Stephen Karlson (shkarlson) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Stephen Karlson

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The great hope of leftist vanguards of all stripes is that they will have the great good fortune to be alive during the Final Collapse of Capitalism.  The dynamics are simple enough.  "Marx, of course, is the chronicler of technical progress making possible the production of stuff in such abundance that the workers would have insufficient buying power to buy it, because the private owners of the means of production accumulate wealth out of the difference between the prices of the products they sell and the subsistence wages they pay."  The ending seems foreordained.

Along with the constantly diminishing number of the magnates of capital, who usurp and monopolize all advantages of this process of transformation, grows the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation; but with this too grows the revolt of the working-class, a class always increasing in numbers, and disciplined, united, organized by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself, The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production. Centralization of the means of production and socialization of labor at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.

And yet the Long Depression that accompanied the Gilded Age didn't bring it.

The Great Depression didn't bring it.

Two decades of bursting bubbles and Great Reset haven't yet brought it.

But David M. Kotz, in The Rise and Fall of Neoliberal Capitalism, today's Book Review No. 7, thinks about how to bring it.  Think a shorter Capital, starting with the market-friendly reforms that accompanied the failures of the Great Society and the European welfare states rather than with the primitive accumulation, and, after a look at the internal contradictions unleashed by those reforms, it concludes with suggestions about what comes next.  We're past the simple dialectic in which a socialism replaces capitalism.  Page 181: "The social structure of accumulation theory argues that every structural crisis is followed by major institutional restructuring."  (There are books that can be written about what sorts of restructurings are futile reforms and what revolutionary transformations are sectarian, but Mr Kotz, mercifully, doesn't go there.)

He concludes, however, with the observation that This Time It's Different.  Not quite integument-bursts-asunder different, but different enough that people might be receptive to "social democratic capitalism" (it differs from "Western Europe" but read the book) or to "democratic participatory planned socialism" (the details are fuzzy; there are emergence possibilities I grapple with here) as possibilities.  Mr Kotz concludes, likely correctly, that the getting there "cannot be predicted."

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)
Tags: academic, current events, politics
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