December 14, 2013
In Which Ignatius Does Not Understand "Hegemony"
Writing from Dubai David Ignatius pens a small piece on the alleged loss of the global standing of the United States. It is the usual claptrap of some Saudis and Republicans blaming Obama for not killing enough of their perceived enemies.
Interestingly there are three headlines to that piece. On the Washington Post opinion page it is:
Erosion of U.S. power
Allies have harsh words for the White House.
On the article subpage it is:
U.S. allies are restless
The browser window headline and the URL to the piece contain this:
Are "restless allies" a sign of "erosion of [U.S.] power"? Does that make sense? And what the hell are weevils???
But that Ignatius and his headline writers can not decide and label what his piece is really about is not the issue here. That comes in the last paragraph which compares the demise of the Soviet Union under Gorbachev with the United States:
Returning to Gorbachev, the paradox is that, although he was right in trying to change an outmoded, overburdened system, he didn’t foresee the consequences. He thought he could pull on a few stray threads without unraveling the sweater. The analogy is unfair, in that Soviet power was malign whereas U.S. hegemony has generally been positive. But a common theme is that repositioning a superpower is a tricky business.
Mr. Ignatius obviously does not know the definition of "hegemony:
noun, plural he·gem·o·nies.
leadership or predominant influence exercised by one nation over others, as in a confederation.
(especially among smaller nations) aggression or expansionism by large nations in an effort to achieve world domination.
The world is not a confederation and the U.S. is not in any agreed upon leadership of the world. But the third definition fits: Hegemony and striving for it by a large nation is aggression. And the claim that U.S. hegemonic aggression has "generally been positive" is an oxymoron, a contradiction in itself.
For whom has U.S.hegemony "generally been positive"? For all those people killed in Vietnam? For Iraqis? For the next of kin of those "mistakenly" killed 14 Yemenis and those 22 wounded by U.S. drones and missiles while on their way to a wedding?
The U.S. position is in decline because people like Mr. Ignatius are incapable to see the U.S. aggressive hegemonic aspirations as what they are and like most people outside the United States do see them. Ignatius would likely respond that he is well traveled and knows the world. But small talking with some billionaire oil-sheiks dictators who's position depend on U.S. military power will certainly not give the correct impression.
Posted by b on December 14, 2013 at 03:54 AM | Permalink
America is in decline because an unprecedented portion of the former third world world has uplifted economically under American hegemony, or as you prattle on, despite it.
Wherever economic power concentrates, political capital also accumulates.
BTW, Ignatius uses the word 'hegemony' correctly.
'2. leadership; predominance'
We can argue whether the shoe looks good or bad but the shoe fits.
Posted by: donkeytale | Dec 14, 2013 4:26:18 AM | 1
Donkeytale, you are nothing but a troll. If "an unprecedented portion of the former third world world has uplifted economically under American hegemony," why do we all hate the US, and believe me, we do?
Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Dec 14, 2013 4:56:01 AM | 2
'A weevil is a type of beetle from the Curculionoidea superfamily. They are usually small, less than 6 millimetres, and herbivorous. There are over 60,000 species in several families, mostly in the family Curculionidae.'
Many weevils are damaging to crops. The grain or wheat weevil (Sitophilus granarius) damages stored grain. The boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis) attacks cotton crops. It lays its eggs inside cotton bolls, and the young weevils eat their way out.'
'axis of weevils' is a play on axis of evil!
Posted by: brian | Dec 14, 2013 5:02:25 AM | 3
'America is in decline because an unprecedented portion of the former third world world has uplifted economically under American hegemony, or as you prattle on, despite it.
Posted by: brian | Dec 14, 2013 5:03:10 AM | 4
I stated truth in a reasoned, rational and may I say rather elegant manner and you responded with a question that is purely nonsensical. So I am a 'troll' and you are...?
What does your (and I presume your moonie fellows') pathological hatred of the US have to do with the fact of economic growth that has occurred around the planet in recent decades during the period of US hegemony?
And careful here, I am not taking a moral nor political position wrt either the fact of globalist growth patterns or US imperialist hegemony. I am just pointing out that denial and distortion of truth is unhelpful as are expressions of pathological hatred.
Especially when the hatred is expressed mainly (or only) in predictable forms of polarised internet gasbaggery.
Posted by: donkeytale | Dec 14, 2013 5:33:14 AM | 5
I am not a moonie. I am a Spinozist Marxist in the tradition of the great Louis Althusser (who strangled his wife in a state of bipolar disorientation, but don't let that put you off).
Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Dec 14, 2013 5:43:29 AM | 6
(#5 was addressed to Berkeley @ 2)
Rowan "I am a Spinozist Marxist in the tradition of the great Louis Althusser"
Surely. I enjoy your perspective very much, too. I even agree with much of it.
Posted by: donkeytale | Dec 14, 2013 5:58:06 AM | 8
b you must know that you come up with many very interesting perspectives on international politics. It does seem that you do not have capacity to moderate your every comment on your blog. The above shit from donkey is a case in point. I will not call him a troll but he does manage to deflect interesting discourse. He should be purged.
Posted by: ToivoS | Dec 14, 2013 6:27:48 AM | 9
rising tides lift all donkeys
Posted by: brian | Dec 14, 2013 6:34:19 AM | 10
Rising tide lifted all Chinese donkeys, Indian donkeys, Russian donkeys, et al
"The one percenters mainly, to be sure."
"donkeys must be purged and remanded to the gulag for re-education in politically correct "interesting discourse.""
Posted by: donkeytale | Dec 14, 2013 7:22:53 AM | 11
Toivos, you really got out of bed on the wrong side this morning, didn't you?
Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Dec 14, 2013 7:34:19 AM | 12
Ignatius's confused article is a 'tell', as they say in the poker trade. His views are those of possibly 90 to 95 percent of the beltway participants in American politics. Those views are in the American DNA, just as analogous views made their way into German DNA following the creation of the Reich in 1871. There is a powerful mixture of cynical realpolitik, true idealism, economic self-interest and professional careerism that extends its scope across party and ideological lines, more so in the United States, where there is no socialist movement inspired by notions of class conflict to offset the consensus. This is what makes the United States currently the most dangerous nation in the world. It is sad for me to say, as a lapsed American, that the only language my ex-country understands at this point in its history is the language of force. The Russians and the Chinese understand this perfectly well; the Europeans are indenial, which is hardly surprisinggiven the greater denial of the palpable economic consequences ofthe euro, which are closer to home.
Posted by: Knut | Dec 14, 2013 8:01:43 AM | 13
"an unprecedented portion of the former third world world has uplifted economically under American hegemony, or as you prattle on, despite it."
"Uplifted" is the tell here, Knut. The most American of all words, redolent of the maniacal ruthlessness of narrow minded evangelicalism. Like a Chainsaw Massacre carried out by bikers with crosses dangling from their necks. Or Nurse..what was her name?..Hatchet? from One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest, doing good sadistically.
The problem is that, under American hegemony, living standards around the Third World have not risen but declined. Money incomes may have increased, it's debatable, but for hundreds of millions of peasants and tribal communities subsisting off the lands, the past few decades have been a holocaust.
It was one signalled by US policy in Latin America where it put on a 'clinic' for kleptocrats: paramilitaries and death squads, trained at or inspired by Fort Benning, roamed the continent with a simple two fold mission. To kill anyone resisting, to kill anyone who looked like a resister, to kill off selected villages in their entirety pour encourager les autres and to drive the survivors into the nearest towns where they could choose whether to work for the thugs who had just stolen their land or move on to the cities or the Nord to assist in God's own work of lowering wages.
Its a pattern repeated around the world, the primitive accumulation of capital 2.0, and the United States led the way.
Where have living standards risen? Are the displaced Chinese peasants assembling I-phones in high rise barracks, on call 24/7, paid peanuts and terrorised by corporate cops, doing better than they were?
Are the Bangla Desh weavers, rushed into the capitalist economy from their delta villages, having fun? Are the hundreds of millions who have turned Africa's towns into an archipelago of slum cities, where life expectancy is in the early twenties and the main industry is rag picking and garbage dump mining, access to healthcare is unknown and dollar a day men are a wealthy elite, are they doing well, grateful that capitalism came their way, and released them from the idiocy of village life?
And what about the Chilean Trade Unionists, the Argentinian socialists and others who disappeared, or were dropped into the south Atlantic from helicopters, whose children were torn the womb, before their mothers were tortured to death- all of these, it cannot be denied, crimes carried out by agents of US capitalism, with the complete complicity of the US government- have they benefited from US hegemony.
But to be fair, Donkeytale, some have undoubtedly prospered. And not just the tyrants, such as Mubarak or the various "kings" and emirs who have picked their people's pockets while the US stood on guard. And not just the Russian oligarchs and mafioso who gratefully accepted the gift from the IMF economists of the accumulated and consolidated collective wealth of the people of the Soviet Union. Besides these wealthy elites every pimp, slave trafficker, contract killer, union busting thug and criminal on the planet has only himself to blame if he has not taken advantage of the reign of unalloyed evil and unmitigated greed which has been from Guatemala to The Phillipines US hegemony.
Posted by: bevin | Dec 14, 2013 8:53:50 AM | 14
yes indeed capitalism is an inherently unjust and capricious system that grossly distorts and tilts its socio economic benefits to the wealthiest. I do not deny any of the political horrors that have been, are and will be in the future inflicted upon the world by western capitalist states in general or the US in particular.
However, that truth which I acknowledge and deplore as much as any entitled American, Canadian or European can do without dying from selfie induced spasms of gluttonised-in-western-material-comfort-hypocrisy, that truth also can rest very comfortably beside the common fact I pointed out above. The former "Third World" of the post war era, consisting largely of the upwardly mobile (haha- take that!) masses of Chinese and Indians in their several hundred millions if not billions who are busily ascending through a global capitalist economic uplift (upsurge? upswing?) is also reshaping the geopolitical relations among the declining old school and ascending new school global capitalist powers that be.
"BRICS" to use the often cited moniker for this trned towards multilateral global power structures, which seem to be much applauded herein.
Posted by: donkeytale | Dec 14, 2013 9:47:37 AM | 15
Well, this is a non-dispute, because we are not thinking dialectically, and at times like this, it is obvious that dialectical thinking is called for. I am in some doubt as to whether it is universally called for, or not. Capitalism, irrespective of who are the 800 lb gorillas and who are eensy weensy and get stepped on, is a system that very obviously fills the world with wealth while systematically maldistributing it. When one complains about the maldistribution, the capitalists say, "You don't expect us to work for nothing, do you?" and there the matter rests. Until, of course, 'the revolution comes'. If it ever does.
Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Dec 14, 2013 9:56:44 AM | 16
And as I see these developments as part of a historical process (see Lenin's 1916 essay on financial imperialism) and without pathological hatred for the US, I see that both old school and new school tyrants are the real enemy of the people.
By choosing sides between on set of oppressors over another (such as choosing Putin over Obama) we fail to recognise that the at the end of the day the oppressors are the partners and we the people are the enemy.
This explains, for example, why some cannot comprehend the US not attacking Syria as anything other than a simplistic defeat for the US and a victory for Russia.
And for us, if we are leftists as we proclaim on the internets, the war we should not concern ourselves with is the war in Syria.
No, the war with which should be of utmost concern is the war against our oppressors of both old school and new school global powers who are working together ("Our American partners" as Putin warmly described the relationship recently) to crush us all underfoot.
The one few if any of us seem to be prepared to fight.
Posted by: donkeytale | Dec 14, 2013 10:08:51 AM | 17
"The former "Third World" of the post war era, consisting largely of the upwardly mobile (haha- take that!) masses of Chinese and Indians in their several hundred millions if not billions who are busily ascending through a global capitalist economic uplift (upsurge? upswing?) is also reshaping the geopolitical relations among the declining old school and ascending new school global capitalist powers that be.'
You are wrong. Donkeytale. Hundreds of millions of Chinese and Indians are not ascending, economically. Millions are while hundreds of millions get poorer. It is certainly true that those few getting richer are exerting more power in the world- they have inherited not only the power of the imperialists who colonised their lands but the authority of nationalism as well. But this is because they are able to exploit their fellow countrymen even more efficiently than the Empire did not because those countrymen are getting richer, but because they are poorer and more vulnerable.
Posted by: bevin | Dec 14, 2013 10:28:15 AM | 18
@16 "The one few if any of us seem to be prepared to fight."
Do you have any practical suggestion donkey....other than posting on the internet?
Posted by: dh | Dec 14, 2013 10:29:42 AM | 19
"The U.S. position is in decline because people like Mr. Ignatius are incapable to see the U.S. aggressive hegemonic aspirations as what they are and like most people outside the United States do see them."
On the contrary, as a professional propagandist, Mr. Ignatius knows full well that the most important commodity that the United States produces - and has produced for decades - vis a vis foreign exports and domestic consumption is the image of America - and its system of unbridled capitalism - as THE beacon of freedom and prosperity in the world; any facts that belie those aims are to be ridiculed and buried by a well-paid host of "serious" people no matter how glaringly obvious and damning those facts may be.
Seriously, even more important than the trillions of dollars the US has spent on arming itself to the teeth and then some is the creation of strata after strata of professionals/serious people who are have been taught how to completely and unabashedly deny reality in the face of "inconvenient" facts to the further the aims of the American criminal elite of all persuasions - i.e., economic, military, political, etc.
With the American elite having successfully gotten away with BIG LIE after BIG LIE after BIG LIE in the foreign affairs arena - e.g., the Gulf of Tonkin, 9/11, Iraq, etc etc etc, as well as BIG LIE after BIG LIE after BIG LIE in the domestic/economic arena - e.g., supply side economics, the promise of free trade agreements, neoliberalism etc, we see that taken in toto the real output of the United States of America over the last 60 years has been one mainly of murderous deceit but on such a scale and involving so many people that it is seemingly incomprehensible to most laypeople to grasp. There's just no way that that many people could be involved in such a scam, the doubters cry. Not America, Land of the Free(trademark)!
So, after having seen massive deceit roll out of massive deceit roll out of massive deceit and having the supposedly "best and brightest" Americans - i.e, just for sake of argument, our Ivy League educated betters and such - toe the line in supporting said deceits that nowadays are easily contradicted by the curious layperson in - oh, I don't know - 5 minutes on the Web, one has to come to the conclusion that these manipulative scheming evil mfers have been doing nothing but deliberately physically and mentally murdering and raping the inhabitants of planet Earth for nothing more than their own personal gain. There is just no other explanation.
They do not and have never believed in ANY of the horsesh!te that Ignatius is speaking to above. Sure, you might find some lackeys who gulp the nonsense down and who they employ in the think-tank mailrooms but the secret to advancement in the American halls of power is demonstrating that you know the whole thing is a grand charade and that your job is to continue said charade by playacting your role in it. Without a word of dissension no matter how illogical, depraved or asinine the case may be.
You might have to kick millions of Americans off of food stamps and cut taxes for corporations while spouting nonsense about how this makes the US more competitive economonically.
Or you might have to state with a straight face that the reason millions of "insert nationality here" had to die was because their leader was a crazed Hitler in the face of obviously trumped up garbage.
In either case, if you want to be part of the American power elite, you will do so in the face of the schooling, common sense, morality and common decency that you may have somehow smatteringly acquired working your way up in this cesspool and which scream at you to say "Hey, this is all effing horsesh!te."
Make no mistake, the American criminal elite - and their lackeys like Ignatius - have studied the history/mistakes of previous regimes and with these in mind - cf., Leo Strauss et al. - have appropriated the purported words of Ben Franklin after the signing of the Declaration of Independence into the inescapable MO of post-WWII American hegemony: If we don't all hang together we assuredly will all hang separately.
Thought Experiment: if the US somehow dissolved tomorrow and the world clamored for justice using the Nuremberg principles as the basis for war crime prosecutions how could the trials NOT realistically involve tens? hundreds? of thousands of individual cases? How could it conceivably - yes, this is all theoretical - end without the imprisonment/death of nearly every single person who is an American household name or has been one for the last 5 decades as they knowingly participated in a deadly and premeditated charade that has destroyed and debased the lives of billions of people worldwide?
Over 6 billion served indeed.
Posted by: JSorrentine | Dec 14, 2013 10:40:08 AM | 20
'axis of weevils' is a play on axis of evil!
Posted by: brian | Dec 14, 2013 5:02:25 AM | 3
More than that, the weevil not only gets into your flour and cereal boxes, it gets into our granaries and eats away at the grain unseen by us, until we notice the wheat is turned to dust. The weevil metaphor I think Ignatius may be making has to do with how the weevil burrows into our 'daily bread' below our level of awareness. Or not... I may be giving him too much credit, although no matter what he meant using 'weevil', as metaphor, or play on words, it's somewhat subversive.
Posted by: okie farmer | Dec 14, 2013 10:55:28 AM | 21
Yes I do, but the internet is not the place to post them now, is it?
(Waves to NSA minder)
The place to start, if you are a typical foreign policy player on the internets comment boards is internally: recognise where your class interest truly lies. Most well-educated keyboard pounders will have a very hard, nearly impossible time making this determination accurately. I mean, it's hard to relate to the working class when you are privileged, well-educated and mostly whiter than caspar the friendly ghost. But if you are a white collar wage slave (not saying "you" specifically) working in an office or institution of "higher learning" you will just naturally almost by osmosis tend to have much more in common with your boss than, say, the night janitor who cleans your rest room.
Bevin has helpfully listed hundreds of billions of exploited workers worldwide who need to be organised by a revolutionary vanguard consisting of well-educated keyboard pounding western know-it-alls, should be no problem, eh? Or better yet, go talk to Uncle Ernie and his pals down at the union hall in Detroit. Piece of cake.
Many internet "leftists" are in reality following a civil liberties and non-interventionist track that is actually more akin to libertarianism or paleo conservatism than leftism.
Say hello to Phil Giraldi, Justin Raimondo, Pepe Escobar (he of the BRICS Chamber of Commerce), RT (imperialist Russian propaganda outlet) and of course, Glenn Greenwald. These guys aren't fighting any class struggles, they are making a good living in the white collar elitest infotainment world.
SO, that's the start.
"You better free your mind instead", as Lennon once sang to the masses.
Posted by: donkeytale | Dec 14, 2013 10:55:31 AM | 22
@21 Thanks for the articulate response. You were starting to sound like another foff with another blanket castigation of the politically correct moonies.
Good luck with the class struggle. The only class struggling I've noticed recently has been Black Friday when people were struggling to get into Walmart. And of course the struggle in Kiev to get at the Google jobs and designer jeans.
Posted by: dh | Dec 14, 2013 11:02:23 AM | 23
Should have read the article before commenting. Ignatius did not say axis of weevils, Walter Russell Mead did:
“Think of the Central Powers as an ‘axis of weevils,’ ” writes Mead. “At this stage they are looking to hollow out the imposing edifice of American . . . power rather than knock it over. . . . They have a common interest in weakening the United States in Eurasia and disrupting its alliances; increasingly, with the United States government still largely blind to the challenge, they are pushing ahead.”
Posted by: okie farmer | Dec 14, 2013 11:18:18 AM | 24
Donkeytale, you surely are not under the impression that Justin Raimondo is an internet leftist. Raimondo quite frequently lards his editorials on antiwar.com with such terms as 'commies'. Like all libertarians (more properly anarcho-capitalists) he is stuck in a 1950s robinsonade, with only Ayn Rand (more properly Alissa Rosenbaum) for company on his island. They could, I suppose, have an interesting time disputing which of them should be Man Friday to the other. Ahem, excuse me... that's by way of being an unconsciously motivated dirty joke. I didn't spot its dire freudian undertones until I had typed it, but I shall let it stand, to show that I believe in free speech, contrary to all thought police robots like bevin et al.
Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Dec 14, 2013 11:25:51 AM | 25
When you say I am wrong you are getting dangerously close to the point where you will need to back up your assertion with data.
OTOH, we both may be right. Hundreds of millions of Chinese and Indians are doomed to poverty while hundreds of millions are clawing their way into the middle class. And as we know from our own failed industrial revolution, it is the duty of the exploited workers to grab a bigger share of the pie over time, and historically speaking they succeed in this effort.
After all, 250 million is only about 12 pct of China and India. I suppose I could do some academic research (AKA 'googling') but I presented Richard Bruce Lee, the failed PhD candidate's information upthread. I could've gone with UN data but that would never do on MoA, would it? Who can believe the UN?
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development defines the global middle class as those households with daily spending between $10 and $100 per person in purchasing power parity terms. The OECD reckons the U.S. has the biggest middle class in the world, with some 230 million people, or 73% of the population. It puts China's middle class at up to 10% of the population, but expects the number to rise to 40% by 2020.
This indicates approximately 100 million Chinese are middle class, which will grow to perhaps as many as 400 million by the end of the decade.
NEW DELHI: The Indian middle class, target consumers for many companies, is expected to swell up to 267 million people in the next five years, up 67 per cent from the current levels, thus providing a great market opportunity for firms, according to NCAER.
A report by National Council for Applied Economic Research's (NCAER) Centre for Macro Consumer Research said by 2015-16, India will be a country of 53.3 million middle class households, translating into 267 million people falling in the category.
As per the study, which uses 'household income' as the criterion, a family with an annual income between Rs 3.4 lakh to Rs 17 lakh (at 2009-10 price levels) falls in the middle class category.
(As per 2000-01 prices, middle class classification was based on annual income of Rs 2-10 lakh.)
Currently India has 31.4 million middle class households (160 million individuals).
I stand corrected. 267 million is not "several hundred millions."
Posted by: donkeytale | Dec 14, 2013 11:26:45 AM | 26
Rowan, You are correct. I surely know that Justin Raimondo is not a leftist.
Like all those I listed I consider him an Opportunist.
Posted by: donkeytale | Dec 14, 2013 11:34:54 AM | 27
I didnt realise that bevin was the thread cops. Seems like a decent chap to me. In fact, I enjoy this group generally for the snarky give and take. A few exceptions perhaps as you recently noted elsewhere.
I enjoy getting the ad hom facial treatment too, it always makes me laugh, especially when it is accomplished with wit and cheerfully mal intent.
Posted by: donkeytale | Dec 14, 2013 12:12:06 PM | 28
"By choosing sides between on set of oppressors over another (such as choosing Putin over Obama) we fail to recognise that the at the end of the day the oppressors are the partners and we the people are the enemy."
Here we go. Warmed over "leftist/Trotskyite" scolding which takes us from a one specific arena - ie. the wanton criminality/depravity of the United States of America - and seeks to broaden the fight into a completely unrealistic/unmanageable call for global justice.
It's funny isn't it, how, movements can get hijacked/diluted by such thinking, huh? Gee, I wonder who benefits from this?
For example: I'm sure all you Americans are really really pissed off about the bailing out of specific Wall Street criminals, their theft of your money and their walking away scott free that happened during the financial crisis in 2007-8, huh?
The answer: a ginned-up protest/movement - i.e., Occupy - that is non-specific as it doesn't target the individuals who were responsible for the financial crisis and which non-politically - and nonviolently - broadens the scope of said protest to include so many topics that it is basically neutered and directionless.
Problem solved in that no problems were actually solved. And better yet it's like you're calling for the end of elite criminality all the while promoting a response that is on practical levels completely unworkable/ineffectual.
Let's try it in the foreign affairs arena shall we? Stop me if this reminds you of the moral equivalency arguments used so expertly by today's fascists - e.g. Zionists, etc:
Yes, the US is a prime mover in the debasement of the planet but you really have to go after everyone because - wait, for it.. - EVERYONE'S DOING IT!!!! Sure, America is bad but so is Putin and so is Assad and so is Harper so instead of tending to justice and attempting to take these individual criminals to task for their crimes while they are still living we should - with the aim being global justice mind you - go down and volunteer at the local union hall and begin the class struggle. Then in another 8 to 10 decades your grandchildren will be able to feel the joy of pulling down statues of Obama and Clinton at future protests, right?
Here's a question: do you know WHY many people on the left have begun to read "non-left" writers/thinkers like in the ones you listed?
Here's the answer: because they are effing sick and tired of what amounts to the purposeful? ineffectual navel-gazing of today's "leftist" writers who - consciously and otherwise - abandon any calls for justice/retribution concerning the criminals who are walking around in their countries and towns for the sake of diluting specific grievances into chimerical global movements. At least the writers you list name names and call out the criminality for criminality sake instead of deflecting reader anger into channels that - surprise, surprise - only buy the current criminals more time if not out-right exoneration for their actions.
Libertarians - for all of their warts - have at the very least a history of calling out neoliberal "do-gooders" - ie, those with the reins of power currently - who have become so adept at ameliorating specific calls for justice by tying them to totally unworkable movements that only tangentially address the original problem. Last I checked, libertarians and paleo-conservatives are currently not the ones presently murdering and stealing across the planet right now and they are not the ones who have commentaries, op-eds and other calls for action placed along side leftist writers on so-called leftists websites/newspapers.
Here's an idea: why not first allow/promote workers to get truly angry and pissed off (as they fully deserve to be) about the situations they find themselves in - be it through reading non-leftist writers, for example - instead of worrying about how the theoretical socialist endpoints will be reached, huh? Neoliberal propaganda has been so frighteningly successful in promoting worker alienation that it's only now 3 to 4 decades later that workers are beginning to see where this system is leading them - into the sh!tter. Anything that helps people understand that they are getting screwed is good and anything - but especially leftish movement molding - that attempts to assuage the ensuing anger/rage should be considered suspect.
Don't get angry...protest with this OpenSociety non-profit. Don't be pissed...elect better Democrats. Don't be upset...the problem is global and must be solved on a global scale.
Let's first get everyone angry about their situation before we or anyone else tries to shape and channel said anger. Humanity is experiencing an unprecedented - by sheer numbers through the spread of capitalism as Marx stated - state of alienation and the first thing they have to be able to do once again is feel. Not plan. Not strategize. But feel.
Posted by: JSorrentine | Dec 14, 2013 12:42:22 PM | 29
" a ginned-up protest/movement - i.e., Occupy - that is non-specific as it doesn't target the individuals who were responsible for the financial crisis and which non-politically - and nonviolently - broadens the scope of said protest to include so many topics that it is basically neutered and directionless."
There were no attempts to "assuage" people's anger at Occupy, you have no idea what you are talking about at all.
Of course Occupy Wall Street focused on the crimes that caused the financial crisis - up through holding mock trials for those involved. They held protests in front of the homes and apartments of those very people who caused the crisis. Just as you and your group did? No. Obviously the bankers will come to justice, will be made uncomfortable in their homes, if JSorrentine makes one more blog comment about "what could have been". That. Ought. To. Do. It.
So what you have suggested that the protests were "non-specific" is obviously coming from someone who is unfamiliar with what actually occurred during those months - whose concept of political action is, perhaps, to be a sideline snipe crowing about his own 20/20 hindsight. Of course Occupy had hoped to make major changes in US society. Perhaps you think if they had simply "wanted it more" it would have magically occurred. Such is the tenuous hold on reality such people have, who call for the "allow/promote workers to get truly angry and pissed off (as they fully deserve to be) about the situations they find themselves in" (as if that isn't exactly what Occupy and its related organizations have been doing) without even having a plan to do so - or even a reading list to provide!
Occupy was nipped in the bud by the FBI and the banks after a few short months. If you want to call Occupy a failure for not having succeeded in curing the world's ills within a few months, well, that's a pretty high standard you set for them. You might set similar ones for yourself and see how far you get. And when you spend a summer as the focus of the nightly news and are the cause of a revitalization of discourse about inequality in US politics - well, you won't have to tell us.
Of course Occupy Wall Street didn't change the world, but it wasn't for lack of trying. So to hear about their failures from self-satisfied creeps who have done nothing is more than irritating - especially when they are either uninformed about what went on there, or are just dishonest right-wingers with an axe to grind.
"ineffectual navel-gazing of today's "leftist" writers who - consciously and otherwise - abandon any calls for justice/retribution concerning the criminals"
What garbage. And who, exactly, are your right-wingers who are demanding that bankers be jailed exactly? Who are the right-wingers doing something - anything - to make the world more just? Ah, I suppose they'll be on that reading list you're going to provide us working stiffs.
Posted by: guest77 | Dec 14, 2013 3:49:24 PM | 30
Ignatius is just the despot(zusa) voice.When the zionist settler state of the chosen people invaded Lebanon(in the 80') ,my husband came to know of a factory that was producing heroin in south Lebanon ,created,managed and financed by "israel".He asked Ignatius over lunch if he would be interested in publishing the story as one more proof of the criminality of the occupiers.The answer was,are you crazy,should I ruin my career?At that time the man had already all the necessary cover from the state and its agencies but he was already very ambitious and coward.Since then,I read him only as the messenger of his master because that is his only purpose in journalism.
Posted by: Nobody | Dec 14, 2013 4:07:50 PM | 31
"There were no attempts to "assuage" people's anger at Occupy, you have no idea what you are talking about at all."
The ENTIRE cutesy Occupy movement was ginned up to assuage people's anger and channel it into a dead end. Thus the nonpolitical nature of the entire charade. Thus the presence of color revolution specialists that were there from the very beginning. I bet you cried when Dave Van Cortlandt" Crosby crooned to you out there on the streets. It was just so beautiful. It was just like the 60s, man!! Exactly.
"Occupy was nipped in the bud by the FBI and the banks after a few short months.
Occupy was nipped in the bud BEFORE it began. That's the failure of the bullshit left nowadays, it's taking what they are given - infiltrated ineffectual "protest" ginned up by elite-back provocateurs and settling for that. Do I have to mention Reverend Hedges and his repeated sh!tting on the Black Bloc etc and all of the lions of the gatekeeping left jumping on the bandwagon who've safely ridden Occupy in column after column after column because of its a la carte - read: meaningless - nonpolitical/nonviolent agenda? Here's a nice piece that exemplifies this from Louis Proyect's site entitled "The Secret of Occupy's Success". Go ahead read the whole thing if you can hold your lunch. Here's an exemplary quote from it:
"A second important lesson of OWS is that determined, bold, and peaceful action is more important than lists of demands, formal politics, or theoretically consistent ideas about strategy and tactics."
Wow, that's great man!! No anger, no calls for heads (like I at least advocate for) AND no formal politics, actions, plans or strategy which many of my fellow leftists - I am a leftist btw - would say would be the least that should be the outcome of some sort of movement. Oh well.
"What garbage. And who, exactly, are your right-wingers who are demanding that bankers be jailed exactly? Who are the right-wingers doing something - anything - to make the world more just?"
Hey, you know what? Many of those libertarian don't think - correctly, more than likely - that there is any reason to even pretend that these criminals are going to jail as the entire system - from the Federal Reserve on down - is so corrupt that the whole effing thing is going to crash. And guess what? Many of them are stockpiling food and weapons preparing for that. Instead of playacting and still maintaining that the system can be changed from within like nearly every single person on the left - wasn't a Tobin Tax something that Occupy was ardently rallying for? Oooh, how scary! - they are actively looking forward to and preparing for the end of the system. Where is the similar energy on the left? Oh, that's right the anarchical syndicalism of Chomksy et al and the big Woodstock party we're going to set up will be awesome, man! And there will be a people's library!!! Hooray.
Is that not concretely doing something? I surely don't share many of the right's political beliefs but many of them hew a bit closer to reality and - gasp - many of them are doing something concrete and LOCAL about it.
As to making the world more just, how is that supposed to come about when you like the rest of the bourgeois left are still under the illusion that our societal structures can still be relied upon to bring said justice? Wouldn't we be moving closer to a just world if we all agreed that our institutions - like many of the libertarians - are irrevocably broken?
I am a leftist and unlike the libertarians believe in the power of the state but in today's world am forced to argue - yes, along with the right wingers that you so cavalierly write off - that our current system must go no matter how much I may believe in the power of a state to ultimately help ensure the better lives for all people. Hey, it's a shitty politico-philosophical bind to be in but that's the reality of today's world, bud.
So get the eff off your bourgeois leftist soapbox and realize that you're being played like a fiddle.
Posted by: JSorrentine | Dec 14, 2013 4:39:47 PM | 32
at 1. Economic development or ‘growth’ etc. is not a fixed pie which must be portioned, with winners automatically creating losers. This is not so in the standard theory (if one can even claim such a thing exists) - see the tide that lifts all boats. Nor is such a view present in any other economic theory that I am aware of. (Having failed Economy 101 I’m not really in a position to judge.) The idea seems to rest on a mechanistic interpretation of Darwin and a primitive definition of ‘competition’, where two or more parties fight for a unique prize.
On the other hand, it is possible to argue that the US’ economic ideology (crackpot) contributed to its weakening, not because others gained by it (if they did..) but because it is an ideology constructed to favor the few - the Local Overclass that tolerates or is part of the Global Overclass. Seen thru such a prism, one would invoke internal (US) mismanagement as a strong factor in it’s ‘decline’. Self-scuppering? - to stay nautical. (I see some subsequent comments go in this direction.)
Posted by: Noirette | Dec 15, 2013 7:12:54 AM | 33
Knut at 13 posted:
Ignatius's confused article is a 'tell', as they say in the poker trade. His views are those of possibly 90 to 95 percent of the beltway participants in American politics. (...) There is a powerful mixture of cynical realpolitik, true idealism, economic self-interest and professional careerism that extends its scope across party and ideological lines
Yes - in that spirit.
Returning to Gorbachev, the paradox is that, although he was right in trying to change an outmoded, overburdened system, he didn’t foresee the consequences. He thought he could pull on a few stray threads without unraveling the sweater. The analogy is unfair, in that Soviet power was malign whereas U.S. hegemony has generally been positive..
Imho Ignatius knows he is slapping about stinky red herrings, comparing the break up of the USSR to the US (while damning the comparison! - and there are many reasons to be wary of it which adds to the confused aura of his argument for the targeted audience) he enforces the knee-jerk thoughts or debate over to competition between 'Nations', when the real issue lie elsewhere.
He is defending the interests of a very narrow group of ppl.
Posted by: Noirette | Dec 15, 2013 8:11:27 AM | 34
33)Natural Resource Scarcity - The State of the Debate
Whether economic growth can be sustained in a finite natural world is one of the earliest and most enduring questions in economic literature. Even with unprecedented growth in human population and resource consumption, humans have been quite adept at finding solutions to the problem of scarce natural resources, particularly in response to signals of increased scarcity.
Because environmental resources generally are not generally traded on markets, however, scarcity signals for these resources may be inadequate, and appropriate policy responses are difficult to implement and manage. In the debate over the economic scarcity of natural resources, one significant change in recent years has been a greater focus on the ecosystem services and the resource amenities yielded by natural environments. The general conclusion of this paper
is that technological progress has ameliorated the scarcity of natural resource commodities; but resource amenities have become more scarce, and it is unlikely that technology alone can remedy that.
Posted by: somebody | Dec 15, 2013 9:21:46 AM | 35
@ Noirette | Dec 15, 2013 7:12:54 AM | 33
Can't help but conclude that your post is extraordinarily, (in lack of better words) nonsensical. Unless you live in cocoon and not noticing what's going on around you.
"Top 1% incomes grew by 31.4% while bottom 99% incomes grew only by 0.4% from 2009 to 2012. Hence, the top 1% captured 95% of the income gains in the first three years of the recovery. From 2009 to 2010, top 1% grew fast and then stagnated from 2010 to 2011. Bottom 99% stagnated both from 2009 to 2010 and from 2010 to 2011. In 2012, top 1% incomes increased sharply by 19.6% while bottom 99% incomes grew only by 1.0%. In sum, top 1% incomes are close to full recovery while bottom 99% incomes have hardly started to recover."
The authors are speaking about "recovery" which is nonexistent - per se, whether is it from reasons of political correctness or for the purpose of this report I do not know. One doesn't need "political theory" or (simulated) "model" which is lately preferred method to see that's something wrong.
Instead of seeking of "political model" of blasting Darwin try with: distribution of national wealth.
Posted by: neretva'43 | Dec 15, 2013 9:51:57 AM | 36
No wonder that the bestselling authors are Charles Krauthammer, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Ree Drummond, etc.
Wonder where are Ann Coulter, Martha Stewart?
Posted by: neretva'43 | Dec 15, 2013 9:59:22 AM | 37
JSorrentine @ 29
You took my comment out of its context and replaced with your own, with which I actually agree for the most part. However, allowing anger to guide you and following any writer who stokes your anger seems like the proven recipe to foment a neonazi movement such as Golden Dawn. After all, Ernst Roehm's early recruitment efforts for the SA were performed within the German Labor Movement of the 1920s.
OTOH, I agree that there are no popular leftwing equivalents to the writers I mentioned. Personally, I have always found Chomsky's style to be sterile and unreadable. In many respects he seems to be the godfather of the lefty blogosphere. Great on the detailed critical analysis of how we are getting shafted but, uhmmm, what we gonna do, call Ghostbusters?
The thing about Chomsky is that he was a non-entity during the 60-70s period of leftist rebellion in the US. Don't remember him at all. Maybe he was there on the east coast but out west we were more inspired by Herbert Marcuse and Angela Davis and moreso the realtime example set by SDS, the Black Panthers and radical parties such as SWP and SLP who were there with us on the streets. Yes, there were very large groups of church people in those demnstrations too (strange to recall how many churches were activist and liberal back then, before the polarising and de-mobilising "atheist" ideology took control on the left). The leading organisers tended to be people whose names were not familiar to me. It was the action that was inspired, not the celebrity status of the organisers.
My own experience with Occupy was deeply mixed. It definitely had a decided impact of focusing attention on the plight of the working class which in turn led to the recent WalMart and Fast Food Chain labor actions along with the growing Minimum Wage Movement. These are small advances to be sure, but they signal a change in the national zeitgeist for the first time in many moons. For that I am very glad to have participated. Change is hard and change is slow and change of significance is very very hard fought, jsorrentino. Bet on it. Sorry if I sound like a Trotskyite preacher. I agree that I do sometimes.
I also believed that Occupy would have been better served had the focus been more on direct non-violent confrontation with the PTB. This did occur in Oakland and in Houston at the Port but did not sustain and did not spread from there. Perhaps there simply were not enough numbers or (more likely) the willpower to sustain in the face of violent police response. Perhaps fall turned to winter and the idea of sleeping outside lost its glamour. I suggested such tactics at a GA, specifically oragnising pickets around TBTF banks and large MIC contractor facilities in a way designed to draw police and media response and was roundly dismissed, with most of the group taking me for planted FBI astroturf trying to set up their entrapment and arrest. Whatever.
Sure, there were police loitering about in disguise but the entire structure of these events was too public and too transparent to accomplish any meaningful dissent. The silly stuff with the hand signals and all was just goofy to me. It was nice to have this basic democracy but it was dysfunctional in the context of running a protest movement.
I also approved the Black Bloc participation in Oakland, understanding the vehement reaction against them by the moderate elements, too. Movements require "big tents" in order to gain the numbers required to achieve success and the more unruly are the coalitions scaring the bejeezus out of the PTB the better to gain some level of economic justice just to make us go away. This is historically proven out time and again since the Industrial Revolution.
One of the smarter statements by Greenwald with which I sorta agree is his call for the left to find areas of mutual agreement with the libertarian right and combine forces to activise around these issues. Unfortunately, these tend to be the same ol same ol civil liberties and non-interventist ones exclusively favoured by Libertarians and not around economic equality for the poor, which to me is by far the most pressing issue of the day, the century.
Posted by: donkeytale | Dec 15, 2013 12:25:18 PM | 38
Black Blocs have always and everywhere acted in collaboration with police, many Black Blocists actually being undercover cops in disguise. We have multiple videos of this actually happening. So anyone who commends them is either a fool or a villain. As for 'Occupy', I have to agree with Tarpley that it was an exercise designed to achieve nothing at all. It had, and has, no defined political goals, so how could it achieve anything, even if it was genuine?
Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Dec 15, 2013 12:37:18 PM | 39
I agree with you 100% but my comment was in response to the main article attached to this thread and the 'decline' under discussion was US political decline. My comment was more about the loss of political power in relative terms as the rest of the emerging capitalist powers gain political clout from there increasing economic strength.
I should have stated that more clearly in my comment. Thanks for forcing me to do so here.
Posted by: donkeytale | Dec 15, 2013 12:48:48 PM | 40
Every political movement of significance is always and everywhere infiltrated by the police.
If that is all it takes to force the movement to shut down, and I agree with Occupy it did succeed, then we might as well put on the strait jacket and go obediently to our wage slave jobs in the morning and forget all about fighting back.
As for Webster Hubbell, that dude is a complete and udder joke. An infoclown.
If anyone is astroturf, it be he.
And regarding Occupy, he is flat out wrong, as I stated in my comment. Occupy achieved plenty, although nothing on the order of October 1917 to be sure.
Posted by: donkeytale | Dec 15, 2013 1:02:27 PM | 41
Of course I meant Webster Tarpley, not Hubbell...
Posted by: donkeytale | Dec 15, 2013 1:25:58 PM | 42
The State did move against Occupy and it is not absolutely certain had it not that it would have not gained influence or mutated into something better. In certain areas Ron Paul people were leading along with leftists of varying persuasions. However, admittedly, the State didn't have to move very much against it before it crumbled.
Posted by: amspirnational | Dec 15, 2013 3:01:59 PM | 44
OWS is worst than a lie. It falls in category of deception and political manipulation depicted by statement “The best way to control the opposition is to lead it ourselves.”
In my opinion it was one societal experiment, in vivo, where regime tested people. The same thing is about all other thing.
Posted by: neretva'43 | Dec 15, 2013 4:19:52 PM | 45
"Marxist ideology is wrong," he told La Stampa. "But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don't feel offended." Outspoken US conservatives including Rush Limbaugh, the radio talk show host, have attacked the pope for an exhortation he made in November in which Francis said it would be impossible to overcome global poverty until the structural causes of inequality and financial speculation were resolved.
"This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope. Unfettered capitalism? That doesn't exist anywhere," Limbaugh said.
This week Glenn Beck, another conservative American media commentator, rejected Time magazine's decision to name Pope Francis 'Person of the Year' because of his concern about what he described as the pontiff's "Marxist tendencies".
He, he bestselling authors! For a long time I thought that stupidity is self-evident.
Somewhere I saw a "definition" of the truth: What is. Since the truth, in Evangelized neoliberal/neoconsevative regime (remember, "There is no such thing society"), can't commodified (no market value) as such is worthless. It is difficult to find an honest individual in US, a lie is the norm; in everyday life among common people and everywhere. On radio and TV. Lie is pathological and habitual. The internet is saviors for those who appreciate spiritual values or looking for informations not imposed upon them. In my mind there is line between a lie and stupidity. In the U.S. I do not know when people a lie and when are stupid, and when poorly educated.
Posted by: neretva'43 | Dec 15, 2013 5:19:08 PM | 46
The axis of weevils and the axis of weasels. I saw the video footage of those Black Bloc on the West Coast; they would rush the police line, moving through the front ranks of the peaceful to hammer at the cops; and then, when the wrath of the Centurions surged after them, they would swiftly pull back so that the truncheons would come down on the skulls of the peaceful who had been holding the front ranks in a steadfast way. Look for police provocateurs among the Bloc, those goons whose best thinking is a rampage; they know their business well. I've never seen a photo or vid of one of those apes bleeding or being arrested; as they leave that to others, and get well out of the way themselves. They are the counter-revolutionaries; and those who are not on the official payroll, are just as Hedges has described them, without any real political plans of coherent strategy, other than violence and mayhem.
Posted by: Copeland | Dec 15, 2013 5:21:36 PM | 47
" And as we know from our own failed industrial revolution, it is the duty of the exploited workers to grab a bigger share of the pie over time, and historically speaking they succeed in this effort."
I'm not sure. Historically speaking the living standards of the workers of western Europe and North America is in steep decline and has been declining for thirty years.
Probably more important is the fact that the means whereby the working classes made the gains they did at various times, particularly post 1940, have almost disappeared: the Trade Unions are but a pale shadow of what they once were, social democratic and reform parties have followed the Labour Party in Britain, the NDP in Canada, the Socialists in France and Greece (Italy, Portugal and Spain too into neo-liberalism.
The argument has been made, and there is some truth in it, that the ability of the Capitalists to concede better conditions and wages to working class movements in the Metropolitan centres of the Empire was directly related to the super exploitation of the colonies and the peripheries of empire.
In any case, and this is my point-sorry it took so long to get here- there is no guarantee that in a global capitalist system, the working classes of China and India will be able to improve their positions except by Trade Union campaigns that will make the workforces of Quebec and Wisconsin look attractive.
The reality is that, for the great majority of people everywhere the only way out is through mass political action and a conscious opposition to capitalism. The last thing needed is a "vanguard party", that relic of an age scared of democracy. And fascinated by the "fuhrer prinzip", leadership and the God given great man.
Posted by: bevin | Dec 15, 2013 6:55:16 PM | 48
"... if the US somehow dissolved tomorrow and the world clamored for justice using the Nuremberg principles as the basis for war crime prosecutions how could the trials NOT realistically involve tens? hundreds? of thousands of individual cases? How could it conceivably - yes, this is all theoretical - end without the imprisonment/death of nearly every single person who is an American household name or has been one for the last 5 decades as they knowingly participated in a deadly and premeditated charade that has destroyed and debased the lives of billions of people worldwide?
Over 6 billion served indeed.
I very much agree with this, in fact I agree, or am stimulated into constructive disagreement, with most of the posts on this thread.
JS points to an unusual feature of US society.
The aspirations that the US ruling class has to hegemony are related to the nature of its position within American society, which is unlike that in most countries. The nationalist movement in the US has always been very weak. Patriotism and "Americanism" have tended to be defined as behaviours opposing large sections of society: Indians, Blacks, Poor Whites (Hillbillies, Trash) Asians, immigrants, Irish...Look at the origins of the House Un-American Activities Committee.
The melting pot theory is that all these minorities are gradually homogenised into an American people. But that has never been the case: the only sure way into the "nation" has been to pledge allegiance to the ruling class which, after the revolutionary war, brought up all the IOUs to the "patriot soldiers", heavily discounted, and then used control of the political system to ensure that they made massive profits by giving the "paper" the backing of Congress. While the old soldiers took up begging bowls.
Thus was the pattern established.
It has been maintained ever since because the US has never been threatened to the extent that its ruling class has had to call on the nation to united behind it. In most European countries war has led to nationalist movements in which the masses were offered greater participation in the nation in return for staking their lives at Verduns, Sommes and their equivalents. In countries struggling against colonialism or imperialism similar nationalist movements have grown up, uniting if only in name, the people against the foreign threat.
This has never occurred in the US. Not even during the War of Independence.
The ruling class is, even by comparison with the scum who ruled Britain, uniquely arrogant and sure of its ability to pull the wool over the populace's eyes.
It is this which inspires, under the neo-liberal dispensation, other ruling classes to take similar risks: to americanise their labour relations, healthcare, education, social security and, of course, that most typically American of all things, the use of police powers and the legal system to terrorise the masses.
Posted by: bevin | Dec 15, 2013 8:54:29 PM | 49
A lot of American patriotism is humbug; all the superficial schmaltz that is heaped up on the official holidays and at every State of the Union speech, the glorification of battles and those who fought in them.
Americans, even the dull ones, realize that the premise on which the country was founded has worn thin; and the largely unspoken understanding is that we are on a losing streak that has no end. With banality our bloody presidents, who seem so proud, insist that the U.S. is indispensable to the world.
There was horror finally over Syria, that this megalomania might be punctuated by a firestorm of Russian nukes. The motivation to pressure Congress was people's frayed and worn nerves, unemployment, fear of losing what little sustenance is left, and the certain knowledge that this was no third world country that was being backed into a corner. It's very sad that only a small minority of Americans know enough to be horrified by what we have been doing to Syria and Iran.
But bevin, I think that what you are describing as patriotism/nationalism is rather a streak of authoritarianism that can be found even in the early days of the republic. John Adams' Sedition Law is the first example, that manifested with the heavy hand of majoritarian rule. The Red Scare and the Palmer raids under Woodrow Wilson are about scapegoating and fear-mongering, which required the studied use of propaganda to create an atmosphere of hysteria.
Gen. Smedley Butler's foiling of the fascist coup attempt against FDR is something more rightly associated with patriotism.
Posted by: Copeland | Dec 15, 2013 10:16:49 PM | 50
The argument has been made, and there is some truth in it, that the ability of the Capitalists to concede better conditions and wages to working class movements in the Metropolitan centres of the Empire was directly related to the super exploitation of the colonies and the peripheries of empire. Posted by: bevin | Dec 15, 2013 6:55:16 PM | 48
Of course, that's obvious, but what you never grasped was the basic truth behind the wonderful Law of the Long-Term Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall. Having practiced with this for a couple of years, I can now explain it in basic, non-quantitative, common-sense terms, without Marx's ridiculously arbitrary 'Tables of Reproduction', on which many Marxist scholars, econometricians and mathematicians have wasted many hundreds or thousands of hours. The simple explanation derives directly from the fact that human labour - that is to say, fresh human labour, live humans employed in this particular enterprise, whatever it may be, not 'congealed' human labour stored in the form of machines made in some previous enterprise and bought by the new one - is the sole source of profit, since (all this being in a hypothetical, perfectly competitive market, of course), the fresh human labour is the only thing which is not paid for at its full value. The new capitalist (let us say he makes hairbrushes) buys his hairbrush-making machines from other capitalists at their full value. The previous capitalist, who made the hairbrush-making machines, has already extracted the full profit associated with making them, so the new capitalist pays for them exactly the value of the contribution they make to his enterprise, neither more nor less. However, he pays considerably less for the fresh labour he employs, than its full value. For simplicity, let us assume a general state of productivity such that four hours' worth of average labour suffices to provide all the commodities and services the labourer needs for his own reproduction of himself from one day to the next: food, clothing, shelter, transport, etc. So his employer pays him enough money to buy this four hours' worth of necessities, but extracts in return a full eight hours of labour, if not more. Thus, the employer receives twice as much labour as he pays for, and makes a profit of 100% on his wage bill. But this is his sole source of profit. Now, as time goes by, hairbrush-makers compete with one another in various ways, one of which is to try to reduce the unit cost of their hairbrushes, and this they do by buying more and more sophisticated hairbrush-making machines. In the short term, the one with the most sophisticated machines can produce his hairbrushes most cheaply, and undercut the others, but when they all catch up, the whole hairbush-making industry is using the more sophisticated machines, is more highly automated, and is employing less labour, therefore generating less profit. At the limit, industries become completely automated, employ no labour or next to none, and thus generate no profit or next to none. And this is what is happening.
Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Dec 16, 2013 4:47:27 AM | 51
"... (all this being in a hypothetical, perfectly competitive market, of course)..."
Which, actually never has existed and never possibly could exist. So that is one premiss gone.
As to the rest of this improvement of Marx's theory, I'm unsure what it is meant to add to the dialogue. The real world is one in which, for example, capitalists often operate their businesses at a loss, or, increasingly in this age of privatisation, on a cost plus basis, in which it is beneficial for them to invoice the government for very high wages. And in which the worker is fleeced through taxes and monopoly pricing, for example, or by trading his bodily organs.
Posted by: bevin | Dec 16, 2013 9:59:38 AM | 52
Bevin, I believe what Rowan means that sooner or later, the maker of hairbrushes will run out of exploitative potential and thus be himself destroyed in the process.
Rowan @ 16
Nice comment. Somehow in my weekend bloviating I missed it.
I believe my comments in this thread, and in general are steeped in "the dialectic." Please feel free to show me where I'm wrong.
For instance, my pathological hatred for the US/West is matched by similar feelings of disgust for the plutocrats and their lackeys of Russia, Syria, Iran and China, also.
I believe the differentiation in mood expression by nation-state towards imperialism is misguided and reactionary, although certainly understandable in the present worldwide context. To hate is to be human, after all. Hatred plays an important part in historical processes, unfortunately.
Posted by: donkeytale | Dec 16, 2013 11:04:12 AM | 53
You missed it because it fell into the spam hole, as occasional things will do, and Bernhard had to fish it out. When this happens, it causes the added nuisance that from that point on in the thread, all numbering is moved one digit forward, which makes a nonsense of people's thoughtful citations of one another's comments by number. But so it goes. Thank you for your kind compliments. For a human paraquat such as I am, with antisemitism oozing from my every pore, all compliments are much needed.
Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Dec 16, 2013 12:07:52 PM | 54
neretva at 36 you completely misunderstood my post. Or one of them.
I agree (more or less) with what you posted, but I was not talking about the 1%.
In fact now I think about it your brief description in terms of 1% and 99% - sort of standard say “Internet / Occupy” fare - which one can accept as a kind of summary - is in fact wildly understated.
If you think I am even mildly or for the sake of specious argument endorsing this kind of inequality you are much mistaken. (In the posts above which were about something entirely different, but made reference to the Global Overclass which you ignored...)
In fact it is far worse, far far worse, inequality of income / wealth expressed in these kind of % is but the tip of iceberg. And it is set, of course, to continue.
In some ways, blaming the rich for being rich (1 or 15 or 20%) serves as a kind of mask to blind oneself to war, sadism, torture, slavery, human trafficking, despotism, slave wages, murder, and more. And that is without even mentioning politics at all. Without even touching that.
So no drink for you from my bar tab! Suffer! In Silence! :) Meanwhile I'll go smoke and drink a beer on the sidewalk.
Posted by: Noirette | Dec 16, 2013 4:38:11 PM | 55