18 December 2011

Redistribution is not enough

If the crisis of neoliberalism is a result of the collapse of the system of accumulation that prevailed for the last thirty years, where exactly is the immediate problem? We’ve already isolated productive investment (expanding value), robust demand (realizing value), and efficient technology (circulating value) as the key determinants of growth, so which of these has frozen up?

Demand is the obvious candidate.

09 December 2011

Allowing the Crisis: Europe's Struggle for Discipline

Walker's recent discussion of the European situation is astute and important, especially his account of sovereign debt as an essential part of the continental model of neoliberalism. However, I don't think that it's sufficient to explain why debt is an issue to understand why it's come to a crisis at this moment and led to the kinds of responses we've seen. What I want to emphasize, and what I gestured toward in relation to Scott Walker's putsch in Wisconsin, is that there's been a trading off between the economic crisis and a political crisis. The Eurozone crisis is less about stagnant growth and more about reconfiguring and strengthening institutions of geopolitical discipline. It's not that the problems/solutions are in the political sphere, but that the nature of the crisis is best understood as a political crisis around the economic one.

When I say "discipline" and "political" I am not referring to a class conspiracy, I'm referring to the fact that the crisis is now being played out as a struggle to control the institutions that delimit what is and isn't allowed as opposed to the economic sphere which delimits what is and isn't possible. To be clear I know how problematic that statement is, there are no absolute objective social constraints but under capitalism the economy functions as if it were objective and it's pretty hard to change that.

Consider three moments of the Eurozone crisis: the fact that Italy is running a principal surplus; the installment of technocratic governments in Italy and Greece; and the most recent proposed "deal" to save Europe. At the core of all these is the role that bond markets play in deciding what will be allowed and a strengthening of the relationship between those priorities and the state.