Discover more from M&M - Marx & Medicine
a note on neoliberalism and the prospect of neo-FDRism
well the group chat was ‘litty’ the other night with the usual talk of the awful people, the putrid scumbags, the damn fuckers, the Trots, the bitch ass marks, and so on, of this world. lamenting the incredibly deflating losses of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, it led to us talking about the prospect of a future social democratic era similar to the days of Franklin D Roosevelt, the famous good boy of American modernity. it got me to wondering if it’d even be possible.
contra to the rapidly industrializing, export-led war economy of the 1940s is the postindustrial, service-driven, financialized husk of 21st century neoliberal capitalism.
in the 1940s the US was able to implement this "sorta-social” democracy (Black Americans were largely left out) when, following a WW2-related boom period at the end of the Great Depression, profit, reinvestment, and GDP growth were ‘nutty high.’
but GDP growth over the last 40 years has been consistently lagging when compared to the heydays of industrial manufacturing; which is due to a lot of factors, but key among them is the tendency for the rate of profit to fall (which Marx talks about most in Vol 3 of Capital, which i haven’t read or anything but i yknow looked it up).
in the ~early 1960s, profits (and therefore investment) in the industrial manufacturing sector started to fall due to 1) a quickly increasing organic composition of capital [a more capital-intensive economy] and 2) intensifying competition/overproduction. this was all in the lead up to the oil crisis and the stagflation of the 1970s.
because of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, reinvestment in those industrial sectors became risky, meaning capitalists thought they wouldn’t be able to get their money back - or at least not enough profit to justify the investment.
so what capitalists and the wealthy ended up doing was 1) hoarding cash and/or 2) investing in more potentially lucrative things. securities, debts, rents, interest, real estate, speculation… money that makes money but doesn’t actually produce anything (instead of M->C->M’, of industrial capitalism, it’s the M->M’ of financial capitalism).
and that's what neoliberalism is, right? the political and material sequelae from the financialization of a sputtering industrial capitalism. and if that’s true, it makes total sense why neoliberalism sits on these 3 primary pillars:
privatization - boost potential profit opportunities in the industrial private sector by reducing the public sector to a shell
deregulation - this largely reduces the cost of variable capital - worsening labor conditions, reduced wages/benefits - and creates zero accountability/restitution for negative externalities, e.g. climate change
austerity - in the attempt to boost profits and stimulate growth, you see 1) tax cuts for investors, 2) cuts to public spending on social programs to try to reduce the public debt from Keynesian deficit spending, 3) an increase in the relative rate of surplus value by increasing productivity, which allows you to lay off workers, which increases un- and underemployment, which makes workers more desperate, which reduces labor’s power to put strain on capital -> the contemporary destruction of the labor movement. tack on a few various arenas of usury (credit, student loan debt, etc.) and you’ve got yourself a neoliberalism.
all of this is to say that we have an entirely different economy and politics today; the ruling class understands this, and that any further strain on capital means the end of the US empire. which to me is why we continue to see horrible things happen over and over and over, e.g.
infinite riches to the wealthy and corporations
STILL no single payer
the resolutely evil non-response to the pandemic
the nonstop undermining of labor and escalation of exploitation
…despite common sense telling us to tax the wealthy and support the public.
these people know that there’s very little fuel left in the tank, and the Fed can only bail them out so many times (i think…?).
i really believe that an FDR-like social democracy in an economy like ours is simply not possible - at the very least not sustainable for very long. which SHOULD signal people to think maybe something like “yeah, we had a good run but maybe capitalism’s time is finally done!” but instead? it leads people to think “nice things are communism and u all have to die to keep this thing afloat.”