Friday, February 16, 2007

Illusions & Hopes of the Undead Age (Part Three: A Choice Is Presented)

In short, the Economist article touches on two issues that certainly do play a role (enabled by government) in keeping labor value below that of the cost of living in the developing world, but at the same time it completely writes off that even in the countries supposedly gaining from corporate globalization, like China, India, Kenya, South Africa, etc., foreign investment has exacerbated pre-existing environmental, humanitarian, and socioeconomic problems (in fact the former two have long violated key parts of the Washington Consensus, as did all other countries that ever actually developed, but that is neither here nor there). Those costs can be written off.

Although I am not convinced of the vice-like grip of "theory" on historical events I am becoming quite certain of the inevitability of the collapse of the capitalist system (the former is among the major reasons that I refuse to call myself a Marxist-Leninist, along with my reservations with regard to the Leninist tradition of democratic centralism--which is a seed of totalitarianism--and the latter is one of my reasons for nevertheless admiring Marx's critique of capitalism).

This is why the Economist article is particularly grating; in attempting to assign the perpetual misery of the working class to inexorable forces beyond government purview, like "technology" and "globalization", it fits neatly in the neoliberal model of expropriating economic policy from any accountable, democratic control and placing it in the hands of totalitarian institutions, namely multinational corporations, and instruments of neocolonialism, namely international financial institutions. If technology and globalization are the only answers to the question of why wages have stagnated (and real wages have declined), then the average worker can't do anything to make his/her life better. The assessment works to preserve and perpetuate the system (I don't know whether this is intentional or simply a reflex).

The global scale of this emasculation of democracy is the real reason for the declining worth of wage labor in developed countries, and it could be reversed if governments were to take control of their economies once more. This is not a "retreat" from the process of globalization, but a democratization of it. At the same time, political systems cannot function as binaries responsible for no real choices (thus relying more and more on fascist/jingoist/messianic rhetoric and Madison Avenue magic). Of course the opaque worthlessness of electoral systems the world over is simply symptomatic of their lack of control of politics over economics, but dead-end free-marketers will tell you that true democracy lies not in the demos but in the agora, unfettered from popular control (try telling them about the billions of dollars of state support in every productive sector of the US economy from high technology to pharmaceuticals to agriculture to ranching while they rail on the "distortions" caused by things like minimum wages and subsidies for the poor).

Their model, which has been empowered for decades, represents tyranny, with concordant results available for examination. Governments have shown, as the Democrats did with their pathetic minimum wage hike, that they don't understand what is happening to the world, or that they simply don't care. There are numerous alternatives that must be explored, but for immediate relief for the billions of poor on this planet, activism and nonstop political pressure are the recourse. Political actions can be taken to make globalization and technology work for labor--and therefore humanity--instead of capital. It is largely a matter of who controls their development.

Otherwise, the forthcoming decline of service-sector employment in the Global North due to technological advancements, the irreversible toll of Global Warming laid out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, local issues of pollution (water and air quality, access to food, etc.), massive poverty in the Global South and vast enclaves of South-dom in the North, and a "balance" further towards capital (in real terms) than at any previous time in human history ensure that the corporate model of globalization actually will inevitably self-destruct, either by wiping out humanity or by spreading so much misery as to guarantee massive social upheaval.

Take your pick, I guess.

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