Speaking of Capitalism in America and in Europe we first have to be precise about two things. First, what do we mean by countries, by nations such as those in the Americas or those here in Europe? And, second, what do we mean by capitalism? So if we can specify what we mean by these two things, we can reason about the difference in how capitalism relates to the different places.
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One of the core claims of degrowth economics is that by restoring public services and expanding the commons, people will be able to access the goods that they need to live well without needing high levels of income.
The “green new deal” appears to have several meanings. It has been used by mainstream neoliberal politicians to describe an investment program, operated completely through markets, that would shift the economy away from fossil fuels. The left-wing politicians you mention see the “green new deal” as a program of state infrastructure investment, a mobilization of resources on the scale of a war effort.
Whether such a war-type mobilization would ever be implemented in any significant capitalist country remains to be seen. The political scientists Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright suggest in their book Climate Leviathan that there could be an international agreement between the US, China and others that would undertake such spending, but very much in the strongest countries’ neo-imperial interests, and with a big dose of geoengineering. Obviously the left politicians’ perspectives are quite different.
My mother’s father was a North Dakota postal employee, so on Christmas Eve, she never knew when he would get home. He was determined to keep working, my mom would tell us, “until every Christmas package that could be delivered would be delivered.” He started working for the Postal Service in 1911, and family lore has it that he sometimes had to trudge through the snow on horseback to deliver the mail.
Climate change is clearly a pressing concern for the majority of working-class people. But with 71% of greenhouse gas emissions coming from 100 corporations, capitalism presents a fundamental barrier to solving the problem. After all, you can't control what you don't own.
Under capitalism, production is unplanned, driven by the demands of profit. Only on the basis of public ownership of the major monopolies, with democratic workers' control and management, would it be possible to begin the work of tackling climate change.
The right would like us to believe that the inequality we see in the United States, and increasingly in other countries, is a natural outcome of market processes. Unfortunately, many on the left seem to largely share this view, with the proviso that they would like the government to alter market outcomes, either with tax and transfer policy, or with interventions like a higher minimum wage.
While redistributive tax and transfer policies are desirable, as is a decent minimum wage, it is an incredible mistake to not recognize that the upward redistribution of the last four decades was brought about by conscious policy, not any sort of natural process of globalization and technology. Not recognizing this fact is an enormous mistake from both the standpoint of policy and politics.
Ten years ago, there was panic in Washington, DC, New York City and financial centers around the world as the United States was in the midst of an economic collapse. The crash became the focus of the presidential campaign between Barack Obama and John McCain and was followed by protests that created a popular movement, which continues to this day.
At a time when the American population is radicalizing, when popular movements are coalescing around “radical” demands—Medicare for All, the abolition of ICE, tuition-free college, in general the demand to make society livable for everyone—it can be useful to draw collective inspiration from the past. Irruptions of the popular will have on innumerable occasions reshaped history, remade the terrain of class struggle such that the ruling class was, at least for a moment, thrown on the defensive and forced to retreat.
Economists say they are stumped by a mystery: Since the US economy is doing so well, and unemployment is down to below 4%, which many argue is close to “full employment” in historic US terms, why is it that wages are not growing, and in fact, are lower in real dollars than they were in 1974, almost half a century ago.
Is your job pointless? Do you feel that your position could be eliminated and everything would continue on just fine? Maybe, you think, society would even be a little better off if your job never existed?
If your answer to these questions is “yes,” then take solace. You are not alone. As much as half the work that the working population engages in every day could be considered pointless, says David Graeber, Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics and author of Bullshit Jobs: A Theory.