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Challenging mainstream nation-centred theories of economic development, Nicolás Grinberg examines the specificities of capitalist development in Brazil and South Korea by starting from their modes of participation in the international division of labour and hence in the production of surplus value on a global scale. Contrary to those theories, he does not consider these as resulting simply from the economic policies of nation states and their associated political institutions; nor from local class-struggle dynamics or geopolitical developments. Rather, drawing on key insights from Marx’s critique of political economy, his analysis begins by recognising that the process of capitalist development is global in terms of its economic dynamics and historical trends, and national only in its political and institutional forms of realisation. State-mediated patterns of economic development and institutional change in Brazil and Korea, as well as the intra- and inter-state political processes through which these have come about, are then considered mediations in the conformation and reproduction of the nationally differentiated, uneven process of capital’s valorisation on a global scale.


The paper challenges mainstream theories of Latin American development, showing their theoretical weaknesses and pointing to their role in ideologically mediating the region’s ‘truncated’ capitalism. To that end, the paper presents an alternative view of Latin American development that starts by considering capitalist social reproduction as a worldwide process and regional/national politico-economic development as mediations in the structuring of global capital accumulation. Latin America’s specific variety of capitalism is understood to have emerged from its original transformation by expanding European capital into a place to produce raw materials under favourable natural conditions. On the one hand, this has reduced their price and that of the labour-power directly or indirectly consuming them; on the other, it has resulted in a flow of surplus-value towards the owners of those natural conditions of production. The historical development of Latin American societies has expressed the partial overcoming of that antagonistic relationship between rent-paying capital and rent-appropriating landed property.

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In: Historical Materialism