(1998) 'Coming to Terms with Contemporary Capitalism: Beyond the
Idealism of Globalisation and Capitalist Ascendancy Arguments'
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Received: 19/1/98 Accepted: 13/5/98 Published: 30/6/98
If one can sit here at the spatial edge of human society, looking northward across the vast desert continent of Australia and southward towards emptiness and desolation, knowing that one is thousands of miles from the 'global cities' of Tokyo, Frankfurt, or LA, and still feel that one is a part of the world, then globalization truly is an impressive process. (Waters, 1995).
the special laws that regulate the origin, existence, development, death of a given social organism and its replacement by another and higher one. (Marx, 1983: p. 28).
2 I say this notwithstanding Giddens' (1994) claim that politics is moving beyond the traditional demarcation of left and right . Giddens is correct in drawing attention to the end of an era when traditional Parliamentary Politics was defined in terms of delivering social democratic reforms on the basis of top down representation. However, for all intents and purposes, there remains a 'left' and 'right' political agenda defined by its degree of commitment to and belief in the market. In this sense the left has been marginalised from Parliamentary Politics, although not from its grassroots, as many of its original members who have sought to remain within Parliamentarianism have been drawn towards the right neo-liberal agenda; an agenda which underlies New Labour's commitment to the rhetoric of 'communitarianism'.
3 By 'parasitism', I refer to the capitalist systems systematic tendency to accumulate fictitious profits through the movement M - M' and, thus, its systematic tendency to by-pass accumulation of surplus value from the direct producers through the circuit M - C - P - C' - M'. Parasitism in this sense has reached a magnitude today never encountered in the history of capitalism.
4 According to Paul Kennedy (1994), 'by the late 1980s, more than 90% of this trading in the world's foreign exchanges was unrelated to trade or capital investment' (p. 51).
5 Walter Rodney (1972) produces a convincing argument.
6 See Hopkins and Wallerstein's (1996) thought provoking and empirically interesting work. All subsequent reference to Hopkins and Wallerstein relates to this book, particularly pp 1 - 10 and 209 - 243.
7 For an overview of some of the debilitating effects of Stalinism on Marxist method see Arthur (1987: pp. 111 - 15).
8 What springs to mind in this respect is the negative response to the work by Hillel Ticktin in the pages of New Intervention over recent years. The debate therein has simply failed to engage with the major substantive issues raised by Ticktin.
9 It is this kind of negative dialectic which characterises contemporary western capitalist society. Under such circumstances identity, often takes the alienated form of a search for 'identity' solely in difference, as is evidenced by post-modernist discourse. However the search for identity is an embedded human condition which does not simply evaporate due to unfavourable conditions. In the context of a decline in the popularity of class identity, individuals become attracted to other 'identities' such as 'gender', 'ethnicity', etc. To be absolutely clear; as necessary expressions of social differentiation they are positive emancipatory forces in society which should not and indeed cannot be overlooked or downgraded. However, as political, non class, identities, they can never of themselves eradicate humanities universal condition of alienation and exploitation. Often, for the best of intentions in most cases, the attempt to assert gender or ethnic identity can lead to the kind of political reformism which strengthens the material conditions sustaining the major social divisions in society. For an extension of this argument see Kennedy (1997).
10 One notable exception is the work carried out in the journal Critique in recent years. For example, see the articles by Hillel Ticktin (1991; 1994) and that by Istvan Meszaros (1991).
11 As Marx (1972) observed, Samuel Bailey's belief that value was something which buyers and sellers imagine in the accidental world of commodity exchange, failed to answer why one commodity - money - could systematically express the value of all other commodities.
12 An argument advanced recently by Geert Reuten (1988).
13 The dialectic between commodities, money, capital as a process of commodity fetishism is established by Marx (1983: chapters 1 - 3).
14 For a detailed assessment of Labourism, see Kennedy (1996).
15 For alternative definitions of Labourism see Gregory (1993) and Thompson (1993).
16 In the case of Britain this reflected itself in the emergence of Thatcherism supported by big business and right wing think tanks. As James Callaghan, ex Labour Leader and Prime Minister, observed on the eve of Thatcher's victory, '...there are times, perhaps once every thirty years, when there is a sea change in politics. It then does not matter what the public wants and what it approves of. I suspect there is now such a sea change - and it is for Mrs Thatcher'. Norris McWhirter reflects on the reasons for founding the right wing group the 'National Association for Freedom' (NAFF), 'In the dark days of 1975, with the IMF knocking at the door of 10 Downing Street, The IRA rampant in London, and 61/4 million fellow citizens inside (trade union) closed shops. ... What was needed was some kind of association which would defend our rights and liberties', both quotations cited from Cockett (1995: p. 286 and p. 221 respectively).
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