[...] But we should recognize that the Soviet Union was not equivalent to socialism and thereby somehow directly analogous to capitalism. It was something more particular and of a different order.
This is so whether we treat capitalism as a set of practices that can be undertaken by capitalists anywhere, or as an economic system that knits together enterprises, markets, investments, and labor throughout the world. Capitalism is a historical formation, grounded, as Michael Mann would say, in a set of power networks. It has existed for the last 400 years primarily in the form of the modern world-system that Immanuel Wallerstein has analyzed. This is a hierarchical and unequally integrated organization in which the primary units are nation-states and economic actors are crucially dependent on relations with and conditions provided by political power.
To be sure, the idea of a nation-state is in a sense aspirational; the suturing of sociocultural identity to governmental institutions is never perfect; economic integration can itself advance national integration and certainly economic actors also influence government. Yet even if partially a fiction, the nation-state is a crucial formal unit for participation in global affairs, reproduced in political isomorphism. Most international organizations are literally that—structured by nationally organized participation. And states organized in this way provide crucial underpinnings to capitalism. They provide the legal and monetary bases for both firms and markets. They manage, or provide settings for the management of interdependence among different firms, industries, and sectors. By organizing structures of cultural and social belonging, however imperfectly, and sometimes by regulating markets, they organize workforces, consumer markets, and trust. The term "nation-state* may be only shorthand for "efforts to organize politics and sociocultural belonging in terms of nation-states", but the era of capitalism and the era of nation-states have been one and the same. There is no "rea" capitalism, no matter how global, that isn't conditioned by this political-economic and sociocultural organization. The import of this is that existing capitalist prosperity and sustainability depend on nation-states and institutional affordances they have provided. These must be renewed or replaced. Yet for forty years the OECD countries have turned away from this task. Instead they have hollowed out the "welfare state" institutions of the past, reducing costs and pursuing immediate competitiveneas but neglecting the long-term well-being and security of their population and the collective investment that enables future economic participation.
just really well written
The futures of the Euro and the eurozone remain uncertain. Spain and Portugal have gained minimal stability only for Italy to wobble and Cypus enter a tailspin. No one knows how far the European crisis will spread: perhaps to old member Belgium or new member Slovenia, perhaps to the EU itself, endangering the very common currency agreement. Meanwhile, austerity programs seek macroeconomic rectitude by rolling back state provision of services and security. In varying combinations cutbacks were nationally self-imposed responses to market pressures, and the result of external imposition not unlike the structural adjustment policies the IMF demanded of debt-ridden Third World countries in the 1980s. States were harnessed to save investors from losses and global markets from deep depression. Though it was investors and the transnational financial industry that reaped the huge profits of the bubble era and most directly benefited from bailouts and government-provided liquidity, the crisis and remedial actions are discussed in terms of nation-states. Of course, trying to grasp all this as a matter of profligate Greeks and prudent Germans obscures the central role of financialization itself (and of course the construction of the financial crisis narrative in overwhelmingly national terms reinforces other aspects of nationalist ideology, including increasingly widespread xenophobia and especially Islamophobia). Profits made by financial institutions encouraged the European Union to expand and to turn a blind eye to fiscal problems in member states. Now the citizens of EU countries with stronger banks and balance sheets complain about having to bail out other nations, straining the European Union itself, and forgetting the extent to which the benefits of bailout went to the financial industry and those with large capital assets.
In the meantime a different kind of popular movement began emerging from the Right. The New Right snatched many of its tactics and even former activists from the dispirited New Left. This turn to the right marked the end of the long period dominated by class politics with its familiar symbols, tactics, and well-rehearsed rituals of bargaining. The political reaction flew the colors of identity, which introduced into politics a nastily passionate charge because matters of identity tend to be uncompromising and noanegotiable. The New Right came in two varieties, though often meshing in practice: ethnopatriotic or religious-patriotic fundamentalism and libertarian market fundamentalism. Both called for the militant defense of fundamental matters of faith—or whatever was claimed to be the founding identities in their societies. Notice that both fundamentalisms directed their ire at state bureaucracies, blaming them for being too secular, removed, devious and taxing. It tells us something important about Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and other contemporary fundamentalisms that their suspicions and phobias virtually everywhere went hand-in-hand with extolling the virtues of small business, small town life, and the patriarchal family.
The Left was precipitously declining across the board, leaving its place in the popular imagination to be filled with either apathy or fundamentalist anger. This reversal in mass politics opened the window of opportunity for conservative factions among the Western capitalist elites. Neoliberalism, yet another misnomer, in fact grows from the old ideological belief of modern capitalists that everyone would eventually benefit from letting them do whatever they deem necessary in the pursuit and disposal of profits. World progress, the purported laws of human nature, and supreme rationality are but the nineteenth-century intellectual supports to this faith. The fundamentalist character of the neoliberal movement is revealed in its adamant refusal to recognize as capitalism anything except the purest unregulated markets—just as religious fundamentalists recognize only their own radical brand of faith as true religion. History, however, shows that the type of free markets cannot be observed in any empirical situation; it is an ideological fantasy. Following in the footsteps of Fernand Braudel and Joseph Schumpeter, we argue that sustained profits always require a degree of state protection and market monopoly. Hegemonic monopoly is what in fact propelled the renewed surge of American power and finance at the turn the twenty-first century. [...]
idk what buddhist or hindu fundamentalisms they're talking about but for the Abrahamic religions, absolutely, it tells you something very important about the whole reason these religions were created in the first place
Are political hopes blurring our theoretical visions? Our answer is this: Reflexively admitting a connection between our hopes and our hypotheses is a necessary component of theoretical honesty in social science, especially when dealing with our own times. Social theory is often likened to lenses of various cuts that enable us to discern patterns in human action. When the lenses are cut solely to confirm one's faith and denounce whatever opposes it, the resulting vision is strictly ideological. Such lenses, commonly worn in politics and public debating, function more like blinders. Theory is different because it has to be testable. What constitutes tests in social science has been a matter of controversy. We are methodological pluralists insofar as we doubt attempts to legislate the one right way of doing social science. Yet we are not complete relativists. Different kinds of problems and scales of analysis leave researchers the choice of investigative techniques. Experiments and statistical correlations have an important place in the toolkit of social science but their role cannot be universal. Disciplined ethnographic observation is often more revealing in studying localized social environments. At the macrohistorical level, which is where we work, the main method might be likened to connecting the dots in a big puzzle. Another test for macrohistorical theory are counterfactuals, the alternative roads that seemed possible at one historical juncture but were not taken. In other words, we must show both how we get from one historical situation to another and what are the actual range of structural possibilities and the factors on which events turn. This is perhaps as close we can get to an experiment in our kind of research.
Capitalism is not a physical location like royal palace or financial district to be sized by a revolutionary crowd or confronted through an idealistic demonstration. Nor is it merely a set of "sound" policies to be adopted and connected, as prescribed in the business editorials. It is an old ideological illusion of many liberals and Marxists that capitalism simply equals wage labour in a market economy. Such was the basic belief of the twentieth century, on all sides. We are now dealing with its damaging consequences. Markets and wage labor and existed long before capitalism, and social coordination through markets will almost surely outlive capitalism. Capitalism, we contend, is only a particular historical configuration of markets and state structures where private economic gain by almost any means is the paramount goal and measure of success. A different and more satisfying organization of markets and human socety may yet become possible.