Capitalism, Inverted Totalitarianism, Neoliberal Capitalism, Professor Peter Hudis, Regulatory Capture
Who’s got a hand on the crackdown?
Who’s got the word on the double talk?
Hands on the wheel in a flash of steel
We got a secret letter with a government seal
Nerves are pinched but the heads are calm
The cargo’s all loaded and the red light’s on
Check the map, you navigator sap
Or we’ll all end up with our heads in our lap
Only with capitalism does commodity exchange become the universal source of social interaction through the commodification of labor power, value then becomes the defining principle of social reproduction.
There are many criticisms against Capitalism, but not much in the way of concrete alternatives. I’ve just finished reading Professor Peter Hudis’ book “The Alternative to Capitalism”, and while he does not offer much specificity in the way of concrete alternatives, he does offer a useful and provocative analysis of Marx’s theories pertaining to what might come next. The book is unique in that it distills down and interprets thousands of pages of Marx’s writing into a handful of useful conclusions that illustrate what Marx envisioned in a post Capitalist society.
Below is a recent podcast in which Professor Hudis is interviewed, and this gives a quick overview of the concepts and conclusions of his vision of a post Capitalist society.
The central argument in Hudis’ reading of Marx is that any Post Capitalist society that is to succeed must at first recognize, then dismantle, the system of value production. This differs significantly from conventional anti-capitalist thinking which suggests that the capitalist mode of production and the system of private property ownership are principally responsible for the contradictions and subsequent failures in Capitalism.
Additionally, he points out that Marx expressly disagreed with the popularized notion that to achieve this, the ownership of the means of production must transfer to the State. Marx was very clear that ownership of the means of production must not belong to the Capitalist, nor the State, rather, to those in the involved with the actual production process.
Hudis suggests that these palliative measures are not only misplaced, but wrong.
To dive further into what is being said here, some discussion of the meaning of the phrase value production is in order.
Value production in a capitalist society means that all social relations are governed by the drive to augment and increase value, with no regard for human needs or capacities.
This suggests (and Hudis does a good supporting his thesis with an academically rigorous approach in his book) that the essence of the perpetually expanding nature of Capital, the expansion that consumes resources and poisons the planet, stems from this fundamental conclusion.
Value is not material wealth, it is wealth computed in terms of money. As Hudis points out, once such a system of value production becomes the dominant form of social relations, the drive to constantly increase value becomes unstoppable.
Drilling deeper into the construct of value production, what comes forward is that one of the key contributors to this unstoppable force is the notion of socially necessary labor time. On this subject, it becomes evident that not even the Capitalists themselves have control of the system, as even they are not able to manage the forces that control production. Time becomes inverted, the predicate becomes the subject, and the whole process leads to the incredulous discovery that the products we produce control all of human relations.
And it was always supposed to be the other way around.
The concept of socially necessary labor time dictates several key factors, principally, that goods are produced in accordance with average labor inputs, and any production labor in excess of the social average is wasted and deemed not useful. This means that Capitalists that engage in production are not in control of their exchange values, this is communicated by the market and discovered when goods reach the point of sale. It is then that the Capitalist determines if his goods are competitively priced, and if he can monetize his exchange value. If another firm has produced the same commodity using less labor (or cheaper labor) at the same quality, then the original capitalist will not be able to monetize his surplus value.
This uncertainty, coupled with the intrinsic self expansive nature of Capital, sets into motion a destructive and unstoppable cycle of ever decreasing inputs of labor time.
Time, in the pursuit of commodity production, becomes our master, we work longer, faster, to achieve the same standard of living.
These factors were not present in pre-capitalist societies. And Hudis argues that they cannot be present in any post Capitalist society either. These conditions of value production in general, and of socially necessary labor time in particular are unique to Capitalism.
We see in the news today disturbing events, loss of personal liberties, privacy issues, destruction of the planet and wanton disregard for resource depletion- it is hard to know which bogey to fear first and foremost.
Most disturbing to me is the almost footnoted mention in the news media of the egregious tax avoidance strategies being employed by large multi-nationals. Companies like Tesla are now dictating terms and conditions which they will require to build production factories in a specific state. They are in effect competitively bidding individual states against each other to maximize the tax deferments and various other concessions as a condition of doing business.
Tesla has negotiated approximately $1.25 Bn dollars worth of concessions, and some analysts are claiming the return on investment for the number of jobs created is a fiction.
Additionally, these tactics are by no means limited to inside the US, there is a battle royale raging in countries like Ireland, where Apple has effectively negotiated terms that reduce their effective tax liabilities to around 2%. By their own admission, there is ‘no scientific or numerical basis’ for their arguments, meaning they just drove the best bargain they thought they could get away with, and Ireland signed up- not wanting to risk the ~6,000 jobs that Apple has in Cork County.
While many are content to lament the State’s complicity in the machinations of Capital, these events indicate something new and much more dangerous- Capital is now overtly dictating terms to the State and holding monopoly power over the State to insure conditions of production that are favorable to Capital. Again, the predicate becomes the subject, as we see an inversion of the production relations. This is very dangerous.
Next we can envision corporate sanctioned labor camps for those deemed unemployable, subsuming the State unemployment programs with privatized “camps” as an extension of the massive prison system- with better wall colors and more frequent conjugal visits.
Social relations will be transformed to support only matters of production relations, education further diluted to rote training farms, subsidized and wholly captured by the large multi-nationals, and hard wired to provide curriculum and performance standards beholden only to their interests.
The hand maidens of Capital have successfully employed an “Arsonists in Fire Chief Hats” strategy wherein they have systematically dismantled any regulatory components of the State, and then cry foul when the hobbled remains proves ineffective at its intended role.
The only logical conclusion in this outcome is of course further privatization, drowning government in the proverbial bathtub so that Capital may advance beyond its perch as owner of all assets into its newly expanded role as owner of all labor.