Un studiu de Attila Melegh, invitatul CriticAtac de joi: "BETWEEN GLOBAL AND LOCAL HIERARCHIES"

Texte selectate sau scrise de echipa redacţională: Vasile Ernu, Costi Rogozanu, Florin Poenaru.

Cum joi, 18 aprilie, de la ora 18.00, la Librăria Bastilia, îl avem invitat pe Attila Melegh, vă recomandăm unul dintre textele sale disponibile gratuit pe internet (integral îl găsiţi aici).


ABSTRACT: This study proposes new ways of comparing discourses on population and argues that these discourses concern both management of the reproduction of human bodies on a massive scale, and competition at global and local levels for resources and/or an improved position in global and local hierarchies. This interface between global and local hierarchies actually reveals how we can understand the comparative politics of population management. We aim to establish some of the basic types of such positioning, linking global and local hierarchies in order to start the work of a truly comparative analysis of patterns of population policy, which cannot be sufficiently explained by demographic processes or the specific ideologies of ruling groups.


In this study I propose new ways of comparing discourses on population. I argue that these discourse concern both management of the reproduction of human bodies on a massive scale, and competition at global and local levels for resources and/or an improved position in global and local hierarchies. In this sense I propose that Foucauldian biopolitical concerns need to be reintegrated into global versus local social inequality systems and related class-conflict discourses (Dean 2001; Stoler 1995). My aim is to provide concrete examples of biopolitical and competition (e.g. class conflict) discourses and relate these at a global level so as to enable comparative understanding of population policies.

History shows that world capitalism has been a system of competitive struggle to control management of resources. This fight in the early twentieth century was all the more acute as global hegemonies were challenged (Chase-Dunn et al. 1999; Böröcz 2009, 93–99; Hobsbawm 1994, 6–8 86–89). Europe was fighting to regain some of its dominance in the face of economic weakness, in an era when its colonial system was on the brink of collapse. Intra- and extra- European struggles to dominate led to two world wars, during which France, Germany, Britain and Italy challenged each other to secure more intraand extra-European influence. The United States was quickly becoming a ’heavy weight’ nation in terms of per-capita income and economic weight whilst the pre-nineteenth-century great powers – India and China – were still declining in economic terms; Latin-American countries had already had a chance to experience some real independence and higher economic growth during the First World War (Frank 1968). It was a period of hegemonic transition, during which some states saw a chance to advance and secure a better position for themselves in global hierarchies.

This international geopolitical re-arrangement was coupled with another massive form of global social change: the decline and subordination of rural groups and economies, both internationally and internally, in a period characterised by global population growth. Writing about agriculture in world history Mark Tauger describes this change as follows:

The world’s agrarian economies and societies went through a series of complex economic, social and political crises during 1900-1940. Governments responded with unprecedented policy initiatives, most of which are still in effect. The crises in Europe and North America had particular significance, because of the dominant role of the U.S. economy and agriculture in the world and because European countries and colonies controlled most of the rest of the world’s farmland (Tauger 2011, 107–108).

This integration of peasants and farmers into the world market and their subsequent subordination was the basis of an unequal relationship betweenindustrial capitalism and agrarian economies. This was due to a gap between agrarian and industrial prices, an economic relationship that was embedded in larger colonial frameworks and larger and smaller imperialisms (Chayanov 1986; Tauger 2011, 106–138). The key result of this subordination was not only the creation of numerous “poor”, “delinquent” and “labouring” classes throughout the world (from Latin America and Europe to the huge states of Asia,) and the subsequent “social-hygenic” problems as perceived by the local colonial or ruling classes. These problems increased dramatically when the world economic crisis hit most economies of the world in the late 1920s. Peasant economies (privately owned, small-scale, rural-economic entities based on the labour of the family or co-residing household) and even larger estates with lower capital intensity faced enormous problems in adapting to markets over the longer term due to relatively low and often stagnating agrarian prices with very short periods of improvement in terms of trade for agriculture in relation to industry (Abel 1978, 306–307; Hobsbawm 1987, 34–55; Tóth 2006, 81–86; Tauger 2011, 106–137). The exploitability of peasant or family economies can partly be explained by internal factors, most notably the fact that wages could not be calculated and thus profits as related to the market prices could not be measured “properly”, thereby leading to “irrational” (i.e. self-exploitative) behaviour (Chayanov 1986, 70–89; Tóth 2006, 42–43; Frank 1968; Macfarlane 1978, 7–33). This subordination was related to the functioning of massive migratory systems, in which increasing rural populations fled to areas with demand for industrial work in the home country or abroad, or simply migrated to colonies (Sassen 1999, 51–88; O’Rourke 1999, 185–06). This floating exagrarian population was seen by the ruling classes as one of the most pressing social problems to be dealt with (Schneider and Schneider 1996, 271-73; Quine 1999; Stepan 1991, 35–39; Hobsbawm 1987, chapters 2 and 5).These changes strengthened an already intensified feeling that there was a need to intervene in social processes in order to manage populations, in effect treating them as resources to be managed locally and globally as part of a struggle to improve position within global hierarchies.


Attila Melegh este cercetător la Institutul Maghiar de Cercetări Demografice și conferențiar la Universitatea Corvinus din Budapesta. Predă, de asemenea, în cadrul unui program de excelență în Rusia, iar în trecut a predat și în Georgia. Domeniile sale de cercetare variază de la discursurile și atitudinile demografice la structurile demografice, migrare și schimbări sociale globale. A participat în diverse proiecte din toată lumea și susține o intensă activitate publicistică internațională. Este Doctor în Istorie și a studiat sociologie și economie. Este autorul volumelor On the East/West Slope. Globalization, Nationalism, Racism and Discourses on Central and Eastern Europe (2006) Budapest, CEU Press și The Population History of Kiskunhalas from the 17th century till the early 20th century, (2001) Budapest KSH NKI.

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