Commentary on Political Economy

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Crisis, Fragmentation, Fracture - Totality

May I be allowed, in characteristic 'mystical' fashion, a few reflections to help place current 'developments' in some context. Nietzsche once said that the best way to ensure the acquiescence of workers - was to make sure they were busy working! The 'compulsion' of work engenders its own 'regimentation'. And 'specialisation' ensures also that social agents remain 'divided' in terms of 'sectoral' interests (trade unions, for instance) and also in terms of their inability to have a 'vue d'ensemble', what Georg Lukacs called "the totality" of social life.
Add to this the fact that the bourgeoisie - the capitalist elites that 'own' the social resources and are charged with 'employing' them - has an 'interest' in ensuring that social life remains 'fragmented' and that society itself remains 'fractured', and you begin to understand why so few people (experts included) seem to have any 'clues' about what is happening all around them.
As I have argued repeatedly, this fragmentation and fracturing of our society is exacerbated by the need the bourgeoisie has to erect and glorify 'competition' as the overriding "common interest" of the society itself! The principal reason why governments are so heavily 'indebted' is that they have had (to adopt Gavyn Davies's own description) "to socialise" the losses that "private capital" incurred as a result of the wave of "privatisations" engineered during the Great Moderation. It is "curious" therefore that so many "experts" should insist now that the answer to government debt is... (guess!) "privatisation"! The question is not whether social resources are "private" or "public" - the question is how little "democratic" our society is!
And there is the rub! Governments are "indebted" because they have had "to socialise" what were "notionally private losses" and turn them into "notionally public debt" (this time the phrase is Martin Wolf's). - Which goes to demonstrate that the current "undemocratic" ownership and utilisation of "social resources" is incompatible with the pursuit of TWO objectives at the same time:- employment of those resources, on one side, and "profitability" on the opposite side. There is a contra-diction, a conflict between the two objectives. And it is a conflict - a "fracture" - that is now extending to the entire social structure!
This is where, to come to a conclusion, few "experts" seem to have a full grasp of "developments". The "crisis" that began as a "great financial crisis" cannot be given a "technical" solution because, as becomes each day more devastatingly clear, it is a "political crisis" - one that involves the very conception of the role of the collective capitalist, the State, in the reproduction of society itself as a "capitalist" society. The fact is that "profitability" is inconsistent with the "democratic" utilisation of social resources. One of two things: either we regress to the kind of social conditions that Western bourgeoisies enjoy in "emerging economies" (China and South East Asia, perhaps also India and Latin America) - or else we truly democratise the use of social resources! And by the way, it is not at all clear that "the Asian myth" has any truth to it at all!

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