[lbo-talk] Krugman: The Road to Romneycare

Wojtek S wsoko52 at gmail.com
Thu Apr 28 18:03:07 PDT 2011

cb: "The only instability we r interested in is the instability created by challenges from below. "

[WS:] My point, exactly. The only real challenge is that "from below" - everything else is just difficulties that can be managed. The only point that I would argue is the form that challenge from below must take to be taken seriously by the ruling elite.


On Thu, Apr 28, 2011 at 4:28 PM, c b <cb31450 at gmail.com> wrote:
> Wojtek,
> I enjoy your thinking out things below, and I don't mean to discourage
> the thread. I would say that your whole discussion of the US history
> can proceed without the thesis that the US system is less stable than
> the European one in the long run, for if there have been no serous
> challenges from below , then it has been stable in the long run. The
> only instability we r interested in is the instability created by
> challenges from below. The periodic crises r "instabilities" that are
> part of the system, to an extent. Though I suppose we still hope that
> a big crisis can be part of an assault from below; as now where the
> financial crisis has begotten an assault by the US bourgeoisie on the
> US middle class ( decent incomed workers), who r fighting from below
> like never before. Firefighters r showing some militancy calling for a
> general strike in Wisconsin and withdrawing campaign funds to national
> Democratic Party.   New radicals r often very militant.
> [WS:] Good question.
> I think the main reason is that capitalism as a system has never been
> seriously challenged from below in the US, or at least to the degree
> it had been in Europe. This is due to several factors:
> 1. Ideological hegemony that pro-business views, values and attitudes
> achieved in the US since its emergence as an independent nation. This
> is due to the fact that unlike Europe, the key institution providing
> structure to society was linked to business rather than to monarchy
> (as it was the case of Europe) and thus the business class (plantation
> and business owners) rather than state officials (or monarchs) were
> seen as purveyors and guardians of "public interests."
> 2. Weakness of the working class due to its internal divisions by
> racial, ethnic, religious, and geographical (North/South, urban
> country-side) identities; this was reflected and further reinforced by
> the prevalent form of trade unionism geared to provide "membership
> benefits" (jobs, higher wages, insurance) instead of representing the
> working class as a whole (as aptly observed by Robert Fitch in
> "Solidarity for Sale").
> 3. Politics of patronage (aka political party machines) that coopted
> elements of the working class by tying them to business interests in
> certain jurisdictions.
> 4. The availability of 'free" land that provided real or imaginary
> opportunity for "realizing the American dream" - which dampened labor
> militancy.
> 5. Universal male suffrage that defined disfranchisement along gender
> rather than class lines (as it did in Europe.) Although that may be
> less true in the South where until the 1950s Black suffrage was a
> legal fiction regardless - disfranchisement there was defined by
> racial divisions rather than socio-economic class (as in most European
> countries.)
> As a result, capitalism as a system has never been seriously
> challenged from below and its negative effects were blamed on personal
> rather than systemic factors (bad "moral character," laziness, lack of
> skills, foreigners, corrupted politicians, dishonest businessmen,
> etc.)
> Having said that, however, the US state managed to step up to the
> plate to save capitalism from the excessed of individual capitalists
> when it faced a serious systemic challenge during the Great
> depression. The FDR administration instituted limited social programs
> similar to those developed in European welfare state, which were
> essentially forced down the throats of the reluctant capitalists.
> Another instance of state intervention to save capitalism as a system
> is the Great Society programs instituted to diffuse racial tensions.
> But these two developments only serve as counterexamples to the
> general rule that capitalism as a system had it much easier in America
> than in Europe due to general absence of serious challenges from
> below. When these challenges (albeit not as serious as those in
> Europe) did emerge from time to time, the state was more likely to act
> to save capitalism as a system from excesses of individual capitalists
> by providing limited social protections to the lower classes - against
> opposition from individual capitalist interests.
> A short version of this argument can be summed up as follows: US
> capitalists can engage in reckless and and outrageous pursuits because
> they feel safer than their European counterparts. And they feel safer
> because the plurality (if not the majority) of the US population sucks
> up to business big time, and grunts fight amongst themselves over
> bones thrown to them by their business masters instead of challenging
> the system.
> Wojtek
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