While theories of global capitalism have added a new dimension to our understanding of the dynamics of the modern world, a ‘globalisation’ approach to the transformation of the state socialist societies is relatively underdeveloped. This paper studies the role of international and global factors under state socialism and the world system in the pre-1989 period. The paper considers traditional Marxist approaches to the transition to capitalism and criticises the model of state capitalism as well as the world system approach. In contrast, social actors (the ‘acquisition’ and ‘administrative’ social strata and the global political elite)are identified as playing a major role in the fall of state socialism, and were a nascent capitalist class. The transformation of state socialism, it is contended, had the character of a revolution rather than a shift between different types of capitalism.

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