Thursday, September 18, 2008

The managerial state: Crisis or consolidation?


Some snippets from email exchanges. I'm leaving out the names of the people I'm responding to -- I'm just throwing this stuff out as thought-food, I didn't ask permission to fully quote them, and I've tried to carve down to within "fair use" guidelines.

Snippet #1

Other person: Welcome to the end of capitalism

Me: Actually, I think that capitalism ended, or at least started to accelerate toward its end, 75 or 80 years ago.

We've arguably been moving into a post-capitalist era of "managerialism" -- look up James Burnham if you don't know what I mean -- since the New Deal.

...

I'm undecided as to whether this current mess is a Hegelian "managerialism begins to disintegrate under the weight of its own contradictions" thing, or the beginning of a "final managerial consolidation of economic control."

Snippet #2

Other Person: Any way you slice it, it's socialism for the corporations and the wealthy.

Me: Oh, hell, it's already been that for quite awhile.

What I'm worried about in either event is the possibility of the worst possible convergence of economic and political trends.

I don't think that the economic status quo can co-exist with multi-party, or even two-party, democracy much longer (whether we're talking Hegelian disintegration or invisible-hand consolidation is irrelevant to that evaluation -- either one ultimately entails crises of control).

I also don't think that the Republican Party can be trusted to resist the temptation of becoming overseers of a one-party state. I'm not saying all Republicans are evil, mind you ... I'm just saying that the ideological trend of the GOP is toward concluding that government needs more control and acting on those conclusions, and if there's a one-party state at the end of those conclusions, well, they'll "accept necessity."

Snippet #3

Other Person: One thing nobody seems to be talking about in the midst of this economic crisis, however, is precisely how the "managerial class" is taking care of its own.

Me: Actually, I've seen some references to it.

Thing is, there's no good way out of it. The miscreants either get to keep the money, or some other managerial faction (perhaps a new one forming as the apparatchiks of this whole "government takeover" trend) gets to put on a show trial and take it "back," thus making itself look "honest."

Snippet #4

Other Person: It took a one-time Trotskyist to identify the modern managerial class, but I think it will take a young libertarian theorist or two to lead us out of the abyss and into a truly free market economy where everyone can share in its blessings.

Me: I'm not optimistic. I think that most libertarian theorists are still mired in the illusion that current events constitute a conflict between "capitalism" and "socialism." Every once in awhile there's a tentative lunge toward "libertarian class theory" by Rockwell and the Auburn crowd, but it's usually followed by a retreat to the comfy couch of the familiar forms. The mutualists and agorists (especially Kevin Carson, Roderick Long and Brad Spangler -- and "Rad Geek," whose real name I can't remember at the moment) have some chops, but I don't think their operating theor[ies] (i.e. outside of the class analysis itself) [are] going to get anywhere.

Post-snippet notes

No, I don't have an operating theory -- or, more correctly put, a strategy -- for a) weathering the crisis or b) monkeywrenching the consolidation either.

Part of such a strategy would have to include convincing socialists that what they've been fighting since, oh, the end of World War I or so, hasn't really been "capitalism."

Another part of such a strategy would have to include convincing libertarians that "capitalism" was never the same as "laissez faire" or "free-marketism" in the first place, that it was never worth defending, and that in any case it's a-moldering in the grave and is no more likely to be brought back to life than that parrot in the Monty Python sketch.

A third part of such a strategy would have to include convincing both socialists and libertarians that their real interests are much more closely aligned with each others' than with the interests of either wing ("social-democratic left" or "conservative right") of the managerial class.

But those are just pieces. I'm not a system builder.

Personally, folks, I think we're well and truly screwed.

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