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Capitalist Crisis

CRISIS OF CAPITALISM

Rethinking Marxism: A journal of economics, culture & society

Vol. 22 No. 2
APRIL 2010

http://www.rethinkingmarxism.org

IN THIS ISSUE:

Editors’ Introduction (Full Text)

SYMPOSIUM: CRISIS OF CAPITALISM

The Economic Crisis: A Marxian Interpretation – Stephen Resnick & Richard Wolff
Like most capitalist crises, today’s challenges economists, journalists, and politicians to explain and to overcome it. The post-1930s struggles between neoclassical and Keynesian economics are rejoined. We show that both proved inadequate to preventing crises and served rather to enable and justify (as “solutions” for crises) what were merely oscillations between two forms of capitalism differentiated according to greater or lesser state economic interventions. Our Marxian economic analysis here proceeds differently. We demonstrate how concrete aspects of U.S. economic history (especially real wage, productivity, and personal indebtedness trends) culminated in this deep and enduring crisis. We offer both a class-based critique of and an alternative to neoclassical and Keynesian analyses, including an alternative solution to capitalist crises.

What’s in It for Us? Rethinking the Financial Crisis – Randy Martin
In the aftermath of the financial meltdown, much attention has been given to capital’s crisis. For labor, the crisis augurs more than loss of home, job, or further deterioration of social infrastructure. The evident failure of financial knowledge has wider implications for the purported sovereignty of the professional managerial class in what has been called a knowledge society. Knowledge production has been subordinated to capital yet yielded no mastery of its conditions. Rather, the mutual indebtedness that is a feature of the crisis references an underlying socialization of risk and the work that goes into making it that should properly be the basis for a re-enchantment of socialism.

The Bull-of-Last-Resort: How the U.S. Economy Capitalizes on Nationalism – David Brennan
The dramatic purchase of corporate equities by the U.S. government in 2008 marks a distinct change in the way crises are handled. While many fear that this represents a move toward socialism, others look forward to the progressive possibilities. This paper argues that the policy of massively purchasing stocks is an attempt to provide support for equity values when no other bull could be found. This policy was used because high share values provide important class conditions of existence for capitalist exploitation today. As a consequence, the move to “nationalize” is viewed here as an attempt to protect the capitalist status quo. In this regard, the goals of current government policy are no different from past interventions.

The Green Economy: Grounds for a New Revolutionary Imaginary? – Boone Shear
In this essay I report on and briefly consider the composition, goals, and practices of some social actors in the green economy movement in Massachusetts, where I live. While cognizant of elite interests and state power that are working to shore up capitalist relations of production, I choose to amplify some of the openings and possibilities for intervention and transformation in the green economy rather than focusing on critique or (the very real) possibilities of cooptation and complicity. In doing so I hope to underscore the importance of the following questions: What new discursive formations are emerging from green economic imaginings? How are discourses constructed and contested and what new subjects are being produced in relation to a green social imaginary? Under what conditions are non-capitalist desires being created? What are the possibilities for a new left historical bloc?

2008: A New Chapter for U.S. Imperialism – Antonio Callari
This essay argues that the current economic crisis normalizes a transformation of the U.S. imperialist structure of surplus “accumulation.” Whereas the prior form of imperialism worked to create the conditions for surplus value production within the United States, the new imperialism works to channel globally produced surplus back to it. And whereas the prior form of imperialism was characterized by relatively high labor-power values in the United States, the new imperialism is characterized by a lowering of the value of labor power. The current economic crisis works to normalize this lowering of the value of labor power in the United States. It is this lowering of the value of labor power that sets the conditions for class struggle over the foreseeable future and thus the terms for Marxian theoretical and political work.

Mortgage Stakeholders, 2008 – Damon Rich & Larissa Harris
Red Lines Housing Crisis Learning Center is an exhibition developed between 2006 and 2008 at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies by artist and designer Damon Rich. An idiosyncratic history of American home finance realized in outsized objects, models, photographs, found artifacts, text, and video documents, the exhibition opened at MIT in September 2008 in the midst of the global crisis spurred by some of its subject matter, and travelled to the Queens Museum of Art in Spring 2009. As in his work with the education non-profit Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), which he founded in 1997, Rich,who was trained as an architect and works as an urban designer, asked a question about the built environment–in this case, how is it paid for?–in order to tell a story about race, class, private capital, and public power in the United States.

Betting the House – Anette Baldauf
Since spring 2008, an unprecedented housing crisis has left the front yards of U.S. single-family homes littered with “For Sale” signs, foreclosure notices, and dead flowers. The crisis has emptied out entire neighborhoods in Florida, California, Arizona, and Nevada, destroying years of sustained community building. What is happening in the United States of America? How is it that mostly ethnic minorities and women are stripped of their minimal savings, and why is such a vast rip-off possible? If so many Americans are now dispossessed, relocated to shantytowns, or worse, dumped onto the street, why aren’t they marching on Wall Street? And, finally, are Marxist theorists able to make sense of this tragedy?

As the World Turns: Globalization, Consumption, and the Feminization of Work – Drucilla K. Barker and Susan F. Feiner
It is widely argued that global imbalances are the cause of the financial crisis. Political imbalance (the United States as dominant world force) mirrors economic imbalance (the debt-financed consumption sprees of the past three decades). There is, however, a missing (third) term—gender, which is constitutive of the economy both discursively and materially. Gender, in this sense, is a governing code that feminizes women as well as economically, racially, and culturally marginalized men. The feminization of labor made the consumption patterns of the elite possible and naturalized the type of hegemonic masculinity that characterized the international finance system.

Collaborators in Crisis – Harriet Fraad
This article explores the roots of U.S. passivity as the recent economic crisis loots American lives. It looks at four collaborators in this crisis. One is the recent capitalist economic breakdown. A second is the end of traditional gender roles and marriage. A third is the fall in participation in collectives of almost all kinds. The fourth is the anesthetizing of Americans with psychotropic drugs. I also explore ways to reactivate Americans.

Tragedy and Farce in the Second Great Depression: A Marxian Look at the Panic of 2008 and its Aftermath – Asatar Bair

Capitalism in Crisis

In this essay I recount some of the farcical things that were said about the economic prospects of the United States at the end of the great housing boom and the peak of the stock market in 2007; then I turn to a discussion of the causes of the Panic of 2008, examining the relation between productive and unproductive labor in the economy. I discuss the explanations according to which the Panic and subsequent Second Great Depression are blamed on neoliberal ideology. I critically examine the call for a Keynesian solution of government regulation and stimulus, counterposing it to a Marxian strategy of class transformation.

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE:

Beyond Equality
David M. Bholat
My paper explores the character of Marx’s critique of equality as an ideal and the salience this critique has for progressives today. I suggest a reading of Marx different from the standard Marxist critique of liberalism as an emancipatory but unrealized set of ideals whose primary function in capitalist society is to conceal its conditions of inequality and unfreedom. Rather, I argue that Marx gestures at the limitations of liberal ideals, and shows why they are logically compatible with capital. This means that progressives are tasked with transcending, rather than merely appropriating, ideals such as freedom and equality.

REMARX

Task of the Dreamer
Marc Kaminsky
The incidents in this short story are refracted through the shattered sensorium of a traumatized but ethically intact survivor of the Holocaust. His narrative kaleidoscopically reconfigures horror and everyday life, nightmare and history, the gates of a Jewish ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland and a checkpoint at the border between Israel and Palestine during the First Intifada. His act of witness defends the specificity of the human being, the other, in the face of the reasons of state and the abstractions of ideology.

REVIEW

Marx is Back: The Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA) Project
Marcello Musto
After years of neglect, a definitive edition of Marx’s collected works is once more under way. Included are not only the published works of Marx and Engels, but all known correspondence and numerous notebooks of excerpts that are foundational for understanding the development of Marx’s thought. As a result of this project, a different and less dogmatic Marx emerges.

http://www.rethinkingmarxism.org

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Capitalist Crisis

Capitalist Crisis

RICHARD WOLFF – CAPITALISM HITS THE FAN

 

A message from Rick Wolff

Dear Friends

You might find interesting and useful (and especially for teaching purposes) an inexpensive ($18 or less if ordered via http://www.rdwolff.com) new book of short, 1000-word essays on the history and dimensions of the current economic crisis as well as government responses and political implications. The essays were published from 2005 through mid-2009 on the Monthly Review webzine and are here edited with new introductions for maximum clarity, brevity, and accessibility to many audiences. The book can already be ordered and will begin shipment Sept 30, 2009.

Rick Wolff

http://www.rdwolff.com
*********************************

Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It

Richard Wolff

Published 2009 • 6” x 9” • 256 pages • charts ISBN 9781566567848 • paperback • $18.00

A breathtakingly clear analysis that breaks down the root causes of today’s economic crisis

 “With unerring coherence and unequaled breadth of knowledge, Rick Wolff offers a rich and much needed corrective to the views of mainstream economists and pundits. It would be difficult to come away from this… with anything but an acute appreciation of what is needed to get us out of this mess.” —Stanley Aronowitz, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Urban Education, City University of New York

Capitalism Hits the Fan chronicles one economist’s growing alarm and insights as he watched, from 2005 onwards, the economic crisis build, burst, and then dominate world events. The argument here differs sharply from most other explanations offered by politicians, media commentators, and other academics. Step by step, Professor Wolff shows that deep economic structures—the relationship of wages to profits, of workers to boards of directors, and of debts to income—account for the crisis. The great change in the US economy since the 1970s, as employers stopped the historic rise in US workers’ real wages, set in motion the events that eventually broke the world economy. The crisis resulted from the post-1970s profit explosion, the debt-driven finance-industry expansion, and the sequential stock market and real estate booms and busts. Bailout interventions by the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury have thrown too little money too late at a problem that requires more than money to solve.

As this book shows, we must now ask basic questions about capitalism as a system that has now convulsed the world economy into two great depressions in 75 years (and countless lesser crises, recessions, and cycles in between). The book’s essays engage the long-overdue public discussion about basic structural changes and systemic alternatives  needed not only to fix today’s broken economy but to prevent future crises.

Richard Wolff has been a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst since 1981. He has been a visiting professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs, at the New School in New York since 2007. Wolff’s major recent interests and publications include studies of US economic history to ascertain the basic structural causes of the current economic crisis and the examination of how alternative economic theories (neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian) understand and respond to the crisis in very different ways. His past work involves application of advanced class analysis to contemporary global capitalism. He has written, co-authored, and co-edited many books and dozens of scholarly and popular journal articles. His recent analyses of current economic events appear regularly in the webzine of the Monthly Review. In 2009, Capitalism Hits the Fan, the documentary on the current economic crisis, was released by Media Education Foundation (http://www.mediaed.org). Visit http://www.rdwolff.com for more information.

Olive Branch Press
http://www.interlinkbooks.com

Table of Contents

Introduction

Part I: Roots of a System’s Crisis
The Political Pendulum Swings, the Alienation Deepens
Dividing the Conservative Coalition
Economic Inequality and US Politics
Reform vs. Revolution: Settling Accounts
Exit-Poll Revelations
Real Costs of Executives’ Money Grabs
The Decline of Public Higher Education
Reversing the American Dream   
Old Distributions, New Economy (co-author Max Fraad-Wolff)
Today’s Haunting Specter, or What Needs Doing
Twenty Years of Widening Inequality
Neoliberalism in Globalized Trouble
Evading Taxes, Legally
Consumerism: Curses and Causes
Nominating Palin Makes Sense

Part II: The Economics of Crisis
1    Capitalism as a Crisis-Prone System
Capitalism’s Three Oscillations and the US Today
Financial Panics, Then and Now
Neoliberal Globalization Is Not the Problem
Economic Blues
Capitalist Crisis, Marx’s Shadow
Wall Street vs. Main Street: Finger Pointing vs. System Change
Capitalism’s Crisis through a Marxian Lens
It’s the System, Stupid
GM’s Tragedy: The System Strikes Back
Crises in vs. of Capitalism
2    The Role of Economic Theory
Evangelical Economics
Flip-Flops of Economics
3    Markets and Efficiency
Oil and Efficiency Myths
The Rating Horrors and Capitalist “Efficiency”
Market Terrorism
4    Wages, Productivity, and Exploitation
US Pensions: Capitalist Disaster
The Fallout from Falling Wages
Reaping the Economic Whirlwind
Our Sub-Prime Economy
5    Housing and Debt
Personal Debts and US Capitalism
US Housing Boom Goes Bust
What Dream? Americans All Renters Now!
6    Government Intervention in the Economy
 Bernanke Expectations: New Fed Chairman, Same Old, Same Old
Federal Reserve Twists and Turns
As Rome Burned, the Emperor Fiddled
Policies to “Avoid” Economic Crises
Lotteries: Disguised Tax Injustice
7    International Dimensions of the Crisis
Immigration and Class
Global Oil Market Dangers
China Shapes/Shakes World’s Economies
Globalization’s Risks and Costs
Foreign Threat to American Business?
US Economic Slide Threatens Mexico

Part III: Politics of the Crisis
1    Reforms and Regulations as Crisis Solutions
Economic Reforms: Been There, Done That
Regulations Do Not Prevent Capitalist Crises
2    Debates over “Socialist” Solutions
Economic Crisis, Ideological Debates
Socialism’s New American Opportunity
Those Alternative Socialist “Stimulus” Plans
Wanted: Red-Green Alliance for Radically Democratic Reorganization of Production
Capitalist Crisis, Socialist Renewal
3    Anti-Capitalist Politics
Europe: Capitalism and Socialism
The Urban Renewal Scam for New Orleans
France’s Student-Worker Alliance
Lessons of a Left Victory in France
The Minimum Wage, Labor, and Politics
French Elections’ Deeper Meaning
Mass Political Withdrawal
Capitalism Crashes, Politics Changes

Index

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk