Every age invents respectable formulas to convert local limits of imagination and experience into universal limits on reality. It is how to think about the basic ordering of the world.
The Case for Socialism (or not)
To the extent that readers find his argument persuasive, it is up to them to make it useful. Can a religious person who believes the ultimate stakes of existence are cosmically elsewhere also invest this life with the moral urgency that it merits? But in practice the world is full of activists who are religious and who seem to square the circle in their own lives. Many of them say that their sense of the goodness and moral weight of this life, and their motive to uphold and transform it, arise from experiencing the world as infused with divine love, as a creation. For my part, I would not have taken this observation so seriously before I spent nearly 15 years living in the South among activist friends and movement leaders whose work is entirely stitched into religious community, language, and feeling.
It is now almost ordinary to remark in casual conversation that things are pretty much over, that we are just waiting for the catastrophes and the resource wars to begin in earnest. In a decade or three, when we watch the floods at the coasts, the inland droughts, and the waves of refugees breaking on the border walls of Europe and the United States—or even shattering the walls—we will at least have seen it coming. There is a weird satisfaction in being among the ones who saw that capitalism is at once too venal and too powerful, or humanity at large too shortsighted and tribal to survive.
Nihilism has minor chords as well as major ones. It might be that, with so much disaster so thoroughly forecast, you will judge that the only thing to do is to draw up the bridges and look out for your own: spend college angling for a hedge-fund job, or stockpile rifles and ammunition, and hope that, whether with a MacBook Pro or a six-shooter, your grandchildren will be among the lucky few who can defend a secure spot in New Zealand or Montana.
We are creatures who care, whose nature is to grow infinitely attached to finite things. What we truly believe is worth our time, the natural things and the cultural forms in which we find the richness of this life, gives us an imperative to take responsibility for them. This book might be, in other words, not so much about why to be an atheist as how—how to embrace emotionally hazardous forms of existential commitment as weighty as religious devotion, and without the nominal assurances of religion.
It is also perhaps less about why to be on the left than about how.
But for those who start with some version of his politics, the idea that we should be fighting for control over our time might prove powerful. What is the Green New Deal but an explicit engagement with the value of life, an effort to secure a humane future in a world where we do not live by exploiting one another? The old labor slogan—eight hours for work, eight for rest, and eight for what we will—sticks around because control over our time really is the beginning of all other forms of autonomy.
To understand our lives this way can illuminate rather abstract considerations, tying them to the most immediate, felt concerns of a finite life. The desertion of the working classes from socialism in the wake of its post-war expansion has now left it with no clear faith in a system that is increasingly failing them.
Its loyalties are once again up for grabs. The social convulsions produced by economic crises generate the concrete context for social transformation. Neither revolution nor reaction raises itself as a possibility in the absence of this objective necessity. The book is organized as an unfolding history of American capitalism from the tooth and claw competitiveness of the 19 th Century, to the maturity of the industrial hay days prior to the Great Depression, through the exceptional era of its post-war Golden Age and its ensuing descent into austerity and financialization. American capitalism is treated, in effect, as paradigmatic in its maturity—offering a peak into the general arc of capitalist development from its most advanced vantage.
The Marxist view of the inevitability of crises resides in the contradictory nature of capitalist production. The production of capital is at the same time the accumulation of capital, in which unpaid labor in the form of profits is converted into additional capital. Profits must be produced in sufficient mass to compensate capital for the relative expulsion of labor from the production process, an expulsion that coincides with an increase in labor productivity.
When the relative increase in exploitation is no longer sufficient to compensate for the diminished base of labor exploited, the expansion falters. All the difficulties of capitalism reside in the absence of a sufficient expansion of profit, yet only by an increase in profits can capitalism overcome its difficulties. It is the class nature of capitalist production that imposes system-specific limits on economic growth.
From the proximate vantage of the market place, the reality of this fall in the rate of profit is seen as an insufficiency of aggregate demand.
- World Socialist Web Site;
- Strings Attached.
- An Economist’s Case for Socialism – New Politics?
- Weve Gone to Spain!
- SUMMUM: Sealed Except to the Open Mind.
- George Washington: Shmoop Biography;
For it is this very lack of sufficient demand that is seen as the immediate impediment against an increase in prices sufficient to offset declining profitability. That such programs can increase output, aggregate demand, employment and wage growth is generally not disputed. But unless these programs also increase profitability, the ensuing expansion is, from the vantage of capitalism, a false prosperity and an unwanted detour.
Rather than allow for a diversion of resources and capacity to the public sphere as Keynesianism might suggest, the preferred means of addressing the prolonged stagnation is through its inverted image—privatization, the opening of new, and in many cases, subsidized, spheres for profit making from sectors previously walled off to capital.
But, Nasser avers, capitalist production confronts a more immanent barrier that restricts the viability of such new avenues of accumulation for the same reason as it limits the expansion of existing channels. Productivity under a fully mature industrial capitalism is not just labor displacing, it is, in a fundamental sense, capital displacing as well.
A Cautious Case for Socialism
Ever more productive means of production—AI, digitilization and robotization—can be financed out of amortization funds, with an ever-diminished need for plowing profits back into production. This, combined with an increasingly saturated demand for produced commodities, dissolves into a toxic formula.
Capitalism finds itself with a surfeit of investment-seeking capital unable to find sufficiently lucrative branches of production within which to expand. There is both a lack of profits relative to existing capital and an excess of investment capital yet to-be invested profits relative to existing profit-making opportunities. Instead of the expansion of tangible capital for production, investment begins to flow into the accumulation and production of financial assets commodified income-streams diced and re-bundled as securities arising from mortgage and credit card debt, corporate loans, pension funds, government debt and equities, etc.
This income is, only in part, a redistribution of surplus-value among capitalists. The Case for Socialism.
What is the socialist alternative? Is a democratic socialist transformation of society possible? What went wrong in Russia? Socialism would extend democracy. Join us! Audio file. Print this document. At the start of , 62 people - barely more than a bus full - owned as much wealth as half the people on the planet.
Two years since the Grenfell inferno: The case for socialism - World Socialist Web Site
Never before has inequality reached these gargantuan levels. Meanwhile average pay in Britain has fallen by In Britain, hopes that economic crisis was an aberration and that life would soon return to 'normal' have faded as austerity has become the 'new normal'. A temporary and weak economic recovery barely registered for most workers, many of whose wages continue to fall.
Now a renewed economic crisis is on the horizon, not caused by Brexit but the underlying failures of capitalism.