The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time

Hence, what is arguably the most important indicator of a “failed state” in the United States is that “multidimensional wealth” which consists of the combination of education, health, and income has steadily gone down in the United States over the course of the last fifty years. The reasons for this downturn range from “black magic” to corporate greed as well as issues such as racism and sexism and so forth. 

In turn, the general public in America is essentially in a “class war” due to the downturn of their ‘multidimensional wealth’ through very little fault of their own, and this downturn in their economic and social conditions resulted largely from top-down decisions and strategies. Classism is the leitmotif of Western culture and history, and the “class struggle” is not unique to the United States, even though the United States is perhaps the final country in the Western world aside from England to go through the class struggle which other Western countries have already experienced. 

And in class wars, it is the people who theoretically end up winning after all the ups and downs of the class war – which consists of stolen elections inside and outside of the country, media brain fog, bribery and “State Capture” through Congress and parliament, and the brute use of force around the world – have finally taken their due course and have exhausted their potency and utility. Regular people end up winning, based on Marxist thought, for four main reasons inter alia: their numbers, their use of technology, capital’s dependence on people in order to perpetuate itself, and capital’s adverse and negative impact on the environment.

As Thomas Piketty noted, why the “multidimensional wealth” of regular people has diminished since the neoliberal takeover of the 1970’s – which in turn explains class conflict to a large extent – could be explained primarily by the basic nature of capital itself: “The principal destabilizing force has to do with the fact that the private rate of return on capital…can be significantly higher for long periods of time than the rate of growth of income and output.” 

This “divergence” of wealth distribution between capital on one hand and wage labor on the other hand ends up being “potentially threatening to democratic societies and to the values of social justice on which they are based.” The contradiction and paradox at the heart of modern economic and social life is then stated in the following manner by Piketty:

“The inequality…implies that wealth accumulated in the past grows more rapidly than output and wages. This inequality expresses a fundamental logical contradiction. The entrepreneur inevitably tends to become a rentier, more and more dominant over those who own nothing but their labor. Once constituted, capital reproduces itself faster than output increases. The past devours the future.”

Piketty added:

“The consequences for the long-term dynamics of the wealth distribution are potentially terrifying, especially when one adds that the return on capital varies directly with the size of the initial stake and that the divergence in the wealth distribution is occurring on a global scale.”

“Divergence” between capital and labor as a result of the imbalanced nature of wealth distribution which is defined in large part by the growth of extracted capital from the past at the expense of the ‘multidimensional wealth’ of regular people in turn spurs the “double-movement” between one class and another which is at the heart of a “class war.” The concept known as “double-movement” was coined by a 20th century economist named Karl Polanyi. This “double-movement” consists of the neoliberal effort to maintain a “self-regulating market” on one hand, and the popular push towards a “socialist” system on the other hand. As Polanyi wrote:

“Socialism is, essentially, the tendency inherent in an industrial civilization to transcend the self-regulating market by consciously subordinating it to a democratic society. It is the solution natural to industrial workers who see no reason why production should not be regulated directly and why markets should be more than a useful but subordinate trait in a free society. From the point of view of the community as a whole, socialism is merely the continuation of that endeavor to make society a distinctively human relationship of persons which in Western Europe was always associated with Christian traditions.”

Individual property rights in a socialist system are then balanced between “continuity” on one hand and “redefinition” on the other hand, to borrow from Polanyi. And as Polanyi rightly argued, why the economy and the markets cannot be left to self-regulation is because the basic pillars of an economy and the markets – namely, the distribution of goods and production – are “embedded” in the “social relations” of individuals and groups in a nation and society. Hence, it follows that democracy and the basic social structure of a society cannot sustain themselves without bringing the economy and the markets under the political and social will of the people in a society. And as we are witnessing now – and as witnessed in Europe in the 20th century – the inclination or natural tendency of a “plutocracy” which emerges from self-regulating markets is either towards fascism or tyranny, unless the economy and the markets are eventually brought under the purview of popular political and social will. 

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