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Re: <nettime> Managerial capitalism?
Brian Holmes on Thu, 21 Sep 2017 06:29:36 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Managerial capitalism?

On 09/20/2017 11:36 AM, Keith Hart wrote:

If Max W's two types, market and bureaucracy (the alliance between Rhineland capital and the Prussian army) have been split asunder in the West after their mid-century merger, that doesn't mean bureaucracy has melted away. Where does the Pentagon, the world's largest and most destructive anti-market bureaucracy ever, fit with a reversion to the Gilded Age?

When society's major steering functions can't find a productive fit, either with each other or with the loudest strands of public opinion, that defines a crisis of democratic capitalism. The US has it in spades today. Take the domain of party politics. The Republicans are split into three: traditional conservatives like John McCain who look for the continuity of the postwar American imperial system; corporate libertarians like Paul Ryan who seek total freedom for capital; white economic nationalists like Trump who want to play symbolic politics to the extreme. But the Dems are also split into three: oligarchs like the Clintons who look for the continuity of the postwar liberal order; identity politics figures like Obama who want to renew state interventionism in the Kennedy-Johnson mold; and white/rainbow economic nationalists like Bernie Sanders who want a full-on social democracy. That's six separate agendas and political chaos. It's way too much to synthesize.

In my view, these radical splits have come about due to the excesses of the "fit" represented by neoliberalism, where the state, the military and the corporations worked together to produce tremendous market booms and savage inequality. That was the Gilded Age thing, nourished on just the right amount of government funded war research. In the early decades this resurgence of international capitalism - something like British free-trade liberalism for the Internet age - could be accompanied by a political synthesis from either major party (think Reagan/Clinton). But the military and the intelligence services went too far after 9/11, and the corporate-finance sector lost its mojo in 2008. The state itself began to take a beating in 2017, with Trump attempting a libertarian-backed populist turn, which if you think about it is a contradiction in terms and can never be achieved. Right now the corporate sector is staging some kind of comeback as the Fed prepares to finally stop pumping liquidity into the economy, as it has been doing for ten solid years. But the general levels of volatility, in the market, in the national public sphere, in the international military-diplomatic arena, and in the supercharged atmospherics of climate change, make a real corporate boom unthinkable.

Under these conditions, it's obvious that a sophisticated disciplinary steering structure like the Chinese Communist Party looks relatively good. After all, they're building major infrastructure in a coordinated military-state-corporate push to decisively change the world, which you can't exactly say about the US or the EU right now. Still in all, I think whatever ultimately happens in the West is going to matter. Probably we should do a straw poll on this. Do we go green? Do we go fascist? Do we go back to an improbable status quo ante? Or some other outcome? What do you think, nettimers?

Felix said the folks in Hong Kong couldn't understand the technopolitics timeline. That's probably because neither technology nor politics evolves in a vaccuum. Instead they both evolve in the face of clamoring civil-society groups and disciplined state and military actors, which aren't the same in Hong Kong as they are in Austria or the UK or the USA or Taiwan or Argentina. And yet a real hegemony on a gloal scale - something like Roosevelt-era managerial capitalism - will more-or-less reconcile all of them. If it ever happens, I mean. Even if Hong Kong never gets it, the sixty-four-trillion-dollar question is whether Humpty-Dumpty can be put back together again.

My point is that behind all the red-in-the-face demands from civil society there lies a structural breakdown which is nowhere near resolution. You wanna do something remarkable in the present? Try the vision thing. Nobody has it, everybody needs it, it's the rarest thing on earth. I don't think that the post-2008 crisis will ever be resolved until some socio-political agency comes up with a vision of the future that is inspiring, workable and translatable into mathematical-statistical terms. And what if we never get one? Well, then we in the West and all the Rest will be stuck with "One Belt One Road" and the latest in Chinese-American surveillance. Like Bartleby the Scrivener, "I would prefer not to," but unlike Melville and Deleuze, I don't think such a preference makes a damn bit of difference. What matters is which technological path gets taken, according to which political synthesis. Looking at the situation as it stands today, one can't see any prospective pathway at all.

sorry about that,

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