SocProf over at The Global Sociology Blog and I must be reading the same things, and thinking along similar lines, because I had planned to link to precisely the same articles she highlights in an update to my recent post on the state of the global financial crisis.
In The Guardian, Will Hutton explains why measures to halt the cascading crisis have been ineffectual to date. He might have made more explicit the implication that one of the basic structural problems is that action taken at the level of the nation state can be counter-productive given the disseminations and movements of capital, and that there are real domestic political barriers to coordinated action, as well as all the obvious problems of concertation through institutions such as the EU and the G20.
But he does make this point – harmonising with the note I’ve been sounding repeatedly – very clearly indeed:
There was no effective opposition. The left and organised labour collapsed as intellectual, social and political forces; there was no conviction that any alternative to this shareholder value-driven, financial, ‘securitised’ capitalism existed, or any political muscle to support it even if there were. Mainstream culture moved away from public purpose and fairness; the new priorities were individual self-fulfilment, personal experience and loyalty to self.
Hutton is perhaps more sanguine than I am, though, about the capacity of state action to turn all this around. In essence, he’s making an argument he’s been making for some years – about the virtues of other forms of capitalism than that which has been hegemonic in the neo-liberal Anglosphere. He briefly had some success in influencing Tony Blair in the early days of New Labour – in opposition, to be precise – in pushing ideas about “Stakeholder capitalism”. Whether a reorientation to a capitalism focused on the medium rather than the short term and on the real rather than the financial economy would work now – or whether as John Quiggin seems to think the Gordon Browns of the world are predisposed to be pushed, however much they might kick and scream, in something like the correct direction, is perhaps anyone’s guess as events continue to move at breakneck pace.
Immanuel Wallerstein puts a contrary view. I’m not quite sure if I agree – though he’s right more often than most. It is certain that what is occurring is Schumpeterian “creative destruction”, but whether or not the capacity to begin the cycle of valorisation and capital accumulation anew exists is something I think it’s better to be agnostic about at this stage. While I dare say he’s right about the end of a Krondatieff cycle, beyond that, prognostication seems to have a very short shelf life in these times.
It’s also interesting to observe that some are suggesting that the Canadian Tories’ “steady as she goes” approach is precisely what is leading to their decline in support in the campaign which has reached its final stretches. It may well be that Stephen Harper has more problems than just perceived inaction in the face of the credit crisis, but it probably is significant that voters are demanding state action to propitiate fear. In the Australian context, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Kevin Rudd and Labor are able to consolidate their support at a time when their momentum may have been sagging. The “cut through” of the opposition really diminishes at times of crisis, and it may be that Rudd has a chance to entrench himself with his response. To some degree that’s dependent on how far Australia is able to resist the global push towards recession, and again, I really would hesitate to place much value in any predictions at this stage.