[Marxism] Capitalism vs. Democracy - NYTimes.com

Matthew Russo russo.matthew9 at gmail.com
Fri Jan 31 17:07:31 MST 2014


"...defies left and right orthodoxy by arguing that worsening inequality is
an inevitable outcome of free market capitalism."

What "left orthodoxy" is he referring to..?

Standard NYT journalistic boilerplate, please disregard.

Piketty is correct to characterize the "six decades" - and I'd add,
particularly the "postwar" - as an "exceptional" episode in the history of
capitalism.  That's something that people are only just now beginning to
awaken to.  In its essence it was the result of advances in the class
struggle on the part of the working class, particularly in the train of the
series of socialist and anti-colonial revolutions after 1917.  Rather,
contrary to what this article appears to have Piketty say, the two world
wars and the (unmentioned in the article) intervening fascism acted
*against* that positive trend, but did not overcome it. Fascism failed.
Instead it was primarily an "inside job", featuring the commercial and
financial capitalist invasion of the process of the reproduction of labor
power itself, promoting the successive degradation of labor power backed by
judicious applications of state power from the "outside".  This process may
be reaching its limits presently.

The response of left-Keynesian Dean Baker is in turns amusing and prescient:

"..he believes that Piketty "is far too pessimistic." Baker contends that
there are a host of far less ambitious actions that might help to
ameliorate inequality:

""Is it really implausible that we would ever see any sort of tax on
finance in the U.S., either the financial transactions tax that I would
favor or the financial activities tax advocated by the I.M.F.?""

We still wait, Dean...perhaps that's the answer?

Baker also noted that "much of our capital is tied up in intellectual
property" and that reform of patent laws could serve both to limit the
value of drug and other patents and simultaneously lower consumer costs.

Not only intellectual property, but also landed property,
telecommunications property, and other forms of private property in the use
values of nature - as we saw in the mortgage credit induced 2008 crash.
This particular question is closely bound up with Piketty's six decades.
These span the transition from the old European form of rentiership
featuring a consolidated "traditional aristocratic" but thoroughly
bourgeois landlord gentry - generally aping the English original - dominant
in the State apparatus, in the colonial possessions and therefore over
emerging industrial and new forms of commercial (railroads, etc.) capital.
The significant  *exception* to the old "regime of accumulation" was the
United States, precisely as this country emerged as a distinct social
formation initially in direct contradictory connection to  the "English
regime", specifically in the failure to consolidate a landed bourgeois
"aristocracy" as a privileged caste of the class.  Instead the U.S. regime
of accumulation generally - but not always in a crisis-free way - featured
the subordination of both landed property and banking capital to a
continental commercial capital.  Piketty's "six decades" involved the
transition from the European to the American regime.  This is not to be
seen in some pre-ordained teleology.  We are now in the era of the terminal
crisis of the American regime as big U.S. capital abandons and "guts" the
old traditional continental basis of U.S. capitalist accumulation as
incompatible with imperialism.

-Matt



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