheries, but increasingly, by phenomena of ‘forcible delinking’. Certain poor countries, especially in Africa, are excluded from the formal world economy almost entirely. So are many of the urban and rural poor. Usually, forcible delinking correlates with widespread impoverishment, as global connections are cut off with nothing to take their place (Though not always. The fact that Somaliaperformed better on most human development criteria after the collapse of the state – and corresponding disappearance of externally-focused economics, structural adjustment, and debt repayments – is highly indicative for dependency theory).
Forcible delinking is admittedly very different from what Amin has in mind. Yet it is a sign of how capitalism tends to give its opponents what they want, but in distorted form. Forcible delinking tends to produce a scramble for systemic inclusion and a fear of delinking which acts to reinforce the denkverbot against questioning global capitalism and international competitiveness.
This is a predictable effect, echoing Frank’s discussions of Guatemala fifty years ago. When an economy is organised towards external extraction, the sudden withdrawal of such extraction leaves the economy ill-suited for anything else. Exploitation comes to seem better than exclusion, but only because of the ‘distortions’ introduced by exploitation, and the lack of an alternative vision.
Forcible delinking also provides zones of marginality in which capitalist power is weak, which can become sites of resistance and of alternative formations. This is clear for instance in the case of Chiapas, in movements in the Andes, Manipur and West Papua, and in a more ambiguous way in Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakhtunkhwa.
Mainstream security theory is awash with fears that the ‘black holes’ created by forcible delinking will become sites of anti-systemic resistance. These fears are exacerbated by the fact that these sites are connected into the world by new communications technologies. While it has most often been used by reactive movements, the potential of ‘black holes’ is also a potential site for a politics of delinking.
I would suggest that forcible delinking alters the series of steps through which anti-systemic delinking can occur. Whereas Amin expects a popular movement to form around a counter-project, take power, then institute delinking, today we are faced with a situation of building popular movements in areas which have already been delinked. We need, so to speak, to make a virtue out of the necessity of forced delinking by turning it into a basis for constructing autonomous zones.
Andrew Robinson is a political theorist and activist based in the UK. His book Power, Resistance and Conflict in the Contemporary World: Social Movements, Networks and Hierarchies (co-authored with Athina Karatzogianni) was published in Sep 2009 by Routledge. His ‘In Theory’ column appears every other Friday.

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