State capitalism(s) redux? Theories, tensions, controversies

Ilias Alami, Adam D. Dixon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Citations (Scopus)


This article interrogates the notion of state capitalism, exploring the contributions and limits of the concept as a means of theorizing the more visible role of the state across the world capitalist economy. We critically synthesize the key arguments, outlining commonly cited properties and practices of state capitalism, in three bodies of literature: strategic management, comparative capitalism and global political economy. We find that the term not only lacks a unified definition, but actually refers to an extremely wide array of policy instruments, strategic objectives, institutional forms and networks, that involve the state to different degrees. For this proliferation of competing usages to be productive and not lead to analytical impasses, we argue that there is a need for a heightened level of reflexive scrutiny of state capitalism as a category of analysis. In that spirit, we identify three issues that the literature must further grapple with for the term to be analytically meaningful, that is, capable of rendering (state)capitalist diversity amenable to analysis and critique: (1) the ‘missing link’ of a theory of the capitalist state, (2) the time horizons of state capitalism, or the question of ‘periodization’, (3) territorial considerations or the question of ‘locating’ state capitalism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-94
Number of pages25
JournalCompetition and Change
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • business–government relations
  • comparative capitalism
  • developmental state
  • State capitalism
  • state-owned enterprises

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Business,Management and Accounting


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