Expat Forum For People Moving Overseas And Living Abroad banner
Status
Not open for further replies.
1 - 20 of 36 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
15,812 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
According to John Gray, Marx's analysis of the capitalist system was correct. It is unsustainable and ends up destroying its own social base; Marx called that the bourgeousie, today we call it the middle classes.

... as capitalism evolves, its defenders say, an increasing number of people will be able to benefit from it.

Fulfilling careers will no longer be the prerogative of a few. No more will people struggle from month to month to live on an insecure wage. Protected by savings, a house they own and a decent pension, they will be able to plan their lives without fear. With the growth of democracy and the spread of wealth, no-one need be shut out from the bourgeois life. Everybody can be middle class.

In fact, in Britain, the US and many other developed countries over the past 20 or 30 years, the opposite has been happening. Job security doesn't exist, the trades and professions of the past have largely gone and life-long careers are barely memories.

If people have any wealth it's in their houses, but house prices don't always increase. When credit is tight as it is now, they can be stagnant for years. A dwindling minority can count on a pension on which they could comfortably live, and not many have significant savings.

A Point of View: The Revolution of Capitalism
Looking to a future in which the market permeates every corner of life, Marx wrote in The Communist Manifesto: "Everything that is solid melts into air". For someone living in early Victorian England - the Manifesto was published in 1848 - it was an astonishingly far-seeing observation.

At the time nothing seemed more solid than the society on the margins of which Marx lived. A century and a half later we find ourselves in the world he anticipated, where everyone's life is experimental and provisional, and sudden ruin can happen at any time.
So - what's to be done? Politicians got us into this mess - can we trust them to get us out of it? Or is a middle-class revolution on the cards? Or will people just stick their heads in the sand and hope the good times will return when it all settles down again?

What do you think?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22,378 Posts
According to John Gray, Marx's analysis of the capitalist system was correct. It is unsustainable and ends up destroying its own social base; Marx called that the bourgeousie, today we call it the middle classes.





So - what's to be done? Politicians got us into this mess - can we trust them to get us out of it? Or is a middle-class revolution on the cards? Or will people just stick their heads in the sand and hope the good times will return when it all settles down again?

What do you think?
I think you should read on....:) You will then find that Gray distinguishes between capitalisms. He is no fan of ideologies so is no Marxist. He is referring here to neo-con econ capitalist doctrine.He is a proponent of the Rhineland model of capitalism. He is an adroit demolisher of Marxism and other political religions.
Neo-cons such as Francis Fukuyama also admit that free market capitalism destroys the middle-class, the traditional family structure and the old-fashioned career path which was the backbone of the middle class. Socialism and neo-conservatism are alike in that they believe in 'creative destruction'.
Politicians didn't single-handedly get us into this mess, though, did they. I think the markets may have had something to do with it...
Who apart from politicians do you think could get us out of this mess? Businesspeople? The military? Please don't say 'the people' because there is no such thing...:) The 'people' is composed of individuals of a variety of political views.
A middle-class revolution is most certainly not on the cards. And if there were ever to be one it would be a revolution of the Right, not the Left. What may well be on the cards though is a resurgence of the anti-immigrant far right, all over Europe. It's happening now.
Yes, people will just stick their heads in the sands because the history of capitalism is one of boom and bust. Like most other things in history, economic events are cyclical.
In Europe and much of the world, life will go on as per usual until the good times roll again. Belts will have to be tightened for some -we are' not all in this together' - but no-one will starve and tv, films, parties and social life will go on as usual. The workers of 2011 have much more to lose than their chains.
The poor will go on being poor, especially in those countries in Africa and the Middle East where crackpot dictators have ruined their economies and oppressed their people by following the 'socialist path'.
Marx made some reasonable although obvious sociological pronouncements with which I agree, namely that economics determines much in life and is more important than identity politics.
That's why talk of the black or the gay 'community' makes my toes curl.
You're reading 'Heresies', aren't you? A good introduction to Gray's thinking.
'Black Mass; the Death of Apocalyptic Religions' has an excellent demolition of both Marxism and neo-Conservatism.
'Straw Dogs' is his most important work as it deals with the fundamental questions of human existence.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22,378 Posts
we are in the 2nd guilded age...studying what happened during the 1st guilded age might be an answer to the question...
If you believe as I do that history is cyclical, that's good advice.
The problem is that we in the West tend to see history as a process of improvement which, scientifically and technologically it is. But to think that moral and spiritual progress is a concomitant of this is a delusion.
Who was it who said'History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce'. ?
Whoever, s/he was right.
Just out of interest, what periods would you include under the 'first gilded age'?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22,378 Posts
Incidentally....who would lead a middle-class or any other revolution? Politicians, of course, and probably not ones of a democratic mindset.
Modern hi-tech society needs leaders, whether they are Government Minsters or managers or CEOs of Companies.
Can you imagine IBM, Tesco or BT being run by a collective?:D
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15,812 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Before we go any further I just want to point out that I did read the whole article and don't necessarily agree with what this guy is saying.

I posted it for discussion (knowing that Mary often refers to Gray's ideas), to try and get us away from riots and miners' strikes, and because I've seen quite a few articles in right-wing publications recently proclaiming that Marxist economic theory was the only one that correctly predicted/explained the crisis.

OK folks, carry on ... :peep:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15,812 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I think you should read on....:) You will then find that Gray distinguishes between capitalisms. He is no fan of ideologies so is no Marxist. He is referring here to neo-con econ capitalist doctrine.He is a proponent of the Rhineland model of capitalism. He is an adroit demolisher of Marxism and other political religions.
Neo-cons such as Francis Fukuyama also admit that free market capitalism destroys the middle-class, the traditional family structure and the old-fashioned career path which was the backbone of the middle class. Socialism and neo-conservatism are alike in that they believe in 'creative destruction'.
Politicians didn't single-handedly get us into this mess, though, did they. I think the markets may have had something to do with it...
Who apart from politicians do you think could get us out of this mess? Businesspeople? The military? Please don't say 'the people' because there is no such thing...:) The 'people' is composed of individuals of a variety of political views.
A middle-class revolution is most certainly not on the cards. And if there were ever to be one it would be a revolution of the Right, not the Left. What may well be on the cards though is a resurgence of the anti-immigrant far right, all over Europe. It's happening now.
Yes, people will just stick their heads in the sands because the history of capitalism is one of boom and bust. Like most other things in history, economic events are cyclical.
In Europe and much of the world, life will go on as per usual until the good times roll again. Belts will have to be tightened for some -we are' not all in this together' - but no-one will starve and tv, films, parties and social life will go on as usual. The workers of 2011 have much more to lose than their chains.
The poor will go on being poor, especially in those countries in Africa and the Middle East where crackpot dictators have ruined their economies and oppressed their people by following the 'socialist path'.
Marx made some reasonable although obvious sociological pronouncements with which I agree, namely that economics determines much in life and is more important than identity politics.
That's why talk of the black or the gay 'community' makes my toes curl.
You're reading 'Heresies', aren't you? A good introduction to Gray's thinking.
'Black Mass; the Death of Apocalyptic Religions' has an excellent demolition of both Marxism and neo-Conservatism.
'Straw Dogs' is his most important work as it deals with the fundamental questions of human existence.
I have got a copy of 'Heresies', but I confess I haven't yet got beyond the Introduction. I'm finding it quite hard to work out what he is actually saying, beyond a string of seemingly unconnected statements presumably intended to be provocative.

So what's this Rhineland model and how do we get there from here?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22,378 Posts
I have got a copy of 'Heresies', but I confess I haven't yet got beyond the Introduction. I'm finding it quite hard to work out what he is actually saying, beyond a string of seemingly unconnected statements presumably intended to be provocative.

So what's this Rhineland model and how do we get there from here?

The Rhineland model is broadly speaking a set of economic principles which form the basis of a social market economy. The framework for this was established, ironically, by the 1945 Labour Government in what was then the British Zone of Occupation.
It rests on a diluted form of corporatism where the interests of both workers and employers in maintaining a productive economy in order to provide not only the highest wage remuneration but also a high level of 'social wage' in the form of high quality public services and welfare benefits.
German tax levels are higher than those in many EU states -remember Merkel wanting the ROI to raise its Corporation Tax as part of the bail-out deal?
One of the key planks of this successful model is what is known in Germany as 'Mitbestimmung'. All enterprises with a certain number of employees (not sure of the number but it's quite low) must by law have a Management Board consisting of a proportionate number of elected workers who may or may not be trades unionists. The advantages of this are obvious. Full access to the financial affairs, a voice in decision-making, in short, a stake in the success of the enterprise.
This is one reason why Germann employers preferred to put skilled workers on short time during the recession rather than get rid of them and thus were able to swiftly resume production when the economy picked up.
There are other component parts of this model: compulsory education or training until the age of eighteen and a smaller number of trades unions, to give two examples.
In short, an absence of the 'them and us' culture that has blighted British labour relations.
When British trades unionists were given the opportunity to have a stake in their workplaces (the Bullock Report and Castle's proposed 'In Place of Strife' legislation) the likes of Scargill and other would-be revolutionaries rejected it as they wanted no part in making capitalism work.
That to me is the major lost opportunity of the past decades and led directly to Thatcherism.
Now on a positive note: OH tells me that she heard on the radio last night that the new IMF Head Christine Lagarde has called for EU states to abandon austerity and go for growth....favour demand rather than supply-side economic....in other words, adopt Keynsian stimulus policies.
If this is so, then it represents a major shift in thinking at the IMF and may well see the end of its domination by the neo-con Chicago -school economists.
That could well be the answer to the second part of your question.
As for Gray: I think his style is straight-forward and his message is clear.
Put not your trust in ideologies is the key. It is provocative because it smashes the cosy 'progressive' consensus and demolishes cherished myths.
His central thesis is that the Enlightenment idea of human spiritual progress is a fairy tale.
Looking at the two millenia of recorded human history, I'd say that it is very obviously true and extremely provocative to those who believe we can achieve a perfect society.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22,378 Posts
Before we go any further I just want to point out that I did read the whole article and don't necessarily agree with what this guy is saying.

I posted it for discussion (knowing that Mary often refers to Gray's ideas), to try and get us away from riots and miners' strikes, and because I've seen quite a few articles in right-wing publications recently proclaiming that Marxist economic theory was the only one that correctly predicted/explained the crisis.

OK folks, carry on ... :peep:
That just isn't true.
Anyone looking at history since the sixteenth century could predict the crisis. Gray predicted the crisis. Larry Elliot in The Guardian amongst others predicted the crisis.
When Marx wrote his works in the late nineteenth century he did not know and could have made no insightful comments on the speculation-led financial crisis of 2008.
Most of Marx' work is of mere historical interest, like the Treaty of Utrecht.
I had to read it -and be examined on my knowledge of it - when I was a CP member....:eek:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15,812 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I have got a copy of 'Heresies', but I confess I haven't yet got beyond the Introduction. I'm finding it quite hard to work out what he is actually saying, beyond a string of seemingly unconnected statements presumably intended to be provocative.

So what's this Rhineland model and how do we get there from here?

The Rhineland model is broadly speaking a set of economic principles which form the basis of a social market economy. The framework for this was established, ironically, by the 1945 Labour Government in what was then the British Zone of Occupation.
It rests on a diluted form of corporatism where the interests of both workers and employers in maintaining a productive economy in order to provide not only the highest wage remuneration but also a high level of 'social wage' in the form of high quality public services and welfare benefits.
German tax levels are higher than those in many EU states -remember Merkel wanting the ROI to raise its Corporation Tax as part of the bail-out deal?
One of the key planks of this successful model is what is known in Germany as 'Mitbestimmung'. All enterprises with a certain number of employees (not sure of the number but it's quite low) must by law have a Management Board consisting of a proportionate number of elected workers who may or may not be trades unionists. The advantages of this are obvious. Full access to the financial affairs, a voice in decision-making, in short, a stake in the success of the enterprise.
This is one reason why Germann employers preferred to put skilled workers on short time during the recession rather than get rid of them and thus were able to swiftly resume production when the economy picked up.
There are other component parts of this model: compulsory education or training until the age of eighteen and a smaller number of trades unions, to give two examples.
In short, an absence of the 'them and us' culture that has blighted British labour relations.
When British trades unionists were given the opportunity to have a stake in their workplaces (the Bullock Report and Castle's proposed 'In Place of Strife' legislation) the likes of Scargill and other would-be revolutionaries rejected it as they wanted no part in making capitalism work.
That to me is the major lost opportunity of the past decades and led directly to Thatcherism.
Sounds reasonable to me, though I wonder what happens when there's a global economic crisis. Can the skilled workers make the managers redundant?

As I said before, how do we achieve that from the starting point of where we are now?

Now on a positive note: OH tells me that she heard on the radio last night that the new IMF Head Christine Lagarde has called for EU states to abandon austerity and go for growth....favour demand rather than supply-side economic....in other words, adopt Keynsian stimulus policies.
If this is so, then it represents a major shift in thinking at the IMF and may well see the end of its domination by the neo-con Chicago -school economists.
That could well be the answer to the second part of your question.
Sounds promising. Perhaps she's been talking to Joseph Stiglitz, former head of the World Bank, who has been saying for years that austerity won't work.


As for Gray: I think his style is straight-forward and his message is clear.
Put not your trust in ideologies is the key. It is provocative because it smashes the cosy 'progressive' consensus and demolishes cherished myths.
His central thesis is that the Enlightenment idea of human spiritual progress is a fairy tale.
Looking at the two millenia of recorded human history, I'd say that it is very obviously true and extremely provocative to those who believe we can achieve a perfect society.
I will persevere! But sentences like "No trace of doubt leavens the dogmas of secular humanism" have me scratching my head, I must confess.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22,378 Posts
Sounds reasonable to me, though I wonder what happens when there's a global economic crisis. Can the skilled workers make the managers redundant?

As I said before, how do we achieve that from the starting point of where we are now?


Sounds promising. Perhaps she's been talking to Joseph Stiglitz, former head of the World Bank, who has been saying for years that austerity won't work.




I will persevere! But sentences like "No trace of doubt leavens the dogmas of secular humanism" have me scratching my head, I must confess.
Workers need managers. Why on earth would anyone want to make managers redundant as a kind of 'special case'? If they don't do their job well they of course they should go. But managers are workers too, you know.:) Maybe seeing them as in some kind of opposition to other workers is part of the problem of our society. Managers and workers have a common interest in the prosperity of their enterprise.
Anyone who has run a business will know your manager is your most important employee.
Collectives NEVER work in the long run.
I've told you how I think we will get there in the long run. A change of view at the IMF is a major step forward.
I don't think Christine Lagarde needs to talk to Steglitz or anyone, really. She is a clever tough woman with roots in the same social market philosophy that underpins the German model.
Where do you think we should start? Remember, we start from where we are, not where we'd like to be. Forget about revolutions. They won't happen. In spite of the 15M etc. the PP will most likely sweep the board in November. Sadly.
Capitalism in one form or another is here to stay. It's the form it takes that matters. Capitalism with a human face where the market serves human need and not the other way round.
What's the problem with Gray's sentence? It's clear what he's saying....humanism is a secular religion and its adherents cling to its tenets like Christians to revealed scriptures or Muslims to the Koran.
Humanists are anthropocentrists. They believe that through human reason as expressed in scientific discovery and technology mankind can make spiritual and moral progress.
They believe this against all the evidence of history.
Just as neo-cons and socialists won't admit their particular dogmas have been tried, failed and rejected by the people -the people expressing themselves through the ballot box or when that recourse isn't available by means of mass demonstrations as in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15,812 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Workers need managers. Why on earth would anyone want to make managers redundant as a kind of 'special case'? I they don't do their job well they of course thery should go. But managers are workers too, you know.:) Maybe seeing them as in some kind of opposition to other workers is part of the problem. Managers and workers have a common interest in the prosperity of their enterprise.
Anyone who has run a business will know your manager is your most important employee.
Collectives NEVER work in the long run.
I was a worker-manager for ten years. I watched senior managers make one bad decision after another, costing the company a lot of money. If non-managerial staff truly have an equal stake in the company they should be able to get rid of these people, or at least hold them to account; it should work both ways.
I've told you how I think we will get there in the long run. A change of view at the IMF is a major step forward.
I don't think Christine Lagarde needs to talk to Steglitz or anyone, really. She is a clever tough woman with roots in the same social market philosophy that underpins the German model.
Where do you think we should start? Remember, we start from where we are, not where we'd like to be. Forget about revolutions. They won't happen. In spite of the 15M etc. the PP will most likely sweep the board in November.
Capitalism in one form or another is here to stay. It's the form it takes that matters.
It's really amusing that you think I'm a revolutionary socialist! My OH is always telling me off for being too much of a reformist.

Yes, a change of IMF view is a step forward but the IMF is only one player in the game. I don't think we can rely on large financial institutions to bring an end to hunger, war and disease in the world.

There are other kinds of revolution of course. A consumer revolution for a start. Capitalism is suffering a crisis of over-production and is dependent on ever-growing consumerism; if the middle classes all stopped buying things they don't need, perhaps it would collapse and we could rebuild it to a new, more humane model.

Humanists are anthropocentrists. They believe that through human reason as expressed in scientific discovery and technology mankind can make spiritual and moral progress.
I'm a humanist, and I don't believe that.
 
G

·
If you believe as I do that history is cyclical, that's good advice.
The problem is that we in the West tend to see history as a process of improvement which, scientifically and technologically it is. But to think that moral and spiritual progress is a concomitant of this is a delusion.
Who was it who said'History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce'. ?
Whoever, s/he was right.
Just out of interest, what periods would you include under the 'first gilded age'?
There seems to be varying opinions of the start and end of the 1st gilded age, I'd go with post Civil War to the stock market crash.

I see history more as a pendulum, and expect to see unions become stronger. If it wasn't for the union's there never would have been a middle class (imho). This will be encouraged by goverment as the middle class supports them in taxes.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22,378 Posts
I was a worker-manager for ten years. I watched senior managers make one bad decision after another, costing the company a lot of money. If non-managerial staff truly have an equal stake in the company they should be able to get rid of these people, or at least hold them to account; it should work both ways.

It's really amusing that you think I'm a revolutionary socialist! My OH is always telling me off for being too much of a reformist.

Yes, a change of IMF view is a step forward but the IMF is only one player in the game. I don't think we can rely on large financial institutions to bring an end to hunger, war and disease in the world.

There are other kinds of revolution of course. A consumer revolution for a start. Capitalism is suffering a crisis of over-production and is dependent on ever-growing consumerism; if the middle classes all stopped buying things they don't need, perhaps it would collapse and we could rebuild it to a new, more humane model.


I'm a humanist, and I don't believe that.
But what makes you think it doesn't work both ways? Of course it does!! :) Mitbestimmung involves everybody....workers (which as you now say includes managers)
and, importantly, the bankers who are the company's funders, plus shareholder representatives. All committed to an efficient productive enterprise that can create wealth and pay taxes to fund the social wage. So anyone who can't step up to the plate should and would be disposed of.
I don't think you are a revolutionary socialist....you haven't really nailed your colours to the mast!!:)
The only statement I remember you making that could be construed as 'revolutionary' is that you don't believe that the ballot box can bring real changes. Actually I agree with you but I accept that state of affairs because as thrax' signature says, democracy as expressed via the ballot box isn't perfect but it's the best system we have in a pluralist society.
Do you really think the middle classes will stop buying things they don't need? Of course they/we won't. The Chinese, Brazilian, Indian middle classes will take up the slack anyway. So no, the consumer society won't collapse and we won't rebuild it to a new, more humane model...and what would that model look like, I wonder? Your vision of what form that model should take could be quite different from other people's. So whose model should prevail?
Do you think that only the middle classes are avid consumers, though? In the last decades, certainly post-war, the less well-off have at last been able to participate in the consumer society and what a good thing that has been! I wish my mother, who scrubbed other people's floors for a living and left £300 wrapped in a shoebox hidden in her wardrobe when she died had been able to participate more fully in the consumer society.:) £300, a few clothes and sticks of furniture for over sixty years of work...
At the moment, capitalism per se isn't suffering from a crisis of over-production. That is true of certain sectors but not overall. The opposite is currently true of many economies in Europe and North America. Growth has stalled - that's why we need Keynsian remedies to get workers working in the public and private sector - the latter most importantly as it provides revenue for the former via taxation.
I'm not sure what humanists believe......that word 'believe' is the giveaway.
OH says she is an atheist. I think she should say 'agnostic' because not believing is a matter of faith in itself. She believes there is no god. She cannot know.
Humanism as traditionally defined is surely the belief that humankind can be the master of its own destiny, isn't it?
That and the belief that history has 'meaning' in terms of human progress....
Who or what in your opinion can realistically bring about change? Change is certainly needed but if it comes it will be incremental, gradual, evolutionary....certainly not revolutionary.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22,378 Posts
There seems to be varying opinions of the start and end of the 1st gilded age, I'd go with post Civil War to the stock market crash.

I see history more as a pendulum, and expect to see unions become stronger. If it wasn't for the union's there never would have been a middle class (imho). This will be encouraged by goverment as the middle class supports them in taxes.
I can't comment on American history but I guess you're right.
In the UK the strongest unions are public sector unions. Teachers, civil servants....not the traditional 'tough' trades. So yes, many union members are middle-class professionals. Some professionals prefer not to use the term 'union' but unions are what the First Division Association (top civil servants) and the British Medical Association (doctors) are.
Membership of a union is sadly confined to a minority of workers in the UK.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22,378 Posts
Humanists...

...are atheists and agnostics who make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values. We take responsibility for our actions and base our ethics on the goals of human welfare, happiness and fulfilment. We seek to make the best of the one life we have by creating meaning and purpose for ourselves, individually and together.


Statement of purpose from the British Humanist Association.

Language such as 'goals', 'meaning' and 'purpose' surely imply an underlying ideal of progress??
Nothing wrong with any of that...I just don't see how it relates to life as it is actually lived.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
33,612 Posts
Humanists...

...are atheists and agnostics who make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values. We take responsibility for our actions and base our ethics on the goals of human welfare, happiness and fulfilment. We seek to make the best of the one life we have by creating meaning and purpose for ourselves, individually and together.


Statement of purpose from the British Humanist Association.

Language such as 'goals', 'meaning' and 'purpose' surely imply an underlying ideal of progress??
Nothing wrong with any of that...I just don't see how it relates to life as it is actually lived.
It also assumes that everyones "goals", "meaning" and "purpose" are the same, which they are not!

Jo xxx
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
19,422 Posts
It also assumes that everyones "goals", "meaning" and "purpose" are the same, which they are not!

Jo xxx
Do you think that what it implies?
I read it to mean that individuals find their own objectives/ ideals within the areas of human welfare, purpose, happiness and fulfillment...
...if you see what I mean.
 
1 - 20 of 36 Posts
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top