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Decolonization in St. LuciaPolitics and Global Neoliberalism, 1945-2010$

Tennyson S. D. Joseph

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9781617031175

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781617031175.001.0001

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Conceptual Issues

Conceptual Issues

Sovereignty, Nationalism, and Independence in the Era of Global Neoliberalism

(p.8) Chapter 1 Conceptual Issues
Decolonization in St. Lucia

Tennyson S. D. Joseph

University Press of Mississippi

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter begins with a discussion of the varying degrees of skepticism over the existence of globalization, and then turns to conflicting interpretations of the impact of globalization upon national sovereignty. Studies have shown that under neoliberal globalization, the role of the state has shifted from representing domestic populations and economies to facilitating the mobility of capital, and this book isolates the specific consequences and implications of this shift in the case of St. Lucia.

Keywords:   neoliberal globalization, neoliberalism, sovereignty

The impact of global neoliberalism on the practice of sovereignty of the independent nation-state has given rise to a wide body of reflection (see, for example, Agnew 2009; Sassen 1996, 1998; Harvey 2005; and Robinson 2004, 2008). The work of Robinson in particular is key to understanding the impact of global neoliberalism for the independence experience of St. Lucia. In contrast to the widely held viewpoint that globalization has brought about the end of the nation-state or the death of sovereignty, Robinson (2008), in contrast, sees the state as being transformed to serve the needs of a transnational capitalist class as distinct from a traditionally understood “national interest.” Thus the state has been transformed into a “neoliberal state” whose role is to “serve global (over local) capital accumulation, including a shift in the subsidies that states provide, away from social reproduction and from internal economic agents and toward transnational capital” (ibid., 33). In a context where St. Lucia gained its independence in 1979, the very moment leading to the rise of global neoliberalism—the decade of the 1980s—Robinson’s formulation provides a useful framework for understanding the independence experience of St. Lucia in the era of global neoliberalism.

The central theoretical assumption of this work is that a process of globalization has shaped the experience of decolonization and independence and has shaped the meaning and practice of the notion of sovereignty in St. Lucia. This shift in the understanding of sovereignty has meant specifically that at the very point of its birth as an independent nation-state, the instrumentality of sovereign statehood was consciously tailored to facilitate St. Lucia’s incorporation into the emerging global neoliberal order as its principal purpose. This stands in stark contrast to the experiences of Caribbean states such as Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados, which embarked on formal decolonization under global conditions that were shaped by Keynesianism as distinct from neoliberalism.

(p.9) Exploring Global Neoliberalism

While the buzzword of “globalization” enjoys popular usage (Scholte 1996), the extent and reality of globalization remain a contentious issue. Klak (1998c, 4) has classified the debate on globalization “in terms of whether globalization trends are interpreted as positive or negative with respect to global and national distributions of power, wealth, and development, and political and economic struggles over resources.” Similarly, Tabb (1997b, 21) sees the conflict as lying between the view of the international economy as one that “subsumes and subordinates national level processes” and a more “nuanced” view that gives a major role to national-level policies and actors, and the central position not to inexorable economic forces but to politics.

However, the situation is complicated by the presence of varying degrees of skepticism over the existence of globalization. On the one hand, there is a tendency to reject wholesale the idea of globalization, while, on the other, there exist varying degrees of circumspection in the application of the concept. Thus Held (1998) distinguishes between “hyper,” “strong,” or “extreme” globalizers and “weak,” “nuanced,” or “soft” globalizers. As a result, many researchers avoid using the term “globalization,” fearing that it obfuscates more than illuminates (Amoore et al. 1997).

A major argument of the skeptics is that the “level of integration, interdependence, openness … of national economies in the present is not unprecedented” (Hirst and Thompson 1996, 49). These writers suggest, for example, that the “level of autonomy under the Gold Standard up to the First World War was much less for advanced economies than it is today.” While acknowledging a degree of change, they seek to “register a certain scepticism over whether we have entered a radically new phase in the internationalization of economic activity” (ibid.). Similarly, D. M. Gordon (1988, 54) contends that “we have been witnessing the decay of the postwar global economy rather than the construction of a fundamentally new and enduring system of production and exchange.” In a related argument, Hirst and Thompson (1996, 49–50) suggest that the tendency to oscillate between autonomy and interdependence is a normal feature of states within the international system.

Others reject globalization on the basis that the developments associated with the concept are confined to a very small sector of world economic activity. Thus Ruigrok and Van Tuldor (1995, 151) argue that “what is often referred to as ‘globalization’ is perhaps better described as triadization.” They maintain that in “the 1980s internationalization of trade and investments was largely limited to the United States, the European Community and Japan as well as East and South East Asia.” Further, these writers challenge the idea that the activities of the major (p.10) multinational firms indicate a process of globalization since key functions like management decisions remain “firmly under domestic control” (ibid., 159).

The concept of globalization is also questioned within the neo-Marxist perspective, which sees the notion as an “ideological construct” that denies the capacity for resistance to the dictates of capitalism. Wood (1997b, 23), for example, describes “the conventional wisdom about globalization” as “an excuse for the most complete defeatism and for the abandonment of any kind of anti-capitalist project.”

Another argument raised against globalization is the centrality of the nation-state in facilitating the process of global integration. Thus Amoore et al. (1997, 186) suggest that while “the nature of intervention may have changed … the state has not necessarily diminished in its significance to contemporary capitalism.” Consistent with this argument is the emphasis placed by writers on the legitimation function of the state given the absence of competing centers of legitimacy at the global level (Hirst and Thompson 1995, 431). Given the continued relevance of the state, such writers conclude that “we should ditch the over-fashionable concept of ‘globalization’ and look for less politically debilitating models” (Hirst and Thompson 1996, 185–186).

A close examination of the ideas of the skeptics reveals that their objections are largely a response to the inflated claims of the “hyperglobalizers,” and to the “politically debilitating” consequences of the concept. Ohmae (1990, 1993) is typical of such “hyperglobalizers.” He speaks of a “borderless world” in which the nation-state has become “unnatural” and “dysfunctional.” Despite their hostility to the claims of the “hyperglobalizers,” however, the skeptics generally recognize that significant changes have taken place in the global political economy since the mid-1970s. For example, D. M. Gordon (1988, 25) identifies an “erosion of the social structure of accumulation which conditioned international capitalist prosperity during the 1950s and 1960s.” Similarly, Hirst and Thompson (1995, 409) concede that the “nation-state’s capacity for governance [has] changed and in many respects (especially as national macro-economic managers) [has] weakened considerably in recent years.”

Despite their differences, it is clear that most of these commentators recognize and accept that the global environment since the mid-1970s has fundamentally transformed the role of the state in particular as it relates to its domestic political role as facilitator of a distinct “national interest.” Instead, under neoliberal globalization the state has been reconfigured through ideological, economic, and political (including military) means to serve as a facilitator of the interests of what Robinson (2004) calls a transnational capitalist class, overturning the previous Keynesianism that had facilitated a more equitable distributive and social function for the state. It is through the prism of the impact of global neoliberalism (p.11) in shifting the role of the independent state to that of facilitator of global capital that this work utilizes the concept of globalization in understanding the independence experience of St. Lucia.

This work identifies a transition from a post-1945 world order to a post-1970 global order that raised challenges to the strategies that had defined the independence project. The concept of globalization adopted identifies with the perspective of Stephen Gill (1993a, 9), who describes a process of transformation at three interrelated levels:

(i) “economic,” including the restructuring of global production, finance and exchange which challenges previous sets of arrangements and forms of economic organization; (ii) “political,” that is in terms of institutional changes including forms of state, the internationalization, transnationalization and indeed globalization of the state … ; and (iii) “socio-cultural,” that is (in part) the way global restructuring at the political and economic levels also entails challenges to embedded sets of social structures, ideas and practices, thus promoting, as well as constraining the possibilities of change.

When to this is added the greater mobility of finance capital facilitated by new communications technologies, the specific sense of globalization as a set of processes limiting the state as defender and promoter of national interests and in particular as engaged in postcolonial social interventions to reverse colonially induced weaknesses can be readily understood.

The concept of globalization relevant to the St. Lucian experience and used in this work is concerned with the processes that have challenged the assumptions, strategies, and structures through which the decolonization project in the Anglophone Caribbean had been pursued. The concept of globalization adopted here therefore recognizes the presence of objective material conditions that have rendered previous postcolonial strategies and approaches unworkable. At the same time, it rejects the view that the state has become a meaningless actor in the social, political, and economic realm. Such a view addresses the concerns of the skeptics by avoiding the inflated claims of the hyperglobalizers, and is consistent with the view expressed by Saskia Sassen (1998, 199)

that even though transnationalization and deregulation have reduced the role of the state in the governance of economic processes, the state remains as the ultimate guarantor of the rights of capital whether national or foreign. Firms operating transnationally want to ensure the functions traditionally exercised by the state in the national realm of the economy, notably guaranteeing property rights and contracts. The state here can be conceived as representing a (p.12) technical administrative capacity which cannot be replicated at this time by any other institutional arrangement; further, this is a capacity backed by military power.

Exploring Sovereignty in the Era of Global Neoliberalism

Given the impact of global neoliberalism on the functions of the role of the state, a wide body of literature has been churned out involved with the issue of rethinking the concept of sovereignty within the social sciences. Sassen (1996, 1998), Agnew (2009), Jackson and James (1993), Jackson (1990, 1992, 1998), Williams (1996), Camilleri and Falk (1992), and Morris (1998) have all examined the implications of globalization for the sovereignty principle. These works reveal two opposing tendencies. One tendency stresses the continuing juridical significance of the sovereignty principle as an indication of its relevance in the existing global context. A second tendency views the new global situation as dissolving the “internal/external distinction crucial to the orthodox definition of sovereignty” (Williams 1996, 118). To such writers:

if the line between internal supremacy and external equality can no longer be maintained, sovereignty must be reformulated. If globalization has blurred the distinction between national and international, transformed the conditions of national decision-making, altered the legal framework and administrative practices of states, obscured lines of responsibility and changed the institutional and organizational content of national politics, then sovereignty as a doctrine is of limited relevance. In this sense, globalization refers to more than the erosion of autonomy. It highlights a change in the political landscape and requires an adaptation of political practice. (ibid.)

The writers who see few implications for national sovereignty in the process of globalization argue that the state remains a central institution of political power both in its domestic and international functions. For example, Jackson and James (1993, v–vi) hold that “whether new nations are being formed out of the ruins of multi-ethnic states or whether novel international communities are coming into existence by the co-operative actions of independent governments, the state remains the focus.” Such writers argue that despite the expansion of the “orbit of international law … far from withering away in the twentieth century, the independent state has everywhere become the standard form of territorial political organization” (ibid., 4). Far from recognizing a diminution in the significance of sovereignty, these writers maintain that “in many respects a (p.13) major effect has been to enhance that significance” (ibid., 6). These works place strong emphasis on juridical sovereignty as the “ground rule” that “identifies who among territorial bodies, is eligible to pass through the gate which stands at the entrance to international society” (A. James 1984, 2). Relatedly, these works point to the absence of alternative global and domestic sources of authority adequately performing the functions of the sovereign state.

Those writers who defend the relevance of sovereignty commonly argue that “at no time in history were states able to exercise all the rights they claimed.” “Absolute power,” such writers argue, “is a myth” (Williams 1996, 114). To such writers, the theoretical conceptualization of sovereignty has failed to reflect the practical workings of the concept. They argue that while the theoretical notions of sovereignty generally overstate the absence of limits to the internal power of states, in practice such limitations are commonplace. While such writers recognize the impact of globalization in eroding the power of states, they place greater emphasis on the need to bring the theoretical notions of sovereignty closer to its practical workings (see Morris 1998).

Agnew (2009, 2), for instance, argues that “states have never exercised either total political or economic-regulatory monopolies over their territories. Indeed, some states, perhaps a majority, may have aspired to exert sovereignty in some respect or other but have never entirely succeeded in doing so.” As a result, he rejects the “linear story about recent globalization undermining a long-established state territorial sovereignty” and instead seeks to emphasize how “globalization has merely further complicated an already complex relationship between sovereignty and territory” (ibid.).

While the practice of sovereignty has entailed far greater limits to state power than classical notions of sovereignty have allowed, writers working within a framework of anticolonialism and radical decolonization criticize notions such as those expressed by Morris and Agnew as tending to ignore the role of sovereignty as a tool for anticolonial resistance. They see such works as failing to address the impact of neoliberal globalization on the national self-determination project of postcolonial states. Particularly troubling from the anticolonial perspective is the emasculation of the state as a guarantor of internal democracy under neoliberal globalization. This emasculation is reflected, in intellectual terms, in arguments that suggest that sovereign statehood may not necessarily be the most effective guarantor of the rights of citizens (Hintjens 1995). Such arguments call for the identification of new modes of social organization and new institutional frameworks through which citizen participation and policy legitimacy can be established, and for the very redefinition of the idea of citizenship itself (see, for example, Premdas 2002). Related to this is the argument that globalization does not necessarily mean a negation of a sovereign people, since (p.14) such sovereignty can be better expressed at other levels, as in supranational forms of power, for example.

However, while it is true that the radical thinkers who seek to defend the earlier anticolonial agenda of the state have remained largely impervious to the adjusted notions of citizenship, sovereign expression, and the idea of transnational politics, their concerns remain relevant when the extent to which the modern state has been redefined to function as a promoter of the interests of transnational capital is taken into consideration. Hoogvelt (1997, 131), for example, observes that while some writers “make rather much of the continuing, indeed in some cases apparently enhanced exercise of sovereignty and regulation by national governments … , much of this regulation amounts in effect to no more than a regulation for globalization.” She argues that “it is this confusion over regulation and deregulation that explains why there is so much controversy … between those who hold so called ‘declinist’ views of the nation-state, and those who claim to observe a strengthening of national authority” (ibid., 139).

A similar point about the role of the state in regulating for globalization has been made by Saskia Sassen. She argues that the state has been centrally involved in the “emerging transnational governance system,” but it is a state “that has itself undergone transformation and participated in legitimating a new doctrine about its role in the economy. Central to this new doctrine is a growing consensus among states to further the growth and strength of the global economy” (Sassen 1996, 23).

In short, under global neoliberalism, while sovereignty might have been redefined to reflect the role of the state as a promoter of the interests of a trans-national capitalist class, it is clear that the sovereign state remains central to the task of defending such interests.

This emergence of a global hegemonic bloc promoting the interests of trans-national capital at the expense of other social objectives reinforces the critical perspective of the anticolonial theorists. Thus, while it is true that many sovereign states readily participate in the process of neoliberal adjustment to globalization, it is also true that national policy makers have implemented such policies in the face of hostile opposition from their electorates. Moreover, an important point emphasized by Hoogvelt is that this impulse for regulation emanates largely from the global economic environment rather than from the local political sphere, thus undermining the notion of the “consent of the governed.” Such a scenario supports the notion of “glocalization” advanced by Peck and Tickell (1994, 324–325), in which “supra-national regulatory systems have inherited power without responsibility” while local government entities “have been conferred responsibility without power.” A clear distinction is made between (p.15) the authority that states continue to enjoy and the power to determine their internal economic relations. In other words, it is the democratic aspects of the national self-determination project that are most directly threatened by neoliberal globalization.

David Held (1998) has presented one of the clearest arguments that globalization has undermined national self-determination. He argues that prior to the onset of globalization, it was taken for granted that “all the key elements of self-determination … could be neatly meshed with the spatial reach of sites of power in a circumscribed territory” (ibid., 2). Held’s main conclusion is that in the present context, such assumptions are no longer sacrosanct. While Held does not contend that “national sovereignty today … has been wholly subverted,” he argues that the “autonomy of democratically elected governments has been, and is increasingly constrained by sources of un-elected and unrepresentative economic power” (ibid., 9, 14).

As a result of these developments, there is a growing tendency within political science toward a normative stance that views postcolonial independent statehood as largely dysfunctional. In contrast to the decade of the 1960s, when a greater moral legitimacy was attached to postcolonial independent statehood, the period of globalization has witnessed a growing tendency to underplay its significance. In the present period, values such as “interdependence” and “cooperation” are now more widely emphasized than the value of the independent state as a bulwark against external domination (Krasner 1993, 301; Rosenau 1995, 95). Adam Watson’s work (1997) typifies such a tendency. In a discussion on the relations between newly decolonized states and powerful Western hegemonic states, Watson advocates a return to greater external control of postcolonial states. According to Watson (ibid., 67),

the Western powers see themselves as having responsibilities towards the peoples of the new states, not just their governments. In discussing their responsibilities they now increasingly often … overstep the theoretical line that bars foreigners from interference with the domestic governance of states…. Overstepping that line was, in one sense, the essential feature of colonialism. The pendulum, after swinging far towards a host of new independences … is now swinging back towards limits and restraints on the new states.

Watson identifies benefits in this development for the formerly colonized states. He argues that “the evidence is that hegemonic pressure and where necessary intervention have done much to promote peace, prosperity and especially rights of individuals, in newly independent ex-colonies and in other ill-governed states like Haiti” (ibid., 121).

(p.16) This notion of a “dysfunctional” postcolonial sovereignty is also identifiable in R. H. Jackson’s (1990) concept of “quasi-states.” Jackson emphasizes that the sovereignty of most postcolonial states is largely juridical in nature and exists solely on the basis of the “goodwill” of more powerful entities. He sees the sovereignty of small, weak states as largely “negative sovereignty.” While “positive sovereignty” refers to the ability of states to deliver goods and services to the population and to resist the interference of other states, “negative sovereignty” emphasizes prohibitions against the internal population (ibid., 29). Thus the “juridical cart is now before the empirical horse,” resulting in a “rather different sovereignty regime with an insurance policy for marginal states” (ibid., 23–24). As a result of the internal failures of many of these states, Jackson (1998), along with Peter Lyon (1993), advocates a return to a form of “trusteeship” or “guardianship” over such states. In the context of the Caribbean, Hintjens’s (1995) call for “alternatives to independence” shares Jackson’s assumptions about the failure of the statehood project. According to the “alternatives to independence” perspective, “if decolonization is to be equated with postcolonial liberation, it cannot be confined to national liberation; it should result in previously excluded and segregated people securing access to improved levels of economic, social and political rights” (ibid., 28).

A similar, though differently argued reflection on the need to relax the fixation with state-centric sovereignty in the Caribbean has been made by Matthew Bishop and Anthony Payne (2010) in a work that was specifically concerned with the failure of the integration movement in the Caribbean. Framing their argument in the perspective that regional elites have “doggedly attached themselves to a somewhat reductionist notion of sovereignty, characterized by a narrow, state-centric and largely ‘zero-sum’ understanding of the term,” Bishop and Payne argue that the “conventional Caribbean understanding of sovereignty and statehood needs to be opened up, unpicked and discussed in a frank and open debate with the people of the region” (ibid., 2, 5). While they were writing strictly in an attempt to show how the traditional understanding of sovereignty has served to restrict the movement to a regional framework of governance in the Caribbean, their arguments nevertheless demonstrate the manner in which notions of poststate-centric sovereignty have been imagined away from its anti-colonial moorings. In this sense, therefore, they also prescribe “alternatives” to the traditional understanding of sovereignty in the Caribbean.

While the frustration of writers like Bishop and Payne with the failure of the integration project in the Caribbean is a valid concern, their isolation of nonstate-centric readings of sovereignty do not place them in opposition to radical anticolonialists who also identify the need for a regional solution as a way out of the postcolonial democratic and development challenges confronting the (p.17) Caribbean. Thus Caribbean radicals, as a group, are not homogenously attached to traditional sovereignty for its own sake, as is implied in Bishop and Payne’s analysis. What Caribbean radicals do share in common is an opposition to external forms of domination and a historical suspicion toward external sources of economic exploitation of Caribbean people and resources.

This less-than-vigilant attitude toward external sources of domination and exploitation tends to pervade the perspectives such as those presented by Hintjens (though less so in the case of Bishop and Payne), which call for alternatives to the state-centric notions of sovereignty. The weakness of such perspectives lies in the fact that they tend to ignore the history of the anticolonial independence project as a mechanism for resisting such domination and exploitation. This neglect of the history of the anticolonial struggle is evident in Jackson’s (1990) claim that postcolonial sovereignty exists through the “goodwill” of more powerful states. This assertion is no doubt influenced by the perceived military limitations of postcolonial states. What these perspectives often forget is that the sovereignty of small, weak states like St. Lucia, albeit largely juridical, does not exist solely because of the ability of such states to defend themselves militarily against a more powerful state. Instead, their sovereignty exists as a consequence of the historical and factual occurrence of a global anticolonial movement between 1945 and 1980, part of which involved significant military defeats for colonialism. It was this global defeat that rendered the colonial condition untenable.

Viewed in this way, the sovereignty of weak states like St. Lucia is not as aberrant as is often suggested. Indeed, one of the central features of the nationalist experience of the Anglophone Caribbean states is the extent to which concerns about political democracy and social and economic equality motivated the thrust toward independence (Bell 1967, 1980). Similarly, the period of early postcolonial state construction has benefited a far wider cross section of the Caribbean population than is assumed by Clapham’s analysis (see Domínguez 1993).

Arguments such as those presented by writers like Jackson reflect a reduced sensitivity toward global inequalities. These inequalities initially shaped the nationalist movements in the Anglophone Caribbean, and, by ignoring them, such writers understate the extent to which neoliberal globalization has frustrated the capacity of postcolonial social formations to advance the projects that had shaped the decolonization movement from its earliest genesis. Such a tendency validates Hurrell and Woods’s (1995, 447) assertion that “neglected in liberal and other writings about globalization is one particularly important feature of world politics: inequality.” Slater (1996, 27) has described this neglect as reflecting a “limiting, enclosed and particularly centered position that is characterized by a crucial historical and geopolitical amnesia.” This tendency, he argues, is (p.18) “conducive to the preservation and continued development of a distorted ‘world view’ since it allows for the historical erasure of imperial politics, and additionally represses the record of contemporary forms of Western power over the non-west [sic].”

In response to this tendency, writers adhering to an imperialism, dependency, and neo-Marxist framework have sought to identify in neoliberal globalization historical continuities of exploitation of formerly colonized states. One tendency within this perspective identifies a process of “recolonization” in the developments associated with globalization (Gruhn 1983; Raghavan 1990; Duncan 1995a; Belle 1996). While this notion tends to understate the continuing relevance of the sovereign state as a domestic anchor for global neoliberalism, its strength lies in the recognition of the increased capacity of transnational capital to influence the internal development options of independent states.

Kathy McAffee (1991, 70–72), for instance, sees the new global political-economic environment as facilitating a “new level of control” of the Caribbean territories that parallels that which existed during the colonial era. Similarly, Belle (1996, 19) has argued that “neocolonialism” no longer suffices as a basis for explaining the relation between the postcolonial world and the developed West. According to this view, the existing global political-economic environment is qualitatively different from that which existed when notions of neocolonialism were formulated by the likes of Kwame Nkrumah, Frantz Fanon, and Amilcar Cabral, in which there was a belief that the independent state was somehow operating below its transformatory potential. In contrast, Belle argues that under neoliberal globalization, the real question is not the underperformance of the state (or the comprador nature of its elites), but its incapacity to engage in anti-colonial development strategies or to act in a manner contrary to the interests of transnational capital.

The Utility of Sovereignty and National Self-Determination: Exploring a Normative Stance for St. Lucia

These conflicting interpretations of the impact of globalization upon national sovereignty reflect divergent normative stances on the “desirability” of postcolonial sovereignty. Thus the extreme neoliberal perspective that identifies economic benefits in the openness of societies to global economic processes is sympathetic to any structural changes that weaken the capacity of the sovereign state to frustrate the objectives of global capital (Ohmae 1990, 1993). In this view, the independent state is seen as a barrier to economic progress. On the other hand, those writing from a third world or anticolonial perspective generally lament the (p.19) redefinition of the state away from Keynesian-type social interventionist objectives. Within this perspective, global economic processes are held responsible for the economic underdevelopment of the third world. The independent post-colonial state is therefore seen as a mechanism through which external economic exploitation can be limited. Similarly, given the importance of individual liberty and “economic rationality” to mainstream liberalism, the normative stance adopted is one that embraces “interdependence” and searches for alternative institutional frameworks through which transnational modes of citizenship, participation, and democratic inclusion can emerge as the traditional understanding of state-centric sovereignty proves less workable.

These conflicting normative interpretations of the impact of neoliberal globalization on state sovereignty are also reflected in theories of nationalism. In periods where the scope and power of the international economic system are seen as an inexorable force overriding the nation-state, nationalism is viewed as “irrational” by those sympathetic to such internationalization and as “inefficacious” by those supportive of national liberation. In periods where state autonomy appears to be gaining ascendancy over internationalization, the theories largely tend to favor such nationalism. Thus, among radicals, nationalism is seen as a “logical” internal response to external repression, while among conservatives and liberals it is seen as an indication of “modernization” (Sathyamurthy 1983, 6–10).1

One weakness of the dominant theories of nationalism is their undervaluation of the political question of the seizure or establishment of state apparatus and their overemphasis on the ideological and cultural dimension of nationalism. Among such theories are Benedict Anderson’s notion of “imagined communities” (Anderson 1983), Gellner’s work (1964), and Marxist theories of nationalism such as those of Hobsbawm (1977, 1990) and Nairn (1975, 1977). To these theorists, nationalism, like religion, is an “irrational” development. Gellner (1964, 153), for example, asks: “Could one think of a sillier, more frivolous consideration than the question concerning the native vernacular of the governors?” Similarly, Nairn’s view of nationalism as “janus faced” and as a “pathology” and a “neurosis” that defies theoretical clarification also reflects this tendency (Nairn 1975, 1977; see Blaut 1987, 80).

These largely “negative” readings of anticolonial nationalism stand in marked contrast to what obtained in the 1950s and 1960s (Emerson 1960), where independence was viewed as part of a process of modernization. However, Blaut (1987) argues that despite the generally more sympathetic treatment of anticolonial nationalism in the 1960s, one common weakness has been to underplay the specific intent of indigenous populations to utilize the nation-state as a tool to resist the economic and political exploitation of the West. In Blaut’s view, such (p.20) works deny the “conflict” element inherent in third world nationalism (ibid.). Instead of viewing colonialism as a mechanism of political domination to facilitate Western economic exploitation, it was presented as having laid the foundations for the modern nation-state in a developmentally linear and conflict-free manner (see Emerson 1960, 43–49).

Blaut’s main objection to these theories is that they present “no material economic or social reason why people … strive to acquire an independent state for themselves, or fight against such efforts at secession, or strive to annex someone else’s territory to their own state or empire” (Blaut 1986, 5). Instead, Blaut (ibid., 6–7) sees nationalism as “one kind of political struggle for state power…. It is a kind of political process which … functions as a neutral tool or implement, one that has been put to use by a variety of classes and cultures for a variety of ends: democratic, autocratic, and otherwise.” This view of nationalism as a “neutral” tool is not intended to deny that one group may win political advantage over a rival group. Instead, nationalism is politically neutral in the sense that the mechanism of nationalism can be utilized by a wide variety of political groups with a wide range of political ideologies, all for their own ends.

It is upon such a basis that the impact of neoliberal globalization on St. Lucian decolonization can be properly assessed. While this work does not assume that with independence came an autonomous moment or possible moments when St. Lucia could have pursued alternatives that ran counter to global hegemonic perspectives, it analyzes the St. Lucia experience on the basis of the pervasiveness of demands for such an alternative and the varying extents to which such alternatives were favored or frustrated by the vagaries of domestic and international politics. The continuous articulation and eventual retreat of an alternative to the interests of neoliberal globalization are traced throughout the independence experience of St. Lucia. The accommodation to global capital, and the resultant domestic resistance to it and the politics emergent therefrom, forms the basis for the exploration of the independence experience of St. Lucia. Writers such as David Harvey (2005) and William Robinson (2008) have shown that under neo-liberal globalization, the role of the state has shifted from representing domestic populations and economies to facilitating the mobility of capital, and this work isolates the specific consequences and implications of this shift in the case of St. Lucia.2


(1) . The tendency to oscillate between a positive and a negative evaluation of nationalism is clearly evident within Marxism (see Davis 1978). Blaut (1987, 40–41) observes that after the First World War had destroyed the “internationalist” orientation of Marxism, two competing tendencies emerged. One was Lenin’s, in which nationalism was seen “as a central feature of imperialism,” and the other was Luxemburg’s, in which nationalism was denounced as inevitably “reactionary” and overwhelmed by global imperialism (Davis ed. 1976, 289). Thus, according to Blaut (1987, 41), “Marxists were debating the issue of the decline of national states and national struggle nearly seventy years ago. And they are doing so still.”

(2) . In Latin America and Global Capitalism, Robinson moves from the task of a general description of global capitalism to a specific account of the Latin American experience. In this work, I present a specific account of the St. Lucian experience. As neoliberal globalization unfolds, similar efforts will be necessary to capture the various domestic experiences of the Caribbean states.