The Grimly Comic Riddle of Hegemony in IPE: Where is Class Struggle?



This contribution reflects on the current state of ‘critical’ international political economy (IPE) by contesting the prevailing dominance of liberal pluralist analysis and its overriding commitment to defining the social as an arena of multiple, competing and individuated identities. While ubiquitously invoked, what exactly does the ‘critical’ prefix represent? My argument is that much ‘critical’ analysis in IPE is a liberal pluralist flag of convenience, which is anti-historical materialism. By contrast, an historical materialist critical theory of capitalist unfreedom and exploitation is presented through a focus on social class identity, forms of capitalist state and state power, the social function of ideology and the prehistory of the modern international states-system.