Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Kladderadatsch watch, McChensey edition

Robert W. McChesney's book Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy has a nice meta-point in the final chapter which does a good job of explaining the pivotal, perhaps post-capitalist, phase of history we are entering (p.220-1):

In short, this is a critical juncture, and that fact changes everything.  Stiglitz compares our moment to 1848 and 1968, two of the most tumultuous watershed years in modern history.  People “all over the world seem to rise up, to say something is wrong, and to ask for change.”  Capitalism is in the midst of its greatest crisis in eight decades, what Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman argues is most definitely a depression of the 1930s type.  Growth rates that would have been considered subpar in the second half of the twentieth century would now be cause for jubilation.  By 2012, only one in six young American high school graduates in the labor market -- i.e., working class young people -- could secure full-time employment, and wages are stagnant or falling, with a massive oversupply of labor for available jobs.  A group of eighteen leading global environmental scientists came together in 2010 to report that humanity faces an “absolutely unprecedented emergency,” and societies have “no choice but to take dramatic action to avert a collapse of civilization.”  In effect, the report rejected really existing capitalism in toto and called for a complete redesign of the economic system. 
Many of those in power or sympathetic to those in power understand that a crisis is at hand and new policies are necessary, as the status quo is unsustainable.  David Brooks calls for a “structural revolution,” while Edward Luce thoughtfully chronicles a nation in sharp decline, where the system is not working.  But there is little indication that those in power, unwilling to question the foundations of capitalism, have any idea how to return it to a state of strong growth and rising incomes, let alone address the environmental crisis that envelops the planet.  Luce ends despondently, and if one is wedded to really existing capitalism, it is logical that one would tend toward depression, hopelessness, and depoliticization.  But depoliticization eventually butts up against the reality of people’s lives, their need to survive, and their desire for decent lives.  A capitalist system “that no longer meets most people’s needs,” economist Richard Wolff writes, “has prompted social movements everywhere to arise, adjust and coalesce in the active search for systemic alternatives.”  This is the historical moment we seem to be entering now.

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