[Marxism] David Harvey on the riots: Feral capitalism hits the streets

Daniel Lindvall daniel.lindvall at filmint.nu
Fri Aug 12 03:15:01 MDT 2011

“Slash and burn is now openly the motto of the ruling classes pretty  
much everywhere.
This is the new normal in which we live.”

I think there is no lack of passion and rage underpinning Harvey’s  
analysis. But more importantly he, like some others today, are  
pointing, I believe, towards a crucial fact: the majority of the  
world’s ruling class no longer believes in capitalism and bourgeois  
democracy. They know capitalism has structural problems that prevent  
it from ever working well on behalf of the world’s majority for very  
long. And they know it is killing the planet. They are, on the whole,  
excellent Marxists, as opposed to the working class. I think there is  
a relative consensus among them on this, which our fears of falling  
prey to “conspiracy theories” sometimes prevent us from seeing.

I also think this is a relatively new “psycho-ideological” phenomenon.  
I think they used to believe seriously that in the end capitalism  
would bring prosperity to all through scientific and technological  
innovation. The experience of the historical parenthesis in the  
Western world that we might label “welfare capitalism” strengthened  
this belief. Sure, they kept complaining about taxes and unions. But  
seeing that they were still prospering and the working class around  
them was also, relatively speaking, doing well, mentally reinforced  
the idea of a humane capitalism. (Of course, if we would only  
liberalize the economy everyone would do even better.) But the extreme  
and extremely unlikely combination of historical conditions that  
simultaneously appeared, in a limited part of the world, with the end  
of World War Two will never return. There will be no new “New Deal”,  
no new round of “social democratic” reformism. There can’t be. And  
they know it. There really is no other (capitalist) alternative.

Knowing this, and having chosen not to even consider any move towards  
a different mode of production that would impinge on their class  
power, means that they are fully prepared to move along the path of  
authoritarianism all the way to fascism at the speed necessary to  
safeguard their position. The environmental catastrophe awaiting us  
only reinforces their need to hold on to as much power and privilege  
as possible in order to muster all the world’s wealth of material and  
scientific resources to stay comfortably alive when our planet  
gradually becomes unlivable for many.

What does this say about the moral and psychological state of the  
ruling class today? Previously, I suggest, historical circumstances  
actually worked to create a particular form of ruling class  
“contradictory consciousness”, where both radical enlightenment ideas  
(from 18th century “rights of man” to 20th century “reformism”) and  
old religious morality could clash with the practical needs of  
business. Today they are single-mindedly decided to hold on to power  
at any cost, because that is the only way they can hold on to power.  
This has obviously happened before, as in Nazi Germany, but today it  
is happening on a global scale simultaneously.

Now, if you have read all this without laughing at me so far you  
probably will now, but I can think of no better word to describe the  
moral and psychological state of the ruling class today than “evil”.  
Not Biblical, metaphysical “evil”. But evil as the product of their  
social being at this stage of capitalist history, where they must act  
with absolute ruthlessness or face annihilation as a class. They are  
historically up against the wall, but this desperation only increases  
their strength.

On 12 aug 2011, at 09.06, Ganesh Trichur wrote:

> ======================================================================
> Rule #1: YOU MUST clip all extraneous text when replying to a message.
> ======================================================================
> Re: "Brilliant piece from David Harvey". It is okay. I liked the  
> passion and analysis in Darcus Howe and Richard Seymour much more. I  
> thought they were brilliant, i.e., intensely illuminating of the  
> social conditions that sparked Tottenham and beyond
> Ganesh Trichur
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