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Political orthodoxy and economic reality

Written By: - Date published: 9:46 am, February 13th, 2012 - 68 comments
Categories: capitalism, economy, socialism, sustainability - Tags: , ,

Capitalism is good. Globalisation is good. These are pretty much givens in “Western” countries. Certainly they are taken for granted in mainstream New Zealand politics. The two major parties tinker with the parameters, but they’re both playing in the same ball park.

But it’s good to challenge assumptions every now and then, and recent pieces by two excellent authors, often quoted here at The Standard, do just that. First up Bernard Hickey:

Tough reality in a world of hurt

Does globalisation work to make most people better off most of the time?

Until recently it was mostly the more left-wing fringes of academia and political life that asked this question and didn’t like the answer. The events of the past four years have shoved this debate firmly into the mainstream and now even the most conservative of economists and academics are questioning the drive to globalise everything. …

Four years on from the Global Financial Crisis and we’re now in a second round of a global debt crisis. Economies in the West are slipping into Zombie-like states of perma-recession with high unemployment, falling real wages and intense social pressures.

High-paid manufacturing jobs that underpinned healthy middle classes have been gutted in the drive for globalisation and replaced by often insecure and lowly-paid jobs in fast-food joints, hospitals, shops and hotels.

Now a debate is growing after the publication of a research paper by mainstream economists in the United States with the dry title: The China Syndrome: Local Labor Market Effects of Import Competition in the United States. It shows a quarter of America’s manufacturing job losses are due to the effects of cheap labour in China and that the shift in jobs has significantly increased government spending on unemployment benefits, healthcare costs and retraining costs. …

Globalisation makes things cheap and helps lift millions out of poverty, but the costs are borne largely by the developed world’s middle classes. …

Gordon Campbell rattles the cage of orthodoxy even harder:

Why State Capitalism Is Beating The Free Market

And why New Zealand is no good at either…

Late last month, the Economist magazine published a debate on state capitalism, in which it proposed that state-led market economies are fast becoming a global rival to the old models of liberal, free market capitalism. The chapter and verse it provided is indeed pretty impressive. More than three-quarters of the world’s oil reserves, the magazine reported, are controlled by state-backed companies, ranging from the world’s biggest natural-gas company, Russia’s Gazprom to Brazil’s Petrobras. Saudi Basic Industries Corporation is the world’s second largest diversified chemicals company, Russia’s Sberbank is Europe’s third-largest bank by market capitalisation. Dubai Ports happens to be the world’s third-largest ports operator, and Emirates is one of the world’s fastest growing airlines.

Reportedly, state companies comprise 80% of the value of the stockmarket in China, 62% in Russia and 38% in Brazil. Together, the Economist summarised, they accounted for “one-third of the emerging world’s foreign direct investment between 2003 and 2010 and an even higher proportion of its most spectacular acquisitions, as well as a growing proportion of the very largest firms: three Chinese state-owned companies rank among the world’s ten biggest companies by revenue, against only two European ones.”

All of which suggests that long ago, the real world made up its own mind about whether government belongs in business. The trend seems very relevant to New Zealand, given our history of dependence on the state for building social and physical infrastructure, fostering innovation and investing in research and development – and our habit of living in denial about this discomfiting reality. Yet as the financial analyst Brian Gaynor points out by way of illustration, the current share market is full of companies like Solid Energy, Air New Zealand, Telecom etc that owed their origins to the state. Paradoxically though, our political rhetoric since the mid 1980s has been dominated by liberal exhortations to cut regulatory red tape, lower taxes, reduce labour protections, privatise assets and thus release the entrepreneurial spirit alleged to exist within our private sector. For all the free market noise, little in the way of sustainable growth has eventuated.

In other words, economic reality in New Zealand tends to differ from the political rhetoric that is routinely in play. …

That’s just the start of a long and interesting piece, head on over and read on.

Are we going to learn any lessons from the global financial crisis, and the ongoing years of stagnation and chaos? How much longer can economic reality and political reality proceed on separate paths before something breaks? Is any political party prepared to think outside the square and start a debate on the issues raised by these authors (and others)? How about this: time for the state to lead, get in to clean-tech in a big way, and keep the jobs here in NZ. It’s a plan so crazy that it just might work.

68 comments on “Political orthodoxy and economic reality”

  1. Kotahi Tane Huna 1

    Doesn’t sound like a crazy idea at all.

    “Mr. Blair, we still make things.” Angela Merkel.

  2. vto 2

    Yep, the tide has turned. And which part of the political spectrum will step out into the new territory? Well, perhaps look at NZ’s history to see which has the balls to strike out into new areas and which simply sits and goes along with whatever the status quo is …..

    it aint hard to nut out.

    • aerobubble 2.1

      Governments are stabilizers their job is to keep the status quo.

      The problem is eventually stabilization is the wrong behavior.

      Take climate change. Digging up hydrocarbons and putting them into the world bio-system changes irrevocable the climate, the species best capable of survival, everything.

      But wait its worse, never before in the history of the Earth has so much changed so rapidly.

      In a century we have dumped a sizeable part of the deposit laid down millions of years ago over millions of years in ONE HUNDRED years.

      And then I got a shock, when told by MSM that its okay because all we have to do is sprinkle sulphur dust particles and fake a volcanic eruption.

      Please, heating take time to build, and takes time to dissipate, so even if that dealt with curbing some heating temporarily we’d likely find adapting much easier (and so more destablizing to governments). Also it does not remove the carbon, it does not remove the heat momentum built up in the seas. Its like getting on your bike at the top of the hill and then guess estimating that when you hit the bottom the hill that not only will the untested brakes will work, but that they will stop the bike.

      Money reflects value, the valuation made under cheap oil and cheap debt are found wanting.

      Governments need to intervene and redirect value to resilience and sustainable economies, this is not happening because world governments are trying to stablize the old valuation system and ideology based around cheap oil and cheap credit.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.2

      That’s the problem, they’re all staying with the status quo.

  3. Macro 3

    Interestingly in a discussion on mediawatch
    mediawatch yesterday morning, both these two were mentioned as examples of former journalists in the MSM who had left to get on with their own thing. They are perhaps two of the few who are actively commenting and questioning the perceived wisdom as presented by mainstream media. Unfortunately I believe that until the MSM really start to question the orthodoxy that today has resulted in the near threat of a French style revolution in Greece – nothing will happen. You have Geoff on morning report ‘tut tutting” the demonstrators outside the Greek parliament, and Nicola telling us how these measures (thought up by bankers) are necessary etc without any thought to the actual people, who through no fault of their own, will be most affected.

    (do the ‘powers that be’ honestly think that the people will take the intended cut backs without retaliation??) It seems the only thing we learn from history is that we never learn anything from history.

    Sorry. a bit off thread, but an example that Orthodoxy holds sway in our mainstream media and until they begin to question that with the reality that is playing out both in NZ and around the world – NOTHING will change.

    The discussions of Bernard Hickey and Gordon Campbell are excellent and they deserve all the coverage they can get. But with respect, the general public get their information and form their opinions from TV and radio and Newspapers.

  4. Rusty Shackleford 4

    “…get in to clean-tech in a big way… It’s a plan so crazy that it just might work.”

    It didn’t work in Spain. It’s debatable if it worked in the US.

  5. Having been to China and seen the authoritan state at work I could not see New Zealanders being prepared to accept the shere size and personal rules set down by every minor part of state control.
    Why is Singapore so economically great – it is in effect like China a dictatorship, and there are no social welfare fallbacks in either.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      I agree. NZers will never settle for a dictatorship which is why we need commun1sm* rather than state capitalism.

      * Some form of participatory democracy where the direction is chosen by the community rather than some rich elite.

      • lefty 5.1.1

        NZers will never settle for a dictatorship which is why we need commun1sm* rather than state capitalism.

        Yes. Thats right.

        And lets not pretend we live in a democracy now.

        Equality is a prerequisite of democracy and it is only from a starting point of equality that each person can take their place and participate in decision making as a political being.

        At present we have no say in the workplace, on how surpluses are distributed, how the commons are managed or almost anything else that is important.

        The state is owned by an elite and acts as their agent in decision making, either directly as the owner of businesses, or indirectly by setting and enforcing the rules (or lack of) that the capitalists operate under.

        State capitalism or private capitalism: its still about a concentration of power and a lack of real democracy.

        Real democracy would see citizens self – managing our common resources according to needs and priorities we had all participated in deciding on.

        • Colonial Viper 5.1.1.1

          Are people still interested in democratic freedom though? The freedom to meaningfully participate in the decision making which affects their lives? It seems to me that people have been sold a fairy tale of freedom through consumerism and individualism. While living an economic reality of serfdom and subjugation.

          • Populuxe1 5.1.1.1.1

            Which presupposes a lot of free time on people’s hands to make all of the decisions and be informed enough to make those decisions – which is why we have representational democracy supported by a civil service and research groups (or at least we would if the ACTresses and Natzis weren’t dead set on dismembering it). Alastair Reynolds’ Demarchy just sounds exhausting. But then we’re not all armchair policy wonks like you, CV.

            • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1.1.1.1

              Which presupposes a lot of free time on people’s hands to make all of the decisions and be informed enough to make those decisions…

              Which we would have if the productivity gains that had happened over the last century had gone to the people rather than the capitalists.

              • Populuxe1

                Because free time magically makes people less complacent? Or, just possibly, are they more likely to spend it with their families, or on hobbies, or traveling, or jelly wrestling, or anything other than more work? Would that it were so, but it doesn’t sound much like the behaviour of H sapiens.

                • felix

                  I’m not convinced that it’s complacence as a human trait that’s the problem, but rather that we have too much to do, not enough time to fit it into, and any free spacetime we do manage to wangle gets jacked by an unrelenting screaming shit-storm of consumerist propaganda.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  That comes down to culture. ATM, we have a culture we’re the majority of people ignore politics as if it’s dirty. We need to change that culture. Back 2500 years ago in Athens it was considered poor form to not participate in the city’s politics and we need to cultivate that same culture now.

                  • Populuxe1

                    BCE5th century Athens was a society that permitted slavery and only allowed you to vote if you were a man who owned property. Neither was it adverse to dictators like Pericles. It was also the same society that forced Socrates’ execution by suicide poisoning because of his free thinking getting too popular. What a marvelous model for a society.

                    • felix

                      How are any of those relevant to Draco’s point about the attitude to politics?

                      Was he advocating any of those things?

                      Did he anywhere propose the Athens of 2500 years ago as a “model for a society”?

                    • Populuxe1

                      In answer to your question, Felix:

                      Back 2500 years ago in Athens it was considered poor form to not participate in the city’s politics and we need to cultivate that same culture now.

                      Politic is dirty. It always has been.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Pop1 you missed the point.

                      In ancient Athens people were very clear what “democratic freedom” meant. And the fact that there were slaves and there were free people made that distinction all the more clear.

                      The ancient Athenians knew that real participation in the decision making process which affected them was true freedom.

                      Without real participation and real influence over the decisions which affect your life – you are nothing more than a serf or a slave. And as you point on, in ancient Athen that was not simply a euphemism.

                    • felix

                      “In answer to your question, Felix…”

                      Would’ve been quicker to just say no he didn’t, Pop. For someone so erudite and eloquent you struggle with some pretty fucking simple stuff.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      It was a society of it’s time and, no, I didn’t suggest that we take on all of it’s culture – just the bit about the populace being involved in politics.

                      Politic is dirty. It always has been.

                      Only when we leave it to the Authoritarian and psychopathic types who invariably try to hide everything that they do behind closed doors. As they say, Sunlight is a great disinfectant.

                      BTW, Socrates.

          • lefty 5.1.1.1.2

            Capitalisms greatest achievement is to alienate people to such and extent they no longer wish to participate in the empty political rituals that pass as democracy.

            When choosing a political party is no more meaningful than choosing a soap powder there is not a great deal of incentive to be bothered.

            When betrayal is acceptable and normal behaviour by politicians only a fool would invest any emotional energy in them.

            When sound bites and focus groups determine the behaviour of supposed representatives rather than principles and engagement with constituents, then representative democracy is a farce.

            The economic reality may be one of serfdom and subjugation but capitalist politics (or liberal democracy, depending on how you want to describe it) offers no hope of freedom.

            Only the idea of some sort of revised/updated communism is big enough to inspire us into collective action and only collective action to improve our lot can truly be described as democratic politics.

            • Populuxe1 5.1.1.1.2.1

              Ah the voice of a fool who had the privilege to be born in a liberal democracy but lacks the brain power to realise it, or indeed understand what one is and therefore calls it names because he claims to be a “lefty” but probably doesn’t really understand what that means either.
              Popper. It’s not just another name for amyl nitrate.
              I pretty much concur with Clive James:
              http://blog.localdemocracy.org.uk/2009/06/01/clive-james-on-liberal-democracy/
               

              • Colonial Viper

                a “liberal democracy” lol can’t you see a kleptocracy when its right in front of your eyes???

                  • Colonial Viper

                    ? The biggest kleptocracies are the US and Europe. The scale of global theft led by corporations and co-opted politicians in those countries is astronomical. You’ve mistaken sovereign victims of kleptocracy (often led by tin pot ruler collaborators) with the perps: the massive oil companies and banks who actually make a killing out of those countries.

                    Do you really believe that Libya’s gold and oil reserves are going to stay in the hands of the Libyan people now?

                    • Populuxe1

                      Ah, you see you are describing imperialism, not kleptocracy. Kleptocrats steal from their own people (which doesn’t apply in the case of our asset sales because the stupid fucks who didn’t vote in the last election effectively gave Key a mandate to sell – however the fact that we live in a liberal democracy means we can protest the shit out of it without being executed, and not vote the fuckers in next time).
                      Libya’s gold and oil weren’t in the hands of the Libyan people, they were in tha hands of Muammar Gaddafi, who used them as a bribe to inspire loyalty to him and his tribe – which went down like a cup of cold sick in the East, hence the civil war. And yes, the US is fucked. No, Europe is not, not quite yet, especially not Germany.

      • The Chairman 5.1.2

        A change in culture requires massive media input. Less Master Chef and X Factor – more political issues.

        More equal political input requires a form of Direct Democracy.

  6. ad 6

    A neglected core of this commentary is the downward mobility of what used to be called the middle class.

    If through the next round of New Zealand’s restructure we get down to 15% employed in the public service and 15% unionised, we will need an entirely new paradigm for aspirant citizens having a plan for their lives right from the beginning. The idea of a meritocratic contract in which higher and higher education gradually affords access to higher paid professional elites will gradually evaporate.

    Broadly the New Zealand public sector has provided a middle class which has provided security, societal station, and sustained salaries. With the decline of of a local ownership elite that drove a manufacturing base, this public service base of salaried comfort has provided much of the support for the bourgeoise service industries e.g. travel, property, fashion and higher education.

    Attacking the middle class by making sustained and major cuts to the public service – both in central and local government restructures – will gradually squeeze the middle class in New Zealand into insignificance. I think we can already see the effect of this in the accelerated decline in home ownership rates. It takes a serious salary now to service a mortgage – and serious salaries are fewer and fewer in this country.

    The Labour Party should be going right back to a pledge of full employment, and a strong public service to back that up. Oddly the United States Democratic party had precisely such a pledge for several decades.

    If New Zealand can no longer foreseeably ever be able to sustain its bourgeoisie, then progressive governments will more and more be reduced to setting better terms for people to simply not aspire, but only to exist with as much autonomy from each other as possible. A country of yeoman and craft markets and farmers markets and Good magazine highlights.

    I agree that another cautious reaffirmation of the same old clichés is abundantly not working. But without a reversal of the declining middle class, the pipeline of career aspiration in New Zealand, particularly for those following the meritocratic pact of higher education mobilising higher careers and salaries through the public service, well that’s just largely dead.

    Any progressive party needs to front up on this.

    • Rusty Shackleford 6.1

      “..the downward mobility of the middle class.”

      There is lot of talk about this but are the figures really there?

      A ton of work has been done in the states and the findings were (from memory) that at least some of the effect can be accounted for by former middle class folk entering the upper/rich class. And that the middle class actually gained in share of income distribution. I’m going to guess the number of people in the middle class as a share of the population also increased.
      http://american.com/archive/2011/september/middle-class

      Of course the NZ experience is almost certainly different. Has much work been done on it?

      • McFlock 6.1.1

        Of course, if he’d used a table that didn’t finish at the GFC, or includes say 1980 and 1990 as comparators, like this one (table 694), the guy might have observed that the US top5% income has gone from 16.6% of total in 1970/80 to 21.7 in 2009, the top 20% from 43/44% to 50.3%, and the bottom 20% from 14.9 % in 1970 down to 12%.

         
        In the 2000,s the top earners took a slight dip in 06/07, but have been regaining the ground over the next 3 years. The poorest 20% were steady on 12%, while the middle 20% took a 0.3% gaing in their share of the pie, which has since been whittled back.
          
        The author of your link is as blinkered as you are.

  7. Draco T Bastard 7

    Are we going to learn any lessons from the global financial crisis, and the ongoing years of stagnation and chaos?

    Well, we may be willing to but I doubt that the government (especially this one) will let us as they work to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

    We need a better system – capitalism (either full capitalist or socio-capitalist) doesn’t work. We’ve got 5000+ years of history to show us that.

    • Rusty Shackleford 7.1

      “capitalism doesn’t work.”
      Bit of a sweeping statement. State control of the economy (includes fascism) was a pretty destructive force in the 20th century. I think I’ll take my chances with liberty, thanks.

      • Draco T Bastard 7.1.1

        Capitalism is dictatorial. Ask any businesses owner who makes the decisions – it sure as hell isn’t the workers.

        And, yeah, did you notice the 5000+ years of history showing that capitalism doesn’t work? It’s been called different things but it’s always been the same – Some few living very well while applying oppression and poverty to everyone else.

        • Rusty Shackleford 7.1.1.1

          Very much a voluntary dictatorship. You are free to leave employment any time you wish. Try leaving North Korea and see what happens.

          Most of the early civilizations were strong monarchical systems very much exhibiting power exercised from above. Some were probably more capitalist than others, but none are what could be considered either purely capitalist or purely communist, for what little real descriptive value those words have. All major civilizations have been oppressive and unequal to varying extents. None have been purely capitalistic.

          • Draco T Bastard 7.1.1.1.1

            Most of the early civilizations were strong monarchical systems very much exhibiting power exercised from above.

            You may not have noticed but that’s what we have now. It’s why we call it Elected Dictatorship.

            None have been purely capitalistic.

            That’s the bit you don’t seem to get. The more oppressive and dictatorial societies were more capitalistic.

            • Populuxe1 7.1.1.1.1.1

              You may not have noticed but that’s what we have now. It’s why we call it Elected Dictatorship.

              Oh Draco, if you think this is a dictatorship, you need a new dictionary (in which case you could look up “hyperbole” and “Eeyore” as well). Fuck, you must never met someone who lived under a regime where you could actually “disappear” for expressing an opinion like that. Stop clutching your pearls – they don’t go with your hair shirt.
              http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8073863.stm

            • McFlock 7.1.1.1.1.2

              If none have been purely capitalist and none have been purely communist, why on earth does rusty think that capitalism is better than communism?
               

              • Populuxe1

                Probably because, as Marx strangely managed to overlook, if people actually wanted to live in a purely communistic society (in Economic Philosophy’s  sense of “utility”) it would have happened by now. But, of course, Utopians care little for the little foibles of what people actually want.

                • Rusty Shackleford

                  “You may not have noticed but that’s what we have now. It’s why we call it Elected Dictatorship.”
                  Kind of agree.

                  “The more oppressive and dictatorial societies were more capitalistic.”
                  I’m just going to start acting intellectually dishonest in the way you do. From now on everything I don’t like is communistic.

                  In what way were Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot or Castro capitalistic pray tell?

                  • McFlock

                    One of these things is not like the others: Mercedes Benz did as well out of the war as General Motors.

                • Colonial Viper

                  Wow are you simple minded enough to think that “the people” decide the nature and structure of society? I always thought it was the most powerful, wealthiest, most influential top 1% who did that.

                  You are a naive little thing aren’t you?

                  • Populuxe1

                    Oh, CV, it’s so cute that you cling to nineteenth century classical Marxism when most of those social structures were demolished between WW2 and the Internet. Money isn’t the sole defining capital of society, Sillybilly.
                    If that was the case, John Key would still be in a state house in Christchurch and Sir Mad Butcher wouldn’t be spruking for him, nor would there have been any need to threaten the media with legal action over teapotgate, nor would so many Principals declared their principles in standing up against sandardised testing, All Blacks and Shortland Street actors would be nobodies, and many, many other examples, because despite your dark little fantasies, because power and privilege exist in many, many different forms.
                    Just to start you off gently, I recommend Lyotard, Foucault, and Derrida, and then maybe we can move onto Lacan, Virilio, Deleuze and Guattari and the more advanced stuff. Also this:
                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankfurt_School
                    and this:
                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Gramsci

                     
                     

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Sorry no thanks.

                      Money isn’t the sole defining capital of society, Sillybilly.
                      If that was the case, John Key would still be in a state house in Christchurch

                      Correct. Its precisely of the state housing, free healthcare and the free public schooling that John Key is where he is today.

                      Money is only a tool of course. It is a force and influence multiplier.

                • McFlock

                  But by that logic, if people actually wanted to live in a purely capitalist society, it would have happened by now.
                    

                  Personally, I wish to live in neither. But our offshore Somali Minister for Consuymer Affairs has expressed a preference for a purely theoretical system and defended it with the argument that pure capitalism has never existed. But the opposite system is equally untested. Which leaves him in a philosophical paradox that makes a mockery of his pretensions towards logic.
                    

                  • Populuxe1

                    But by that logic, if people actually wanted to live in a purely capitalist society, it would have happened by now.

                    Yep, that too.

                    Personally, I wish to live in neither. But our offshore Somali Minister for Consuymer Affairs has expressed a preference for a purely theoretical system and defended it with the argument that pure capitalism has never existed. But the opposite system is equally untested. Which leaves him in a philosophical paradox that makes a mockery of his pretensions towards logic.

                    Not only do I totally agree, a gold star for making me chuckle on an grim, overcast day.

        • Bored 7.1.1.2

          Draco, the oxidising skanky person is correct: capitalism works just fine. Its bloody obvious that if you are a capitalist the whole show is currently doing fine and dandy.

          On the other hand if you are a:
          – student being required to be certificated with a degree in order to get any work from the capitalist you will be heavily indebted with student loans. You will be poor until you can force the poor to pay your exorbitant managerial salary etc later.
          – a working youth actually in employment you will be at Mackers earning an absolute minimum pittance.
          – unemployed, one of the remaining 25% of under 25s with either no work or part time positions.

          This Draco is the Shanky Oxidists vision of society, in which as he says capitalism is working just fine (for capitalists).

          • Vicky32 7.1.1.2.1

            – unemployed, one of the remaining 25% of under 25s with either no work or part time positions.

            I just feel bound to point out here that the over 45 year olds have just as hard a time getting a job. Perhaps even more so than the under 25s…

    • Populuxe1 7.2

      Sorry, I must have been asleep when it was proven that “socio-capitalism” doesn’t work. The Nordic countries are ticking along quite nicely, with Iceland rapidly making a comeback from its meltdown. As for your assertion “We’ve got 5000+ years of history to show us that.” – we most certainly do not. On that time scale we’ve only just abolished indentured slavery and the internet is a twinkle is someone’s eye.
      I realise there’s a huge gulf in how we view Leftist politics. You, like many Standardistas are a sort of unreconstructed classical Marxist who sees society as a pre-war rigid class hierarchy with Capital being primarily economic. I subscribe to a neo-Frankfurt model where society is a panoply of overlapping identity groups and Capital includes all sorts of abstract concepts like authority, knowledge, privilege, and even erotic and creative capital. There is no reason to suggest that the basic premise of socio-capitalism cannot be improved on because it is the competitive exchange of many different forms of “capital” that drive primate societies at their basic level. Total ataraxia is total stagnation. A kinder, gentler capitalism is more compatable with liberal democracy and in my book liberal democracy is non-negotiable.

      • jimgreen 7.2.1

        While I agree with everything you say and am a big fan of the Frankfurt School, in the end I believe it breaks down at the theoretical level in its distinction between pre and post-conventional morality. I couldn’t help but seeing it as just another version of liberalism to be honest.

        Liberalism is great no doubt, but in terms of being able to create a world that is truly democratic (i.e. people having the ability to bring about change) Habermasian Critical Theory relies too much on a static vision of society and human interaction which places it squarely in the same category as any other positivist methodology.

        As a research and practical theory I believe neo-Gramscianism presents a much more solid foundation to work from, it’s just as dense as any other theory out there but once it clicks it can be quite a revelation. The neo-Gramscianism of Robert W. Cox is what I subscribe to.

        His strategy/theory is to look at the world as divided into three principal units: social forces, forms of state and world orders (the title of his seminal article if you are looking for it). Each of these units affects the other and you can imagine an idea like neoliberalism or Habermasian Critical theory as a social force and how this idea in turn proposes a form of state and world order. This also works the other way round if you’re on the receiving end unfortunately (i.e. the neoliberal world order, the form of state as dictated by institutions such as the WTO, and then finally how this has bearing on social life).

        From there you can compare/contrast the two ideas (or get dialectical in technical terms) and see where the conflict occurs (this being both material or ideational conflict), focus on eliminating that conflict, and when that’s sorted out a historic-bloc will develop and become a social force capable of overturning the existing hegemony of the ruling elite.

        By no means do you need to throw out the Frankfurt, only use it as a component of your Gramscian strategy.

        • Populuxe1 7.2.1.1

          My doG! Someone understood and gave me a rational critical response! I think I just had an orgasm. Thank you so much 🙂 I genuinely and sincerely mean that 🙂

      • Draco T Bastard 7.2.2

        “We’ve got 5000+ years of history to show us that.” – we most certainly do not.

        Yes we do. Iceland did what the civilisations 5000 years ago were doing when debt got to high (too much owed to the capitalists (priests and kings back then)) – got rid of the debt by the simple expedient of burning the accounts. But then they went on and continued operating as if they hadn’t learned anything which means that, in awhile, they’ll need to do the same thing again. IMO, it would be better if we just stopped making the same stupid mistake.

        There is no reason to suggest that the basic premise of socio-capitalism cannot be improved on because it is the competitive exchange of many different forms of “capital” that drive primate societies at their basic level.

        No it’s not, it’s getting along and cooperating with each other that drives society.

        • Populuxe1 7.2.2.1

          Well Draco, how about a link to something I can actually read rather than a link to Amazon in the expectation I have to participate in capitalism to pick apart your argument. In any case, I prefer something a bit more academic, and only someone utterly ignorant of the agrarian cultures of Mesopotamia and North Africa would for a moment entertain they were (without benefit of Marx) socio-capitalist. Neither were they capitalist in our sense because the reigning monarch could, at a moments notice, overturn the structure of debt, credit, and exchange on a whim. And frequently did. If only they’d had benefit of your god-like hindsight and faith in pop-anthropology.

          IMO, it would be better if we just stopped making the same stupid mistake.

          Well do share this wisdom of the ages that has eluded the greatest minds for, as you say, 5000 years. IYO.
          No it’s not, it’s getting along and cooperating with each other that drives society.
          Wow! Another revolutionary concept. Have you published this radical theory? – because unless you’ve got some paper tucked away I haven’t heard about, no society in the history of human civilisation has ever, ever, worked that way – even tribal societies have have existed on an economy of mana or it’s equivalent. Hence Popper on Marx.

          • Draco T Bastard 7.2.2.1.1

            Mesopotamia and North Africa would for a moment entertain they were (without benefit of Marx) socio-capitalist.

            I never said that they were. You may not have noticed but the socio-capitalist systems are falling down right now and they’re falling down for the same reasons as the old dictatorial systems fell down – 1) all the wealth accumulating in the ownership and control of a few and thus increasing poverty and 2) over use of resources to pay for the interest on the debt.

            because unless you’ve got some paper tucked away I haven’t heard about, no society in the history of human civilisation has ever, ever, worked that way…

            The book I linked to mentions it, apparently several societies had little or no trade within them. All societies must come about through cooperation because without it then we’re far too weak to survive. It’s only, IMO, after a society has become well established with surplus that competition begins to take hold. Over time that competition becomes the be-all, end-all reason for the society (normally marked by capital accumulation) and it eventually falls down because of the rents and imbalances caused by that competition.

  8. Rusty Shackleford 8

    “…the rich richer and the poor poorer.”

    Is this true?

      • Rusty Shackleford 8.1.1

        Evidence?

        I’m having a bit of a look around. I was surprised to find that NZ has similar median household income to Aus.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Median_household_income_in_Australia_and_New_Zealand

        • Colonial Viper 8.1.1.1

          That table says that the median NZ household is better off than the median Australian household.

          Since I do not believe that is the case, socioeconomic certain factors would seem to have been left out. What would be revealing is where the quintiles lie.

          • Rusty Shackleford 8.1.1.1.1

            I only very quickly read this, and it only covers the era of neo-liberal reform and its aftermath, but this study seems to show that income inequality increased in NZ during that time compared to Aus. It would be interesting to see whether the reforms under the Clarke govt had any affect on wealth and income distribution.

            http://www.treasury.govt.nz/publications/research-policy/wp/2000/00-13

            • Colonial Viper 8.1.1.1.1.1

              I once saw data which said that during the Clark years, increases in income inequality were stemmed (but not reversed).

              A large part of that was to do with substantial minimum wage increases and low unemployment levels. Beneficiaries got little however, and while working families got WFF to help their kids, children in beneficiary parents got very little.

              • McFlock

                2011 Economic Indicators  – stats NZ. Figu=re 1.7 (page 35) gives GINIs for “mid1980s, mid1990s, mid2000s”. NZ goes up around 7 points 80s-90s, maybe further up 1 point 1990s-2000s. A lot of that will be shitley, though. 

            • jimgreen 8.1.1.1.1.2

              There is a decent graph at the bottom of this page

              http://www.nzchildren.co.nz/income_inequality.php

              I remember quite vividly when the news came out that the Geni Coefficient started dropping as I was doing a social policy paper on it at the time, Working for Families takes the credit from what I have seen.

          • McFlock 8.1.1.1.2

            No, the authors of the table couldn’t find the NZ median household income, so they used average. Bunk.
             

      • Macro 8.1.2

        have you been out of the country for the past 3 years?
        Draco said the current govt policy is to make “the rich richer and the poor poorer”. That is what they have done (or haven’t you been listening). Have you not had a huge tax break? Or are you one of those on $25,000 who classifies themselves in the top income bracket and are now beginning to wonder why you don’t feel rich?
        Are you lining up for your piece of the State Asset pie? Available only to those who have the money.
        What other evidence of making the rich richer and the poor poor do you need?

  9. Draco T Bastard 9

    It appears that big corporates are engaging in slavery:-

    U.S. companies Monsanto, manufacturer of seeds and agrochemicals, and Manpower , a provider of temporary employment services were reported on Monday by Argentina’s tax agency for alleged human trafficking.

    So, how much more like the old feudal system does our socio-economic system have to become before we admit that it’s the same thing with a different name?

  10. Vicky32 10

    Hi, I am just reading this :
    http://apps.facebook.com/theguardian/commentisfree/2012/feb/12/banknotes-not-worth-their-paper
    (I hope that link works!) It states the case admirably.

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