Presidential Address: The Political Economy Of Mining And Metallurgy

Ramokgopa, S. J.
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 8
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2002
The development of the modern State and the growth of capitalism involves a complex process of interaction between cross-cutting structural dimension: first between politics and economics and, second, between market and hierarchy. Central to such developments are political economies of scale. Mineral specialization in the Third World developed within the framework of an international extension on oligopolistic structure of the advanced capitalist economies of Western Europe and North America. Up to the late 1960s, the world mineral and metallurgical industry was closely controlled by a handful of Western mining and industrial groups. To the extent that, foreign control of the mining sector was seen in the Third World producing countries both as the essence of foreign domination and as its major symbol. In some newly industrializing countries, the State took a more direct role in tying the economy and society together. Central to this process was the growth of large-scale finance capital. From early 1959to the mid-1970s, metal consumption in industrial countries expanded well beyond their domestic mineral endowments. And a free access to Third World minerals was a major element of the economic dynamism of these countries throughout that period. With the change in the characteristics of international investment, Africa has become less important as an outlet for capital exports of European countries. Actually, the African continent now receives only a very minor share of direct foreign investments of Western enterprises. International political economy is concerned first of all with the relationship between the economic and political domains across territorial boundaries. Second, attention should be drawn to the role of the State as the focus of decision-making in a system of competitive States, that is in turn, interdependent with a trans-national market economy in which mining and metallurgy are essential activities that affect the politics of the State, and how this in turn, rebounds on the politics of the international system. Understanding the role of the State must go beyond the glib pronouncements on the ?national interest?. How, and whose interest, the ?national interest? is determined, is precisely the problem. This implies a third theoretical problem that must be addressed: the linkage between the domestic and international domains (or levels of analysis), given that political-economic processes clearly cut across the lines of political decision-making constituted by the institutional structures of the State. Situating the State and economic interests within this vast ?state-society? complex that we call the global order will be a crucial problem for any theoretical approach that involves mining and metallurgy.
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