Kees van der Pijl
|Kees van der Pijl|
|Fields||Global Political Economy, International Relations|
|Institutions||University of Sussex|
|Alma mater||University of Amsterdam|
Kees van der Pijl (born 15 June 1947) is a Dutch political scientist who is emeritus professor of international relations at the University of Sussex. He is known for his critical approach to global political economy and has published, amongst others, The Foreign Encounter in Myth and Religion, Vol. II of Modes of Foreign Relations and Political Economy (London, Pluto 2010); Nomads, Empires, States (2007); Global Rivalries from the Cold War to Iraq (2006); Transnational Classes and International Relations (1998); and The Making of an Atlantic Ruling Class (1984, reprinted 2012).
Kees van der Pijl studied law at Leiden University from 1965 to 1967. After military service as a reserve officer in the Royal Dutch Military Police, and a trip through the Soviet Union to Japan in 1970, he switched to political science, a specialisation taught in Leiden as part of the public law degree. His most influential teachers were Hans Daalder, Ben Sijes, and the Indologist, J.C. Heesterman, with whom he wrote his final thesis on the politics of regional diversity in India. He graduated in 1973 and was hired as a junior lecturer by the Department of International Relations at the University of Amsterdam in that year. In 1983 he received his doctorate at the University of Amsterdam on a thesis titled Imperialism and Class Formation in the North Atlantic Area, supervised by Gerd Junne. He was involved in the Dutch Communist Party (CPN) and also published short stories and three novels (1989, 1992, 1994, all with De Harmonie). Van der Pijl was co-director of the Research Centre for International Political Economy (Recipe) from 1992 to 1998. With Henk Overbeek,Ries Bode,Otto Holman, Bastiaan van Apeldoorn and others, this created a tentative Amsterdam School of global political economy.
In 2000, Van der Pijl moved to the United Kingdom to take up the chair in international relations at the University of Sussex, vacant after the retirement of Professor Michael Nicholson. He was appointed director of the Centre for Global Political Economy (CGPE) at that university when it was launched in 2001 (until 2006), and was subject chair/head of the Department of Politics and International Relations from 2002 to 2004. In 2006 he was awarded a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship. He has taught as a visiting professor at the University of Auvergne at Clermont-Ferrand (2005, 2006) and at L’Orientale University in Naples (2009, 2010). His work has been nominated for prizes in 2007 and 2008 and he was awarded the Deutscher Memorial Prize in 2008 for Nomads, Empires, States (Pluto 2007).
The work of Kees van der Pijl covers four main areas: a) transnational classes; b) the structure of the global political economy; c) the history of ideas in International Relations and Global Political Economy; d) modes of foreign relations.
The study of transnational class formation was central in the work at the University of Amsterdam. It built on the writings of Christian Palloix, Nikos Poulantzas, Alfred Sohn-Rethel and on the materialist Cold War history in the United States (Joyce and Gabriel Kolko). Van der Pijl’s contribution was on the transmission of American mass production to Western Europe in the Marshall Plan and the relegation of the cartelised European steel industry to the role of a supplier for the automobile industry, resulting in a first book in Dutch (1978). Economic statesmen involved in this process weld their different ‘fractional’ perspectives (heavy/light industrial, national/international trade, investment and commercial banking, etc.) into ‘globale beheersconcepties’ (comprehensive concepts of control). A concept of control projects a presumed general interest totalising all others, under the guidance of the dominant fraction. In his doctoral dissertation of 1983 and the book based on it (The Making of an Atlantic Ruling Class, Verso 1984), Van der Pijl applied this to the evolution of transatlantic class formation. This is analysed in terms of coalitions between capitalist class fractions on both sides of the Atlantic. Alternating coalitions around a ‘productive’ or a ‘money capital’ concept of control culminated in the crystallisation of a corporate liberal concept, which at the time of writing was analysed as being superseded by a new bloc around high finance and rentier interests, suppressed in the Keynesian-Fordist era. In Transnational Classes and International Relations (Routledge 1998), this was systematised and neoliberalism identified as the hegemonic concept of control in the closing decades of the 20th century. This book also contains an analysis of the managerial ‘cadre’, an auxiliary class of salaried functionaries with directive-educative roles. The cadre typically come to the fore in major crises (the 1930s, the 1970s, and again today), proposing managerial alternatives to liberalism. If not checked by popular mobilisation, their intervention may assume authoritarian forms.
Structure of the global political economy
Challenging the state-centric understanding of world politics, which assumes that each state contains a self-enclosed society, van der Pijl distinguishes a Lockean heartland (after the ideologue of the 1688 Glorious Revolution in England) at the centre of the global political economy. This is composed of the white-majority, English-speaking countries. Its common law tradition favouring social self-regulation and distrust of state encroachment, ideology of possessive individualism, and missionary interpretation of its role in the world (inspired by Puritanism) have fostered the development of capitalist social relations. The Lockean heartland has interacted with rival states seeking to impose themselves on their societies, to balance and withstand the influence of the liberal West and avoid colonisation. These contender states, of which France in the long 18th century, Germany, Japan and Italy from the late 19th to the mid-20th centuries, and the Soviet Union after World War II, have been the most important ones, develop through revolutions from above (Gramsci’s ‘passive revolution’) into alternatives to transnational Western liberalism. This line of analysis, developed in 'Transnational Classes and IR' and more recently in Global Rivalries from the Cold War to Iraq (Pluto and Sage-Vistaar 2006) leads to the identification of China as the current primary contender.
History of international thought
Social theory develops in the hands of ‘organic intellectuals’ in Gramsci’s sense. Those societies most inclined to transnationalisation have also produced the greatest number of international theorists. Building on the concepts of the Anglophone Lockean heartland and the contender states, Van der Pijl in Vordenker der Weltpolitik (Leske+Budrich 1996, revised from an earlier work in Dutch) argued that the liberal West typically produced ‘idealist’ conceptions of world order, against the ‘realist’ power politics perspective of the contenders. After World War I, there was an exodus of such ‘realists’ from the European continent to the United States, incorporating the realist argument into the IR mainstream. With assistance from the US charitable foundations such as Carnegie, Rockefeller and Ford, German émigrés wrote post-war IR ‘realism’ into an Atlantic synthesis serving the new agenda of the Cold War with the USSR. At Sussex, Van der Pijl has posted a web-textbook for the MA in Global Political Economy, A Survey of Global Political Economy. It takes up the issue of the academic division into disciplines, beginning with the late 19th-century division between a separate, axiomatic Economics and an auxiliary, empirical Sociology. The different currents in GPE each seek to restore a degree of trans-disciplinary unity by bringing on board, in the study of the subject matter of Economics, one or more of these other disciplines again. In volumes II and III of his Modes of foreign relations project, Van der Pijl discusses what myth and religion say about foreign relations, and how liberalism prescribes the nation-state form for the world. The third volume, The Discipline of Western Supremacy (2014) presents a historical sociology of the IR discipline in this light.
Modes of foreign relations
In the Modes of foreign relations project, sponsored by the Leverhulme Trust under a major research fellowship 2006-2009, Van der Pijl argues that inter-state relations (as well as the national state form itself) are transient, historical forms of more fundamental foreign relations. Just as Marx developed a critique of equilibrium economics by claiming that this was only one ‘mode of production’, which had been preceded and would be followed by others, Van der Pijl in this project challenges the ‘IR’ paradigm. Modes of foreign relations include a tribal, an empire/nomad, the sovereign equality, and the global governance modes; in each, a specific way occupation of space, its protection, and the exchange with others, are made possible by a given level of civilisation.
- "Van der Pijl, Kees Transnational Classes and International Relations". Perspectives on Political Science. 1 January 2000. Retrieved 2009-02-16.
- International Journal of Political Economy, 19: 3, 1989
- Journal of International Relations and Development, 7: 2, 2004
- "Nomads, Empires, States". Isaac Deutscher Memorial Prize. 2008. Retrieved 2009-03-17.
Interviews and text resources
- A Survey of Global Political Economy (web-textbook for the MA in GPE at the University of Sussex)
- Foreign relations from the egg: Nomads, Empires, States (Dailykos)
- Economics Behind Politics: A Review of Kees van der Pijl’s "Global Rivalries" (Dailykos)
- "Foundations of Social Change: An Interview with Kees Van Der Pijl" (New Left Project)
- Kees van der Pijl on the Demise of Left-Wing Parties in Europe, Empires and the Current Value of Marx (Interview on Theory Talks)
- Modes of Foreign Relations vs Uneven and Combined Development: The Marxist Legacy and Relations between and within Alienated Societies (unionbook.org)
- "The Nobel Peace Prize for the EU – A Sick Joke?" (Verso Books)
- "Interview with Kees Van der Pijl (The Current Moment)
- Interview on the book 'Nomads, Empires, States' at Nottingham University
- 'Economic Crisis, Marxian Alternatives and the Future of European Economy' – Glasgow Caledonian University