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  1. Monthly Review | Capitalism Has Failed—What Next?
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Some would argue that China stands as an exception to much of the above, characterized as it is by a seemingly unstoppable rate of economic advance though carrying with it deep social and ecological contradictions.

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Yet Chinese development has its roots in the Chinese Revolution, carried out by the Chinese Communist Party headed by Mao Zedong, whereby it liberated itself from the imperialist system. This allowed it to develop for decades under a planned economy largely free of constraints from outside forces, establishing a strong agricultural and industrial economic base. China, therefore, stands not so much for the successes of late capitalism but rather for its inherent limitations.

The current Chinese model, moreover, carries within it many of the destructive tendencies of the system of capital accumulation. How did these disastrous conditions characterizing capitalism worldwide develop? An understanding of the failure of capitalism, beginning in the twentieth century, requires a historical examination of the rise of neoliberalism, and how this has only served to increase the destructiveness of the system.

Only then can we address the future of humanity in the twenty-first century. Many of the symptoms of the failure of capitalism described above are well-known. Nevertheless, they are often attributed not to capitalism as a system, but simply to neoliberalism, viewed as a particular paradigm of capitalist development that can be replaced by another, better one. For many people on the left, the answer to neoliberalism or disaster capitalism is a return to welfare-state liberalism, market regulation, or some form of limited social democracy, and thus to a more rational capitalism.

It is not the failure of capitalism itself that is perceived as the problem, but rather the failure of neoliberal capitalism. In contrast, the Marxian tradition understands neoliberalism as an inherent outgrowth of late capitalism, associated with the domination of monopoly-finance capital. A critical-historical analysis of neoliberalism is therefore crucial both to grounding our understanding of capitalism today and uncovering the reason why all alternatives to neoliberalism and its capitalist absolutism are closed within the system itself.

He strongly condemned labor legislation, compulsory social insurance, trade unions, unemployment insurance, socialization or nationalization , taxation, and inflation as the enemies of his refurbished liberalism.

Monthly Review | Capitalism Has Failed—What Next?

They strongly challenged his ahistorical depiction of a harmonious capitalism that promoted free exchange and free trade through the market mechanism. Likewise, it was noted that Mises advocated a strong state to repress working-class struggles in the name of a self-regulating market system, even when state action on behalf of workers was condemned as anti-free market and a form of class terror. It was designed to provide the intellectual basis for capitalist class warfare against not only socialism, but all attempts at social regulation and social democracy: a no-quarter-given attack on the working class.

In the s to s, following the Great Depression and the Second World War, neoliberal ideology waned in the context of the deepening crisis of capitalism. In the early s, as the storm clouds gathered over Europe, Mises served as an economic advisor to Austrofascist Chancellor-dictator Engelbert Dollfuss prior to the Nazi takeover of Austria.

Meanwhile, Hayek was recruited by the London School of Economics at the instigation of the early neoliberal British economist Lionel Robbins. Spurred on by increased state spending particularly on the military in the context of the Cold War , the rebuilding of the war-torn European and Japanese economies, the expansion of the sales effort, waves of automobilization in both the United States and Europe, and two major regional wars in Asia—capitalist economies grew rapidly for a quarter-century.

Nevertheless, the tendency toward economic stagnation already exhibited in the s remained as a structural flaw of the system, temporarily masked by the so-called Golden Age of rapid growth and increasing income for workers that immediately followed the Second World War.

The giant corporations of monopoly capitalism succeeded in appropriating ever-greater surplus in both absolute and relative terms, which was concentrated in the hands of ever-fewer wealth holders, leading to a tendency toward overaccumulation of capital and manufacturing overcapacity, countered in part by a massive expansion of the sales effort, militarism, and imperialism, but with ever-lessening effect in stimulating the economy.

This was associated with a slowdown in the U. The major stimuli that sparked the post-Second World War boom had all waned, leaving the advanced capitalist economies in the doldrums. The first response to the structural crisis of the capitalist system that emerged in the s was to utilize Keynesian demand-promotion to expand state spending. Inflation, which depreciates accumulated wealth held in the form of monetary assets, is a much greater immediate threat to the position of the capitalist class than is economic stagnation, while for the working class the situation is reversed.

No doubt remembering the devastating Marxist critiques of neoliberal ideology in the s, they eschewed the label neoliberal , which Mises himself had adopted in , and which had been put forward in the Walter Lippmann Colloquium in Paris that Mises and Hayek attended.

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In this way, as Michel Foucault argued, it was converted into a kind of biopolitics. Central to neoliberal philosophy from the beginning was the defense of concentrated corporate capital and class dynasties, which were portrayed as representing free-market competition and entrepreneurship. Neoliberalism as an economic ideology was largely ineffectual in normal economic-policy terms, judged by its lack of success in promoting growth, since, like neoclassical economics itself, it sought to deny or rationalize the reality of an economy dominated by big business and concentrated power.

Globalization meant not only new markets, but, more importantly—through the global labor arbitrage—the appropriation of huge economic surpluses from the overexploitation of low-wage labor in the periphery that ended up in the financial coffers of multinational corporations and wealthy individuals in the rich countries. Meanwhile, digital technology created the basis of a new globalized surveillance capitalism, buying and selling information on the population, primarily motivated by the sales effort, leading to the creation of enormous information-technology monopolies.

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Vast increases in inequality and wealth were justified as returns for innovation, always attributed to a very few rather than as the collective product of society. In the new era of expropriation, all was up for grabs: education, health systems, transportation, housing, land, cities, prisons, insurance, pensions, food, entertainment. All exchanges in society were to be fully commodified, corporatized, and financialized, with the funds flowing into financial centers and feeding speculation on capital gains, leveraged by debt.

Human communication was itself to be turned into a commodity. All in the name of a free-market society. For the powers that be, this strategy was enormously successful. Capitalism, despite Adam Smith, had never been about the wealth of nations so much as the wealth of the capitalist class. The financialization process managed to counter economic-stagnation tendencies to some extent, but at the cost of periodic financial crises layered over the normal business cycle.

Nevertheless, the amassing of wealth at the top continued to accelerate, with financial crises themselves leading to even greater financial concentration and centralization. In this situation, neoliberalism increasingly took on the logic of financialized expropriation and accumulation. The state too became subject to the financialization policy, shifting its overall role to protecting the value of money.

Process Self-Reliance

Rather than representing a severe crisis for neoliberalism itself, the Great Financial Crisis only gave it further impetus, reflecting the fact that neoliberal politics had become the ideological expression of an all-encompassing system of financial expropriation. A characteristic of this new era of financialized accumulation is that it is progressively removed from the realities of production and use value, heightening the conflict between exchange value the value form and use value the natural form within the overall production and accumulation process.

Fossil fuels are entered as financial assets on the books of corporations, even when they exist only in the form of reserves buried in the ground. In this way, they are integral to the entire financialized accumulation process of monopoly capitalism. Trillions of dollars of Wall Street assets are thus tied up in fossil capital.

Hence, there is less of a vested interest in these forms of energy. The human population stands by, seemingly helpless, watching the destruction of the climate and the loss of innumerable species, all imposed by the ostensibly overwhelming force of market society.

Neoliberalism has always been directly opposed to strict laissez faire since it has invariably emphasized a strong, interventionist, and constructionist relation to the state, in the direct service of private capital and market authoritarianism, or what James K. Galbraith has critically referred to as the predator state. The role of the state is not simply to protect property, as maintained by Smith, but, as Foucault brilliantly explained in his Birth of Biopolitics , extends to the active construction of the domination of the market over all aspects of life.

Hence, both fiscal and monetary policy are increasingly put out of reach of the government itself—in those cases where changes going against the vested interests are contemplated. Central banks have been transformed into largely autonomous branches of the state, in fact controlled by the banks. Treasury departments are shackled by debt ceilings.

Regulatory agencies are captured by monopoly-finance capital and act, for the most part, in the direct interest of corporations outside governmental control. The result of such an attempt to construct a so-called self-regulating market society—in fact requiring constant state interventions on behalf of capital and the creation of a predator state—is, as Polanyi powerfully demonstrated, to undermine the very foundations of society and life itself.

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