Ilias Alami and Adam Dixon publish paper in Political Geography

Narratives of state capitalism conjure up a variety of powerful geographical imaginaries and representations, none of which are innocent.

In a new article in Political Geography, Ilias Alami and Adam Dixon show how the category ‘state capitalism’ is rapidly becoming a central geopolitical marker, acting as a powerful tool in hierarchising the spaces of world politics, and justifying policy adjustments in foreign policy, trade, and development.

The recent polymorphism of state intervention and attendant political geographies have been interpreted as a return of state capitalism. While commentators across the social sciences have offered competing characterisations of the new state capitalism, little attention has been dedicated to how narratives and geographical imaginaries of the new state capitalism operate as a form of geopolitical knowledge and practice. Drawing upon critical geopolitics, we make three main arguments. First, we examine the context of wider geopolitical and geo-economic shifts in which the social construction of the geo-category has happened. We contend that the emerging new spatiality of the global economy has prompted the need for new discursive frames and geopolitical lines of reasoning. Second, we argue that this need is fulfilled by the geo-category state capitalism, which acts as a powerful tool in categorising and hierarchising the spaces of world politics. It does so by reinstituting a simple narrative of competition between two easily identifiable protagonists – (Western) democratic free-market capitalism and its deviant ‘other’, (Eastern) authoritarian state capitalism – and by reactivating older geopolitical grand narratives. Third, the geo-category state capitalism discursively enables Western business and state actors to justify tougher policy stances in three areas: foreign policy; trade, technology, and investment regulation; and international development.

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