[URBANTH-L]Global Integration and the Supranational (Alvin Wolfe)
acjancius at ysu.edu
Sat Mar 11 14:01:39 EST 2006
From: Alvin Wolfe <wolfe at cas.usf.edu>
Those interested in Paul McDowell's subject "Global Integration" and the
planned AAA panel on Global Level Integration will also be interested my
work under the rubric "Supranational" published from 1962 to 2005,
citations in the attached Word document [see text below]. I look forward
to hearing more about all such work.
Alvin W. Wolfe, PhD
Distinguished University Professor Emeritus
Department of Anthropology
University of South Florida
[Moderator's note: The UrbAnth-L listserv software is not currently set up
to accept article attachments. In the text below, make sure to note that the
pdf links to all of Alvin Wolfe's articles are included at the end of the
in his references cited section.]
Wolfe articles on the Supranational System, with links to copies on the web.
In the early 1960s my studies of the problems of new African states in
central and southern Africa led me to appreciate the importance of
multinational enterprises in the mining and metals industries -- not so much
in their individual actions as in their systematic organization at a
My 1962 paper, "The Team Rules Mining in Southern Africa," was the first
presentation of the network of corporations that is the "team" of the title.
A 1963 paper, entitled "The African Mineral Industry: Evolution of a
Supranational Level of Integration," is the first where I recognize the
development of a supranational system as a major evolutionary saltation, a
significant extrapolation from Julian Steward's evolutionary theory. As I
"I found the mineral extraction industry of southern Africa to be organized
in an intricate social system based more on overlapping membership of a
variety of groups than on a bureaucratic centralization of administrative
power. The network binds groups that are different both structurally and
functionally, some business corporations, some states, some families, in a
modern supranational structure that is more than just international. ...The
several hundred mining companies operating in southern Africa are integrated
through a series of relationships that focus on some of the larger among
them. ... Then, in a variety of ways, these corporations are linked with
governments" (Wolfe 1963:153-54).
My interpretations upset American financial interests and the United States
government which were at that time obsessed with the "Cold War" and thought
I was maligning the West. Papers published in 1966 (Capital and the Congo),
1967 (Economies in Bondage: An Essay on the Mining Industry in Africa), and
1970 (Tanzania-Zambia Railway: Escape Route from Neocolonial Control?) are
case histories, detailing the political and economic consequences for
African development of this supranational organization.
Dropping the issue for a few years, I focused on other studies -- adaptation
of urban families to poverty in St. Louis and the social structural bases of
art in Africa, and then developing internships as a modality of training
In 1975, I was asked to present a paper in the 141st annual meeting of the
American Association for the Advancement of Science, New York, January 1975,
as part of the symposium "The Mode of Production: Method and Theory." My
paper was the capstone of the symposium which traced human "modes of
production" from primate tool use through a number of stages "upward" to my
supranational system, seen as the latest "mode of production."
I developed that paper into "The Supranational Organization of Production,"
published in Current Anthropology in 1977. This article presents the
theoretical aspects pretty well, but it was widely misunderstood -
capitalists still thought I was bringing down the West, and Marxists
thought I was being too kind to the corporations.
In 1980, "Multinational enterprise and urbanism" argues that as the
supranational system develops, states are weakened while cities (and private
corporations) grow relatively stronger. A 1986 paper, The Multinational
Corporation as a Form of Sociocultural Integration above the Level of the
State," presents considerably more detail on the system, but it is poorly
titled, the title impling that a multinational corporation is itself a form
of integration above the level of the state whereas the "form" referred to
is the system generated by the interaction of multinational corporations,
families, states, cities, etc.
A 1987 paper, "Supranational Networks: States and Firms," remains
unpublished even though it deals with a question that has fascinated me:
Why have so few scholars recognized the supranational system as something
that is truly above the level of the state? I argue that my anthropological
colleagues are, like others, bound by our own culture and traditions to such
an extent that they are unable to study these phenomena with the same
"objectivity" and "relativism" with which they study the institutions of
cultures with which they are less familiar. See especially the section on
"Difficulties of Thinking Anew."
A paper published in 2005, "Connecting the Dots Without Forgetting the
Circles," in Connections expresses my concern that network analysts too
often deal only with the connections and thus fail to see the importance of
the systems at various levels, represented in that article as circles,
clusters, equivalencies, etc., new structures generated by the interactions.
Understanding those new structures is best achieved by using the comparative
and emic/etic perspectives characteristic of anthropology. If one prints the
2005 paper, one must be sure to print it in color because the color is
meaningful, especially for the last figures.
1962 "The Team Rules Mining in Southern Africa," Toward Freedom, Vol. II,
No. 1, January. http://luna.cas.usf.edu/~wolfe/Wolfe1962TF.pdf
1963 "The African Mineral Industry: Evolution of a Supranational Level of
Integration," Social Problems, Vol.11, No.2 (Fall), pp. 153-164.
1966 "Capital and the Congo," in Southern Africa in Transition, edited by
John A. Davis and James K. Baker. New York: Praeger.
1967 "Economies in Bondage: An Essay on the Mining Industry in
Africa," Africa Today, Volume 14, No. 3, pp. 16-20.
nd(1967)"An Essay on the Mining Industry in relation to the African
Revolution," Paper presented at a Conference on Africa (Session on
Neocolonialism) at Washington University, St. Louis Missouri, April 1967.
1970 "Tanzania-Zambia Railway: Escape Route from Neocolonial
Control?" In Nonaligned Third World Annual, 1970. St. Louis: Books
International of D.H.-T.E. International (pp. 92-103).
1977 "The Supranational Organization of Production," Current
Anthropology, Vol. 18, No. 4, pp. 615-636.
1980 "Multinational enterprise and urbanism." In Thomas W.
Collins, ed., Cities in a Larger Context. Proceedings of the 14th Annual
Meeting of the Southern Anthropological Society. Athens, Ga.: University of
Georgia Press. Pp. 76-96. http://luna.cas.usf.edu/~wolfe/Wolfe1980.pdf
1982 Sociocultural integration above the level of the state.
Cultural Futures Research 7(1): 9-16, 22.
1986 "The Multinational Corporation as a Form of Sociocultural
Integration above the Level of the State." In Hendrick Serrie, Ed.,
Anthropology and International Business. Studies in Third World Societies,
Publication Number Twenty-Eight. Williamsburg, Va.: College of William and
n.d.(1987) "Supranational Networks: States and Firms." [This document is an
expanded version of papers presented at the Sun Belt Social Network
Conference, Clearwater Beach, Florida, February, 1987, and at the 86th
Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, in Chicago,
November 20, 1987. http://luna.cas.usf.edu/~wolfe/Wolfe1987.pdf
2005 Connecting the Dots Without Forgetting the Circles. Connections 26(2).
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