This paper aims to explore the specificities of South African capitalism before and after democratic change in 1994. It draws on the growing European literature on the “varieties of capitalism”. Marxist, institutionalist and structuralist approaches are introduced and eclectically drawn upon in order to describe and assess the South African case, both historically and in the
contemporary period. Throughout, the paper tries to get to grips with the relationship between the democratic state and various factions of capital – old, new, black and reconstituted. South African capitalism is less different from the old model than most would have hoped for not long ago. It is dominated by a powerful mineral-energy complex whose principal actors now play on a global economic stage; it has, more generally, assumed an increasingly global character, in contrast to a long period of South Africanisation going back at least to the founding of the Anglo-American Corporation in 1917; corporatist institutions exert less influence over economic and social policy than was originally envisaged; capital has found new and different forms of cheapening labour power; and, despite talk of changing the racist structure of post-apartheid capitalism, corporate control and decision-making still rests with the old guard – male and white.
In this article the author presents a description, analysis and evaluation of the fundamentally new interpretation of the economic history of the early modern world that is defended by authors who have collectively become known as the California School, the most important among them being Kenneth Pomeranz, Roy Bin Wong, Andre Gunder Frank and Jack Goldstone. The author in particular analyses their claim that in the period from roughly 1400 to 1800 the most advanced economies of Eurasia formed a world of surprising resemblances and that the Great Divergence between the West and the Rest only originated with industrialisation and must be interpreted as a fairly contingent and recent phenomenon, basically due to differences in the availability of resources. The author claims that the Californians have a tendency to exaggerate the resemblances between Western Europe and East Asia and should be more specific when it comes to time, place and the differing historical trajectories of various regions. Finally, he claims they should pay far more attention to political and military developments and to the role of culture and institutions.
In this article the author tries to embed discussions of uneven development into the current events of the unfolding financial and economic crisis, and the changing discourse on capitalism and its structural imbalances, respectively. He does so from a political-economic and historical-geographical point of view. He revisits origins, main arguments, and contradictions of the neoclassical theory, the theory that seems to have dominated discourses on development in recent decades, and contrasts it with an approach radical geography that allows us to see the current crisis as a result and symptom of an over-accumulating world economy, and not merely as an instance of regulatory failure. Moreover, he presents arguments to explain why the current political-economic world system has shown such remarkable persistence despite decades of crises.