Analysis of Capitalism and its ongoing Crisis

 It's important to discuss late-state Capitalism and the harm it is doing to us. Warning, this is a bit bleak. I quote a lot from the How will Capitalism End?  by Wolfgang Streeck, but I also quote some other studies as well. First, we need to look at where we came from and what is happening before we can discuss where to go from here.

Some definitions/history

In the 1970s, we moved away from Keynesian Capitalism, which had the  state as a counter balance to the more destructive forces of capitalism. The crisis of the 1970s allowed "neo-liberalism" to sweep in with its austerity measures and cutting taxes to the rich; to sum up one of its major ideological pillars, neo-liberalism capitalism views anything interfering  with the market (such as regulations and labour rights) as inhibiting  its design to be free and unfettered, that the market will fix the issue  on its own. (Yes, that's a very simplified definition of it, but that's  basically how it's been practiced. Some call it "trickle-down  economics,' which we all know based on historical data and the massive increase in wealth inequality, to be nothing but a lie.)  Capitalism held a lot of promises, which were nothing but false hopes  and lies. Let's take a look at this in-depth: 

"In summary, capitalism, as a social order held together by a promise of boundless collective progress, is in critical condition. Growth is giving way to secular stagnation; what economic progress remains is less and less shared*; and confidence in the capitalist money economy is leveraged on a rising mountain of promised that are ever less likely to be kept. Since the 1970s, the capitalist center has undergone three successive crisis, of inflation, public finances and private debt. Today, in an uneasy phase of transition, its survival depends on central banks providing it with unlimited synthetic liquidity. Step by step, capitalism's shotgun marriage with democracy since 1945 is breaking up. On the three frontiers of commodification -- labor, nature, and money -- regulatory institutions restraining the advance of capitalism for its own good have collapsed, and after the final victory of capitalism over its enemies no political agency capable of rebuilding them is in sight. The capitalism system is at present stricken with at least five worsening disorders for which no cure is at hand: declining growth, oligarchy**, starvation of the public sphere, corruption, and international anarchy***. What is to be expected, on the basis of capitalism's recent historical record, is a long and painful period of cumulative decay: of intensifying frictions, of fragility and uncertainty, and of a steady succession of 'normal accidents' - not necessarily but quite possibly on the scale of the global breakdown of the 1930s."  -Wolfgang Streeck from How will Capitalism End?

Less and less is shared*

* What this means as noted by Streeck: 

"As income gains accrued increasingly to the top 1 percent, the public domain of capitalist economies shrank, often dramatically, starved in favour of internationally mobile oligarchic wealth. Part of the process was privatization, carried out regardless of the contribution public investment in productivity and social cohesion might have made to economy grown and social equity."  
He also notes that "However, that the [2008] fiscal crisis was unlikely to have been caused by an excess of redistributive democracy can be seen from the fact that the build-up of government debt coincided with a decline in the electoral participation, especially on the lower end of the income scale, and marched in lockstep with shrinking unionization, disappear of strikes, welfare-state cutbacks, and exploding income inequality. What the deterioration of public finances was related to was declining overall levels of taxations and increasingly regressive character of tax systems, as a result of 'reforms' of top income and corporate tax rates." 

In plainspeak, the dropping the tax rate of the top 1% and the richest corporations eroded and shrunk the government's ability to reign in the destructive capacities of capitalism's inequality and drive for impossible endless growth. It increased the wealth and income inequality to incredibly ridiculous extents (see asterisk **). It also placed the financial sector as "being too big to fail" and thus allowing them to blackmail the government into taking on their poor decisions, thus saddling the government and the public with the private sector's debt. (Upon which they can later use interest rates to control the government, and force austerity measures as the government is trapped in this situation of either keeping their creditors at ease or working for the people. Austerity measures is the government choosing creditors over its own populace).  

This left a lot of people in an age of entropy, where their only source of survival is: "competitive self-improvement, of untiring cultivation of one's marketable human capital and enthusiastic dedication to work," where "individual action fills the widening gaps in the society's systemic architecture. (Streeck, How Will Capitalism End)"

There's a lot of talk about "Disruption" and "resilience" in the economic sense, but both are based in stop-gaps for the survival of those living in a declining late-stage capitalism that is slowly imploding on itself. Disruption is rooted in this Darwinian idea that life is a zero-sum game and if innovation doesn't ruthlessly and 'creatively' destruct, regardless of whose lives are ruined on the other end of this innovation, then it is not seen as innovative enough within the competitive capitalist markets.

This zero-sum game of viewing the world that capitalism socialized into us not only leads us to endlessly strive to "self-improve" ourselves, to "market ourselves," but it also destroys collective action and solidarity between groups, because we are vying for the scraps of resources left to us from the oligarchic elites. It is destroying our ability to organize and destroying our ability to find a more equitable solution to this crisis. It's destroying our abilities to even relate and assist one another.

This is why the term "resilience" is a bit of a two-handed term. Streeck describes it as: 

"used both for the capacities of individuals and groups to withstand the onslaught of neoliberalism [capitalism], and for the ability of neoliberalism as a social order, or disorder, to persist in spite of its theoretical poverty and practical failure to prevent or repair its own collapse in 2008. While the two meanings may seem opposed to each other, this may not be necessarily so, as the practices that make it possible for individuals to survive under neoliberalism may also help neoliberalism itself to survive. Note that resilience is not really resilience but, more or less, voluntary, adaptive adjustment. The more resilience individuals manage to develop at the micro-level of everyday life, the less demand will there be for collective action at the macro-level to contain the uncertainties produced by market forces -- a demand that neoliberalism could and would not fill. Social life in the age of entropy is by necessity individualistic."

One of the hallmarks of this current age of entropy, is the "improvised performances of structurally self-centered, socially disorganized, and politically disempowered individuals. (Streeck)" Why is this so? Because there is an "absence of collective regulation containing economic crises, limiting inequality, securing confidence in currency and credit, protecting labour and land and money from overuse, (Streeck)," and especially a failure of democratic control of the greed and oligarchic conversion of economic into political power to keep their wealth growing at the expense of all other populations on Earth.

This is what we are up against.

**Oligarchic elites

**  Note, that a study by Jeffrey Winters examined the top 100 households compared to the bottom 90 percent; the ratio was at 108,767 to 1. Winters describes this as roughly the difference between a senator and a slave at the height of the Roman Empire. This is the intense disconnect that the oligarchic elite of America has with the vast majority of people. This is often terms the "plundering of the public domain through underfunding and privatization," and what this does is decouple the oligarchic elites from the 90 percent of humanity -- the super rich no longer expect to pay a price for maximizing their income at the expense of the non-rich, and thus can get away at pursuing their greedy interests to accumulate more wealth and capital at the expense of the economy as a whole and all of us who are in the bottom 90 percent.

***International Anarchy

*** international anarchy can be described by the inability of a Global Capitalist Imperialistic nation such as the US from being able to curtail opposition to Capitalism and/or institute new capitalistic markets. The US is and has been, as Streeck describes it accurately: "a global enforcer for oligarchic property rights, and a safe haven for the oligarchic families and their treasure. They include the use of highly secretive 'special forces' to seek out potential enemies for individualized destruction; unmanned aircraft capable of killing anybody at almost any place on the globe; confinement and torturer of unknown numbers of people in a worldwide system of secret prison camps; and comprehensive surveillance of potential opposition everywhere with the help of 'big data' technology."  

However, the US's decline recently and the fact it's been deadlocked into three major land wars since the 1970s means it is failing to meet these oligarchical demands. Some speculative that China's rise might fill this role, but their current financial crises and political unrest leads the financial sector dubious, and even if they do try to fill the US's role, China's opposition to the US will more likely end in fierce conflict, which the US is already engaged in a violent trade war with China that is harming US citizens and US industries tremendously. The US is unwilling to give up its role as capitalist/oligarchic elite protector without a fight.


So where does this leave us?  

Those of us in the 90 percent who are not part of the oligarchic elites?  We need to stop buying into their lies that if we work hard enough we can be just like them. This simply isn't true due to the wealth disparity between them and us, and because late-stage capitalism, in its entropic stage, is not able to deliver on any of its promises, especially to those of us saddled with the debt of the private sectors criminal and unjust decisions that caused the recent economic crises. 

I can guarantee most people who read this won't EVER be part of the oligarchic elites as those elites are of the magnitude of Jeff Bezos, who has enough money to give his 300,000+ workers a couple million each and still have billions left over. This is how far removed from reality these elites are, and how much they don't care about those of us not in their league.

Capitalism is parasitic. It divides and conquers. 

It seems to me the only solution to avoid impending catastrophe is to build a solid Leftist movement focused on a radically different system -- one where profits do NOT matter more than people. One where we redistribute the wealth more evenly and end the oligarchic elites rule of our world, end their destructive games with our economy and our lives and our rights as human beings. A world where all people are provided with the basic necessities for life: clean water, access to food, healthcare, basic shelter, and basic universal income and free education. All of which can be paid for if we taxed the super rich oligarchic elites that are destroying us, our planet, and humanity's future out of a lust for greed and endless growth of their own wealth. 

See my post on Inventing the Future for further ideas on how to envision a better future:

Cover image is a fractal by me.

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