Commentary on Political Economy

Sunday 25 September 2011

Crisis And Co-Ordination

Friends who visit this site will know is that what we are attempting to do here is to understand how capitalism works by looking beyond its "empirical" manifestations. Capitalism is not simply an "economic" system, a means or method of "producing" social wealth and therefore of re-producing our society. Rather, it is a "social system" that affects every aspect of social life at least in the sense that it has the clear and ineluctable 'tendency' to subsume every aspect of social life to its peculiar mode of production.

You will recall our previous discussion of absolute and relative exploitation. Parallel to these different methods of value extraction, capitalists have also specific forms of "subsumption" of society that reflect their particular modus operandi. Start with the basic notion of the "market". We have tried to show here by analysing several theoretical approaches to the notion of "free self-regulating market mechanism" that this is an "aporetic" concept because the minute one tries to implement practically a "market mechanism" based on "free competition", the very "rules" required to ensure that such "competition" is "free" and that secondly the market may be "self-regulating" - those very "rules" will either allow the abolition of competition with the market ending up in "monopoly", or else they will have to define "competition" in such a way that it is no longer "free". In other words, the notion of "free competition" is aporetic because "competition" will not remain "free" for very long if "the market" is truly "competitive - and, on the other hand, the market will not be capable of "self-regulation" if its "competitors" are truly "free" - and this for two reasons: the first is that "free competitors" will not have "converging or compatible" aims - so that "competition" will need "rules" and therefore it cannot be "free"; and secondly even allowing for "rules", unless they "restrict" competition (to, say 50% "control" of a "market" by any one competitor), then the market will implode by falling under the control of a monopoly - at which time it will cease to be a "market" (the notion of "monopolistic market" is contra-dictory or "oxymoronic" while that of "free market" is pleonastic because "market" means that there is some form of "competition" at its very beginning).

These analyses may seem at first to be far removed from reality and especially the hurly-burly of these “critical” times for capital. But if you look for example at the blunt warning that Tim Geithner has issued to his European counterparts this week-end in Washington at the IMF meeting, you will see that he is asking European decision-makers to hang together because otherwise they will most certainly hang separately! Geithner understands that the only way to unite a capitalist elite is not out of a feeling of human solidarity but rather to meet an “external threat” – which is conveniently posed by the various gangs of robber barons that finance and industrial capital have spawned around the world in their search for ways to beat the demands of more emancipated workers in Western countries. And the reason why this mist be so is, once again, that as we have seen “capitalist co-operation” is essentially an oxymoron in the absence of a common enemy to beat: - either the domestic working class or other opposing capitalist elites!

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