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Lost in Transition: the German World-Market

Debate in the 1970s

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image of Historical Materialism

The persistence of economic and geopolitical conflicts beyond the 1990s has revived interest in explanations that analyse international conflicts in relation to capitalism. In this debate, many contributors have accepted one or another version of a strong globalisation theory, which reflects the hopes for an age of peace and prosperity as a largely co-operative process. This paper attempts to question this thesis by introducing an almost forgotten debate: the German world-market debate of the 1970s. This approach attempted to show how the general laws of motion of capitalism prevail under changing conditions. Furthermore it pointed to the existence of many states, which again and again reproduces the reality of multipolar competitive capitalism, albeit in changing forms. In the following we outline the central – sometimes diverging – insights, before subjecting them to a critical appraisal and identifying a number of points where the theses could be developed further. Taking up the threads of that debate without repeating its weaknesses could prove productive for today's discussion.

Affiliations: 1: University of Göttingen;, Email:; 2: Institut für Sozialforschung (Frankfurt);, Email:


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