Tuesday, November 15, 2011


A Bleak Prognosis for Post Crisis World

The philosopher, John Gray wrote an influential book on the decline of capitalism (False Dawn: the Delusions of Global Capitalism) which assesses the destruction wrought on capitalism by the recent economic storms. His article in today's Guardian rehearses some of its not too reassuring themes.

Based on economic theories that left out human beings, the global free market was supposed to be self-regulating. Now a process of disintegration is under way, in which the structures set up in the post-cold-war period are visibly breaking up

Rather like Marx, he suggests free market capitalism was always going to produce excesses which the world's vestigial controls could not accommodate. In USA the gross inequalities are exposed of of the super-rich and immiserating social strata propped up by a growing underclass. In Europe the awkward looping together of heterogenous economies into a false unity has resulted in near collapse and growing austerity measures are making things even worse.

Gray does not see any revival of totalitarian systems of government but fears that the scapegoating of minorities which so often happens in hard economic times, might well create destructive conflict. He also warns that:

With the rise of trigger-happy politicians like Mitt Romney and the need for Obama to act tough, it would be unwise to rule out the prospect of another major war.

The worry is t hat there is no institution with sufficient authority to frame the necessary reforms. Even the relative unity of Europe cannot, it would appear, save its unraveling. Gray's diagnosis is not optimistic, but he thinks the critique of the Occupy protesters is more profound than is widely perceived:

The demands of the Occupy movement may be inchoate, or else conflicting. But it is not the protesters who threaten the world economy. The danger comes from denying the fact of systemic crisis. By trying to prop up a system that is chronically dysfunctional, our rulers are making a cataclysmic collapse more likely. So far in Britain only Ed Miliband has acknowledged the importance of the Occupy movement. It should be a warning to the entire political class. The people camped outside St Paul's may have no clear solutions. But it is they – not ruling elites in thrall to a defunct market utopia – who are engaging with reality.

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