Thursday, October 02, 2008

Absent Agents

Voyou on the problem of agency. This is, as I've written before, the most terrifying aspect of the credit crunch/recession/depression (delete according to politics/knowledge of economics). As per a faintly desperate perspective that Ben calls 'Keynesianism as Katechon' I'm all for the Green New Deal being argued for by various green and social democratic intelligentsia types (Larry Elliott, Caroline Lucas etc). I wish it well, I really do. But it makes a quite unavoidable mistake - it assumes that the last New Deal happened because, well, the Democrats were good people, and Roosevelt a good president, and that all we need is will in our leaders. On the contrary, as Roosevelt himself always maintained, the New Deal was essential to save capitalism, not merely from its internal contradictions, but from destruction by the American working class and replacement with socialism - a distant, but nonetheless possible outcome in the early 1930s. There's a poll here asking 'is capitalism finished?' That such a question is even being asked is amazing, and unimaginable a month ago. The problem is, who will end it if it won't end itself?
(answers on a postcard to the usual address)


Blogger roger said...

I'm less impressed by the poll than by the respectful interview with that old hack, Peter Mandelson, warning as ever that the Labour party shouldn't move to the left of, say, Maggie Thatcher.

I'm pretty sanguine about the survival chances of capitalism, if by that we mean an industrial system controlled by the "market", with the state heavily intervening in the economy to both provide social welfare services that are beyond the capacity of the market and continuing financial support for selected, varying corporate endeavors - which can take the form of anything from tax credits to profitable wars.

But it does seem like the fruit of planned mass inequality, the expansion of the financial sector to an extraordinary cash cow (30 percent of the profits made by U.S. corporations listed on the stock market were made by the banks, which is amazing), is probably now doomed. The immediate meaning of that is less money in the national economy, and thus less money for those who already have less money. That's the order of hurt that comes when there is such a huge gap between the have everythings and the have somes.

9:38 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Well, quite. But what interested me was just that the question was being posed at all - cf also the wholesale change from people blandly talking about 'the economy' to the panicky and rare use of the more precise term 'capitalism'.

12:19 am  
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10:10 pm  
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But it makes a quite unavoidable mistake it assumes that the last New Deal happened because, well, the Democrats were good people.

6:20 pm  
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11:45 pm  

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