Globalisation and Labour Struggle in Asia: A Neo-Gramscian Critique of South Korea's Political Economy

Korean development has not occurred in a vacuum, but is a specific series of events that provide insight into the way that international struggles for hegemony affect local environments. Ongoing struggle between workers and the state in the former 'hermit kingdom' show that despite appeals to nationalism and human nature seen in training and education programmes to assist economic and social 'progress', Phoebe Moore argues that Korea has not become a 'hegemonic' nation, even since democratization in the early 1990s, but has known ongoing struggle in the face of pressures to develop and to catch up with advanced nations. The neo-Gramscian school theorises that world history reveals periods of hegemonic stability at some points such as during the period of 'Pax Americana', but this account of Korean development demonstrates that this speculation cannot be fully justified. Through making creative links between forms of state, education programmes, and labour relations and the global climate throughout a series of 'historical blocs', the book covers the story of South Korean development with all fairy tales removed. From Japanese colonisation to contemporary neoliberal social and economic polisymaking, the book notes that during each historical bloc, conditions for trasformismo, or a limited concession programme to prevent complete grass roots revolution, have been evident. Using Gramsci's ideas of passive revolution and trasformismo to understand totalitarianism and exploitation, the book reveals how accelerated development has matched global economic relations but has not resulted in hegemony at the national level using the case of South Korea. This book shows that revolution is not always emancipatory, but can become a passive, elite, reformist display of elite practice that is becoming increasingly transnational in character. Through the case study of Korean development in the context of international power relations, Moore argues that the concept of global hegemony, popular in the International Political Economy school today, is fundamentally, a myth.