Brian Holmes on Fri, 28 Aug 2020 23:23:46 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> A Historian of Economic Crisis on the World After

On Wed, Aug 26, 2020, Vincent Gaulin wrote:

A technical point that I think needs to made is that monetary creation involves both the US Congress, Treasury and Federal Reserve Bank. So anti-austerity or what in Keynseian terms would be call "counter-cyclical" response to crisis is not a question of central banking primarily, but of politics more broadly.

Vincent, I agree with this and everything else you say in this post. The current conditions are already forcing a move away from neoliberal orthodoxy fixated on price stability, ie no inflation. That orthodoxy is obsolete: there's no inflation anywhere, because wages are so repressed and the power of labor is so curtailed that you can't have "too much money chasing too few goods" (the definition of inflation). The corporate productive order has been unleashed, there's a plethora of goods, but no one has the wages to buy them. The only place where there's too much money is at the top, where it chases arbitrarily valued immaterial assets (stock market boom). Gargantuan efforts are made to prop this system up (Jerome Powell's Fed has done that over the past six months, both nationally and internationally - for that you can read Robert Brenner's piece in New Left Review 123) but it's obviously insufficient. What we have in classical economic terms is the specter of deflation: a Covid depression for the vast majority, an unparalleled boom for the new oligarchy. The question that's emerging from the present situation, under the longer shadow of climate change, is what kind of political control, or at least steering, is exercised over "the economy" - which is not an abstract collection of statistics, but instead the substance, direction and results of people's activity in society. I think you have put it extremely well:

The neoliberal frame privileges flows of money and goods. A different order promotes flows of human experiential know-how and the ability of people to aggregate a sense of what they can concretely do for themselves and others. 

That's exactly it. Neoliberalism is over. Every society on earth needs to have a very explicit debate and struggle over the shape of this "different order." After all, Trump won his first election on the rhetoric of national production and protectionism. The concrete sense of this protectionist move - the question it was asking and answering - is what people can do to reinforce a racist/extractivist social order. The center left's problem has been not admitting the existence of any threat whatsoever, claiming that the only threat is the insanity of the other party. But the truth is that the unfettered market order of what we used to call "globalization" (and I guess most people remember that I am "anti-globalization") has brought the world of 7+ billion people to the edge of social and ecological breakdown, leading first to the kind of civil unrest that we now have in the US, and threatening to culminate in authoritarianism and war. The issues of protection, and indeed, of security (but of what kind? for whom and from what?) are on the table, when they are not flooding the house, or burning it down, or riddling it with bullets. So let's keep talking about the Green New Deal - not as a "done deal" or a set of environmental homilies, but as the emergent and urgent space in which people are called upon to reorder their relations to each other and to nature. If this space is not rapidly filled with concrete endeavors stretching from mutual aid all the way up to national and international rebuilding programs, well, we're cooked. That's all there is to it.

I have more to say about the technical issues, and I am sure you do too, Vincent. I just wanted to reinforce your main point in this post.

all the best, Brian

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