Friday, December 9, 2011
As the Cookie Crumbles: Missing Our Marx
Frederic Jamison, the Marxist critic and theorist, speculated, about a decade ago, that "It is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism." Probably, without chaotic, catastrophic upheaval of a truly global cataclysmic nature, it is IMPOSSIBLE. They are entwined.
This is, in part, of course, because capitalism is so deeply embedded in the chartacter and nature of modern life, and for so long, that all--or nearly all--the institutions and structures we inhabit are either implanted within it, or they are in fact dependent upon it. The roots of the system extend deep into the Renaissance, and are embedded in the very fabric of law and custom of virtually ALL the places where European influence touched and settled.
Marx saw Capital as a transitory, intermediary stage in the materialist march toward socialism, and I respect Herr marx greatly. (Karl also fondly believed in the "perfectibility of human nature." It is there that he and I diverge, but that is a subject for another day...)
At all events, I do NOT see how socialism CAN emerge from such a predatory capitalistic system, except literally from the ashes...
We can find fodder for Marxist critique everywhere.
That lil, ol' Marxist, Dr. Woody, unpacked a stinky morsel of it the other day when he happened into a discussion on F-Book of the publically expressed "necessity" of what mainstream economists call "structural unemployment."
You've probably heard the term. It's circulated a lot. It's a euphemism--See, i.e., Orwell--for the embedded requirement within the Capitalist ontology that there be a permanent pool of workers desperate for jobs, from which POOL the Owners can threaten to replace fractious or dissident workers demanding too many (that is, any) concessions from the Bosses.
This is called "enforcing worker discipline" in the manuals of CorpoRat culture. You'll hear about it in MBA school, but no place else (except here, on WWH!).
For a long time--since the early '50s, last Century, the size of that pool of unemployed workers needed to perform and maintain "worker discipline,"-- i.e., the service of keeping the WORKING work-force docile through silent blackmail and intimidation--was thought by 'mainstream' economists, to be about 4%. In a work-force comprising say, 50 million jobs, that's about 200,000 workers for whom there are, by definition, NO JOBS--unless they replace someone who already has one.
But that was before the technology explosion multiplied productive potential by orders of magnitudes over the past 30 years; since then the "magic" number has been edging upward, so that it's now around EIGHT percent.
Once again, in the same 50 Million job universe, that would be FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND people for whom there are no jobs. But then introduce the element of the (structurally unavoidable) boom-bust cycle of Capital--i.e., the Great Recession/Depression--and suddenly there are no longer 50 Million jobs, there are only 35 Million jobs, but you still got the structurally (I call them) 'disemployed" pool sized to a larger economy, and the effects multiply.
You wanna know what the official "name" for the acceptable/necessary number of people for whom there are no jobs unless they get them from someone else.
You'll laugh, Hippies.
Funnily enough, that number is called "Full Employment."
Us less-than-fully-employed, we meet at the beach...