Actually Existing Capitalism: Wrecking Societies for the Benefit of Big Capital and the Super-Rich

From Truth Out:

By CJ Polychroniou
Thursday, 12 December 2013

The evidence suggests that capitalism has become wholly predatory and has given up all pretense of being “socially responsible.”

Are all of the socioeconomic issues confronting Europe and the United States – recession or stagnant growth, skyrocketing unemployment, lowered prospects for new job creation, a demand shortage, a widening gap between the haves and have-nots, social malaise – merely consequences of the financial crisis of 2007-08?

A strong case can be made that what we have been witnessing since then is not simply a severe financial crisis centered in the developed world but the fact that today’s capitalism is simply incapable of functioning in an economic way conducive to maintaining sustainable and balanced growth.

The so-called “financialization” of the economy, so prone to financial crises and meltdowns as the late Hyman Minsky has shown, cannot be understood independent of the production processes or developments in the real economy. Advanced capitalism had been facing severe structural stresses, strains and deformations – including overproduction, trade deficits, lack of job growth and elevated public and private debt levels – for quite a few decades prior to the eruption of the financial crisis of 2007-08.

Indeed, the “financialization” wave – which many have labeled “casino capitalism” or “stock market capitalism” but which amounts essentially to the deregulation of giant financial entities capable of shaping and controlling the fate of national economies – began as a result of the structural problems associated with the postwar regime of capital accumulation, whose collapse in the mid-1970s threatened the growing expansion of capitalism. Thus, “financialization” does not spring out of the blue but emerges as an alternative model to the decay of the postwar regime of accumulation.

What is accumulation, you ask? Well, in the Marxist tradition dating back to Marx himself and to his Theories of Surplus Value, capitalist accumulation is the conversion of surplus value into capital for the purpose of producing more surplus value. Keynes disagreed on this point with Marx’s contention by ignoring it completely, but if you believe in the Freudian/Lacanian analysis, that meant that he opted to repress its truism. At any rate, the accumulation of capital is projected to be an objective movement that develops on the basis of the appropriation of unpaid labor power. From a historical perspective, the scale of accumulation depends on the specific form of the expansion of capital and on the productive power of social labor. Hence, when the capitalist class faces capital expansion with a low organic composition of capital (which refers to the ratio of the value of the constant capital to variable capital), the increase of capital is actualized by the growth of absolute surplus values (i.e., by increasing the length of the working day and hence of exploitation).1

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