Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: April 2019

6 - The Political Economy of Uneven State-Spatiality in Pakistan: The Interplay of Space, Class and Institutions



S. Akbar Zaidi (2014) advocates a need for a critical reappraisal of the most influential works of Hamza Alavi on the postcolonial state of Pakistan. Alavi is significant because most of the critical political economic literature on Pakistan can trace back its roots from the original works of Alavi (Zaidi 2014:48). To understand Alavi's work, it is necessary to be cognizant of the following three broad conjectures: the historical legacy of colonialism, internal class formations of the postcolonial society and the relationship of the postcolonial state with the external world (core countries of the Global North). This chapter primarily focuses on the first two conjectures.

This chapter builds on recent scholarship (see Akhtar 2018; Zaidi 2014) and presents a new understanding of the postcolonial state-society in Pakistan by drawing from Lefebvre's (2009) work on state-spatiality and the Marxian circuit of capital framework. It is argued in this chapter that the postcolonial state of Pakistan can be best characterised by uneven state spatiality. The dynamics of state-spatiality have been largely overlooked in the existing literature2 on postcolonial Pakistan. It is time to draw from this rich strand of literature to delineate the inherent contradictions of the postcolonial state and society of Pakistan. Zaidi (2014) marks a major departure from Alavi's class formulation by arguing that institutions are more significant as compared to class in understanding dynamics of postcolonial Pakistan. This chapter adds to the class versus institutions debate by using the Marxian circuit of capital framework. It is argued here that both class and institutions are dialectically interlinked and they mutually co-determine the underlying political economic dynamics of postcolonial capitalism in Pakistan.

The rest of this chapter is structured as follows. The second section introduces the processual concept of the state. The third section presents the notion of state spatiality and socio-spatial dialectic and the next section juxtaposes the concept of processual state and state-spatiality in the context of the postcolonial state of Pakistan. In the fifth section, the political economy of informalisation in Pakistan is discussed in the context of the heterogeneity and fractured nature of the postcolonial state. The sixth section discusses the importance of using the Marxian circuit of capital framework to conceptualise the political economic processes as a dialectical interplay of class and institution in the context of the postcolonial state of Pakistan. The final section provides a conclusion to the chapter.