Commentary on Political Economy

Friday 12 September 2014

The liberal Police State - ISIS and the Ebola virus

A heartfelt vote of thanks to all those friends who - beyond my expectations - continue to deign this humble site with their visits. I should have a fresh contribution of "Equilibrium and Market Process in the Austrian School - Schumpeter and the Dialectic" ready within the next couple of days. As you are able to see, I have desisted for quite a long period from commenting on current affairs of any description the better to concentrate on the theoretical clarification of that system of bourgeois political instruments and tools that go under the name of "economic science" and that some would dismiss too readily as vapid "ideology".

The studies that we are presenting here - correctly interpreted - contain and exhibit a comprehensive critique of what we call "the society of capital" - meaning by that phrase that capitalism is no longer one element among many of what constitute advanced industrial societies from the US to China, but is rather a violent social relation that has now re-organised the entire social fabric in the likeness, image and interests of social capital. In other words, it is not true to say that capitalism represents the triumph of the "private" over the "public" - because seen in such antithetical terms it becomes impossible then to comprehend the substance of capitalist social relations of production that, if they are to function at all, must be "public" to the extent that they are also "social".

The problem, however, is that because capitalists must, on pain of extinction, reduce all social members to the status of isolated social "atoms", to that extent the necessarily "social" nature of our individual existence must be suppressed and repressed by the political apparatus of the bourgeoisie - by the collective capitalist, the liberal State. This State is "liberal" in the sense that it seeks to reduce all aspects of social life to the function of producing and consuming so as to preserve and perpetuate the wage relation. To the degree that the liberal State serves and perpetrates this functional role in the interests of capital, it is far from being a "liberal" State - it is to all intents and purposes a "Police State" - which is to say that it is a State whose purpose is not that of expressing the full individuality and aspirations of its members but instead that of suppressing their collective needs so as to subordinate them to the perpetuation of the wage relation. Capitalist society and its liberal State are the violent enforcers of "the civilisation of wage labor". The function of a Police State is that of ensuring that its individual members are isolated and neutralised politically so that they are unable to undermine the wage relation. The Police State is not a Lassallean "negative State" or "nightwatchman state": it is quite the opposite because its apparent "neutrality" serves only to preserve the established order and to concentrate all its resources to maintaining "social peace" - the salus publica that was the trigger for the state of exception in every dictatorship, from the Roman, to the French under Robespierre, to Hitler and Stalin.

But the Police State is incapable of ensuring the reproduction of the wage relation once social capital has transformed the whole of society into "the society of capital" - because now every aspect of our existence must be subjected to control - including, that is, those political and ethical and religious aspects, those needs for social freedom that no State can long keep separate from its most vital function. A State that is mere Police, a State that does not and cannot realize the deepest aspirations of the constituency it purports to represent and to serve - such a State is a "non-State" - it is in the words of Hegel (Philosophy of History, III) "a putrefying carcass eaten alive by its individual members that have been reduced to the status of private worms".

The now-legendary inability of someone like President Barack Obama to understand this point - the utter and corrupt inability of the most civilised and advanced nations of the capitalist world to confront and destroy the most vile incipient global cancers such as the ISIS and the Ebola virus are the most palpable proof of the inarrestable decay and disgregation of the capitalist liberal Police State. Cheers.

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