Using social theory to leap over historical contingencies: A comment on Robinson

Theory and Society 30 (2):215-221 (2001)


To be fair to Robinson, it is worth mentioning that he does offer a number of qualifications to his thesis. He tries to avoid excessive determinism and at one point suggests:A satisfactory account should not imply an evolutionary notion and should leave open the possibility of historic discontinuities and of contingencies that generate alternative pathways of development, including alternative futures.In other words, maybe this embryonic TNS will never progress beyond its current stage or perhaps it will continue to grow but it will never become a real state. But the main thrust of Robinson’s account is strongly deterministic. In fact, he does not consider a single factor that might impede the unity of the global bourgoisie or derail transnational state formation.In a sense, Robinson’s mistake is that he has tried to derive a theoretical solution to a concrete problem that global capitalism has not yet solved in practice. While it might well be a logical step for capitalist elites to create a Transnational State, it is always risky to attribute too much rationality to an order that is notorious for its contradictions

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