Posts tagged ‘Capitalism’

March 26, 2012

rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr //

A capitalism's social pyramid

Very promising new blog:

D. Harvey, “Towards Urban Revolution?”

The city is a terrain where anti-capitalist struggles have always flourished.

The history of such struggles, from the Paris Commune through the Shanghai
Commune, the Seattle General Strike, The Tucuman uprising and the Prague
Spring to the more general urban-based movements of 1968 (which we now
see faintly echoed in Cairo and Madison) is stunning. But it is a history that
is also troubled by political and tactical complications that have led many on
the left to underestimate and misunderstand the potential and the potency
of urban-based movements, to often see them as separate from class struggle
and therefore devoid of revolutionary potential. And when such events do
take on iconic status, as in the case of the Paris Commune, they are typically
claimed as one of ‘the greatest proletarian uprisings’ in world history, even as
they were as much about reclaiming the right to the city as they were about
revolutionizing class relations in production.
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Labor’s location and power in finance

“[L]abour itself is being incorporated into capital in new ways, not just via workplace discipline but via the process of securitization. Some have sensed this new development, but have cast it in terms of growing household debt, with the appropriation of interest payments out of labour’s income being treated as a further ‘take’ on surplus value. But this is not the critical aspect of the development, and it is certainly not new….The critical development is the recasting of labour as the provider of income streams for securities, to facilitate asset diversification and the search for yield. The rapid growth of mortgage, auto, credit card and student loans, as well as contracts on telephones, energy and healthcare, all provide the raw materials on which securities are built to meet the demands of global investors.

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Anticipating the Occupy Movement

There is a vicious campaign underway at the moment against ‘communism’, this despite the utter lack of a Left with any social power. The most meager Democratic Party proposals, or defenses of remaining aspects of the social safety net, minor extensions in unemployment aid, are branded ‘class warfare.’

(More…)

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October 5, 2011

It’s the economy, stupid

In this round-up, why we need economics, why China is a growing power for reaction in the world, the corruption of the UK banking industry, the obscene wealth of the tax-evading fatcats, and the bizarre fashionable anti-capitalist backlash on Wall Street. First, some satire from the Daily Mash.

Trader may have been acting in own self-interest

THERE is a chance the scary trader on the BBC News may have been acting selfishly, it has emerged.

Alessio Rastani said stockmarkets were ‘toast’, the Eurozone rescue package would fail and that in 12 months your savings would be wiped out, in a move that experts said was clearly about making a colossal amount of money by lunchtime.

The trader, who does not get invited to a huge number of parties, also left millions of viewers traumatised with the revelation that financial markets do not care about them.

Julian Cook, chief economist at Donnelly-McPartlin, said: “Rastani has obviously built up significant positions in panic, paranoia and Mad Max futures, but the emerging Eurozone deal could have knocked at least 12% off their value.

“Therefore he had no choice but to go on television and tell you that you were going to die. I’m only surprised he didn’t put an unloaded pistol to his head and pull the trigger.”

Martin Bishop, fear analyst at Madeley Finnegan, said: “Rastani has already driven fear prices up 6%. “And this is top quality, long-term fear because it comes from an expert who everyone knows is a total shark but also has no idea whether or not to believe him and so will inevitably just do exactly what he says.”

Meanwhile Rastani also claimed that ‘Goldman Sachs, not governments, rule the world’ leading to an explosion in online I-told-you-sos from amateur experts who have been saying this sort of thing in pubs for years.

But Roy Hobbs, professor of simplification at Roehampton University, said: “With all due respect to Goldman Sachs, it’s actually run by a complex network of bastards.

“Or do Goldman Sachs pay me to say that? You’ll never know.”

Irish Left Review · Has the Left given up on Economics?

irishleftreview.org – Though provoking post here from Nick Srnicek of Disorder of Things: The leftist response to the economic crisis has instead been mostly been to focus on piecemeal reactions against government policies. The student movement arose as a response to tuition fee and EMA changes; the right to protest movement arose as a response to heavy-handed police treatment; and leftist parties have suggested a mere moderation of existing government policies. The project to bring about a fully different economic system has been shirked in favour of smaller-scale protests. There is widespread critique, but little construction.[…]

 

Russia, China veto UN resolution on Syria crackdown

google.com – Russia, China veto UN resolution on Syria crackdown By Tim Witcher (AFP) – 3 hours ago UNITED NATIONS — A senior aide to Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday hailed as “historic” Russian and Chinese vetoes of a UN resolution against his regime’s deadly crackdown on protests. But Syria’s newly united opposition said that by voting against the European-proposed resolution at the UN Security Council, Russia and China risked provoking opponents of Assad’s regime to resort to violence. […]

Osborne admits UK banks ran ‘ponzi schemes’

liberalconspiracy.org – by Sunny Hundal     October 5, 2011 at 10:20 amI missed this key passage from George Osborne’s speech to Tory conference: The banks and those regulating them believed that the bubble would never stop growing, that markets were always self- correcting, that greed was always good, thattheir Ponzi schemes would never collapse, and that none of the debts would ever turn bad.[…]

Billionaire Bet: Warren Buffett Challenges Rupert Murdoch To Release His Tax Returns

thinkprogress.org – NEWS FLASH Billionaire Bet: Last week, News Corp’s Wall Street Journal editorial board told the billionaire behind the president’s “Buffett Rule” that, instead of calling for America’s wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes, Warren Buffett should “educate the public” by allowing “everyone else in on his secrets of tax avoidance by releasing his tax returns.” Today at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit, Buffett wholeheartedly agreed to release his tax returns to the public. He just has one condition: “I think it might be a terrific idea if [the Wall Street Journal] would just ask their boss, Rupert Murdoch, and he and I will meet at Fortune, and we’ll both give you our tax returns and you can publish them.” Buffett noted, “I’m ready tomorrow morning.” Murdoch has yet to respond.

MICHAEL KINSLEY – Goldman Sachs, the huge and hugely profitable investment bank, has become a symbol of the financial excesses that helped to bring on the current recession. Because Goldman is thought of as a “Jewish” firm, and because it dominates the financial industry, criticism of Goldman, or of bankers generally, is often accused of being anti-Semitic. Commentators including Rush Limbaugh and Maureen Dowd have been so accused. When, if ever, are such accusations fair? […]

Isca Stieglitz – Insider trading? It’s not Alessio Rastani or Goldman-Sachs I’m worried about!

GREENS ENGAGE – Funny isn’t it? Greens – we’re predominantly ‘anti’ capitalist, are deeply suspicious of anything remotely ‘businessy’ (unless it passes ‘green’ muster), and certainly question the motives of those involved in it…or at least until ‘someone’ says exactly what we want to hear. How quickly the leap is made, how quickly the scrutiny stops and how quickly we latch onto people who wouldn’t ordinarily get our time of day. However, with a whiff of ‘conspiracy’, a sniff of ‘rule the world’ and a large helping of ‘we told you so’, (when all that’s been stated is the bleedin’ obvious), and we’re there posting and hosting like we’ve just discovered something ground breaking – no checking, no research, no search for provenance – the complete suspension of scrutiny and the hanging on the every word of bloke no one knows. Ah, but he’s a ‘trader’ so he must know stuff and now he’s gone on telly and shared seemingly (not!) big secrets, well, we can obviously trust him. I’m not saying I trust Rastani or not, I don’t know enough at this stage to make that decision and that’s the point, neither does anyone else. I wonder about the mind of someone who jumps so quickly. […]

Who are the 99 percent?

washingtonpost.com – (Ramin Talaie – BLOOMBERG) “I did everything I was supposed to and I have nothing to show for it.” t’s not the arrests that convinced me that “Occupy Wall Street” was worth covering seriously. Nor was it their press strategy, which largely consisted of tweeting journalists to cover a small protest that couldn’t say what, exactly, it hoped to achieve. It was a Tumblr called, “We Are The 99 Percent,” and all it’s doing is posting grainy pictures of people holding handwritten signs telling their stories, one after the other.[…]

Joined Protest on the Brooklyn Bridge, Got Trapped, But Didn’t Get Arrested / And some thoughts about all this

NEVER GOT USED TO IT – I’ve been a pretty active activist the past few days, though I’ve been going on my own, with a downbeat attitude that repeatedly gets turned around. I went on a protest to the NYPD yesterday. Well, that was not so great, except for a few minutes, when the bulk of the protest first arrived at the police headquarters. That was fun. Also, I like a chant that developed briefly that went, “Students, labor, shut the city down.” At least I think that’s what they were saying – and if it is, I am all for that! I go along with “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out,” even if it isn’t that inspiring politically, because it is very true and lots of people can relate to that. I’m not that crazy about “We are the 99%,” because the implicit class analysis is a bit limited. “This is what democracy looks like” is getting kind of tired, too (remember, I heard that dozens of times a dozen years ago, while running around in clouds of tear gas). […]

Jodi Dean on phases of struggle

One benefit of the model in use at occupy wall street is the possible formation of a group, collectivity, out of folks who have a hard time thinking and acting as a group. So, if we think of the occupiers as primarily people who don’t union membership as an option and don’t see any existing parties as persuasive, then they are trying to build a different kind of group. An interesting problem they face is how to describe it–it’s not an ‘identity category’ or an ‘interest group’ or even an issue-based group. Given that absence, the non-expression of core ideas makes sense–there aren’t any so, armed by some pretty influential theory (anarchists, Hardt and Negri, Tikkun) and a read of recent politics influenced by that theory, the activists are turning (or trying to turn) a weakness into a strength. What I hope will happen is that this will be a stage (the inchoate stage wherein previously dissipated rages begin to consolidate) and that we will see another stage of more organization and specificity emerge. Graeber suggests as much when he mentions the thirty working groups. The thing is, folks committed to anarchist ‘horizontal’ organizing might be really good at one phase of struggle and a barrier at another. Graeber’s description makes it seem like unions are the ones who make it difficult for the ‘movement’ folks, but it makes more sense, I think, to recognize that their commitments can become a detriment at another point. I heard last week (maybe this has changed) that some law folks were very interested in helping with the larger first amendment issues around the protests (masks, tents) but that they weren’t getting very far because there was no ‘there’ (no substantial entity) to represent.

Ideological notes

 Henwood on October 3, 2011 –

I know this will prompt more rebukes for trying to impose an anachronistic old left on the spontaneously new, but someone’s got to do it.

I read this quote in the New York Times the other day. I know that that may not be the go-to medium for reports on Occupy Wall Street, but it’s not unrepresentative of some of the things I’ve seen and heard first hand from that quarter:

“This is not about left versus right,” said the photographer, Christopher Walsh, 25, from Bushwick, Brooklyn. “It’s about hierarchy versus autonomy.”

Autonomy in this context sounds like a hipster version of bourgeois individualism. I’ve also seen a bit of Ron Paul-ish “end the Fed” stuff around OWS, which is a topic in itself, something I’ll take up in the near future. But I don’t want to get that wonky just now. I just want to make a simple point. Occupy Wall Street is hardly about autonomy. It’s about living out solidarity and about attracting people to a movement. They’re living a collectivity, even if they’re not articulating it that way.

I suspect the problem is that three decades of neoliberalism have destroyed any available vocabulary for solidarity. My guess is that most of the people in Zuccotti Park were born after Thatcher and Reagan took office. There’s no such thing as society, as the Lady said. But there is, and we need more of it.

Maybe 99% is a bit much, but…

Doug Henwood on October 1, 2011 –

The last day or two I’ve been seeing some complaints that the chant of the Occupy Wall Street protesters that “We are the 99%” casts the net too widely, effacing all kinds of class, race, and gender distinctions. Well, yes, probably so. But I still find it cheering.

It is a fact that over the last couple of decades, much of the growth in total income in the U.S. has gone to the upper reaches of society. For example, based on Census data, between 1982 and 2010, the richest fifth of society have claimed a little over half of the increase in total personal income; the top 5%, nearly a quarter the gain. The bottom 60% of society, though, has gotten less than a quarter. And, for a number of reasons, the Census figures seriously underestimate the action at the very top. (For more, see the forthcoming LBO, now in prep.) Using data compiled by the economistsEmmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty from IRS records, we can estimate that the top 1% took in a quarter of the income gain between 1982 and 2008. The bottom 90%, though, only took in 40% of the gain. (1982, by the way, is when the great bull market in stocks took off, corporate profitability began a long upsurge, and the Roaring Eighties really began.) And the further you go down the ladder within the bottom 90%, the smaller the gains.

Looked at another way, here are two graphs of average incomes, adjusted for inflation, the first from the Census data:

 

[…]

The teenage moralism of the Occupy Wall Street hipsters almost makes me ashamed to be Left-wing

 – Occupy Wall Street, the gathering of angry actors, graphic designers and various other hipsters in the financial districts of New York City, might just be the most degenerate Left-wing movement of recent times. Its weird demands, plastered across tongue-in-cheek placards and on super-cool, self-pressed t- shirts, capture the descent of the modern Left into the cesspool of victimology, conspiracy-mongering and disdain for mass society and its allegedly dumb inhabitants. Far from representing anything that I, a Leftie, would recognise as progressive and humane, this gaggle of rich kids spouts little more than snobbery and fear, seemingly incapable of deciding whom they loathe the most: greedy fat bankers or the dumb fat public. […]

Manhattan—The class war began at the corner of Broadway and Cedar St., as Wall Street’s bankers waited for a bus and Wall Street’s occupiers, for a revolution. What had begun two weeks ago as an unfocused rabble of ragtag discontents had become a still-unfocused rabble of ragtag discontents—but way bigger. The culprit: Radiohead. Rumors of a surprise solidarity concert had brought the huddled masses streaming in from Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick. The crowd in Zuccotti Park, occupation-central, bulged outwards, spilling into the bus stop, tivas scuffing shined loafers and graphic tees dueling paisley ties. […]

With some thanks to Engage

September 16, 2011

Marx is hot 3

Marx to Market: The economic crisis has made the philosopher’s ideas relevant again, but the world shouldn’t forget what Marx got wrong. By 

 

Society generally moves on from its mistakes. Doctors no longer drain blood from patients. Aviators don’t try to fly by strapping wings to their arms. Nobody still thinks that slavery is a good idea. Karl Marx, though, appears to be an exception to the rule of live and learn. Marx’s most famous predictions failed; there has been no dictatorship of the proletariat, nor has the state withered away. His followers included some of the 20th century’s worst mass murderers: Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot. Yet the gloomy, combative philosopher seems to find adherents in each new generation of tyrants and dreamers.

You might even say the Bearded One has rarely looked better. [READ THE REST]

September 6, 2011

Marx is hot 2

From the BBC:

Plastic bust sculpture of Karl Marx

Karl Marx may have been wrong about communism but he was right about much of capitalism, John Gray writes.

As a side-effect of the financial crisis, more and more people are starting to think Karl Marx was right. The great 19th Century German philosopher, economist and revolutionary believed that capitalism was radically unstable. [READ MORE]

George Magnus (UBS): Give Karl Marx a Chance to Save the World Economy

Karl Marx and the World Economy

Policy makers struggling to understand the barrage of financial panics, protests and other ills afflicting the world would do well to study the works of a long-dead economist: Karl Marx. The sooner they recognize we’re facing a once-in-a-lifetime crisis of capitalism, the better equipped they will be to manage a way out of it.

The spirit of Marx, who is buried in a cemetery close to where I live in north London, has risen from the grave amid the financial crisis and subsequent economic slump. The wily philosopher’s analysis of capitalism had a lot of flaws, but today’s global economy bears some uncanny resemblances to the conditions he foresaw.

Consider, for example, Marx’s prediction of how the inherent conflict between capital and labor would manifest itself. As he wrote in “Das Kapital,” companies’ pursuit of profits and productivity would naturally lead them to need fewer and fewer workers, creating an “industrial reserve army” of the poor and unemployed: “Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery.” [READ MORE]

 

 

August 25, 2011

Karl Marx is hot

Karl Marx

Image by Dunechaser via Flickr

Joe Weisenthal in Business Insider:

With things going the way they are, a lot of people are talking about big history in action, whether it’s the breakup of the Eurozone, or the simultaneous market/economic/political spasm happening in the US.

Today Paul Krugman reminds us once again that this could be 1937 all over again.

Simon Johnson thinks it could be even worse: The long depression of the 1870s all over again.

Recently Nouriel Roubini got a lot of attention for saying that Marx basically got the battle between labor and capital correct, and that capitalism itself now stood on the brink of collapse.

And even on Wall Street…

UBS’ George Magnus has a big piece out on political economy favorably quoting Karl Marx[…]

Again, you know it’s a real panic when everyone’s trotting out the old guys, and even capitalists think Marx got the endgame right.

Here’s what Roubini said:

“Karl Marx said it right. At some point capitalism can self-destruct itself because you cannot keep on shifting income from labor to capital without having excess capacity and a lack of aggregate demand,” Roubini said. “That’s what’s happening. We thought the markets work. They’re not working.”

Zombie Marx

Recommended reading, following on from the above: Mike Beggs in Jacobin on “Zombie Marx”, starting with Brad DeLong’s attacks on David Harvey, but moving on to a fascinating discussion of which elements of Marx’s economic theory are relevant today, and how we should approach Marx’s work. Also read: Norman Geras on gravediggers and skeletons.

September 16, 2010

Spectre of communism haunts Chinese elite

With the US empire in terminal decline, China has become essential to the globally integrated capitalist economy. It is now the world’s second largest economy, having officially overtaken its neighbour Japan, with a gross domestic product of over a trillion US dollars in the second quarter of 2010. It has long enjoyed gargantuan economic growth, and even weathered the storm of the global economic crisis up to this point. But its status as “sweatshop of the world” now seems extremely vulnerable to both internal and external shocks, and a period of huge social upheaval is on the horizon. [READ THE REST]

July 7, 2010

The enigma of capital

[Via AGT]

Read this post by Resonance, and then watch the video (embedded below the fold).

“The crisis reveals its true face, we are drowning in excess capital, in our own alienated labour.”

read more »

April 16, 2010

COMMENT: Political Science and social conflict [A Very Public Sociologist]

In Marxism the struggle between the classes over the disposal of the surplus yielded by the production process is an inescapable feature of all class societies. Marxism’s attachment to the working class has nothing to do with nostalgia for the “simpler” politics of the past or anything like that. Instead it is based on the observation that the (subordinate) class relationships an absolute majority of the world’s population has to enter into to make a living provide grounds for drawing together the largest numbers possible to pursue socialist politics. i.e. Fighting and building a society free of the class relationships that have characterised history since the dawn of civilisation. Marxist politics therefore has concentrated on building political parties and movements that articulate the interests of workers under capitalism and the trajectory these interests have in moving beyond capitalism.

Whereas class and class conflict is absolutely central to Marxism, this is not the case for political science as a discipline.

[READ THE REST]