Wednesday, April 30, 2014

isn't it impossible to be violent against the most powerful military political economy on the planet?

bnarchives |  On April 16, 2014, we published a short article in the Indian fortnightly Frontline, titled 'Profit from Crisis'. Scarcely had a day passed from the article’s publication that we got an angry email from an asset manager whom we'll call 'Mr. X'. Mr. X is an enlightened capitalist, and reading our piece had set him on fire. Our article, he protested, was 'terribly flawed'. It 'failed miserably' in understanding capitalism, and its allegation that capitalists do not want recovery is doing 'tremendous harm'. This note deconstructs Mr. X's protestations in the context of the current capitalist angst.

Over the past few years, we have written a series of articles about the global crisis. [1] These papers try to break the conventional constrains of liberalism and Marxism, examining the crisis from the new theoretical viewpoint of capital as power. Capitalists and corporations, we argue, are driven not to maximize profit, but to ‘beat the average’ and increase their differential power. In this approach, the redistribution of income and assets is not a ‘societal’ side effect of the economy, but the central conflict that propels modern capitalism. And the main weapon in this struggle, we claim, is not investment and growth, but what the American political economist Thorstein Veblen called ‘strategic sabotage’ – the restrictions, limitations, hazards and pains that capitalists impose on the rest of society in order to sustain and augment their differential power.

Now, until 2011, distribution was a non-issue. Save for a few ivory-tower experts and justice-seeking activists, nobody spoke about it. It received little media coverage, let alone headlines, and elicited no meaningful debate. But with the global crisis lingering and upward redistribution continuing unfazed, the Occupy slogan ‘We are the 99 percent’ has finally gained traction. Suddenly, inequality and the excesses of the Top 1% are hot commodities, broadcast, discussed and written about all over the media.

The debate itself, though, remains largely conservative. The protest movements succeeded in putting distribution on the political table, but they haven’t figured how to take this achievement forward. So far, they have produced no new policy template, let alone a new theoretical framework, and this vacuum has left the political centre-stage open for policymakers, leading academics and Noble Laureates to recycle their worn-out platitudes.

In order to buck this trend, however symbolically, we wrote a short, pointy article titled ‘Why Capitalists Do Not Want Recovery, and What That Means for America’. The paper delivered a clear massage, backed by two highly contrarian graphs. The graphs showed that, contrary to the conventional creed, both mainstream and heterodox, accumulation thrives on crisis and sabotage. They demonstrated that, over the past century, the capitalist share of U.S. domestic income and the income share of the Top 1% have been tightly correlated not with growth and prosperity, but with unemployment and stagnation.

Looking for a publisher, we started with the two bastions of American liberalism: The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. We sent them the article, free of charge, but neither replied. We then moved to England, emailing the paper to The Guardian. Again, silence. Our last stop was The London Review of Books. This time we got a polite response, stating that the article ‘isn’t quite right for us’.

Clearly, the enlightened capitalist press wasn’t particularly keen on showcasing the power basis of accumulation. The article was too counterintuitive for readers to digest and too politically incorrect for advertisers to subsidize. It suggested that upward redistribution and its associated sabotage were not unfortunate manifestations of ‘social injustice’, but the twin drivers of capital accumulation. And that message, apparently, was unpublishable.

There was no point banging our heads against the wall. It was time to head elsewhere. And since salvation always comes from the East, we turned to the emerging market of India. Unlike in the United States and England, capitalism in India is still being debated, including in the mainstream press. So we submitted the article to Frontline, a fortnightly magazine published by The Hindu Group. And to our pleasant surprise, it was promptly accepted, as is, and appeared in the very next issue (Nitzan and Bichler 2014). One must admit that globalization does have its upsides.

The Letter
Scarcely had a day passed from the article’s publication that we got an angry email from an asset manager whom we’ll call ‘Mr. X’. Mr. X is an enlightened capitalist, and reading our piece had set him on fire. Our article, he protested, was ‘terribly flawed’. It ‘failed miserably’ in understanding capitalism, and its allegation that capitalists do not want recovery is doing ‘tremendous harm’:


woodensplinter said...

Quiet applause. I see where you're going with this, and it's a brilliant next move in our incremental discussion of the Baldwin-Buckley debate. Buckley displayed obvious contempt for Baldwin, not only for the man's ideas, but for the man himself. With Ali, on the other hand, Buckley was plainly won over by both the man and his intellect. How do you account for that in the political sphere - leaving aside (if possible) the man's considerable charisma and personal magnetism?

CNu said...

Just as the separation of politics and economics is shown in the present article to be conspicuously flawed, so also the artificial separation of a man's attributes. At the risk of offending a great many admirers of Baldwin, much of his literary and rhetorical oeuvre could be dismissively summarized as the angry posturing and pouting of a "woman scorned".

It is inconceivable for Ali to ever be on his knees like that. In answer to the questions "whether he misses being champion, whether he misses boxing" - Ali forthrightly and truthfully answers no, he doesn't miss championship boxing, championship boxing misses him. That's not bluster or bravura, there's no false personality in that. It's an objective statement of fact.

What Ali misses is the money...., everything else is conversation.

Vic78 said...

What caught my attention with Muhammad Ali was when he explained why he was sacrificing: "I'm doing it for the future." Ali spoke from a position of power in spite of his situation. You have to respect it.

KC Gets KKFI Community Radio And Kultcha That Y'all Don't Get...,   |   [Cerrone's "Supernature" playing] Woman: The disco sound was just wonderful. It was exciting, powerful, you kno...