FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Systemic Foundations of American Capitalism

by NORMAN POLLACK

We justifiably celebrate the memory of Dr. King on this day. As CP contributor Paul Street points out, the real Dr. King has been sanitized, his fundamental criticisms of American society and policy making not merely toned down but altogether ignored, so that the image preserved comports with alleged gains on the home front and humanitarian purpose abroad. In fact, today Dr. King would be perhaps more horrified than ever as to the transmogrification of American democracy into the not-so-preliminary stages of fascism under liberal cover.

Race per se, however, is no longer the chief indicator (although obviously an integral component) of this emerging societal formation; rather, one must take capitalism as a totality into view, with economic inequality the substantive core in the normalization of hierarchy, repression, ever-widening class differentials of status and power.

Since Dr. King’s martyrdom the antidemocratic context for American growth has only worsened—and his removal from the scene, and the radicalization of criticism he offered and represented dying with him, has only compounded the situation. Few voices of national prominence remain to peel away the layers of betrayal and obfuscation protecting an increasingly unified ruling class fusing militarism and capitalism via financial concentration and global interventionism.

Dr. King’s opposition to the Vietnam War and his class-inspired Poor People’s Campaign would seem now faintly anachronistic (although deeply courageous and necessary for his time), so far down the road has America traveled since in both the domestic if silent exploitation of all working people—evidenced by unemployment, wage stagnation, household debt, mortgage foreclosures—and a foreign policy of belligerence,, market penetration, and, yes, imperialism in its many guises, now including the blanket surveillance of the globe.

The promise of racial-emancipation and –democracy, seemingly on the horizon with the passage of the voting-rights and civil-rights legislation of the 1960s, can now be seen as a surface corrective, though important in its own right, because the underlying system of capitalism, already dependent on the military-factor as vital to its further development, had not thereby been affected, nor even touched. One might argue that intrinsic to capitalism is inequality, and, in the American cultural context, intrinsic to capitalism is racism, as the means for enforcing this structure of inequality, race providing the vehicle and example for the subordination of the entire working class.

Perhaps systems of capitalism in other nations, with greater mixed features and significant public ownership, as well as different patterns of historical development, have not fostered such extremes of wealth and poverty, but America stands unique for its puristic institutionalization of capitalism—and for that reason, self-criticism becomes akin to treason, whether the issues be foreign or domestic.

With the above in mind, it is essential to make inequality the touchstone of societal criticism, inequality as the pervasive reality defining the social order, and the factors contributing to its maintenance and its renewal in more intensified form. This may seem like preaching to the choir—a CP audience fully aware of what I am saying. I hope so! But still, in light of present general understanding, as typified by Paul Krugman’s column in The Times, Jan. 20, inequality is a thing in itself, unrelated to context, discussion of capitalism strictly verboten, wholly divorced from militarism, hegemony, financial concentration as a structural process.

My point, simply, is that inequality permeates the social system, taking multiple forms, themselves integrated, because the essential capital-accumulation process requires invidious distinctions, actualized in terms of power arrangements, across the board. Savaging the social safety net, cushioning the profits of JPMorgan Chase, targeted assassination in Yemen, a resurgence of racism, anti-immigrant feeling, gender discrimination in all its phases, a half-trillion dollar military budget in the next go-around, all of these form constituents—along with much else—in the systemic organization of inequality.

My New York Times Comment on Paul Krugman’s article, “The Undeserving Rich,” Jan. 20, follows:

What must be faced, and Prof. Krugman consistently dodges this, are the systemic foundations of wealth inequality. It is not enough to point to the upper 0.1% as though a self-contained explanation and/or even indictment. The political economy that creates the 0.1%, i.e., capitalism, must be analyzed in a causational framework. American capitalism has always been unjust, with extremes of wealth and poverty easily documented from the post-Civil War to the present. What is comparatively new, however, are the changes within American capitalism: to wit, its militarization and financialization. Krugman notes the latter in passing, the 0.1% largely in finance–yet he offers no recommendations for correcting the situation. But on the other, militarized capitalism, he is silent.

Americans have suppressed the history and knowledge of US global hegemony, a foreign policy of war, intervention, drone assassination, under both major political parties. No one, least of all POTUS, will connect the dots between enormous wealth accumulation and an aggressive foreign policy, for if one did, that would bring into question the authenticity of American democracy. Exposure to truth, granted, is mind-numbing, but going only half-way, as here, minimizes the problems facing American society, and transforms criticism into a safety valve so that nothing effective is done.

Open the windows, let the fresh air of informed social criticism come in; ignorance is not bliss.

Norman Pollack has written on Populism.  His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism.

More articles by:

Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

November 22, 2017
Jonathan Cook
Syria, ‘Experts’ and George Monbiot
William Kaufman
The Great American Sex Panic of 2017
Richard Moser
Young Patriots, Black Panthers and the Rainbow Coalition
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness
Lee Artz
Cuba Libre, 2017
Mark Weisbrot
Mass Starvation and an Unconstitutional War: US / Saudi Crimes in Yemen
Frank Stricker
Republican Tax Cuts: You’re Right, They’re Not About Economic Growth or Lifting Working-Class Incomes
Edward Hunt
Reconciling With Extremists in Afghanistan
Dave Lindorff
Remembering Media Critic Ed Herman
Nick Pemberton
What to do About Al Franken?
November 21, 2017
Gregory Elich
What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?
Louisa Willcox
Rising Grizzly Bear Deaths Raise Red Flag About Delisting
David Macaray
My Encounter With Charles Manson
Patrick Cockburn
The Greatest Threats to the Middle East are Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman
Stephen Corry
OECD Fails to Recognize WWF Conservation Abuses
James Rothenberg
We All Know the Rich Don’t Need Tax Cuts
Elizabeth Keyes
Let There be a Benign Reason For Someone to be Crawling Through My Window at 3AM!
L. Ali Khan
The Merchant of Weapons
Thomas Knapp
How to Stop a Rogue President From Ordering a Nuclear First Strike
Lee Ballinger
Trump v. Marshawn Lynch
Michael Eisenscher
Donald Trump, Congress, and War with North Korea
Tom H. Hastings
Reckless
Franklin Lamb
Will Lebanon’s Economy Be Crippled?
Linn Washington Jr.
Forced Anthem Adherence Antithetical to Justice
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Do Civilians Become Combatants In Wars Against America?
November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
Thomas Knapp
Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition
Binoy Kampmark
Trump in Asia
Curtis FJ Doebbler
COP23: Truth Without Consequences?
Louisa Willcox
Obesity in Bears: Vital and Beautiful
Deborah James
E-Commerce and the WTO
Ann Garrison
Burundi Defies the Imperial Criminal Court: an Interview with John Philpot
Robert Koehler
Trapped in ‘a Man’s World’
Stephen Cooper
Wiping the Stain of Capital Punishment Clean
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail