[OPE] Norbert Trenkle, 'The “return of the state” as crisis administrator'

From: Gerald Levy <jerry_levy@verizon.net>
Date: Thu Oct 15 2009 - 08:27:44 EDT

The crisis, the author asserts in the 2nd paragraph,, "is an expression of a
structural crisis
of the valorisation of capital.... there was a massive reorganization of
labour in the central
capitalist sectors.... This substantially undermined the foundation of the
valorisation of capital...."
This, imo, is way too sketchy, assertive, and cryptic. Has this particular
perspective on the
current crisis been more thoroughly presented elsewhere?

In solidarity, Jerry

The “return of the state” as crisis administrator
Deutsche Version [1]
Norbert Trenkle

Parts of the left are attributing the current global economic crisis to
political causes. Neoliberalism, so the argument goes, with its total
deregulation of markets and particularly the radical increases in freedom
accorded to the financial markets, has failed. Now, they claim, we are
approaching an era of regulation and control by the state, and our task is
to influence the forms it will take. The central demand is for the
rolling-back of the influence of finance capital and a strengthening of the
real economy, which in turn should itself be reformed both ecologically and
socially. Whether or not this will succeed is treated primarily as a
question of the balance of social power and of political mobilisation.
However, this analysis overlooks the fundamental character of the global
crisis. Even if it was precipitated by a financial market crash, its causes
are to be found somewhere else entirely. The prodigious inflation in the
financial markets over the last 30 years was not caused by wilful or
incorrect political decisions, but is the expression of a structural crisis
of the valorisation of capital, a crisis that began with the end of the
post-war Fordist boom. Through the fundamental reorganisation of conditions
of labour and production in the course of the third industrial revolution
(automisation, flexibilisation and precarisation of labour, transnational
chains of value-creation, etc.), there was a massive rationalisation of
labour in the central capitalist sectors. This substantially undermined the
foundation of the valorisation of capital, which consists in the continually
increasing exploitation of labour-power. This in turn led to the diversion
of more and more capital into the financial markets: capital could no longer
find sufficient opportunities for valorisation in the ‘real economy’, and a
gigantic bubble of unsecured ‘fictitious capital’ (Marx) was inflated.
Without this diversion, which allowed the crisis of capital-accumulation to
be postponed, the global economy would have collapsed long ago. The cost of
this diversion, however, was the building-up of ever more potential for
crisis. It is thus no wonder that the crash came: what rather needs
explanation is that it could be so protracted.
This was only possible because at the state level and beyond, policy has
been primarily directed towards sustaining the dynamics of the financial
markets, and has thus reacted to the onset of every crisis (those in Mexico,
Asia, Russia, that of the New Economy) in the same way: with the creation of
additional credit, to induce the inflation of a new bubble. The pattern of
these reactions is evidence that the structural cause of the crisis-process
lies beyond the reach of politics, for it is a result of a fundamental
contradiction in the historical internal dynamics of capitalism, itself a
prerequisite of all conscious action. Capitalism creates immense forces of
production and potential for riches which in and of themselves would enable
a good life for everyone (really, for everyone). These riches are however
not compatible with the narrow- minded aim of exploiting living labour,
because they render more and more labour superfluous. They thus
lapse into becoming the propellant of a fundamental process of crisis, which
undermines not only the foundations of the valorisation of capital, but also
the network of social reproduction that depends on it, along with the
natural foundations of life. The inflation of the financial markets is not
the cause of the crisis, but one of its symptoms. It shows that capitalist
accumulation can only function precariously as an appendage to fictional
In this context the actual content of the much-evoked ‘return of the state’
becomes clear. Despite all the lip-service paid to ‘regulation’ and the
return to the real economy, supporting the financial markets and inflating a
new bubble of speculation and credit will continue to remain at the centre
of every policy of crisis-administration. Even left-wing social democrats,
trade unionists and ATTAC-representatives are bound to demand that the banks
be saved. The only differences lie in the detail – that is to say, whether
or not they should be nationalised, and who should bear the cost. This last
question is however already resolved: the costs are so huge that they can
only be covered by massive public borrowing. Everything else (‘tax the rich’,
salary-cuts for managers, bankers’ private liability etc.) is merely
symbolic. There is fundamentally nothing to be said against taking money
away from the rich, bankers and employers in order
to distribute it to claimants (as if it would ever happen), but the function
that these demands fulfil in political debate is regressive, because they
serve only to brand scapegoats and to diffuse moral outrage, thus masking
the true dimensions of the crisis.
Alone the massive public borrowing to save the financial system suggests –
even if it succeeds in precariously delaying the process of crisis with a
violent surge of money – that in the next years many aspects of social
reproduction will be cut back because they are no longer deemed ‘financially
viable’. But the sums needed to repay the amassed debts will never be saved
through restrictive policies of austerity. It is therefore not in any real
sense the case that the mass of waged, precarised and unemployed workers
will have to pay them back. It is these workers, however, who will feel the
effects of the ‘bailouts’ most acutely, because the debt will serve as a
brutal restriction on every future politics, no matter for which party or
tendency. For while there will be limits to future public borrowing, the
burden of interest-payments will grow massively. The consequences are
obvious: politics will in the first instance concentrate on the maintenance
of ‘functions relevant to the system’, and these are, in addition to the
financial markets, the remaining cores and ‘clusters’ of productive
valorisation of capital, along with the infrastructure and personnel that
they require. General infrastructure, social welfare, public healthcare will
be dismantled further, wages and pensions decreased (through cuts and as a
result of inflation), and the number of precarised and ‘superfluous’ people
will continue to grow. Administration of the crisis, for them, means soup
kitchens, authoritarian discipline and exclusion. Even political parties
that come to power with promises of ‘social and environmental reforms’ will
follow this logic of the political crisis-administration.
The current debate about reforms is a farce, because it suggests a
perspective for which the material foundations are no longer present. During
the boom-periods of capitalism, and particularly in the times of the Fordist
post-war boom, a relative improvement in living- and living-conditions – was
possible within the framework of capitalism, because the growth-dynamics of
the movement of valorisation brought about pressure to integrate increasing
numbers of people into the system of commodity-production and labour-
exploitation. Since more and more have been rendered ‘superfluous’ from the
point-of-view of capital, the function of ‘politics of reform’ is being
reduced to the organisation and facilitation of the increasing social and
regional fragmentation of society. This tendency will become more prominent
in the further development of the crisis. A new perspective towards social
emancipation can only be formulated in the consistent opposition to the
dismantling politics of crisis-administration: through the consistent
attempt to make the standpoints of material riches and of the satisfaction
of sensual needs apply to everybody. This is as true for struggles over
wages and labour as it is for those which aim at the direct, collective
appropriation of social resources (means of production, housing, cultural
and social spaces etc.). As long as riches can only be thought in the value-
and commodity-form and access to material riches appears possible only via
the detour of money, the restrictions and insanities of this form will in
the end continue to be presupposed and accepted. It is in this way that
large-scale shut-downs of production-facilities in which useful and sensible
things (such as good food) are made appears ‘unavoidable’, while at the same
time there are bitter struggles to continue and expand the production of
cars, although their climate- destroying effects have been widely-known for
a long time. This blocks the only way out of the destructive course of
commodity-society, a process that starts in our heads, and proceeds, as if
as a matter of course, in our actions. Our task is to break through this
Translated by Josh Robinson (Principia Dialectica) [2]

Article printed from krisis: http://www.krisis.org
URL to article:
URLs in this post:
[1] Deutsche Version:
[2] (Principia Dialectica): http://www.principiadialectica.co.uk/

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Received on Thu Oct 15 08:37:09 2009

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