Friday, October 29, 2010

Globalization, Empire and Decadence

For those readers with a decent grasp of Spanish I must recommend this article of Jorge Beinstein at Rebelión:

Declinación del capitalismo, fin del crecimiento global, ilusiones imperiales y periféricas, alternativas (Declive of capitalism, end of global growth, imperial and peripheral illusions, alternatives).

It's really long and has little waste but I'll try to make a synthesis for those who can't read Spanish:

The bravadoes of capitalist success of the 1990s are gone. Now the best that capitalist ideologues can come up with is a mythical W shape for the economy that would, eventually, in a distant future, recover its past glory. Of course this is a false prospect: there's no recovery. 

Capitalism has succeeded in creating finally the first global economy but this success is also its decadence. This is the first condition for the overcoming of the Capitalist stage of history.

Our time is defined by the cooling of global capitalism and the failure of the central economies in keeping themselves on top. As reaction the Empire attempts to use its greatest advantage: military power. The Empire has launched an array of offensives in Eurasia, Africa and specially Latin America in an attempt to keep itself together and weaken its competitors (the BRIC basically).

Today the imperial power system is based on a state reason founded on the desperation generated by a senile brain... 

But the Empire is sick, it is huge but it is plagued of weak spots, time is its foe: it brings new economic woes, new social degradation, and amplifies the areas of autonomy and rebellion.

The economic stimuli only briefly patched the problem, while creating another one: debt. Now the austerity measures again can only be patch and one at a huge cost of legitimacy.

Now the dilemma of the imperial leaders is either to keep piling up debt (a short-term patch) or to enter a long depression in the hope of regaining control (a long-term disaster). It is a false alternative however: there are no options, no horizon of hope for the system. 

The roots of the crisis are old however: they come from the 1970s (or even earlier), when the overproduction was canalized into the military and financial departments (increasing military spending and relaxing financial controls). These reforms allowed to contain the crisis but degraded the whole structure: real productive capital declined and virtual, parasitic, financial capital thrived instead.

Critically, depredation replaced reproduction. 

Actually the predatory tendency was part of the system since its foundations but until these reforms, it was subservient of the reproductive role of society as a whole. Now reproduction does not seem to matter anymore: it's just like a global Tortuga island where all wealth is obtained by robbery or scam and spent almost at the moment.

There is no tomorrow, no plan. 

Seen in the long run, the Capitalist system of the 19th century did not simply chain up falls and recoveries but actually, after each recession, the system recomposed itself by accumulating more and more parasitic (financial) capital. The financial cancer irrupted in full at the change of century and eventually obtained total control several decades later. 

The discourse of progress and modernity obscured this fact, which, when evidenced, was considered backwards, a taint on the otherwise glorious colors of the titanic march of humankind to a better future (future that never really arrived, by the way). 

Where is the future that our old men forged?, sang a punk band from around here already in the early 80s.

Meanwhile the Military-Industrial Complex, whose parasitic nature should also be obvious (main cause of deficit, does not anymore generate many jobs, lives off destruction and death) took a central role as well. It became integrated with the financial and energetic sectors in one single massive oligopoly of parasitic nature. 

In synthesis: there is a perverse dialectic relationship between the expansion of the global mass of profits, its growing speed, the multiplication of civil and military bureaucratic structures of social control, global concentration of income, rise of the parasitic tide and the depredation of the ecosystem

This causes that overcoming Capitalism is not anymore the most necessary step in order to continue progressing but firs of all because Humankind needs to survive.

Capitalism and Anglo-Saxon civilization are the same thing. Europe and Japan languish at the shadow of US decadence, Chinese growth has been based on exports towards these declining markets. There doesn't seem to be an alternative as the US Empire decays. 

Not within the Capitalist system certainly. 

Meanwhile the peripheries have forged a history of struggles and organization, often defeated but still part of the social memory. In Latin America specially the old oligarchies are losing control. The US plan of restoring the old boys is destined to fail. Through the World, the empire is a thread of unstable vassals and protectorates, whose internal dynamics, expression of the crisis of underdeveloped modernity, are not anymore under imperial control and that actually challenge directly the imperial foundations.

In the periphery is the BRIC also, regional barons rather than true challengers, whose success is based in their very integration in Global Capitalism. They can maybe realize national capitalism to some extent but this must get them, sooner than later, facing the same barriers that affect the Empire they mirror. No hope either in those models that are not truly autonomous. Nothing is today.

Meanwhile the resistances, presented in the media as lost causes, unable to effectively challenge the monstrous military, economic and propaganda machine of the empire, survive against all odds. They stubbornly refuse to surrender and/or reappear with new forms.

But they are fragmented. Somewhat ironically the globalization of these necessarily local struggles appears as the necessary evolution of Humankind, as the necessary form of our collective survival.

So far the synthesis.

Opinion: Socialism or Capitalism Cancer and Death?

I agree with all the article, a rare occurrence. 

I agree that Capitalism has degenerated into a mere parasitism, what was unavoidable; that it has brought us so far but is unable to bring us to port and unless removed from office will get the ship wrecked and all us dead or worse. 

I think that the Empire has two good historical comparisons: one is a blend of late republic and late empire of Rome, the other, maybe the best comparison is the Habsburg Empire of Charles V and Philip II, with its meteoric rise and fall, its oversizing and its facing multiple foes all around. It is also an example that has all the qualities of Western Modernity. 

But there is one difference: the difference between the print and the Internet. The speed of communication.

There are other differences: Capitalism has organized huge transforming (productive) forces indeed but I see the Internet as the culmination of globalization and more or less effective reunion of Humankind into a single intellectual network with no or few bounds and near instantaneous impact. So it embodies the rest somehow. Similarly the printing machine represents better than anything else Early Modernity (even Late Modernity). It was the print what had the Protestants organized for instance, even if the Empire also made use of it. Hundreds of years later it was also the print which brought the bourgeois system to power and even in the last century it was central... until the Internet took over. 

This is something the article does not ponder except in a very general sense. If Modernity was the Age of Print, what will be the Age of Internet? It should not be the same: it never happens that way.

Sure: I'm ignoring a bit the impact of telephone, radio and TV but you will excuse me for that I hope: they are more a transition than any stable stage and could not really take the place of the printing machine, be it Gutenberg's or the Vietnamese.

Whatever the exact details of future developments, we are at a historical crossroads like no one before. There is a lot of potential here: billions of people, mostly good people, a global quasi-instant network of collective thought, persistent insurgencies nearly everywhere, growing awareness. There is also a huge challenge like never before, beginning by our environmental survival (us in our environment: Earth), continuing by how to organize so many people at a scale of democracy never before known and ending on the thorny details of how to organize a post-capitalist economy with no real precedents. 

I honestly do not feel at the height of the challenge and probably neither do you. But that is the challenge and we are here (by chance, by destiny...) to face it the best we can. 

For what they were we are, for what we are they will be. Ya know.

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