Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 17, 2012

Mitt Romney, Karl Marx, and the myth of creative destruction

Filed under: economics,financial crisis — louisproyect @ 8:02 pm

It takes a leap of faith for governments to stand aside and allow the creative destruction inherent in a free economy, but it’s a leap that has been successfully made by every advanced country in the world. As Alan Greenspan has observed, “Deep down that is probably the message of capitalism: ‘Creative destruction’—the scrapping of old technologies and old ways of doing things for new—is the only way to increase productivity.

–Mitt Romney, “No apology: the case for American greatness”

The wage laborer everywhere follows in the footsteps of the manufacturer; he is like the “gloomy care” of Horace that sits behind the rider, and that he cannot shake off wherever he go. You cannot escape fate; in other words, you cannot escape the necessary consequences of your own actions. A system of production based upon the exploitation of wage labor, in which wealth increases in proportion to the number of laborers employed and exploited, such a system is bound to increase the class of wage laborers, that is to say, the class which is fated one day to destroy the system itself. In the meantime, there is no help for it: you must go on developing the capitalist system, you must accelerate the production, accumulation, and centralization of capitalist wealth, and, along with it, the production of a revolutionary class of laborers.

–Frederick Engels, “On the question of free trade“, 1888

Before WWII, the Depression did a great deal to prepare the way for the recovery. Capital was devalorized or scrapped. Business had to get more efficient.

Terrible way to go and a terrible price to pay, but when the Depression ended, business could produce the same GDP with 16% less capital.

One great contradiction of capitalism is that it needs crises to create the level of competition needed to become more efficient.

–Michael Perelman post to Marxmail and PEN-L on “How WWII Ended the Great Depression”

The opening up of new markets, foreign or domestic, and the organizational development from the craft shop and factory to such concerns as U.S. Steel illustrate the same process of industrial mutation–if I may use that biological term–that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism. It is what capitalism consists in and what every capitalist concern has got to live in.

–Joseph A. Schumpeter, “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy”

I have vivid recollections of my seventh grade Social Studies teacher Bobby Rosenberg explaining how all this works back in 1958. Look, kids, capitalism might destroy jobs but it always creates new ones. For example, when the automobile came along, blacksmiths no longer had jobs but on the other hand many more jobs were created at GM, Ford and Chrysler. Of course, all this was fairly easy to swallow back then. This was, after all, the Age of Affluence. Ronald Reagan hosted the GE Theater on TV, whose slogan was “Progress is our most important product”. This was when the post-WWII expansion was in full bloom and only the most unrepentant enemy of capitalism could believe otherwise. One of them was Nathan Pressman, the long-time member of the Socialist Labor Party who wrote letters to our local paper The Republican Watchman (it was a Democratic Party editorially, named in the spirit of keeping an eye on the bad guys) about the evils of capitalism.

I never got a chance to talk to Bobby’s sister Cissie Blumberg about what she thought of this. Bob was a New Deal liberal while his sister was both a New Deal liberal and a CP’er—not much of a contradiction I suppose. My guess is that she would have agreed with this analysis, since it was so commonly accepted across the left. It was an example of being able to understand the “contradictory” aspects of the system. WWII killed millions of innocent people but it also gave us aluminum and rocketry, and where would we be without that?

Ten years after taking Bobby’s class, I found myself on the front lines of creative destruction as a programmer trainee at Met Life in NY. In one job after another, I built systems that replaced file clerks with electronic systems. I might have been destructive but I was also the beneficiary of a creative process that was creating new jobs for software developers and in the hardware assembly lines of Silicon Valley and eventually in China. At least, that’s what the pundits told me.

Unlike 1958, today’s America is not so willing to accept this proposition at face value. Jobs have been disappearing since 2007 in wholesale numbers but there’s little evidence of a recovery. This is not to speak of the lack of anything on the horizon that begins to resemble the job-creating Tsunami of the automation revolution that began in the mid-1950s. We were told that Green jobs would be coming soon but it is hard to take that seriously now, especially since the investments in such new technology has mostly lined the pockets of one percenters with ties to the White House rather than the man or woman on the street.

In an instance of the pot calling the kettle black, Newt Gingrich referred to Mitt Romney as a vulture capitalist whose track record for creating jobs was dubious at best. He told Bloomberg News: “The question is whether or not these companies were being manipulated by the guys who invest to drain them of their money, leaving behind people who were unemployed. Show me somebody who has consistently made money while losing money for workers and I’ll show you someone who has undermined capitalism.”

Understandably Gingrich’s use of the term vulture capitalism made his fellow troglodytes uncomfortable since it evoked the protest movement down on Wall Street that they hated so much. Charles Krauthammer, one of the most reactionary of this gang, took Gingrich to task:

But I though what was remarkable is what Newt did today. It wasn’t just that he went negative. He pulled out the heavy artillery on this on his attack on Romney. I am with the commentary that Brit Hume did earlier in the show. What kind of attack is this of one so-called person of the right to another? What conception of capitalism do you have if you attacking your opponent for entering what is the risk taking of capitalism? It’s the old line from Schumpeter which is that capitalism is creative destruction. And this kind of attack is what you’d expect from a socialist.

 Perhaps the best way to get votes nowadays is to attack people like Mitt Romney who is a Mormon version of the Gordon Gekko character in Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street” and a symbol of corporate greed second to none, except perhaps for Barack Obama and all his economic advisers. Rick Perry, arguably one of the stupidest candidates for high office since Dan Quayle, was smart enough to open up the attack on Romney as a “vulture capitalist” before Gingrich did.

Sean Hannity, like Krauthammer, took Perry to task for using this term and even explicitly connected him to OWS:

You said — talking about his days at Bain Capital, Bain Capital compared companies like that, they leave the carcasses behind. Bain is a vulture capital company. They walked into South Carolina, a company like Gaffney. They picked the bones clean of those people who lost their jobs in the same mill. You say, rather than restructure jobs, they’re trying to make money. Ethics get thrown out the door. They make as much money as they can in a hurry.

You know, when I hear that, it almost sounds like “Occupy Wall Street.” It doesn’t sound like somebody that is governing the state of Texas as a conservative.

These debates within the Republican Party—if you can call them that—are very weak reflections like the images in Plato’s cave of the underlying reality that jobs have disappeared and will likely not return. What makes Romney’s defense of his record at Bain Capital ring so hollow is the perception by so many that jobs are not being created along the lines described both by Engels or by Schumpeter or by anybody else not intoxicated by libertarian ideology.

Back in 2007, David Harvey wrote an article titled “Neoliberalism as Creative Destruction” that is very useful for clarifying the issues.  In essence, he argues that firms such as Bain Capital have not really been successful in terms of the process described by Engels as “bound to increase the class of wage laborers” but in restoring the class power of the bourgeoisie. Harvey writes:

So why, then, in the face of this patchy if not dismal record, have so many been persuaded that neoliberalization is a successful solution? Over and beyond the persistent stream of propaganda emanating from the neoliberal think tanks and suffusing the media, two material reasons stand out. First, neoliberalization has been accompanied by increasing volatility within global capitalism. That success was to materialize somewhere obscured the reality that neoliberalism was generally failing. Periodic episodes of growth interspersed with phases of creative destruction, usually registered as severe financial crises. Argentina was opened up to foreign capital and privatization in the 1990s and for several years was the darling of Wall Street, only to collapse into disaster as international capital withdrew at the end of the decade. Financial collapse and social devastation was quickly followed by a long political crisis. Financial turmoil proliferated all over the developing world, and in some instances, such as Brazil and Mexico, repeated waves of structural adjustment and austerity led to economic paralysis.

On the other hand, neoliberalism has been a huge success from the standpoint of the upper classes. It has either restored class position to ruling elites, as in the United States and Britain, or created conditions for capitalist class formation, as in China, India, Russia, and elsewhere. Even countries that have suffered extensively from neoliberalization have seen the massive reordering of class structures internally. The wave of privatization that came to Mexico with the Salinas de Gortari administration in 1992 spawned unprecedented concentrations of wealth in the hands of a few people (Carlos Slim, for example, who took over the state telephone system and became an instant billionaire).

With the media dominated by upper-class interests, the myth could be propagated that certain sectors failed because they were not competitive enough, thereby setting the stage for even more neoliberal reforms. Increased social inequality was necessary to encourage entrepreneurial risk and innovation, and these, in turn, conferred competitive advantage and stimulated growth. If conditions among the lower classes deteriorated, it was because they failed for personal and cultural reasons to enhance their own human capital through education, the acquisition of a protestant work ethic, and submission to work discipline and flexibility. In short, problems arose because of the lack of competitive strength or because of personal, cultural, and political failings. In a Spencerian world, the argument went, only the fittest should and do survive. Systemic problems were masked under a blizzard of ideological pronouncements and a plethora of localized crises.

With all the focus on Romney and the destructive effects of Bain Capital, it is important to remember that the people who currently work there are not necessarily committed to the politician under demagogic attack from Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry. The Washington Post reported on October 19th: “Obama has outdone Romney on his own turf, collecting $76,600 from Bain Capital employees through September — and he needed only three donors to do it.”

It should be added that Barack Obama is very much at home in the “Spencerian world” alluded to by David Harvey. In speech after speech, the neoliberal President has emphasized the need for the United States to become more and more competitive as if a community college course in computer programming will lead to a job for an unemployed auto worker.

Perhaps the whole question of “creative destruction” has to be revisited. The cycles of boom and bust that is familiar both in Marxist literature and that of its opponents has always been understood as a contradictory phenomenon. It leads to a revival of the capital accumulation process—to use Marxist terminology—by pruning uncompetitive firms and tapping into new areas of profit.

Unless we are careful, we can fall into the trap of seeing this process as some kind of historical cycle that never reaches completion, as the kind Bill Murray experienced in “Groundhog Day”. As an example of this kind of thinking, you need only look at Andre Gunder Frank’s “ReOrient”, a massive book that predicts China’s rise to the preeminence it once enjoyed and implicitly will surrender to the West at some future point in history–ad infinitum.

Despite Hegel’s belief that all of history was moving in unidirectional fashion toward the highest realization of the Human Spirit—namely the German state of Kaiser Wilhelm—there is a cyclical element in his thesis-counterthesis-thesis schema that reappears in Karl Marx but altered to support the proposition that a worldwide communist revolution will provide the final synthesis.

Marx’s writings were conditioned by the reality of the mid-19th century when capitalism was in its most dynamic phase. Periodic crises would lead to unemployment and even to war, but a new phase of capital accumulation would arise on the ashes of the previous cycle. Furthermore, in its analysis of the capital accumulation cycle, volume two of Capital led some Marxists to conclude that there was nothing intrinsically self-destructive about the capitalist system.

The expectations that American, European and Japanese capitalism will somehow come out of the current crisis on a stronger and more vibrant basis seem grounded more on habits of mind rather than hard reality. It is entirely possible that these economies will recover but not on the basis described by Engels or Schumpeter. Unemployed auto workers or computer programmers cannot be assured of being swept along in a new upward cycle. It is entirely possible that the reserve army of the unemployed will never be called into action for the 21st century equivalent of Ford Motor in the 20s and 30s, or IBM in the 50s and 60s. That goes a long way in explaining why there has been a recent drop in unemployment as more and more Americans have given up trying to find a job. These are members of the reserve army who have simply torn off their uniforms and gone AWOL.

The myth of “creative destruction” was sustained for many years by the unquestionable dynamism of 20th century capitalism. As we slouch toward an uncertain future in the current century, such a myth must be disposed of once and for all. The only destruction worth considering in a positive way is that which will occur as a mobilized humanity takes up arms against the modern aristocracy, defeats it, and then tosses it into the ashcan of history. As daunting a prospect this might seem, we have no alternative.


  1. As far as I can read the data, there hasn’t been all that much “creative destruction” since the 2008/2009, except perhaps in a few sectors such as computer or telecom facilities. The main thing that happened was, especially in the US, was that employers laid of a massive, disproportional number of employees. The lay-offs were so large, that even Larry Summers couldn’t fathom the reason for it, it did not make econometric sense. Among the effects are the following:

    (1) it now proves possible to produce the same output with less labour, so that there is less incentive to rehire all those laid off.
    (2) final demand remains fairly stagnant, or grows more slowly, so that the lack of sales growth is a disincentive to rehire.
    (3) insofar as labour is rehired, as economic activity picks up a little, the rehires are rehired on contracts less favourable to them and on less pay, or on a temporary basis; it becomes much more difficult to get a permanent contract.
    (4) higher real unemployment rules out much improvement in workers’ salary levels.
    (5) the overall level of indebtness cannot not change very much.

    The profit gains, if they occur, do not seem to derive much from applying new technology, but from changes in the financial structure of enterprises. What we know from history is that technological revolutions – the widespread application of new technologies raising productivity per worker – occurs in a context where there is sustained growth in the final demand for goods and services. But if final demand growth is rather lacklustre, then the general application of new technologies is also likely to be rather lacklustre.

    A lot of corporations do have considerable cash reserves, but they are not spending them much on expanding their operations, if anything, they are spending them more on buying up other companies and assets, to improve their competitive position their financial position and their earnings. That total situation is likely to continue for years, and it means that part of the workforce is effectively marginalized.

    The basic problem for Keynesian theory, that persists, is that even if the state injects additional funds – despite its fiscal problems – it does not have the same “multiplier” effect, that it did in former times, in terms of additional final demand and job growth. The principal reason for that is, the total level of indebtedness, private and public.

    The biggest difference with the post-WW2 situation is, that both the state and consumers are now saddled with unprecedented levels of debt, and that there doesn’t exist a strong foreign demand that could boost final demand growth. Nor does there exist a strong impetus to reconstruct and rebuild the economy. The technological progress which occurred in the last decade or two decades, moreover, already occurred to a large extent on the basis of debt growth. That means that, among the economic actors there are, really only the wealthy are now in a position where they could invest large sums to reinvigorate the economy, but to do this, there must ultimately be final consumers who can buy more stuff. And, the profits have to compare favourably with the trade in already existing assets.

    Often economists mistakenly think that GDP equals the “whole economy”. It does not. GDP is only a measure of gross value added, but if already existing physical and financial assets are traded, most of that will not count as value-added; it does not add to the total stock of wealth, but shifts it from A to B. For it to count as value-added, it would have to be factor income linked to actual new production of some sort. Much of the asset trades, particularly financial assets, does not fall in that category. Income is generated by it, but it is not factor income.

    Economists hope, that over the years, things will improve with adjustments and restructuring, as people and companies “work off debt”, but insofar as this occurs – and there isn’t much evidence that the total debt levels are dropping a lot, except that ordinary people reduce their debt levels – it occurs very unevenly and unequally. One banal reason why the debt levels don’t drop much, is because debt makes profit. There would never have been such an escalation of debt unless it was profitable. The politics then basically consist of “buying more time” to tide things over, and looking for incremental changes that could be made to improve things. That means that, other things remaining equal, politics simply cannot deliver a whole lot of improvement at once.

    Mathematically, it is a simple observation that the more that GDP grows, the more cumulative sales volume is necessary to sustain the same growth rate. That level of sales doesn’t exist. The overall effect is slower GDP growth, and a reorientation of production to those who have the money to buy stuff. The debt deflation process thus occurs at the expense of impoverishing part of the population. It may be that the U rate eventually drops to 8% or if we’re lucky to 7%, but at the same time temporary, casual and parttime employment increases, while large numbers drop out of the labour force. The general unemployment level is likely to be durably higher. It creates a larger “underclass”.

    It is tempting to conclude that only a big war would inaugur a new round of “creative destruction.” But if e.g. we look at the recent wars, they cost more money than the income they generated. The presumption is that if a lot of property was destroyed, then there would be a lot of money in rebuilding things. But now look at situations like Iraq – business has organisationally the greatest difficulty to rebuild even the most basic infrastructure. If there is not even an incentive to fix basic things like potholes in the roads at home, why would there be an incentive to fix war destruction elsewhere, in the context of serious political conflicts and a lack of unity in the reconstruction project?

    I suspect one important reason for the organisational difficulties for reconstruction efforts is, simply, the changed structure of the modern enterprise: the distance between the “ownership”, the “control”, the “management” and the “use” of resources has grown greatly. The organisation of a major reconstruction effort nowadays requires the cooperation of a very large number of “stakeholders” spread across the globe, who don’t all have the same interests. At the same time, that means that, in an internationalized world economy, part of business would effectively be destroying many their own assets, in a war. On top of that, governments have their own fiscal crises to deal with, and are hardly in a good position to launch major wars.

    Comment by Jurriaan Bendien — January 17, 2012 @ 10:43 pm

  2. “There is nothing in principle absolutely reprehensible about the
    destruction of determinate parts or forms of nature through their
    transformation into something else, even if only into combustion and
    waste products. It is happening in nature itself, in one way or another,
    all the time. The point is, however, that at the time when capital, with
    its irrepressible and all-encroaching dynamism, appeared on the
    historical stage the margin of safety for its objective impact on nature
    – irrespective of the magnitude of destruction generated by its prodigal
    intervention in the metabolic process – was so immense that the negative
    implications seemed to make no difference whatsoever. This happened to
    be the case simply because the ‘moment of truth’ – necessarily arising
    from the the interchange between the finiteness of our natural world and
    a certain type of (unalterably wasteful) reproductive control – was
    still very far from knocking at the door. This is what gave to the
    self-complacent liberal economists even in the twentieth century the
    astonishing illusion that their system would forever qualify for the
    grand characterization of ‘creative destruction’ (Schumpeter) when in
    reality it was already becoming ever more dangerously plagued by its
    irreversible tendency toward destructive production.” (István Mészáros, The Challenge and Burden of Historical Time, p. 28)

    Comment by Robert — January 18, 2012 @ 3:26 am

  3. “Look, kids, capitalism might destroy jobs but it always creates new ones. For example, when the automobile came along, blacksmiths no longer had jobs but on the other hand many more jobs were created at GM, Ford and Chrysler.”

    One thing your social studies teacher failed to note is that his hypothetical blacksmith went from being self-employed to being employed by a large corporation. More jobs, in and of itself, is not necessarily a good thing. Not that you’re the one that needs to be told that.

    Comment by Hank — January 18, 2012 @ 6:22 am

  4. Well, my concern is that if we are going to talk about “creative destruction”, we should be talking about the demolition of the lives of the workers who are really doing the creating. The myth is that capital is creative – I am sure Meszaros would agree on that point – whereas in reality, people, real workers, are creative. The slump deals a blow to the ability of people to be creative.

    It is all very well to argue that the crisis forces people to be creative in new ways, but that may not be something they are rewarded for at all. Creativity doesn’t exactly flourish, when people lack a basic security of existence, and wonder where their livelihood is going to come from – then their “creativity” may be focused only on their own survival. “Kicking ass” (use of force) is not really the best method to get people to be creative. They are at their creative best, when they are autonomous and secure, not when they are slaves to money-making.

    Comment by Jurriaan Bendien — January 18, 2012 @ 7:08 am

  5. Yes it is time to wake up folks. The American Dream is fast becoming a nightmare. For the dream to work it is necessary to have growth but for a long time now Americans have chosen to mistake a system destroying cancer for growth. Capitalism is in its dottage. Monopolised, sclerotic and bankrupt it roams the earth like a blinded rage filled, impotent King. US imperialism having imposed its hegemony via WW2 took globalisation as far as it could be taken by capitalism but the only prospect on offer now is to watch the film of globalisation being rewound. In the original Dark Ages the world economy shrank by 25% and it took several hundred years to recover and for the green shoots of the Renaissance to poke through the soil. But, there is hope. Without growth the fact that capitalism is a zero-sum game becomes increasingly obvious as each pound in the rich man’s pocket is more obviously one stolen directly from that of the poor man. Under these circumstances the gravediggers get to digging.

    Comment by David Ellis — January 18, 2012 @ 11:46 am

  6. This is a great posting and will be very helpful in my teaching. I wish respondents would validate the excellent creative intellectual work of others, in this case, Louis, before going on to make their own point. This list frustrates me in that it operates just like the conventional left I used to be a part of…never a moment to validate the intelligent contributions of others…never a moment to think about genuine community building, the warm connections that make effective community building possible. Where are the other feminists? Actually, everybody who responded “liked this post” yet one would never know this with the typical quick glance most folks give blogs. Please try to think like movement builders, not armchair marxists!

    Comment by Barbara Regenspan — January 18, 2012 @ 12:38 pm

  7. I wrote my reply too quickly. There are two errors. “Louis” should be “Louis'” and more substantively, I repeated “community building” when its second appearance should have been “movement building.” The point I was trying to make was that there is no movement building without community building. Sincerely, Barbara

    Comment by Barbara Regenspan — January 18, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

  8. […] Mitt Romney, Karl Marx, and the myth of creative destruction Louis Proycet […]

    Pingback by Links 1/19/12 « naked capitalism — January 19, 2012 @ 9:29 am

  9. I must say I completely agree with Gingrich’s comments on Vulture Capitalism and his attacks on Romney for being a job killer and not a creator. It’s problematic for Gingrich’s bid for the nomination, as it makes him sound like a socialist making his party VERY nervous.

    Comment by Deborah Jeffries — January 19, 2012 @ 4:48 pm

  10. The cycles of boom and bust that is familiar both in Marxist literature and that of its opponents has always been understood as a contradictory phenomenon.

    For the concept to become more useful, at least one of the things that you have to do is to make differences in geographical development central, as Harvey has been busy doing in his work — though I have no clear suggestions as to how to do that.

    The other issue, I think, is more difficult to address: how to distinguish between excusable and inexcusable destruction.. As Harvey has pointed out in his book The Enigma, the destruction that has been going on in the western world during the past 20 has been occurring primarily because the system is having trouble realizing further endogenous growth, and is now cannibalizing itself, causing supply/demand to go ever further out of whack because the income distribution is becoming ever more skewed. Yet at bottom this is happening because “investors” of various stripe are chasing yield, and are willing to do whatever to realize them. The most disturbing form of this is probably locust-capitalism, which destroys perfectly viable companies in search of temporary share price inflation. That has nothing to do with those companies being outcompeted by their “chinese” (Western-owned) rivals, but simply with extraction.

    Comment by Foppe — January 19, 2012 @ 8:41 pm

  11. (edit: should’ve probably written 30-40 years in stead of 20; at least if I am follow Mark Ames in Going Postal.)

    Comment by Foppe — January 19, 2012 @ 8:42 pm

  12. Hank, your comment makes it seem like capitalism is a good thing. The old is out and in with the new concept. Sorry but I’m not buying that because the system has always been based on exploitation of labor and that is not a good thing.

    Comment by Deborah Jeffries — January 19, 2012 @ 10:26 pm

  13. Deborah: I think what Hank was pointing out is that wage labor is in no way comparable to the autonomous life of a self-employed blacksmith. This point is interestingly elaborated upon in an essay by David Graeber called “Turning Modes of Production Inside Out; Or, Why Capitalism is a Transformation of Slavery” (2006).

    Comment by Foppe — January 19, 2012 @ 10:42 pm

  14. Creative destruction as understood by neoliberals is a way of justifying job losses and the elimination of companies, which should simply be labeled “destruction”. But Schumpeter’s concept comes from the observation that large organizations and industry leaders often have inertia and interests that prevent them from making positive changes. A large steel company, for example, might not consider it worth the risk to switch to a newer, more advanced furnace, so another company will do so and eventually overtake them. Unfortunately, creative destruction often implies job loss, since in many cases newer processes create more production with less work. This doesn’t mean that all change is bad, but it does mean that we have to think about how to make sure that workers aren’t collateral damage in the process.

    Comment by Eric Titus — January 20, 2012 @ 1:26 am

  15. —I wish respondents would validate the excellent creative intellectual work of others, in this case, Louis, before going on to make their own point.—

    I agree, this is one of the top blogs , written by one person, out there.

    As for creative destruction, the latter seems to be going on more than the former. The U.S. has fewer private sector jobs now than in 2000. I believe this is the first time in US history that has happened over the course of a decade.While this may change, a revival will be based on the destruction of living wages and subsequent ‘insourcing’.

    Comment by purple — January 20, 2012 @ 4:42 am

  16. Great article. Just noticed this today, though.


    “For the first nine months of 2011, Bain Capital employees gave $27,500 to Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign while giving a lot more — $74,500 – to Mr. Romney, a cofounder of Bain Capital, a private equity firm.

    “But Mr. Romney is the hands-down winner when it comes to donations to Super PACs, the outside political action committees that support candidates. The pro-Romney “Restore Our Future” Super PAC received $1.25 million from Bain Capital employees, while the pro-Obama Super PAC “Priorities USA,” received not a penny, according to campaign finance records from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.”

    Comment by ashawley — January 20, 2012 @ 4:52 pm

  17. One of the myths of modernity is that it constitutes a radical break with the past. The
    break is supposedly of such an order as to make it possible to see the world as a tabula
    rasa, upon which the new can be inscribed without reference to the past—or, if the past
    gets in the way, through its obliteration. Modernity is, therefore, always about “creative
    destruction,” be it of the gentle and democratic, or the revolutionary, traumatic, and
    authoritarian kind. It is often difficult to decide if the radical break is in the style of doing
    or representing things in different arenas such as literature and the arts, urban planning
    and industrial organization, politics, lifestyle, or whatever, or whether shifts in all such
    arenas cluster in some crucially important places and times from whence the aggregate
    forces of modernity diffuse outward to engulf the rest of the world. The myth of
    modernity tends toward the latter interpretation (particularly through its cognate terms of
    modernization and development) although, when pushed, most of its advocates are
    usually willing to concede uneven developments that generate quite a bit of confusion in
    the specifics.
    I call this idea of modernity a myth because the notion of a radical break has a certain
    persuasive and pervasive power in the face of abundant evidence that it does not, and
    cannot, possibly occur. The alternative theory of modernization (rather than modernity),
    due initially to Saint-Simon and very much taken to heart by Marx, is that no social order
    can achieve changes that are not already latent within its existing condition. Strange, is it
    not, that two thinkers who occupy a prominent place within the pantheon of modernist
    thought should so explicitly deny the possibility of any radical break at the same time that
    they insisted upon the importance of revolutionary change? Where opinion does
    converge, however, is around the centrality of “creative destruction.” You cannot make
    an omelet without breaking eggs, the old adage goes, and it is impossible to create new
    social configurations without in some way superseding or even obliterating the old. So if
    modernity exists as a meaningful term, it signals some decisive moments of creative
    destruction. – David Harvey, Paris: Capital of Modernity.

    Comment by Jurriaan Bendien — January 20, 2012 @ 8:32 pm

  18. What defines modernity is when capitalists stumbled upon a way to replace labor power with machinery and yet still increase the mass and volume of production. Prior to that this was accomplished only by increasing the length and intensity of labor to its natural maximum, and then increasing the number of laborers employed. The former, called relative surplus value extraction, developed to an extent in the 19th century that was unprecedented in human history. This demarked a qualitative transformation of the human condition in history. By convention this is called “the modern”, a convention I prefer to “pre-capitalist” as the capitalist mode of production has existed in one form or another throughout history, it was just not the dominant mode of production until the last few hundred years, and only attained its final form in the mid-19th century.


    Comment by matthewrusso9 — January 23, 2012 @ 12:08 am

  19. Reuters reports: “Worldwide, corporates now hold $4.2 trillion in cash, up 5 percent from a year earlier and much more than is needed for liquidity purposes, according to estimates from Citi this month. Mark Spelman, Accenture’s global head of strategy, believes companies are seriously concerned about the credit situation and recent pressures in the banking sector, particularly in Europe, which is likely to keep mergers and acquisitions subdued. “Companies are not going to go out there and have exposed cash positions when they know that the big commercial banks are under a lot of pressure,” he said. The cautious approach, particularly in developed economies, provides no obvious relief to the labor market and the world’s unemployed, who now number more than 200 million, according to the International Labor Organization. Yet one of the worrying quirks of the current environment is how global corporations continue to bemoan their inability to hire the right skilled workers, whether they be gifted computer programmers, master welders or talented middle managers.”

    Comment by Jurriaan Bendien — January 25, 2012 @ 6:03 am

  20. […] Amazon in a public display of Walton-esque tactics botches the landing. Of course, the point of greater significance is completely missed by the mainstream media: Amazon quoting Orwell is tantamount to Mitt Romney invoking Karl Marx (dafuq!?). […]

    Pingback by Literary abortion, irony not withstanding | Corporate Abortion — August 11, 2014 @ 11:34 pm

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