Post-crisis Capital Account Policies in Emerging Capitalisms: a comparison between Brazil and South Africa

UoM administered thesis: Phd


This thesis provides a historical materialist policy analysis of the diversity of capital-account policies (CAPs) deployed in Brazil and South Africa over the period 2008-2014. Facing relatively similar patterns of cross-border money-capital movements and comparable financial challenges, these two emerging capitalist countries implemented radically different CAPs: while Brazil deployed a remarkable array of measures (capital controls on inflows, foreign exchange interventions, regulations of derivatives contracts, etc.), the policy response in South Africa was much more orthodox, and mainly characterised by the further liberalisation of outflows. The historical materialist policy analysis combines a variety of theoretical literatures (including historical materialism, financial and economic geography, and post-Keynesian economics) and research methods (qualitative research interviews, policy document analysis, and macroeconomic analysis). It examines the drivers of the CAP policy-making process in Brazil and South Africa in the light of (1) the social constitution and the class character of the capitalist state and money-capital, conceived of as particular ‘moments’ in the totality of capitalist social relations from which they are constituted; (2) the historical-geographical specificity of the Brazilian and South African capitalist development trajectory, (3) the unfolding of the broader social struggles of the working class, and (4) with specific reference to the highly uneven geographies of the contemporary global financial system. I claim that in both countries, post-crisis CAPs were not part of a political attempt at restructuring the state and altering class relations. By contrast, CAPs were instrumental in reproducing particular modes of managing class relations and accumulation in a changing international context, though in a precarious and temporary manner. Post-crisis CAPs involved the creation, enhancement, and adaptation of financial and monetary regulatory capacity (involving both drastic innovation and more subtle forms of change) to deepen the CAPs deployed in the previous decade, while coping with their (perceived) worst consequences: sustaining the historically-specific mode of mediating the global movement of money-capital in each country required the uneven re-articulation of state power. The thesis contributes to the literatures on the distinctively Marxian-inspired approaches to development, the uneven geographies of finance/financialisation, materialist state theory, and to the debates about more progressive forms of financial governance in emerging capitalist countries. It also shows the limits of the concept of ‘policy space’ as an analytical device, chiefly due to its almost complete blindness to class and to the active role of the working class in shaping policies. This results in difficulties in envisaging progressive policy alternatives, that is, policies that do not only aim at stabilising capital accumulation and facilitating the reproduction of key capitalist social forms in the short term.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2018