Moving on from the post-modernist derailment of the Left

“The linguistic construction of post-capitalist hegemony opens a space for the engendering of the public sphere”. Sounds ominous and deep. Sounds knowledgeable. Then what about the next sentence: “The illusion of praxis carries with it the discourse of the public sphere.” amd the next: “The emergence of normative value(s) opens a space for the ideology of the public sphere.” I could write a whole essay about that topic in the style that typified the so-called post-modernist explosion in social sciences in the 1970s and beyond. Aah, Pomo, the nonsensical shift in literary endeavour that has set the Left back as much as the embrace of Monetarism and, more generally, neo-liberalism. This blog continues to add to the material we are working on as part of my next book (with co-author, Italian journalist Thomas Fazi), which traces the way the Left fell prey to what we call the globalisation myth and formed the view that the state has become powerless (or severely constrained) in the face of the transnational movements of goods and services and capital flows. This material will be part of the final section of the book, which we are sort of calling a ‘Progressive Manifesto’, designed to guide policy design and policy choices for progressive governments. We also hope that the ‘Manifesto’ will empower community groups by demonstrating that the TINA mantra, where these alleged goals of the amorphous global financial markets are prioritised over real goals like full employment, renewable energy and revitalised manufacturing sectors is bereft and a range of policy options, now taboo in this neo-liberal world are available. The book will be published in 2017 by Pluto Books, London. This blog examines the way the Left became entranced with post-modernism and fell into the trap of disappearing into crevices of meaningless at the expense of a focus on class struggle and a coherent critique of capitalism. We argue that critique is an essential part of the revitalisation of the Left political struggle against neo-liberalism and the restoration of the Left as a political force.

Thankfully, I can get the The Virtual Academic: a random sentence generator to do the work for me. Beautifully crafted nonsense.

Or I can get whole academic papers written by the Postmodernism Generator which will save me time and demonstrate how erudite I am (not!).

The Marxist tradition had developed in the Age of Englightenment, which had concerned itself with trying to understand perception and the existence of objective reality.

Marx responded to the central belief systems in that period by advancing his notion of historical materialism, which, in short, posited that:

1. We can understand the objective reality (a central Enlightenment construct) of Capitalism by understanding the logic and dynamics of class conflict or class struggle.

2. Class struggle is a central focus of any attempt to understand the dynamics of capitalism.

3. Within this conflict, the working class can identify as a collective, which can transform history and move the mode of production from capitalism to socialism and then, ultimately, to a communist state.

Human agency, organised into classes (defined in relation to ownership of the material means of production, which bestowed on the owners the capacity to exploit the non-owners by expropriating the real output that they produced in surplus of subsistance need) was thus at the centre of Marx’s ideas on historical development.

Postmodernism emerged in the late 1960s in fact, as a response to disillusionment with the radicalism of that time that had been engendered by attempts to apply the ideas of Marx and others.

It was a period where the ‘Stalinism’ of the Soviet and Chinese states were becoming increasingly unacceptable to Marxist-oriented thinkers in the West.

It was obvious that these regimes were brutal and had lost the plot with respect to the main message of Marx – to liberate workers from capitalist oppression and chart a course towards a free state in nature for people to prosper – materially and intellectually.

It was also a time after the French rebellion in May 1968 failed (along with major ructions in Japan, Mexico, Germany and Spain and elsewhere) and the splintering of student groups into factions (Brigate Rosse, Baader-Meinhof etc) saw them descend into so-called revolutionary modes of action (aimed at overthrowing the state and NATO etc), which were otherwise known as drug infested, criminality.

And, globalisation was placing new pressures on national economies to evolve and become more open. At this point, the emergence of neo-liberalism, which is often, wrongly, conflated with the global development of supply chains etc was nascent but still not dominant.

Marx’s conceptualisation of the world conforms with the ideas of the structuralists that suggested a reality existed and could be understood by inquiry of the objects which form that reality. These objects were defined by the social relations embedded in the organisation of production.

So there is a cultural reality with practical manifestations that can be changed by organised human agency (changing who owns the means of production, for example). This reality was understood by reference to historical epochs where the organisation of production had changed.

Another way of thinking about this is that meaning lies below the appearance. In the Capitalist system, it ‘looks’ as though workers are paid a wage for the hours they work and freely exchange their labour for that wage.

But that appearance doesn’t help us understand the essential class struggle driving the exchange.

In modern terms, the firm agrees to pay a wage to the worker for a given working day (which itself might vary according to various rules). At that point in the exchange the firm has purchased the labour power, which is the capacity to work. No actual labour services have been purchased in that transaction.

The task of management then is to organise, muster and deploy that labour power in a controlled way to ensure that for the time the worker has agreed to work they are delivering the desired flow of labour services to the firm.

It is in that way that the firm ensures they produce enough output from the labour power purchased, which upon sale, will return the funds outlayed on wages (and other materials the workers use) and leave a sufficient residual – profits – which will satisfy the objectives of the owners of the firm.

A study of the modern labour market therefore has to be conducted within the context of the primacy of managerial control and the need for the capitalist firm to maximise the flow of labour they gain from the labour power they purchase.

Unlike the exchange of a banana for cash, where the supplier gets to enjoy the ‘use-value’ of the cash and the purchaser the ‘use-value’ of the banana outside of the terms of the exchange, the ‘use-value’ of the labour power – the flow of labour – is enjoyed by the capitalist within the ambit of the exchange.

That is a fundamental difference between the labour market exchange and a normal product market exchange.

But there is basic conflict underpinning this exchange which sets up the need to control the generation of the ‘use-value’ of labour power.

We assume that workers will typically desire to be paid more for working less and capitalists want to pay the least for the most flow of labour services. We could frame this tension in more complex ways and, indeed, Marx and his followers have done that.

This is not to say that business firms do not provide good working conditions and seek to reward their workers in many different ways. The point is rather that they do that without jeopardising their control function or their capacity as purchasers of labour power.

For Marxists, it was essential, therefore to go to the essence of a situation (of a perception) to create the ‘grand narrative’.

Please read my blog – The labour market is not like the market for bananas – for more discussion on this point.

The Post structuralists (Roland Barthe, Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, Jean-François Lyotard, etc) became increasingly popular and we started to hear about “decentering” or the “death of the author”, which considers meaning to be in the eyes of the beholder rather than anything a writer might desire to convey.

It is almost impossible (and futile) to actually pin down what post-structuralism is.

In the Marxist literature, the Post-structuralists were in revolt against the idea that coherent knowledge (about, for example, the existence of surplus value) was available by analysing the structure of ownership within a production culture.

They argued that we are incapable of understanding the entirety of human society and we must thus concentrate on pieces of this puzzle by seeking information about it rather than drawing generalisations based on the mode of production.

Information is generated by a pluralism of countering interests which are not restricted by the desire to be consistent with any ‘grand narrative’ (based on class).

Michael Foucault added that (crudely) everything is relative – there is no discernible and truthful narrative running through history that is resistant to objective interpretation.

There might be an objective reality but we can never know it because, in the words of Jacques Derrider “il n’y a pas de hors-texte”, which means I have dared to introduce the post-structuralist notion of Deconstruction, and should take a break for a cup of tea so I can forget that I did that.

The point they were trying to make is that there is no meaning in a text as a whole. A given text is capable of multiple interpretations because it is constructed of many contradictory and irreconcilable meanings. Meaning only comes from relating words to other words and exploring the differences (the classic example is to contrast house with shed).

I don’t really want to go into these arcane offerings here in much detail. I spent many an hour as an undergraduate and post-graduate student and then some more later coming to terms with them.

What we end up with is a notion that takes us away from Marxian class categories and focuses, instead, on studying elements of political power, the use of language and narratives as the way of gleaning meaning. This is also defines new arenas of political struggle that are diametric to those defined by the class struggle of Marx.

Here I am referring to the rise of feminism, movements against homophobia, multiculturalism and the other disaggregated (from class) movements that occupy the so-called ‘progressive’ Left these days.

Marginality is no longer described in class terms but rather in terms of cohort identity and fragmentation of consciousness has resulted.

Marxian exploitation is replaced by individual cohort oppression as the fundamental expression of struggle. There is nothing general.

The hegemony of the capitalist gives way to the power struggles between husband and oppressed wife, or gay and homophobic, between racist and object of racism, and all the rest of the individual power struggles that define the cultural struggles.

So class struggle is not the path to liberation but, rather, laws designed to overturn ‘glass ceilings’ (for example) become the desired end.

The class struggle was about solidarity of a collective. But this new post-modernist idea of struggle has no collective (society) only unities that span Marxian class boundaries.

We encounter the strange bedfellow case where feminists (who might be capitalists or workers) are now fighting for the same end!

Moreover, the institutions that might have evolved (or evolve) to promote the class struggle for workers – such as trade unions or political parties – become subjugated to these non-class struggle foci.

So we see political parties that were originated to defend the workers as a class against the vicissitudes of capitalist power becoming vehicles that reject the class struggle as the overarching form of the political activity and, instead, become obsessed with issues relating to issues like womens’ rights to be on corporate boards etc as an expression of what they believe to be the progressive voice.

The focus against ‘capitalism’ is replaced by a focus against racism (for example) and the roots of the racism and the way the capitalists might use the sentiments to divide and conquer the workers is lost.

By deconstructing and decentering meaning – anything goes, but the development of a working class consciousness that is capable of pushing capitalism towards a more liberated socialist epoch is lost.

In the introduction to her 1995 book, Ellen Meisksins-Wood wrote (pages 1-2):

Intellectuals of the left, then, have been trying to define new ways, other than contestation, of relating to capitalism. The typical mode, at best, is to seek out the interstices of capitalism, to make within it for alternative ‘discourses’, activities and identities. Much is made of the fragmentary character of advanced capitalism – whether that fragmentation is characterized by the culture of post-modernism or by the political economy of post-Fordism; and this is supposed to multiply the spaces in which a culture of the left can operate. But underlying all of these seems to be a conviction that capitalism is here to stay, at least in any foreseeable historical perspective.

The reformulation of the left’s relation to capitalism as a making of space within it, rather than a direct challenge to and contestation of it, helps, among other things, to explain the major shift from traditional discourses of the left, such as political economy and history, to the more currently fashionable ones; the study of discourses, text, and what might be called the culture of ‘identity’. If Marxist political economy and history are intended to challenge capitalism as a totality head-on from the vantage point of its anti-thesis, socialism, ‘cultural studies’ (conceived in the ‘post-modern’ way) and other favoured post-left enterprises are defined by the notion that the terrain of politics is within and between the fragments of capitalism, especially in the academy, where discourses and identities can be deconstructed and proliferated without material constraints.

In a fragmented world composed of ‘de-centered subjects’, where totalizing knowledges are impossible and undesirable, what other kind of politics is there than a sort of de-centered and intellectualized radicalization of liberal pluralism? What better escape, in theory, from a confrontation with capitalism, the most totalizing system the world has ever known, than a rejection of totalizing knowledge? What greater obstacle, in practice, to anything more than the most local and particularistic resistances to the global, totalizing power of capitalism than the de-centered and fragmented subject? What better excuse for submitting to the force majeure of capitalism than the conviction that its power, while pervasive, has no systemic origin, no unified logic, no identifiable social roots?
(emphasis in original)

[Reference: Meiksins-Wood, E. (1995) Democracy Against Capitalism: Renewing Historical Materialism, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.]

In the late 1960s and beyond, the Marxist radicals who were despairing and getting older (graduating and entering the workforce) without seeing any path to overthrow the capitalist hegemony before them turned to this post-modernist agenda with a relish.

Unfortunately, as Meiksins-Wood observes, this has come at the expense of fragmenting the focus on class and, instead, pursuing a diversity of struggles, none of which challenge the basis of capitalism.

Moreover, none of which challenge the dominant economic narrative that maintains the legitimacy of capitalism and the aims of capital to extract as much real income as possible from the production process.

The conservatives have exploited this post-modernist divergence by advancing the so-called ‘politics of envy’ to offset any insinuation that the capitalist system produces distributional outcomes that are not remotely proportional to the effort put into production.

Whenever distributional outcomes are challenged – for example, propose increasing taxes on the higher income recipients (note I don’t use the word “earners”) there is hell to cry and the defense put up always appeals to the old tags – “socialist class warriors undermining incentive”, “envy”, etc.

In the 1980s, when privatisation formed the first wave of the neo-liberal onslaught, we all apparently became “capitalists” or “shareholders”. We were told that it was dinosauric to think in terms of the old class categories – labour and capital.

That was just so “yesterday” and we should just get over it and realise that we all had a stake in a system where reduced regulation and oversight would produce unimaginable wealth, even if the first manifestations of this new “incentivised” economy channelled increasing shares of real income to the highest percentiles in the distribution.

We were told that ‘trickle-down’ would spread the largesse.

Meanwhile the ‘leftist’ academy were bogged down in deconstructing the hermeneutics of some such or another. Or telling us about “The legitimation of panopticism reinvents itself as the project of system” or that “The historicization of agency is, and yet is not, the fiction of millennial hedonism” (all courtesy of the Random Sentence Generator).

In between sipping their lattes in fashionable coffee houses near their offices, and enjoying the lingering sweetness of their almond croissants, these leftists were engaged in fierce battles about cultural identity and the power relations within households.

All important for sure but not at the expense of a leftist-centred awareness of the importance of ‘class’.

The importance of class was exemplified in 2006 by Warren Buffett’s suggestion that “There’s class warfare, all right … but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning” (Source).

Class is alive and well and in prosecuting their demands for higher shares of real income, the elites have not only caused the crisis but are now, in recovery, reinstating the dynamics that will lead to the next crisis.

The big changes in policy structures that have to be made to avoid another global crisis are not even remotely on the radar.

And the post-modernists have another sip of their skinny lattes.

Most of them (if not all) are oblivious to the realities of the fiat monetary system and the overlay that the class power exerted by capital have for the policy choices that are made within that system of monetary organisation.

That ignorance, in turn, has contributed significantly to the demise of the Left as a progressive political force.

Post-modernists are often fervently political but at the same time their political voice avoids a critique of capitalism as a system. They want gender equity, or same-sex marriage (who wouldn’t) but avoid discussions about overthrowing capitalist production relations.

In the last week, a splinter group has formed, for example, in The Greens (in Australia) called ‘Left Renewal’ which issued a Statement of Principles that said:

That our struggle for social justice brings us into irreconcilable conflict with the capitalist mode of production, and all other forms of class society. This requires us to take a strong stance on the struggle of the working class. We further understand that the working class extends past the factory, and includes home workers, sex workers, and well beyond …

That capitalism is a violent and antagonistic relation between workers, and those who exploit them. As workers, whether or not we are waged, we experience perpetual violence and that this violence must be brought to an end. We therefore fight to bring about the end of capitalism.

The press has indicated that it is a struggle between the ‘hard-Left’ and the “tree Tories” (my expression is Neo-liberals on bikes.

The Fairfax press article (December 22, 2016) – Hard-left faction forms inside Greens aiming to ‘end capitalism’

The Greens federal leader immediately labelled this group as ‘anti-Green’ and issued a statement which among other things said:

Of course the Greens do not support the overthrow of capitalism or any other ridiculous notions of the sort.

The Greens are, of-course, not a progressive force in Australian politics because they have been seduced by the dominant neo-liberal macroeconomics myths and want to balance fiscal affairs etc.

Ellen Meiksins-Wood remedy is that “historical materialism still provides the best foundation on which to construct” (p.2) a “critique of capitalism”.

This would approach capitalism “in a way exactly antithetical to the current fashions: the systematic unity of capitalism instead of post-modern fragments, but also historicity – and hence the possibility of supersession – instead of capitalist inevitability and the end of History” (p.3).

No-one is advocating a return to the ‘deterministic’ construction that might or might not have been relevant in the C19th industrial beginnings of Britain.

But the starting point for an informed critique of capitalism and alternative Left manifesto has to be that Capitalism is a historically-specific system of productive organisation with attendant ownership relations, which create the conflictual relations that drive the system dynamics.

No-one is advocating a word-for-word (literal) interpretation of Marx and all his related theories about the transformation of capitalism into socialism.

But as Meiksins-Woods notes (p.9) the Left became obsessed with “post-modern fragments” and moved “rapidly away from the critique of capitalism” and has pursued “intellectual activity in place of class struggle (p.10).

At the heart of capitalism are the antagonistic social relations and they warrant focus.

Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The youth movements that have driven the Occupy activities are now re-focusing radical action against the corporates – against the economic machine. Against the use of economic power to suppress the development of worker consciousness as a class.

They are attacking the multilateral institutions that allow the capitalist hegemony to survive and extract increasing amounts from the productive system at the expense of workers (such as the World Bank and the IMF).

We are now seeing a backlash against so-called ‘free trade’, which is nothing of the sort, but masquerades as such.

But we are not anywhere nearly out of the post-modernist haze that is clouding the Left. When Leftists quote Michel Foucault (1990: 94) to me and tell me that (for example):

Power comes from below; that is, there is no binary and all-encompassing opposition between rulers and ruled at the root of power relations, and serving as a general matrix—no such duality extending from the top down and reacting on more and more limited groups to the very depths of the social body.

I realise that we have a long way to go.

[Reference: Foucault, M. (1990) The History of Sexuality: Volume 1: An Introduction, New York. Random House]

In her critique of Foucault, Nancy Hartsock (: 170) summarised this as “Power is everywhere, and so ultimately nowhere”.

[Reference: Hartsock, N. (1990) ‘Foucault on Power: A Theory for Women’, in Nicholson, L. (ed.) Feminism/Postmodernism, New York, Routledge, 157-172.]

Another way of thinking of this issue is to contrast the concept of economic, social and cultural rights with civil and political rights. The post-modernist era has shifted focus to the latter at the expense of the former.

This, is in part, a product of the Cold War where the West tried to claim the higher moral ground by claiming that it was fine to have full employment and high quality, health care and education but if people were not free to say what they wanted then the nation was nowhere.

It is interesting that the defender of the free world (supposedly), the United States, never ratified the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights because they separated economic, social and cultural rights, which are articulated in Article 22 as being “indispensable for … dignity and the free development of … personality” were not human rights (Source)

The US believed that ratification would leave it “vulnerable to criticism from its ideological enemies” during the Cold War in relation to its treatment of racial minorities.

The UN addressed this issue in this Fact Sheet – and claimed that there is no distinction between the two ‘types’ of rights.

It said that during the Cold War:

The market economies of the West tended to put greater emphasis on civil and political rights, while the centrally planned economies of the Eastern bloc highlighted the importance of economic, social and cultural rights …

It also said that:

… economic, social and cultural rights have been seen as requiring high levels of investment, while civil and political rights are said simply to require the State to refrain from interfering with individual freedoms.

This difference has been exploited by neo-liberals who are happy to negotiate civil rights with various minorities but are aghast at the idea of running fiscal deficits to generate full employment (and advance economic, social and cultural rights).

So it is in the interests of the elites to divert attention towards debates about civil and political freedoms within the context of the capitalist system – as per the Greens insistence that it is pro-capitalism and just wanting to save the planet!

Conclusion

I will come back to this topic another day.

The series so far

This is a further part of a series I am writing as background to my next book on globalisation and the capacities of the nation-state. More instalments will come as the research process unfolds.

The series so far:

1. Friday lay day – The Stability Pact didn’t mean much anyway, did it?

2. European Left face a Dystopia of their own making

3. The Eurozone Groupthink and Denial continues …

4. Mitterrand’s turn to austerity was an ideological choice not an inevitability

5. The origins of the ‘leftist’ failure to oppose austerity

6. The European Project is dead

7. The Italian left should hang their heads in shame

8. On the trail of inflation and the fears of the same ….

9. Globalisation and currency arrangements

10. The co-option of government by transnational organisations

11. The Modigliani controversy – the break with Keynesian thinking

12. The capacity of the state and the open economy – Part 1

13. Is exchange rate depreciation inflationary?

14. Balance of payments constraints

15. Ultimately, real resource availability constrains prosperity

16. The impossibility theorem that beguiles the Left.

17. The British Monetarist infestation.

18. The Monetarism Trap snares the second Wilson Labour Government.

19. The Heath government was not Monetarist – that was left to the Labour Party.

20. Britain and the 1970s oil shocks – the failure of Monetarism.

21. The right-wing counter attack – 1971.

22. British trade unions in the early 1970s.

23. Distributional conflict and inflation – Britain in the early 1970s.

24. Rising urban inequality and segregation and the role of the state.

25. The British Labour Party path to Monetarism.

26. Britain approaches the 1976 currency crisis.

27. The 1976 currency crisis.

28. The Left confuses globalisation with neo-liberalism and gets lost.

29. The metamorphosis of the IMF as a neo-liberal attack dog.

30. The Wall Street-US Treasury Complex.

31. The Bacon-Eltis intervention – Britain 1976.

32. British Left reject fiscal strategy – speculation mounts, March 1976.

33. The US government view of the 1976 sterling crisis.

34. Iceland proves the nation state is alive and well.

35. The British Cabinet divides over the IMF negotiations in 1976.

36. The conspiracy to bring British Labour to heel 1976.

37. The 1976 British austerity shift – a triumph of perception over reality.

38. The British Left is usurped and IMF austerity begins 1976.

39. Why capital controls should be part of a progressive policy.

40. Brexit signals that a new policy paradigm is required including re-nationalisation.

41. Towards a progressive concept of efficiency – Part 1.

42. Towards a progressive concept of efficiency – Part 2.

43. The case for re-nationalisation – Part 2.

44. Brainbelts – only a part of a progressive future.

45. Reforming the international institutional framework – Part 1.

46. Reforming the international institutional framework – Part 2.

47. Reducing income inequality.

48. The struggle to establish a coherent progressive position continues.

49. Work is important for human well-being.

50. Is there a case for a basic income guarantee – Part 1.

51. Is there a case for a basic income guarantee – Part 2.

52. Is there a case for a basic income guarantee – Part 3.

53. Is there a case for a basic income guarantee – Part 4 – robot edition.

54. Is there a case for a basic income guarantee – Part 5.

55. An optimistic view of worker power.

56. Reforming the international institutional framework – Part 3.

57. Reforming the international institutional framework – Part 4.

58. Ending food price speculation – Part 1.

59. Ending food price speculation – Part 2.

60. Rising inequality and underconsumption.

61. The case against free trade – Part 1.

62. The case against free trade – Part 2.

63. The case against free trade – Part 3.

64. The case against free trade – Part 4.

65. Moving on from the post-modernist derailment of the Left.

The blogs in these series should be considered working notes rather than self-contained topics. Ultimately, they will be edited into the final manuscript of my next book due later in 2016.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2016 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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    24 Responses to Moving on from the post-modernist derailment of the Left

    1. stephen says:

      Very good Bill – nice to see the point where ‘Political Risk’ intersects with Economics’ No matter how good the underlying economic model is, if the people administering it are bereft of ‘Morals & Ethics’ – it’s meaningless as history teaches us. If you’re corrupt and game the system the model ultimately implodes.

      I lived in Singapore for 6 years and it’s the most honest and ethical country in Asia and in the top 10-15 in the world. Ranked #1 for ‘ease of doing business’. If you are in Gov’t and get caught taking a bribe – they throw the book at you and you’ll be sent to prison for 15 years. In their libraries, there is plaque and it states their philosophy – basically: ‘The needs of the community are greater than the needs of the individual’ – this is clearly expressed in their approach to law enforcement. It’s a very safe country and very low crime.

      I saw your quote from the Green party in Oz:
      That capitalism is a violent and antagonistic relation between workers, and those who exploit them. As workers, whether or not we are waged, we experience perpetual violence and that this violence must be brought to an end. We therefore fight to bring about the end of capitalism’

      Bill, Where is this happening?? I know several directors that operate manufacturing facilities in Asia – their employees are well treated, the provide education and training, a clear path for advancement and many move on to build lucrative careers.. “Where is all this violence?? In Australia? I mean, maybe some factories in China somewhere? I’ve never seen it and used travel 21 days month from Asia – to the Middle East to Africa… It may exist somewhere but I have never seen it or heard about it? In China, are conditions tough in some factories – for sure but they are owned by Chinese Nationals – but this being addressed.. no one seems to ask, ‘if these workers were not in factories – where would be earning an income?’ on the farm?

      Manifesto

      I think you should consider renaming your position paper. ‘Manifesto’ carries a negative connotation. (maybe your Italian associate chose this? they love being radical- bless their hearts) I think when most people hear the word ‘Manifesto’ it’s on a news report connected to a horrific crime / terrorist act.. or communism Maybe time to coin a new word sans the baggage?

      Thanks for your work and this is the first economic model I have seen in over 30 years that actually can work as a ‘stand alone” It will take time, but at least, it’s a viable option
      cheers
      stephen

    2. LK says:

      This is indeed an insightful and brave post, and I don’t doubt you’ll get all sorts of unfair and ridiculous abuse and hostility from the regressive left for saying it.

      One point:
      “It is almost impossible (and futile) to actually pin down what post-structuralism is.”

      This isn’t true, since we have a good list of the ideas Poststructuralists and their Postmodernist progeny advocate:

      http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/p/the-philosophy-of-postmodernism-and-its.html

      Having said that, you are correct that the Postmodernism is a blight on the modern left. But the disease runs much deeper now because the Postmodernist left has morphed into the quasi-authoritarian Regressive Left, which loathes and cannot tolerate free speech or dissent from agenda.

    3. CharlesJ says:

      Stephen,
      In many jobs in the west low paid workers are exploited in thousands of invisible ways.

      In one job I had in my early 20s, We didn’t get paid any extra for overtime, yet I was told that if I did not work at least 60 hours a week I would lose my job.

      Constructive dismissal id a big problem in the UK. If managers don’t like you personally they will overload you with work, or give you tasks without providing training, in order to set you up to fail. So you either leave because of stress, or they sack you for making mistakes while under pressure.

      This is all largely invisible to the casual observer.

      Kind Regards

    4. dmf says:

      structuralism assumes levels (and means) of organization without explaining how such fidelity/uniformities are supposed to occur, what are the means of transmission and oversight/correction?

    5. CharlesJ says:

      Post-modernists seem to think there is no such thing as truth, only spin….perhaps I’m wrong.

    6. GrkStav says:

      This blog-post needs to be proof-read, edited and revised. As it stands, it is more of an indication of the authors’ unresolved psychological turmoil regarding the topic than anything else.

    7. stephen says:

      Hi Charles
      I agree with you and truly understand – it varies from country to country.. and like many economies advancing with industrialization – conditions tend to improve, unions are formed as part of an international body and speaking with directors of MNC’s, I have rarely found senior management objecting to either increasing wages and or benefits but alas – often these are gov’t controlled.. In cases where I have seen abusive conditions – it’s largely been in local companies – operated by locals.. Such as the conditions for foreign labour in Dubai – being blamed on the Royals , when in fact – it had nothing to do with them. It was the local companies in India, Pakistan etc that recruited the labour, (often charging them 6 months wages to secure the job which they often borrowed at outrageous interest rates) and cutting corners when it came to their living conditions.. But of course, this fact is rarely reported and it’s easier to blame the ruling elite. After the Royals became aware of it – they sorted it immediately, and they really had no idea as it was the contractor that hired these groups etc. (BTW Dubai has excellent labour laws and enforces them to protect the workers and employers)

      Take Indonesia, in the former administration, they failed, (lack of political will) to raise the min wage in any meaningful way – (maybe they believed their own ‘official’ cooked inflation numbers…?) A new Pres was elected and overnight the min wage was doubled! (in some provinces 50% increases) – Imagine employing 10,000 workers and reading the newspaper one morning and finding the cost of your wages doubled! Most of the directors I speak with would have gladly increased the wages in greater portion over the previous 10 years.. and many actually paid their employees more and provide incentives.. I have noticed over 20 years – this does change.. and faster these days. Conditions in China are improving and wages are rising – as such – companies are shifting to Vietnam (VT is also more FDI friendly) With greater awareness and the internet as it relates to these conditions – MNC’s are obliged to be more responsible but I believe the biggest challenge is when it comes to local companies but the unions seem to be addressing this. Depends on the country.

      In many cases over the last decade I am usually the only ‘western’ director in the company and the middle management file in and I become the company shrink or ‘shop steward’ and can effectuate changes by taking it up with the CEO. (In Asian culture, due to the 5,000 old hierarchical model, employees cannot directly approach senior management) I have experienced working in some Asian companies that operate more like ‘white collar factories’ – pushing you to work outrageous hours – no extra pay and on some occasions I refused to renew my contract because I took objection to way they treated their staff.. It’s a short sided approach and I also found, this can incentivize employees to steal, engage in fraud, backhanders etc.. sometimes, I had the dubious job of putting in systems and conducting audits..well..party over and some staff bolt..

      I am not the average westerner, moving from 5 star hotel to the upscale pub – far from it. I go local, read the history of the country I am stationed in, learn the language and above all – LISTEN. It often takes years to really understand a different cultures and how things operate.

      That said, the biggest threat to any country is ‘external’ when economics are ‘weaponized’. I’ve always approached economics through the lens of The Art of War. Military Strategy. Why? I’ve seen it used in that fashion in so many countries since the early ’80’s in South America and it’s far more devastating than a kinetic war. This is also changing.. Power decentralizing. But, economics have always been part of a military strategy..

      It’s hard for me to imagine using economic metrics in absence of a good & accurate political risk assessment to accompany the report? (BTW Australian institutions offer some of the best and most accurate risk assessments for Asia – used them many times)

      It comes down to evolution of consciousness – in a real sense.. and it’s changing. I am seeing younger entrepreneurs – very successful and they have a completely different mindset.. They see their staff as ‘assets’ rather than liability or a line item.. It’s good you had the experiences you mentioned, and when you find yourself in senior management – you’ll facilitate this shift in consciousness and approach. Don’t be afraid to speak up but not at the BOD! Approach the CEO one on one. (Asian rules – in the USA, you can bring a taser into the BOD)

      I would urge everyone to embrace and at least, critically examine the model Prof Mitchell is advancing, Truly worthy of serious consideration. It starts with you.
      Our experiences shape us and our decisions define us

      Thanks for your response and insights. I sincerely appreciate the feedback.

    8. Simon Cohen says:

      ‘Where is this happening??’

      Stephen -take the blinkers off:

      1. zero hours contracts and the rise of the ‘precariat’ and gig economy which creates fear; insecurity and concomitant mental health problems.
      2. Debt slavery where those who are not property owners or the in inheritors of such become subject to debt peonage via student debt and then housing debt which is collectively unpayable and reduces you to a vassal of the financialised system.
      3. The reduction of Greece to a penal colony with over 3 million with no health care and the privatisation of what is left of the public property.
      4. Some appalling working/living conditions exist in China ( http://www.facing-finance.org/en/database/cases/working-conditions-in-foxconn-factories-in-china/)
      5. In London there are those IN work who have to sleep in homeless shelters because housing is unaffordable. (http://www.standard.co.uk/news/so-many-homeless-are-working-were-paying-tax-and-sleeping-on-the-street-6380113.html)

      Not sure what type of rose-tinted specs you’ve got on.

    9. bill says:

      Dear GrkStav (at 2016/12/28 at 2:26 am)

      My blogs are just working notes and as such are always incomplete and at times rough around the edges. The finished products are the books and journal articles I publish subsequently.

      As to your rather brash psychological assessment of my state of mind – I have no turmoil with respect to this particular topic. I am quite clear and resolved on it. Pomo is a dead-end for progressives.

      best wishes
      bill

    10. Ikonoclast says:

      From time to time, I try to raise the issue of capitalism and advance critiques of it (from my rather eclectic but still Marxian perspective) on the blog of John Quiggin. Most people who post on that blog, people from academics to lay persons, and who are mostly left-ish social democrats in some sense, decry my use of the word and concept of “capitalism”. The essential gist of what they say is as follows. According to them, capitalism does not exist. There is no such thing. It is a figment of my imagination (derived obviously from obsolete thinkers like Karl Marx).

      This denial of any meaning in the word or concept of “capitalism” runs the full gamut of possibilities.

      1. “Capitalism does not exist because there is not pure capitalism anywhere.” I guess with similar logic one would say water does not exist because there is not pure water anywhere.

      2. “Capitalism might have existed in the early days Marx wrote about – of industrial capital and obvious immiserated, blue-collar working classes (the proletariat) – but capitalism no longer exists.” Capitalism is more complicated now, meaning it is also more complicated to analyze, so it’s just plain easier to pretend it doesn’t exist.

      3. “I don’t know what the word “capitalism” means so this means it doesn’t exist.” This is a great favourite of those who deny capitalism exists.

      4. “You can’t define capitalism for me in one short, simple sentence which I can understand. You seem to expect me to do some reading and thinking. This means capitalism doesn’t exist.” This is another great favourite of those who deny capitalism exists.

      5. “This system is just “the economy”: it’s normal, natural and eternal.” – This sentiment is not expressed in exactly these words but it is the gist of what these people mean.

      6. “The economy is just the markets.” Markets are seen as free-standing entities and value-free guiding hands which are not guaranteed (in their operations) by polities, money systems and institutional arrangements.

      7. “The attempt to talk about “capitalism” is an attempt to talk about “grand narratives” and thus invalid.” I guess this means the attempt to talk about the laws of thermodynamics is an attempt to talk about grand physical narratives and is thus invalid too. This sort of denial is certainly a handy way to deny a key empirical outcome of Piketty’s work namely that ‘If r GT than g then inequality’ increases. Never mind that this is an empirical result. Piketty has shown the system has actually behaved like this over 150 years of economic history under this system (capitalism). Never mind that this is also an axiomatically guaranteed result of an axiomatic system (the money-finance system under state guaranteed capitalism). That Piketty had to prove a formal system axiom to modernists and post-modernists by using real world evidence is an interesting issue which points to the logical and philosophical poverty of modernity and post-modernism.

      Marx had already found that result in theory but not expressed it as neatly in simple mathematical form as Piketty. When Marx talks about the internal contradictions of capital accumulation, he is talking about essentially the same thing, albeit he widens the discussion considerably. He even includes humans, how they are affected and how they can behave. How radical to actually consider the effect of the economy on real, feeling humans! Heavens above, we can’t allow that into economics can we? If it needs saying, those last two sentences were me being sarcastic.

      Conclusion.

      What is to be done in the face of the colossal, and it must be said, wilful ignorance exemplified by the above seven points? Sadly, I think there is little to be done until the final capitalist crisis. False consciousness has reigned supreme under conditions of over-production where the aristocracy of labour (the Western working class) has been able to enjoy some of the fruits of capitalism while exporting its misery to the second and third world. This phase of history cannot last and indeed it is in the process of breaking down now. In many ways, the US is the canary in this coal mine. The number of unemployed, dispossessed and working poor is reaching critical proportions in the US and we can see the social and political disintegration beginning. Rosa Luxemburg wrote that real alternatives were socialism or barbarism. It is far from a lay down misere that socialism will triumph.

      Footnote:

      The (modern) process of economic crises.

      The internal contradictions of capital accumulation reveal themselves in a multi-stage process.

      Step 1 – The power of labor is broken down and wages fall. This is referred to as “wage repression” or “wage deflation” and is accomplished by outsourcing and offshoring production.

      Step 2 – Corporate profits—especially in the financial sector—increase, roughly in proportion to the degree to which wages fall in some sectors of the economy. For example, we can see this principle illustrated in the fact that 88% of corporate profit growth between the Dot-com bubble’s peak in 2000 to the American Housing bubble’s peak in 2007 derived from wage deflation.

      Step 3 – In order to maintain the growth of profits catalyzed by wage deflation, it is necessary to sell or “supply” the market with more goods.

      Step 4 – Increasing supply, however, is increasingly problematic since “the demand” or the purchasers of goods often consist of the same population or labor pool whose wages have been repressed in step 1. In other words, by repressing wages, the corporate forces working in congress with the financial sector have also repressed the buying power of the average consumer, which prevents them from maintaining the growth in profits that was catalyzed by the deflation of wages.

      Step 5 – Credit markets are pumped-up in order to supply the average consumer with more capital or buying power without increasing wages/decreasing profits. For example, mortgages and credit cards are made available to individuals or to organizations whose income does not indicate that they will be able to pay back the money they are borrowing. The proliferation of subprime mortgages throughout the American market preceding the Great Recession would be an example of this phenomenon.

      Step 6 – These simultaneous and interconnected trends—falling wages and rising debt—eventually manifest in a cascade of debt defaults.

      Step 7 – These cascading defaults eventually manifest in an institutional failure. The failure of one institution or bank has a cascading effect on other banks which are owed money by the first bank in trouble, causing a cascading failure—such as the cascading failure following the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, or Bear Stearns which led to the bailout of AIG, and catalyzed the market failures which characterized the beginning of the Great Recession.

      Step 8 – Assuming the economy in which the crisis began to unfold does not totally collapse, the (original) locus of the crisis regains some competitive edge as the crisis spreads.

      Step 9-This geographic relocation cascades into its own process referred to as accumulation by dispossession. The crisis relocates itself geographically, beginning all over again, while the site of its geographical origins begins taking steps towards recovery.

      Adapted by Wikipedia from Harvey, David. “Crises of Capitalism”.

    11. Simon Cohen says:

      An important aspect of the failure of the Left which, I think, Bill has pointed out in previous blogs is the way in which neo-liberalism realised aspects of what the left were fighting for: tolerance of racial/religious/sexual diversity.

      neoliberalism seems to recognised two classes: 1. The financialised 2. The unfinancialised. It doesn’t care if you are black, gay, hermaphrodite or anything else it just wants to know whether you are 1. or 2. If you are not financialised (that is, being ‘wrung’ through the banking system) then it will try to use austerity to crush you. The financialised can be split into two: a. those doing the catheterising b. The catheterised. If you are up to your neck in student and mortgage debt or under the thumb of a landlord you are in the latter group. If you own property and receive income streams from speculative activity you are in the former.

      That’s all neo-liberalism cares about -if you live in social housing on benefits you are social pariah.

    12. Thomas Bergbusch says:

      This has been said before, but rarely as well. But I wonder it does not lead Bill to move from left-libertarianism to a more collectivist vision (the individualism of the musician, perhaps?). At the end of the day, what is needed is a doctrine of fairness — i.e. a diagonal doctrine (as the class model is vertical, and the post-modern left-flavour of the day model is horizontal). It is interesting to me that the post-modernist generation never talks about fairness, just about inclusion. But fairness would include all the cultural improvements they desire. Marx’s influence on the thinking of many of the “labour” parties of the western world in the early 1900s and 1920s is often overstated. On the whole, their approach was less programmatic, they sought shorter working hours, workplace safety, workplace compensation programs in the case of injury, all the simple but incredibly important measures that the neo-liberal post-structuralists deemed solved. Practical improvements, both local and national are what they fought for, and ultimately what they achieved, and they basically argued for “fairness and respect for the working man”. (Obviously feminists have a point to make there.) Most reformers, then as today, were “oblivious to the realities of the fiat monetary system and the overlay that the class power exerted by capital have for the policy choices that are made within that system of monetary organisation.” But because fairness was sought, they came closer than any to revising that overlay of class power. I think that there is hope in that.

    13. Ikonoclast says:

      Thomas Bergbusch,

      A commitment to fairness only get us so far. And matters have regressed since then. What is needed is to actually understand the full structural and systemic aspects of capitalism. Because pragmatic Fabian leftism did not understand the deeper realities of capitalism and its immanent tendencies, it thought it could come to an accommodation with capitalism; an accommodation of “fairness”. But capitalism as a system, its behavior ruled by and it attitudes exemplified by, the capitalist elites, knows no fairness. The system is entirely predicated on exploitation and has, through its controllers and exemplars, not the slightest interest in fairness, human rights or any of that stuff.

      The proof of what I say is in the empirical evidence of the regression to a much harsher and more exploitative form of capitalism under neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is simply capitalism reverting to type. There cannot be any accommodation with capitalism in the long run. Unfettered capitalism will destroy the environment (and is doing so at a frightening rate right now) and it will destroy all or most of workers’, the poor and the disposseseds’ rights right up to the point of its collapse from its internal and external (environmental) contradictions.

    14. J Christensen says:

      Interesting about the Australian Greens (“hard left and tree tories”).

      Greens and labour (New Democratic Party in Canada) don’t seem to get along very well either. There is almost rabid animosity between some elements of these groups even though analysts have suggested they could actually achieve power if they could work through some of these differences and form some sort of coalition. They have successfully divided and conquered themselves from what I can see.

      It’s as if no one in either party can envision a functional economy that is green, sustainable, and employs labour in ways that are capable of elevating overall living standards.

      Many good points in this article Bill. I never accepted the the usefulness of postmodern ways.

    15. Some Guy says:

      It is interesting that the defender of the free world (supposedly), the United States, never ratified the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights because they separated economic, social and cultural rights, which are articulated in Article 22 as being “indispensable for … dignity and the free development of … personality” were not human rights (Source)

      While the general drift of the description of US positions since 1950 or so is correct, this is not really right. As the site linked says “During the first half of the 20th century, the United States was an active proponent of establishing a universal human rights system. It was one of the leaders in creating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was signed in 1948. ” The UDHR is a UN General Assembly resolution, not a treaty presented to the US Senate and President for consent and ratification. Eleanor Roosevelt was the most important single person behind it. Of course, the UN Charter was mostly a US initiative and was a ratified treaty that declared important economic and social principles that the UDHR built on.

      You may be thinking of the International Bill of Human Rights from about 20 years later, which in addition to the UDHR, contains the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights. The US has signed and ratified the first, but only signed the second.

    16. Andy says:

      Given the failure of non-liberalism I find myself more and more drawn to commentors on the net and elsewhere who attempt to explain how the world really works. After reading the first line of your piece today my brain took me immediately to Chomsky who would have probably used the same words but not in the same order and to much greater effect to actually say something meaningful.

      One thing these commentators seem to have in common is a desire to decentralise everything as much as possible. In Chomsky’s case I believe it stems from his day job which tells him that humans’ creative (dna hardwired) faculties, for example, their ability to learn and speak any language, is best served by an environment that exercises minimum control and coersion on them and that people and society can naturally flourish as a result of removing this control

      For Modern monetary theory to do its thing however State power (albeit given by and for the people) is essential or at least organisation at the nation level is for a fiat currency to be effective.

      I was wondering Bill whether you see a conflict here and what you think of Chomsky’s activist work generally.

      Best wishes to all for the coming year

    17. Magpie says:

      @Ikonoclast (Wednesday, December 28, 2016 at 6:19)

      7. “The attempt to talk about “capitalism” is an attempt to talk about “grand narratives” and thus invalid.”

      Interestingly enough, that, in my experience, is a claim popular among post-modernists.

    18. herbertbadgery says:

      When Joe Bageant was trying to understand why redneck USA (his people) always voted Republican, against their own best interests, he eventually came to the conclusion that; The Left does not know how to talk to the people. His book, ‘Deer Hunting With Jesus’, is a good read.
      In Australia the Right knows how to talk to the people. They use three-word slogans.
      Perhaps the Greens splinter group can start with ‘Let’s End Capitalism!’

    19. Ikonoclast says:

      Magpie,

      When post-modernists say to me, “There are no grand narratives”, I reply, “The narrative that there are no grand narratives IS a grand narrative.”

      When proponents of the deflationary theory of truth say to me, “There can be no theory of truth.”, I reply, “The theory that there can be no theory of truth is a theory of truth.”

      In each case, these absurd theses (“no grand narrative”, “no theory of truth”) involve the simple trick of presenting a Liar Paradox and baldly claiming that the self-refuting lie is true. The faux intellectuals who reason thus are either intellectually dishonest or they do not understand basic logic and basic philosophy.

      There may be cases where competent but playful philosophy professors present Liar Paradox statements with a straight face to see if their students accept the statements or intellectually rebel and refute them. I think we can be sure that such Professors are looking for the clear, independent thinkers who test all statements from authority to see if they can be logically or empirically refuted.

    20. Kevin Harding says:

      I think you are giving far too much relevance to academic post modern cultural warriors.
      Mainstream political left parties abandoned Marxist transformation of capatalism in favour
      of nationalistic reformism long before .
      It pales into insignificance against earlier entries in this book blog.The British Labour Party
      and the French socialist party embraced monetarism and austerity long before anyone
      was drinking latte.
      It did generate a right wing cultural backlash Paticularly in the USA .

    21. Jake says:

      ugh, post structural deconstructivism I remember all that nonsense from uni.didn’t make much head with me
      what a load of navel gazing nonsense

    22. CharlesJ says:

      Jake,
      “didn’t make much head with me
      what a load of navel gazing nonsense”

      Lol. It reminds me of the phrase: “if you gaze into the abyss for long enough, it gazes into you”.

      Kind Regards

    23. MostlyHarmless says:

      Perhaps I can offer a practical perspective on this as a moderator of long running policy discussions in a progressive party regarding the monetary system. Though our party is far from having the numbers to lead government, but it is somewhat more than political banter common on social media: we write policy statements that our members in Parliament are bound to adhere to. Professor Mitchell wrote that one goal was that the “‘Manifesto’ will empower community groups”, because it would demonstrate there is more than one alternative, and that a “range of policy options, now taboo in this neo-liberal world are available”.
      .
      Now, say my group was working on a statement that our party would put in place a Job Guarantee at a living wage, funded by overt monetary funding. Would it be helpful if everyone at the table saw the world as Meiksins-Wood does? You bet. But the reality is that they don’t, nor is the group populated by many who even vaguely understand use of the term Post modernism. The fragmentation problem predates postmodernism by millenia- one famous expression was in Aesop’s fable of the lion and 4 oxen. What will effectively keep them from bickering and maintain solidarity? Doing politics from an 18th century enlightenment perspective, there is romanatic appeal to mobilize large numbers of citizens through the secure foundation of indubitable truth. Now, to be politically effective, we need to be able to go to the doors of persuadable voters and convince the voter to elect us. Do we speak to their concerns, or do we attempt to persuade them that they should see these concerns in the context of class struggle- that capitalism is not just an economic system but is in fact a comprehensive system for organizing society. Marx notes that in the grammar of capitalism, Capital is the subject in all sentences that the society utters. He remarks on the scope of that stunning transformation- that it seems “incomprehensible that man can have fallen under the domination of capital, his own product; can be subordinated to it; and as in reality this is beyond dispute”.
      .
      It may be a statement with high truth value, but the practical task at hand is getting the voter to choose our party so that we have the numbers to confront that system. Sure- we are familiar with the shock scenario- where those in a minority position are swiftly swept to power in a crisis because they have a coherent, radical view on how to fundamentally alter the system. In is a scenario expansively articulated in leftist literature, but as Meiksins-Wood notes in her conclusion to the book Bill cited, “Most socialists have long given up predicting the imminent demise of capitalism”. What she is saying has merit- re-unification on the class struggle reduction does have utility. At the micro level in the discussions I see, it could congeal a faction that would more forcefully defend a JG policy statement. At the macro level, if our party established itself in the public’s mind as possessing a view that is radically opposed to neoliberalism of the major parties, perhaps in a crisis voters might think that at least- our approach could not be worse and give us a try. If we were sufficiently distinct from the approach that is perceived to have created the future catastrophe- our party might lead a coalition government. That’s a bet with long odds, but perhaps the most realistic path for fundamental changes Bill describes.
      .
      The totalizing impact of the capitalism, and its capacity to exploit divisions between Aesop’s four oxen must be central. Meiksins-Wood has made penetrating insights in this analysis, but it is fair to ask if there are not other critical theorists with the same view on this point and whether her particular suggested solution is the best one.
      .
      My view is that it is not that Meiksins-Wood goes too far. It is that she does not go far enough. Her view is that:
      “What is alarming about these theoretical developments is not that they violate some doctrinaire Marxist prejudice concerning the privileged status of class. The problem is that theories which do not differentiate – and, yes, ‘privilege’, if that means ascribing causal or explanatory priorities – among various social institutions and ‘identities’ cannot deal critically with capitalism at all. Capitalism, as a specific social form, simply disappears from view, buried under a welter of fragments and ‘difference’.” (p. 261, Democracy against Capitalism).
      .
      Though they are infrequent, we do see fragments of these views communicated in the mass media. One best selling marxist oriented journalist like Naomi Klein has been hammering at this for some time. Fifteen years ago in “No Logo” she wrote about how such social fragmentation is integral to the commodity fetishism along the lines of the Wood analysis. She illustrated the political opportunities of capitalist crisis in Shock Doctrine, and lament the political fragmentation of “issues silos” in “This Changes Everything”. Are we to understand that all who clearly understand the fragmentation problem and understand Marx would agree with the Wood solution? Then if their is other critical theory with possible merit, why burn bridges? Why claim the four oxen must surrender to a “my way or the highway” form of political organizing? I am not saying that the book needs to speak out of both sides of its mouth, or that Bill and his co-author need to agree with propositions that other critical theorists like those from the Polanyi influenced schools argue for. I am just saying that he could represent them as an alternative historical analysis of the nature of the dynamics. My concern is that the book will self marginalize its historical account into the camp of class war true believers and everyone else.
      .
      Nancy Fraser for example embraces and praises the Meiksins-Wood viewpoint on the totalizing nature of capitalism not just as an economic system but as a comprehensive way of organizing society. She too criticizes Foucault’s propositions, and proceeds from Marx’s insights but she parts ways regarding the causality reduction that Wood makes. In “Behind Marx’s Hidden Abode”, Fraser does not fall into the trap that Wood observes- of abstracting away capitalism itself. Nor does Fraser “disaggregate the social world into particular and separate realities”. What Fraser is saying is that those constituent factions have not only always been present throughout history, but in the case of of the current system composes a substrate that Marx left for future thinkers to explore. Her attempt is to explore more into that hidden abode, pointing out that these factions are interwoven with the historical status of class, sharing in a strategic dynamic at the heart of capitalism. The paper describing that trilemma and the critical groundwork layed by Polanyi is entitled “A Triple movement?: Parsing the politics of crisis after Polanyi.”

    24. stephen says:

      Simon Cohen says:
      Wednesday, December 28, 2016 at 5:36

      Simon Says:
      ‘Where is this happening??’
      Stephen -take the blinkers off:

      Simon, how does a thoroughbred win a horse race?
      Thoroughbreds are fitted-out with ‘blinkers’ to narrow their field of view for focus – so they only see their goal directly in front them thus obscuring any distractions. The Blinkers analogy works for me, especially in my line of work. Plenty of distractions and dis-info out there.. Much of which, I can do without.

      1. zero hours contracts and the rise of the ‘precariat’ and gig economy which creates fear; insecurity and concomitant mental health problems.

      ‘Precariat?’ – sounds Roman. ‘Insecurity’? Job security went out in the 1980’s – ask anyone from Japan. So, ‘What is security?’ Financial security? Owning a fortress? Having a well stocked ‘Panic Room’? A ‘Safe Space”? In my experience – these are ALL FALSE SECURITIES. Temporary and transient at best. The only security anyone can ever really have – ever really ‘own’ – is to look in the mirror and have the security of knowing that: ‘no matter what adversity you will ever have to face in life, you will meet it and deal with it.’ To know yourself and be true. External forces beyond your control have a way of shaking any notion of security to it’s core. Then what’s left? YOU.
      ‘Gig’ economy? Works well for me. Work at my own pace, don’t have to go into an office on a regular basis and allows me to avoid the soap operas. Finish the assignment and move on the next. My time is my own.

      2. Debt slavery where those who are not property owners or the in inheritors of such become subject to debt peonage via student debt and then housing debt which is collectively unpayable and reduces you to a vassal of the financialised system. In another one of your posts: If you are up to your neck in student and mortgage debt or under the thumb of a landlord you are in the latter group. If you own property and receive income streams from speculative activity you are in the former.

      OK, let’s dissect your proposition:
      Student Debt Slavery – Am I missing something? Upon graduating and deciding to enter Uni, did two men in trench-coats appear at your home one night, take you into the kitchen and at point a gun to your head and made you sign a loan agreement for your tuition? I think not – you chose to go into debt. There were other options but – you didn’t take them. You ‘enslaved’ yourself.

      Housing? You don’t want to encumber yourself with a mortgage – fair enough – you can’t rent but then you state that you are ‘under the thumb of a landlord’. A lease is a contract. If you don’t like the terms – don’t rent! Buy a van, fit it out with a bed in the back and every morning set your alarm to play ‘Born Free’. If rents are too high – come-up with an alternative solution. Share a place and save money? Relocate to an area where housing is more affordable. Stay at home with the folks, save money and then decided on your next move?

      ‘Collectively unpayable?’ This assumes, it was meant to be paid???? Huh? May I refer you to an honourable gentleman that can better address this… Prof William Mitchell..

      3. The reduction of Greece to a penal colony with over 3 million with no health care and the privatisation of what is left of the public property.

      Greece is home to the Spartans – the first collective society that embraced ‘austerity’ and are known for great one liners! (and being quite fierce) Greece a penal colony? – The Greeks CHOSE THIS PATH – lack of political will and missed the opportunity to EXIT the EU, print their own currency and follow Prof Bill’s sagely advice. They became slaves due to ‘indifference’. Look at Iceland? They chose NOT to become enslaved. Dr. Mahathir in Malaysia rejected the IMF plan and decided to peg the Ringgit and stopped the forex vultures from annihilating his economy. Good Leadership = making the hard decisions. CHOICES

      You raised issue about ‘terrible living and working conditions’ and directed me to a website. I have seen them first hand in many, many countries – on the ground – but these conditions have always existed and are too numerous to cite as well as the reasons behind them. It takes time and awareness to eventually address them but I also feel that they need to be addressed at a local level and in many cases – they are. You just don’t hear about them often.

      You seem to have a nihilistic approach – feeding into ‘victim consciousness’ . A zero sum game. You see the cup ‘half empty’ rather than ‘half full’. Your choice. But I believe you are highly intelligent and if you can shift your perspective, you can achieve much – on many levels but it starts with YOU.

      Sure, the system is rigged. Plenty of injustice to go around but, you can make it work for you, on your own terms. The name ‘Simon’ means ‘Listen’ and ‘Cohen’ comes from a priestly caste. Pick any country and any timeline in history and you will find the ‘priest caste’ to be the most educated. I think you have tremendous potential but this will require a change in your outlook and approach. THIS IS YOUR CHOICE.

      GREEN PARTY – (in original Post by Bill) – This drivel sounded familiar and I checked my notes. The platform for many of the Green Parties in the west have similar ‘talking points’ – thus – they are scripted. Further examination points to the ‘Greens’ being CONTROLLED OPPOSITION. (not all but many of the newer groups) Think, Italy, 1970’s and ‘Red Brigade Lite’ – but all bark and no bite unless you consider the mind numbing circular conversations and for God Sake! Take a pass on the organic cookies! (unless you have a gallon of water handy to wash them down….)

      The Neo Liberal, Cultural Marxists, Neo Bolshevism are in their death throws. DOA However, don’t expect them to ‘go softly into that good night.’ Many challenges ahead as we approach 2020. The tricky part comes to: ‘what replaces it?’. The requires Vigilance and a coherent strategy starting at the grass roots levels. To be persuasive – noteworthy to check out the Oxford Debates, Noam Chompsky’s early work as well as his work in linguistics. And Naomi Klein’s work ‘Shock and Awe. Prof Mitchell’s work is a rational, well thought out solutions. If only people were rational?

      The problems connected to the existing ‘economic models’ are symptomatic of a much larger pandemic. (GRAND PLAN! Sorry Magpie ouch!) I’d rate it as a ‘3’ on the FUBAR scale. Believe me, you don’t want to know the other ‘7’,

      Not sure what type of rose-tinted specs you’ve got on.

      I have never owned a pair of ‘rose tinted specs’ I prefer Wiley X – Mosy -blue mirrored and Wiley X Airrage Black Ops Safety Glasses 694 – great for harsh terrains, deserts and assorted wilderness. Great glasses and virtually impossible to break..

      Thank you Simon et al.

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