Posted by: Doug Henwood | March 13, 2009

A post-capitalist future

The Nation is doing a series on socialism. My contribution: A Post-Capitalist Future is Possible

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Responses

  1. What seems new is that free market, unregulated bubble Reaganomics has taken a severe blow.

    Could it be analogous to what happened to Keynesian economics in the late 70s when the welfare state and relatively strong unions came up against inflation? I’m not clear on what happened then.

    What is clear is the recession in the early 80s was brought on by the Fed hiking interest rates, whereas now they’re effectively zero.

  2. Bravo! Very well said, Mr. H.

  3. Is it even assured that the champions of self-regulating markets are down, much less for the count?

    There is a lesson from the Great Depression, recounted by the admittedly pessimistic Hyman Minsky in his book on Keynes:

    “In the United States, during the era of the Great Depression, the most important group of academic economists offering advice that deviated from the norm centered around the University of Chicago. These economists argued, during the depths of the Great Depression, for what would now be called expansionary monetary and fiscal policy. However, their policy position was not integrated into a theoretical formulation of the capitalist process that explained how the phenomena that policy was to correct resulted from system characteristics.

    In the writings of the most persuasive economist in this group, Henry L. Simons of Chicago, the flaws in the American economy that led to the Great Depression were seen as mainly due to institutional weaknesses in the banking system and human errors by the authorities rather than systemic, essential characteristics of a capitalist economy. As it is always possible after the event of a crash or a crisis to impute what went wrong to some human error or institutional flaw, the Simons position is essentially irrefutable.”

  4. The title of the article is mis-leading. I would have thought an article with that title would offer a thorough picture of a post-capitalist future but doug spends 5 out of 6 paragraphs reviewing what hasn’t or won’t work and then the last paragraph has some vague neo-keynesian ideas sprinkled through it.

  5. Keith, I don’t think there’s much mystery about what Doug thinks should be done. Immediate institution of singlepayer HC, construction of rich-country rail networks, New New Deal, New Wagner Act, large-scale urban reconstruction program aimed at energy-use reduction and long-term sustainability, cessation of imperial foreign policy and action, radical expansion of education and basic scientific research, debt forgiveness for commoners rather than robber barons, etc., etc.

    But he is addressing Nation readers here. Those folks need help getting more than a toe into the socialist swimming pool.

    And isn’t there a world of difference between mere neo-Keynesianism and left-Keynesianism? Left-Keynesianism is what we desperately need, even if it’s only part of the struggle. I don’t think belittling it is helpful to our chances.

  6. Michael: maybe what Doug thinks should be done isn’t a mystery to you, the same does not apply to those unfamiliar with Doug’s ideas.
    In keeping with my original argument, that the title of the article is mis-leading, let me say that any form of keynesianism is still a form of capitalism even if it is capitalism wth the edges taken off. To describe it as ‘post-capitalist’ is misleading.
    In your last sentence you imply that I am belittling a socialist approach which is simply not true, I largely agree with most of Doug’s ideas, I just don’t buy into the hyperbole that is taking keynesianism and trying to call it post-capitalism.

  7. You speak of “the system” as if it were merely a mode of production that we could all be happy with if only some of its faults were addressed by its sworn guarantor, the state. But is it not clear that those times when “the system” seems to be working at its best correlate with its aggressive expansion and embrace of “new markets”? The “consumer economy” today has a meaning that would’ve been inconceivable in the early 20th century, as commodities become indispensable mediators of every possible social relation, while industrial production must necessarily be abandoned by nations that already have a middle-class. The suddenly obvious insanity of the financial derivative market is a symptom of the global economic market in general: the productive benefits to mankind were always incidental, the concentration of wealth to the few intended as a denoument to the comedy, heralding the end of history, in which economic orthodoxy is something we teach the “emerging nations” in order to extract maximum returns from them in the best Sadean tradition.

    Even your favorite social democracies never existed in a vacuum. All are tainted by the global economic model and all are punished.

  8. You’ve bought into the myth that industrial farming techniques are more efficient and productive than smaller scale farming. These techniques are more efficient for profit making, but not more efficient for producing calories and nutrition.

    http://www.alternet.org/story/13905/

    Conflating the production of profit with use value is a mistake. It’s always a good idea to make sure that what seems obvious is true. It’s very easy to internalize the values of the system you wish to overthrow.


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