[Marxism] Hardt-Negri and Fukuyama

Jurriaan Bendien andromeda246 at hetnet.nl
Sun Jul 25 08:16:28 MDT 2004

I haven't read Hardt/Negri II, but what I find interesting is how Fukuyama,
reviewing the new  book, caricatures Marxism. He says:

"The imaginary problem stems from the authors' basic understanding of
economics and politics, which remains at its core unreconstructedly Marxist.
For them, there is no such thing as voluntary economic exchange, only
coercive political hierarchy: any unequal division of rewards is prima facie
evidence of exploitation. Private property is a form of theft. Globalization
has no redeeming benefits whatsoever. (East Asia's rise from third- to
first-world status in the last 50 years seems not to have registered on
their mental map.) Similarly, democracy is not embodied in constitutions,
political parties or elections, which are simply manipulated to benefit

What has this got to do with the subtlety of Marx's analysis as described,
for example, by Hal Draper or Lawrence Krader ? If anything, Hardt/Negri
could be criticised for ignoring the most basic insights of Marx into
capitalist society; their analysis is much closer to Proudhon's, and
exhibits both a lack of factual analysis of the nature of contemporary
capitalism, and a lack of any definite socialist alternative, hence also a
vagueness about how you might get from one to the other.

I am looking forward to a book which tackles the real problems head-on.

As for Fukuyama himself, his latest argument is basically that the
Reagan-Thatcher 'revolution' has been too successful.  It was "directed
against excessive state scope, seeking to reduce regulation and government
interference with private economic activity". But it had "a perversely
damaging effect. The policies known as the Washington consensus, pushed by
international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund
and the World Bank, including such measures as privatisation, trade
liberalisation and deregulation, failed to take account of missing
institutional capacity in many developing nations. Excessive zeal in
pursuing this 'neo-liberal' agenda undermined the strength of states to
carry out those necessary residual government functions."

His new book, "State building", is based on lectures he gave in 2002-03
before Iraq war began, and before the Bush administration had boosted
federal debts enormously with massive military investments and tax cuts.
Fukuyama argues that "weak or failed states are the source of many of the
world's most serious problems", in which case, the imperative is rebuilding
the state, for the sake of good governance. But whether this argument is any
better than Negri-Hardt's is a moot point.

It looks like modern political debate has really regressed back to the
disputes between Marx and Bakunin, and Gladstone and Disraeli.

Let's try to recast the issue in very simple terms. Markets represent a form
of organisation different from that of the political state. But markets are
not an alternative to the state, because markets themselves require:

- enforcement of the rule of law regulating market behaviour and market

- a stable currency based on a monetary policy and a central bank authority.

- security of market access rights, and and ownership of private property

- legally enforcible regulation to protect citizens from monopoly power,
crime and personal risks.

Therefore markets cannot replace the military or the state. Yet, markets are
no longer bound by national borders or national citizenship, and escape from
national control.

Hence, territorial democracy is doubly eroded, both by the
internationalisation and concentration of capital and by the extensive
manipulation of the electoral system by the wealthy, which disenfranchises
citizens from what little political influence they might still have over who
wields state power.

Or, to put it another way, the whole traditional structure of
decision-making of the capitalist state is gradually being torn up,
hollowing out democratic decision-making to the point where it is an empty
shell, and the capacity to organise effectively on any scale becomes
directly dependent on command over capital resources - the state becomes a
kind of giant corporation, be it one which financially operates at a loss,
in which all manner of lobbying groups try to capture a slice of the
taxation pie.

But that is just to say that markets, in which effective buying power and
hence command over capital resources determines bargaining position, are not
democratic, and do not by themselves create any democracy (or any other
specific morality beyond what is required for their functioning).

Those who lack capital cannot participate in the market, hence cannot cast
any "economic vote" either. The other side of market freedom, is market
coercion. If you lack capital, you are dependent on those who do have it.

But that is something we knew already. So why try to pretend that anything
more profound is being said ?


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