27 October 2011

Blog Self-Critique concluded

This started out as a comment, a sort of anti-critique, on Walker’s post, but as I looked at Walker’s post, I realized that the points that I disagreed with were not actually specific to this post, but were more general claims made over the course of this blog.

The conception of society that the blog tends to claim exists in neoliberalism
The historical specificity of anti-Semitic populist movements

22 October 2011

Soaring corporate profits presage disaster for corporations

This graph is nothing less than stunning. After-tax corporate profits as a share of the economy have now skyrocketed far above any level in the last fifty years.

Many people on the left view the profit surge thru the lens of class war  that is, the rich are prosecuting a war against everyone else, pillaging the wealth we all produce jointly and taking it for themselves alone. The wits among us will respond that it’s not really a war when one side does all the killing and the other side all the dying. Much of the outrage finally finding expression in Occupy Wall Street and the other occupations that have swept the country is based on this way of seeing things.
As this chart shows quite graphically, such a formulation isn’t wrong. How else can we explain former Bank of America CEO John Thain’s notorious office renovation, which included two guest chairs for $87,000 and a $1400 trash can? Or the market for $6400 luxury toilets? Or the regularity of million-dollar+ birthday parties? All while millions of people, in the US alone, go without food or shelter or healthcare on a daily basis?

So this understanding captures one facet of our society: rich people are greedy bastards. But it misses a more fundamental dynamic of capitalist life, so it remains a one-sided understanding. This leaves us incapable of grasping the nature of the unfolding crisis of neoliberalism and understanding the tasks that will be necessary to overcome it.

15 October 2011

Resurrection of the liberals?

Two polls that have come out in the last couple days give us a snapshot of where Americans stand on some of the issues we’ve been discussing here. They demonstrate the broad outlines of two very different popular constituencies: those that have been mobilized by the Tea Party and Republican Party operatives and funders organizing it, and those that are sympathetic to Occupy Wall Street and a broadly liberal-Keynesian response to the crisis. The Democratic Party has chosen not to mobilize the second (larger) group, and the efforts of unions and community groups have either been too limited or simply ineffective. This is the “silent majority” of our time. Could it play a historical role analogous to that of Nixon’s reactionary silent majority, providing the popular basis for a politics capable of overcoming the crisis?

12 October 2011

Blog Self-Critique

This started out as a comment, a sort of anti-critique, on Walker’s post, but as I looked at Walker’s post, I realized that the points that I disagreed with were not actually specific to this post, but were more general claims made over the course of this blog. It extended too long for one post and so has become a number of shorter ones.

In this post I would like to address two issues, for the sake of space but I will post other parts of this anti-critique over the course of a week or two. Those themes are:
I. The opposition between working class and capitalist
II. The use of the category “working class identity politics”

08 October 2011

Is Occupy Wall Street progressive?

We got a good debate going in Earl’s last post on the limitations and possibilities of the Occupy Wall Street movement. A lot of attention rightly focused on the inadequacy of the critique embodied by the protesters, I won’t take issue there. The question I want to raise is whether this is a force we should work with or not, which is a very different question.

We can get a better feel for the occupiers’ position by reading the “Declaration of the Occupation of Wall Street”, which was passed by consensus at the occupation. Contrary to the impression left by slogans like “the 99 percent against the 1 percent” or the symbolism of occupying Wall Street, the targets here are not restricted to bankers or finance capital or rich people. It’s the power of large corporations in general, over all aspects of life, that is opposed.

06 October 2011

The dysfunctions of neoliberalism: Productivity

In an earlier post, I put forward an outline of the underlying causes of the crisis of neoliberalism in the United States. I argued that, in order to maintain healthy profit levels, neoliberalism has required an increasing level of exploitation of the workforce, leaving wages stagnant despite increasing productivity. The outcome was a widening gap between the output of the economy and the purchasing power of consumers, a gap that was for many years bridged by rising levels of consumer and government debt. It was only a matter of time, however, before this transparently unsustainable fix to the insoluble contradictions of neoliberalism came crashing down, which it finally did with the collapse of the housing bubble in 2008. Subsequent attempts to revive the economy have failed to address any of the underlying dysfunctions of neoliberalism, and we now face either gradual or abrupt economic decline — stagnation or renewed crisis.

Curiously, an earlier configuration of capitalism — that of postwar Fordism — seems not to have suffered from this contradiction between maintaining profits and paying workers enough to purchase the output of the economy.

04 October 2011


When I watched this video back in 2009 I lost hope for the "occupation movement." When anarchist grad students in California (I know that's not entirely accurate) took up the mantel I thought it was neat, but silly. Then Tahrir happened. Then Madison happened. Then Madrid happened. Then Occupy Wall Street happened. Then this happened. Then this happened. And this is about to happen. Now I'm confused.