Capital and Labour In The 21st Century

Much conservative economic policy follows a tired old script and formulaic thinking that has long since lost its relevance and is as much contributing to present social chaos as anything else. This is one reason why the conservative “preference for the familiar” can become an extreme vulnerability, if not social disease, insofar as it prevents insight into new realities.

So, for example, I am watching Alberta’s relatively newly elected United Conservative Party gut and eviscerate their own province simply because they do not comprehend current economic reality and are trying to force inappropriate policies upon Albertans that belong to a bygone era — policies that have now lost all relevance or effectiveness.

Trickle down economics is the usual template — tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations along with limitations on, and “disciplining” of, Labour, gutting of public services like health and education while reallocating resources into policing or state security. I’m sure you are all familiar with the formula.

Trouble is, that formula was only somewhat effective when Capital was the fixed factor and Labour was the mobile factor in economic production. With neoliberal globalisation, this whole relationship reversed itself — Capital become the fluid and mobile factor and Labour became the fixed factor. And that changes everything. Tax cuts, supposedly to act as economic stimulus, simply do not stay put.

It’s what Marshall McLuhan described as looking at reality through the rearview mirror — what you perceive is what has been and not what is.

Attempting to impose, even by coercive measures, obsolete policies on a society is a sure formula for social chaos, and it is not difficult to see why in this case. If you still make the assumption that capital is fixed and labour is mobile, and impose such thinking on a society in which the reality is exactly the opposite and the reverse, you’re trying to pound the proverbial square peg into the round hole.

If there are any ‘bad actors’ here in terms of generating social chaos, it’s a case of what my indigenous friends say about finger pointing: “remember, when you point your finger at someone there are three fingers pointing back at you”.

You’re not going to get what you expect to get, and what we see in the case of Alberta, especially (but not solely) is a terrible example of “false consciousness” and its consequences and, of course, deflection via scapegoating and blaming the victims.

It’s not just in terms of economics, either. Our whole way of thinking is rooted in absolete patterns that are not attuned to present reality. We call that “cognitive dissonance”.

It is also the meaning of “Zombie Economics”. We keep trying to enforce old policies on new reality but which have become ineffectual responses.

Something for you to reflect on therefore as a factor in present social turbulence.


9 responses to “Capital and Labour In The 21st Century”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    The old saw about the hammer and the nail is certainly applicable here too in terms of Zombie Economics and is, of course, related to McLuhan’s “rearview mirror” view.

  2. Steve says :

    “It is possible to lead astray an entire generation, to strike it blind, to drive it insane, to direct it towards a false goal. Napoleon proved this.”
    ― Alexander Herzen

    • Steve says :

      I am truly horrified by modern man. Such absence of feeling, such narrowness of outlook, such lack of passion and information, such feebleness of thought.

      Alexander Herzen

  3. Steve says :

    No one is to blame. It is neither their fault nor ours. It is the misfortune of being born when a whole world is dying.

    Alexander Herzen

    • Steve says :

      “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”
      ― Anatole France, The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard

      • Steve says :

        Stupidity is far more dangerous than evil, for evil takes a break from time to time, stupidity does not.

        Antole France

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