Erle Frayne D. Argonza
The events in the Eurozone are now getting to be more alarming. Forecasters are now claiming that another round of recession is in the offing, as the bubble burst that began in Greece will spread to Spain, Ireland, and other member-states of the EU.
Will liberal capitalism continue to live a life that seems to hang in the balance? Or will capitalism need to restore itself through totalitarian means? What’s so wrong with the system that it just can’t be sustained enough?
Let me share to you past blog writings about the subject: ‘mad economics’ and the ‘demise of liberal capitalism.’
[Philippines, 23 May 2010]
‘LATE’ CAPITALISM ENDS IN CRASHING BLOW POST-‘MAD ECONOMICS’
Erle Frayne Argonza
At this moment, I’m sipping coffee contained in a pack that is sold for worth P130, or $3.00. The pack is one of the domestic brands of brewed coffee blends, ready for the drip coffee maker, of the Arabica and/or Robusta varieties. In economic parlance, this coffee is a commodity because (a) it was intended for exchange and not for the coffee producer’s consumption alone, and (b) money was used to acquire (purchase) it.
I have such deep fondness for coffee, as I acquired my coffee-drinking behavior as a childhood habit yet. In my hometown of Tuguegarao (city), Cagayan province (North Philippines), coffee beans were grounded into powder form and sold right inside the ‘wet’ market, was brewed using the local decoction techniques, and was consumed by people of all ages from pre-school to senior’s age. That was then, and that was how I learned to drink this beverage at age 5 more or less. I was hooked to the habit since then, even as I continued to drink milk that I still do till now.
Both coffee and milk are among my health formulas, and both are commodities.
The question I’m asking now is, will commodity-based economics survive the times ahead? Both coffee and milk will survive for sure, but will the money economy that underpins them survive as well? As to the broader world system of capitalism, will it survive too or is it in fact on its death knell today?
Capitalism was the last of the world systems that embodied the ‘money economy’ to which it properly belongs. With the opening of the 20th century, the socialist world system appeared on the social landscape and attempted to serve as an alternative to capitalism, but this experienced its early demise as its implementers found out that it cannot be sustained after all. Both capitalism and socialism are embodiments of the ‘money economy’ as it later turned out to be, they are just but two sides of the same coin: the ‘money economy’.
Socialism is gone, and no matter what attempts there may arrive to survive it in some other forms, this variant of the ‘money economy’ is gone. Now capitalism is all alone, and it is getting more real than virtual that it too is bound to crash a catastrophic end, and with its demise, the “last of the (economic) Mojicans” is bound to disappear (my apologies to Mojicans if my note sounds ethnically incorrect). And with capitalism’s demise, the whole of the ‘money economy’ folds up like unto a book that had reached its last chapter, and deserves more to be consigned to the archives of history.
The Frankfurt school thinkers, notably Jurgen Habermas, cogitated that capitalism’s life span was extended somehow, and was dubbed as ‘late’ capitalism in this last phase of the world system. In this phase, state planning and interventionism were infused into the system to extend its life. Before ‘late’ capital came the mercantile, free enterprise, and monopoly phases of this world system. Will there be another phase to capitalism after ‘late’ capital?
Before I answer that extension of life span, let me stress that ‘late’ capitalism shall end in the following process and manner:
• The re-introduction of liberalization—of free market and free trade principles—into ‘late’ capital shifted engagements away from production, the real foundation of the economy, to the sphere of predatory finance, thus producing the gargantuan ‘bubble economy’. The ‘physical economy’ of production transmogrified into the ‘virtual economy’ that produces no real value other than imaginary or delusional values. It is ‘mad economics’ in operation, no longer the ‘rational economics’ of mercantilists, classicists and neo-classicists.
• The ‘mad economics’ led to the yawning gap between actually produced values and the aggregates of financial derivatives and debts combined, to the extent that the former shrinks at a rapid rate relative to the latter. As bubbles burst from one commodity sector to another, leading eventually to a crisis of gargantuan proportion, all the more will production shrink, unable to produce values that can input into the demand functions for fresh money to pay for aggregate credits, primary debts, secondary debt obligations, and so on.
• The crisis will then move on to the further shrinking of production, tightening of credit sources, and hyperinflationary situation in utilities (notably gas & power), food, base metals and other vital commodities. Total economic collapse results from the foregoing.
• The economic collapse then leads to social unrests, turmoil, upheavals, civil wars, food wars, water wars, and possibly intercontinental wars such as another 3rd world war. The clash of world powers and their surrogate emerging markets will become the flames of a possible long war akin to the 30 Years War (c.1618-48).
Let me now end at that instance. Suffice me to proclaim that the death knell of ‘late’ capitalism and the whole of the ‘money economy’ of the last 2000 years or so are ending. The ‘non-cognitive economics’ of the Roman to feudal era, the ‘rational economics’ of the Renaissance to monopoly capital era, and the ‘mad economics’ of ‘late’ capital were markedly the underpinning mediation processes of that entire 2000-year epoch. The epoch and its last phase of capitalism is rapidly drawing to a close.
[Writ 22 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila.]
CAPITALISM’S DEMISE: WHAT WENT WRONG?
Erle Frayne Argonza
To all fellow men and women out there who may have deep fondness for the liberal capitalist model of economic adaptation, I hope that you can make some adjustments in your cognitive banks. Capitalism is not a permanent facet of human life, but merely one among various epochs that will come to pass. Only impermanence is sacrosanct in the cosmos, so please refrain from singing hallelujah to a world system that is on its death knell as I articulated in a previous article.
And please refrain from swallowing hook-line-&-sinker the contentious propaganda of Francis Fukuyama about the ‘end of history’, that accordingly history had concluded with the galvanization of liberal capitalism, that history makes no more sense. Fukuyama’s theory is a slapstick narrative of hyper-valuation of the ‘mad economics’ of late capitalism and hypo-statization of reality that has no relation at all to the real in the world out there. Fukuyama had taken as ‘real’ what is actually ‘virtual’, and froze time much like unto a fairy tale of timelessness, of history-less Nietzschean moment that is fit more for infants than for adult humans.
Fukuyama epitomizes the ‘mad economics’ of all those Pied Pipers of the global oligarchy for whom he works, and his discourse is akin to the ‘mad discourse’ so described by the late Michel Foucault. The ‘mad economics’ of Friedman, Hayek, Fukuyama, and all those technocrats who serve as processors and bagmen for the global oligarchy, is precisely symptomatic of that colossal ailment of a world system, and as we all know, madness can never salve ailments but rather hasten the system’s death. Caput! Blow your horns, prepare dirges to this Dead One!
Unless that you yourselves have become maddened by the seemingly infinite monies flowing unto your purses as you are among the beneficiaries of ‘late’ capital, unless that you are indeed now suffering from combined maladies of sociopathy and schizophrenia, unless that sanity had departed from thee forever, please heed the last plea of your own conscience where sanity had retreated: CAPITALISM IS DEAD! No amount of propagandizing, of contorted interpretations, can ever change the course of history at this juncture, as we are all headed for a TOTAL SYSTEM COLLAPSE in the months ahead. Read that please: MONTHS AHEAD, not years ahead.
What went wrong with capitalism? I’m sure all of you fellows knew what went wrong, do I even need to answer that? Your previous thinker mentors, among economists and sociologists, forewarned you all of the forthcoming demise of capitalism, but you paid nary an attention to those brilliant minds as you were so engrossed in your ‘conspicuous consumption’, behaving more like some infantile EATERS or as anthropoids rather than as thinking and spiritually evolving humans. You are all very much human, so please consistently behave like one, and begin by listening to the Inner Voice of your conscience, for that voice is your soul’s.
Let me summarize the diagnostics, forewarnings and/or prophecies of our thinker mentors from the West, and I’d stress WEST because there are some other thinker mentors from the EAST and SOUTH whose peregrinations are so recondite they are not so easily digestible. Let me just stress the WEST as this is what is common to us all. So let me re-echo the thinkers and their theories:
• Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels: The internal contradictions between the private nature of capital (ownership of means of production) and the social nature of production. The ‘crisis of overproduction’ and the ‘law of the falling rate of profit’ are attendant patterns. Social revolution results, then the alternative society will be constructed.
• Max Weber: Industrial capitalism’s granite product, the bureaucracy, led to dehumanization. He never forecast though whether this dehumanizing system can be sustained—but please read between the lines. (His contemporary Emile Durkheim had a similar observation about ‘anomie’ or normless state of urban/industrial society.)
• Thorsten Veblen: The end-phase of industrial capitalism is markedly pathological. ‘Conspicuous consumption’ is the disease of this phase, the toxic behavior from the ruling class that later filtered down to the emerging middle class.
• Joseph Schumpeter: The internal contradiction between the desire for profit and the revolutionary character of innovation. The demise of capitalism will see the possibility of the technical class taking over society and build that alternative system later.
• Daniel Bell: The ‘post-industrial’ society had already been born right inside capitalism. A distinct modality in itself, post-industrialism will eventually prevail in a system that isn’t capitalist (or money economy) but rather knowledge-based. The ‘service worker’ had arrived on the social landscape, the prototype class of the future.
• Theodore Adorno, Jurgen Habermas, Herbert Marcuse: ‘Late’ capital is characterized by the pervasiveness of ‘instrumental reason’, where reason is used to justify the non-rational (‘madness’ in Foucault’s argot), where state planning/intervention was infused into a system that scorned intervention.
• Alvin Toffler: Both capitalism and socialism are based on hoarding, both are variants of the same industrial society of yesteryears, both are based on ‘2nd wave’ capital-intensive technologies and non-renewable energy sources. The ‘post-industrial’ society is altogether distinct, isn’t based on hoarding, production-consumption (‘prosumer’) is based on ‘3rd wave’ knowledge-intensive technologies and renewable energy sources, knowledge cannot be hoarded.
I need not articulate further, do I? They all converged on one theme: capitalism is transitory, it bred social maladies (alienation, dehumanization, anomie, conspicuous consumption,…), is systemically flawed, and will be dismantled at sometime in the future.
No matter how delimited their theories maybe, as they all proceeded from certain perspectives (they were all ‘paradigm’-based in the jargon of Thomas Kuhn), they all proclaimed—in either tacit or explicit fashion—the coming demise of the system. They weren’t as silly as Fukuyama who popularized seemingly ‘satanic verses’ (distorted precepts) about a non-changing, permanent economic landscape called ‘liberal capitalism’, but were rather so adroit at social forecasting that they saw a vision of the future as they were articulating on their empirical observations of the present society.
So, fellows out there, prepare for the months and years ahead. We are headed towards those stormy months, years, maybe even decades. How the future society will come to shape is not easy to forecast. “Something blurs the Force, darkens our sight of the future,” declared a Jedi Master in the Star Wars cinema fame. Let me end right here.
[Writ 22 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila.]