Challenges To Ir Essay

1352 words - 6 pages

“Capitalism so colours our lives that most people see the behaviour that occurs within it as a product of some universal human nature” (Marx, 1848). Although this statement originated over one hundred and fifty years ago, you can still observe its relevance in today’s society. With reference to the titled question, this essay aims to explore the many ways in which traditional Marxist writings have influenced many contemporary perspectives. I will initially look to elaborate on structuralism, one school of thought which is directly linked to Marxism and also critical theory which draws upon the work of Antonio Gramsci.

To begin with, structuralism is heavily inspired by Marxist ...view middle of the document...

The income generated by the goods sold is then profited by the bourgeoisie, the ruling classes, who own the factories and organisations. It was because Marx saw that the bourgeoisie paid workers considerably less than the true value of their labour, did he then claim that capitalism exploits those lower down the social structures.

By presenting this overview of Marx’s work, it is clear that there is strength in his argument and that it still bares significance today. A recent example of this type of exploitation, particularly in an International Relations context would be the revelations surrounding child labour in numerous developing countries. Large clothing manufacturers such as Nike, GAP and Levi Jeans have relocated multiple factories to places such as Cambodia, Vietnam and Argentina. It has been reported that these companies motives for acquiring production overseas, was to benefit the local economy by providing paid employment and also curtailing costs by buying and producing goods inexpensively, thus maximising profit. However, investigators found that these firms were able to participate in an abundance of illegal activities such as employing children, not offering the US equivalent of the minimum wage, ignoring health and safety regulations and generally risking lives. Although many corporations have faced public attack and consumers are being made aware of ‘ethical shopping’, working conditions have still not changed for those people of the Third world.

Linking to the above case study, one particular thinker that was crucial to the writings of structuralism was Immanuel Wallerstein. He put forward an interesting ‘world systems’ theory and argued that during the early sixteenth century, prior to the birth of capitalism, world empires existed which were based on both economic exploitation and political domination. With an emergence of new technologies and transportation capitalism spread throughout the globe and so developed a prosperous, flourishing ‘core’. Whilst on the other hand a ‘periphery’ surfaced, from which raw materials were extracted. Increasingly these ‘appropriators’ are not individuals but collective entities like multinational corporations. Initially differences between the core and periphery were slight, but the gap gradually widened. Wallerstein argues that the structure of the world economy permits and legitimises an unequal exchange of goods. In effect, relations between states are structured hierarchically between those who are wealthy and powerful, in the core, and those who are poor and less influential, forming part of the periphery. Elites in both the rich ‘North’ and poor ‘South’, share fundamental interests in supporting this system because they actually benefit from the exploitation of other social groups.

Another component of structuralism which mirrors the work of Wallerstein, is the dependency theory which can also be considered a form of economic determinism. Latin...

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