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The Anxious Triumph by Donald Sassoon – why capitalism leads to crisis

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On 20 January 1981, in his inaugural address as 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan declared: “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” It was the soundbite that defined the end of the 20th century. “Rolling back the state” became the mission of the “market revolution” spearheaded by Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

In fact, as Donald Sassoon argues in The Anxious Triumph, the idea that the state and the capitalist economy can thrive apart is nonsense. The modern state and economy are twins born together in the 17th century. Through the age of absolutism and the great 18th-century revolutions, their relationship matured into one of ever-greater interdependence. This was most evident in the newcomer nations of the 19th century, like Meiji Japan or Bismarckian Germany. But it was every bit as true of a “liberal” power like Victorian Britain.

How precisely economic and political interests are articulated varies across the world and depends very much on a nation’s place in the international order. Part of the reason classical liberalism could acquire such a hold on Victorian Britain was that the UK moved first. Having constructed a powerful combination of a centralised fiscal state and a global empire, the UK didn’t flesh out its nation state apparatus or articulate a strong vision of a national economy until the 20th century. But then, as the historian David Edgerton has recently shown, it did so with a vengeance.

When you say that you want to roll back the state, what you really mean is that you want to reconfigure the relationship. Libertarians, down to today’s advocates of cryptocurrency, may dream. But the divorce they fantasise about is not a utopia but a nightmare. Insofar as it has ever existed, anarcho-capitalism is a product of disastrous state failure. Its life is nasty, brutish and short.

Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem Ronald Reagan

If the problem of the relationship of government and the economy is nevertheless posed over and over again, it is because on both sides it is fraught with tension. In order to function, as Sassoon stresses, states need politics, and that involves squabbling elites and more or less mobilised masses. Mass politics and modern ideologies, above all nationalism, have explosive potential. Indeed, if taken seriously, the very notion of politics as a process of collective choice and self-empowerment is antithetical to an economic system based on binding contracts between entrenched private interests that have no regard for the political collectivity.

A long line of liberals down to the neoliberals of our own age draw the conclusion that the solution is to tame politics: through law, international treaties, independent central banks and so on. That, not surprisingly, draws political opposition, both from the left and the right. But even more destabilising is the fact that liberals are on the whole hopelessly unrealistic about what actually makes the economy tick.

The arcadia of self-equilibrating markets, falsely attributed to Adam Smith, was one such fantasy. As Sassoon shows, even in the 19th century, not many people really believed in it. The 20th-century version was the macroeconomic idea of the national economy that could be governed like a machine. That, as we now realise, was in large part an artefact of national economic statistics. Numbers like GDP gave us a false sense of common interest in enlarging the collective pie.

Neither the utopian notion of the “invisible hand” nor the Lego-brick conception of the national economy captures the dynamic, disruptive, creative destruction that is the reality of actually existing capitalism. It is a protean force perpetually generating inequality, crises and the all-pervasive anxiety that gives Sassoon’s book its title.

There have been periods in which the tensions in this fraught relationship have been highly contained. The mid-20th century, the moment of the Beveridgean welfare state, was one when the state and economy were held in a fine balance. The periods before 1945 and from the 1970s onwards have been more unstable.

Margaret Thatcher with Ronald reagan, 1981.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Margaret Thatcher with Reagan in 1981. Photograph: Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

Sassoon’s book speaks to the present by conjuring up the era between the 1850s and 1914, in which the tensions between global capitalism and modern politics came clearly to the fore. This was the first age of modern politics, if not of democracy – the age of Gladstone, Disraeli, Lincoln and Bismarck. It was the age of imperialism and early experiments in social insurance. It was the age of railways, steamships and the boom and bust of the global cotton industry.

Sassoon offers us a sprawling map, studded with fascinating details. Curious about the urban poor in 19th-century Naples? Want to know why liberalism was stunted in late-19th-century Romania? Sassoon is your man. Ever heard of the city of Elkader, Iowa, founded in 1846? No, neither had I. It was named, it turns out, in honour of the Emir Abd el-Kader, leader of the resistance against the French occupation of Algeria.

As one is thrown from cameo to improbable cameo, reading Sassoon becomes a hallucinatory experience. Insights are proffered and then repeated, sometimes several times. Familiar facts mingle with jaw-dropping novelties. The chronology drifts, at times roaring into the present before retracting not just to the 19th century, but deep into the 18th.

Is there some artful design at work behind the apparent confusion? Is the book’s swirling disorder meant to mirror its subject? If, as Sassoon remarks, capitalism moves “without a goal or a project”, would it be misleading for a historian to impose too much order or narrative coherence? If so, it is a pitfall Sassoon triumphantly avoids. But in a book of 758 pages, the effect is mind-boggling, and not in a good way.

Those craving order may do better to approach Sassoon’s book chapter by chapter. Skip over the preface in which he impatiently refuses to define capitalism and the first chapters in which he meanders through the history of 19th-century state formation. Home in, instead, on his detailed discussion of the role of the Japanese elite in industrialisation, or savour his classically Gramscian reading of the failure of the Italian bourgeoisie. Even better is Sassoon’s discussion of the global spread of democratic political practice before 1914. Skip the chapter that narrates the history of colonialism as a rather moth-eaten house of horrors. Others do anti-imperialism more convincingly. Instead, enjoy Sassoon’s opinionated treatment of French and British parliamentary debates about the rationale of empire.

Or, you could start near the end, where one of Sassoon’s best chapters describes how the great recession of 1873 sparked an awareness of globalisation and triggered a wave of protectionism. He surveys the French debate with real flair but is far too dismissive of protectionism in Britain. It was never “fashionable” he blithely tells us, waving Joe Chamberlain aside.

But read on from there and you are in for a final surprise. Suddenly and without warning, just short of 1914 Sassoon calls a halt. From the trade wars of the early 20th century he jumps into the future. Vaulting over the first and second world wars, he takes us on a sweeping overview of pro- and anti-capitalist politics, complete with nods to Venezuela’s die-hard Chavistas, and Hyman Minsky, the prophet of the 2008 crisis. It is quirkily brilliant. But it is also a diversion. A history of gilded-age capitalism that rightly insists on the inextricable entanglement of the economy and state power, but which does not address the first world war, lapses into nostalgia. It is a puzzling end to a puzzling book.

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We Need a Politics That Is Not Only Class-Focused, but Class-Rooted

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When the pandemic eventually ends, globalization may no longer accelerate at the same rate as before. Particular sectors will remain hard-hit, and tensions between the United States and China will continue, and may even become more menacing (to borrow from Mao Zedong, the making of a global capitalism is not a “tea party”).

But none of this signals the end of globalization, an imminent collapse of capitalism, or an inevitable decline of the American empire. Global business will still be profiting from the commodification of nature and human activity, US corporations will still be a leading force in high tech and business services, the dollar will still be the global currency, and the Federal Reserve effectively the world’s central bank.

The crisis that consequently frames the political opening beckoning the American left isn’t capitalism’s economic but social failures; capitalism’s vulnerability is marked by the destructive impact of its successes on popular needs, aspirations, and fears.

And with the responses from parties and states to the rising popular discontent falling short, this crisis of legitimacy has expanded into a political crisis. Alongside popular anger with policies like free trade and austerity has come a loss of faith in state institutions ranging from social agencies to the judiciary and the police, as well as disenchantment with mainstream political parties.

The pandemic further exposed the distorted priorities and social irrationalities of capitalism: its lack of planning capacities and unpreparedness to deal with social emergencies, the ugliness of its inequalities, its general disregard for those who produce needed goods and provide essential service. The health pandemic was, as well, the canary in the mine for the far greater environmental pandemic waiting in the wings, a threat which will demand very much more than social distancing, lockdowns, or vaccines.

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COUP-IN-PROGRESS: White Collar Mafiosos Fauci, Pelosi, Cuomo & Cuomo Conspire to Topple Trump

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Let’s put THE GREAT SCAMDEMIC aside for a moment.

And let’s jump ahead to Election Day — November 3, 2020.

Three things are certain based on Deep State’s no-holds-barred MO.

First, the DEMs will steal the Senate just like they stole the House during the 2018 midterms.

Second, the DEMs will increase their majority in the House with even more election fraud and theft.

Third, the DEMs will either politically incapacitate Trump between now and Nov. 3…
or, they will outright steal the POTUS election now that the electoral process has been thrown into chaos and confusion…
or, they will let Trump win so that they can impeach and convict him in 2021 with their solid majorities.

Now let’s take a close look at THE GREAT SCAMDEMIC, and especially how it will be used to manipulate the 2020 election outcome.

This thing — THE GREAT SCAMDEMIC — goes way beyond the Democrats and Deep State.  It goes way beyond CROWNgate and Pedogate.  It goes way beyond the Rothschilds and the Rockefellers. It even goes beyond the Cahilla and the Khazarian Mafia … as well as the Black Nobility and the International Banking Cartel & Crime Syndicate.

THE GREAT SCAMDEMIC is so HUGE and has so many objectives that you know it’s the end … the final end … … … as in the “End-times” !

But that’s not the point here.

What happens between now and Election Day will determine the fate of the American Republic.  The future of the American people hangs in the balance with the 2020 outcome like no other election in U.S. history.

The election outcome (and process) will also dictate the inevitable consequences for the Democrat Party, as well the destiny of Deep State.  The Patriot Movement also stands to gain or lose a LOT!

This is why TPTB have strategically positioned so many Deep State Democrats all over the place.

We’re talking about white-collar mafiosos like Fauci, Pelosi, Cuomo & Cuomo.

The liberal power elite have installed a top hitman in every position that counts.

It’s like JFK driving through Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963 surrounded by the 8 C.I.A. sniper nests (yes, there really were at least eight sniper’s nests).[1]

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FALSE FLAG ALERT: Obama Foundation tweeted about George Floyd on May 17th, a week before his supposed murder – UPDATE

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(Natural News) We have now confirmed that the Obama Foundation was tweeting about George Floyd on May 17th, more than a week before the day Floyd was reportedly killed by police in an act of violence that sparked the worldwide riots we’re all witnessing.

George Floyd was killed on May 25th. So what was the Obama Foundation doing tweeting about Floyd on May 17th, when nobody knew who he was?

UPDATE: Some people are saying that Twitter retroactively alters images from the history of your timeline when the source URL changes its image. However, what investigators have already confirmed is that the Twitter URL validator was used by the Obama Foundation to validate this image on May 17th, in advance of releasing it publicly. Thus, the image was VALIDATED more than a week before Floyd’s claimed death. This, combined with the new video analysis that claims George Floyd’s death was faked using crisis actors, raise serious questions about the authenticity of this event, which appears to have been planned and carried out for political purposes, right in time for the 2020 election. The Obama Foundation Twitter picture is only a tiny fragment in the larger picture that is now emerging of a pre-planned false flag event.

The answer, of course, is that the whole thing was planned in advance. Just like on 9/11 when the media was reporting that the WTC 7 building had collapsed even while it was still standing in the frame directly behind them, it looks like the Obama Foundation got its wires crossed and accidentally started tweeting about George Floyd a week in advance.

Once the first tweet accidentally went out, they couldn’t delete it without raising suspicion about it, so they just left it up and are relying on Big Tech’s censorship to make sure nobody learns the truth that this was all planned in advanced and rigged as public theater.

In fact, there is growing evidence that George Floyd isn’t even dead. We’ll cover more on that later. We’ve already documented the fact that actors are now posing as cops as part of a rioting psyop (psychological operation) that’s being used to brainwash more people into supporting the communist uprising.

YouTube is now banning all videos that discuss the Obama Foundation tweet about George Floyd on May 17th, and Facebook has made sure that no one can share any link from NaturalNews.com as a further suppression of truthful, independent reporting.

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