"Decadence" or Slower Growth or Collapse or what?

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Jamal's picture
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Jun 21 2016 02:06
"Decadence" or Slower Growth or Collapse or what?

Your thoughts?

radicalgraffiti
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Jun 21 2016 02:20

why are you trying to summon the icc?

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Jun 21 2016 02:23

thatsthejoke.jpg

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Jun 21 2016 02:31

Decadence is a delusional and ill-defined shibboleth.

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Jun 21 2016 02:45

It is not my intention for this thread to become a place where we demean and discount each others opinions in ways that do not push the general discourse forward.

Re: Pennoid

Why do you think that?

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Jun 21 2016 02:50

What exactly is decadence?

Edit: yeah I'm not trying to demean anybody; but that's my take on the concept of decadence. But we might go in a better direction through dialogue, hence my question here.

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Jun 21 2016 02:58

It's a theory created by the ICC in the 1980s. They were attempting to create a useful periodization of modern capitalism. In their view, at some point in the early 20th century, capitalism ceased being a progressive force in terms of the development of the productive forces, as well as other areas by obvious extension.

Apparently just a simple "Up/Down" dichotomy

But as the title of the thread suggests, I'm not at all soley interested in the ICC's opinions on the trajection of the capitalist world system. All commentary on the topic is more than welcomed at this point.

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Jun 21 2016 11:40

What aspects of capitalism are we expecting to be progressive? How? Why? Capitalism as such didn't give universal suffrage. Mass working class struggle forced them to concede. It seems to conflate the reforms gained under capitalism as purely cynical concessions, of which the capitalists have no means of granting anymore. Let's take a single-payer plan in the United States that would give healthcare to every person here. That would be great for the working class, in terms of a palliative reform. There is no reason it cannot happen aside from effective struggle with the capitalist class. Is there not enough money? Not enough people willing to work?

radicalgraffiti
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Jun 21 2016 11:52

it also ignores everything that isn't the west

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Jun 21 2016 13:07

Just to point out, there was a thread on this started by Jamal last year: https://libcom.org/forums/theory/icc-position-decadence-bourgeoisie-deve...

A "theory" of decadence was posited by Marxists such as Engels and Kautsky in the long depression of the 1870-80s. It would be good to trace the evolution of Kautsky's views. In 1914 Marxists such as Gorter once again declared capitalism had passed the progressive/decadence point.

In the United States the Marxist theorist Herman Cahn developed a theory of the collapse of capitalism based on an analysis of contradictions inherent to money:

Capital to-day; a study of recent economic development (2 ed. 1918, written before the war)
https://archive.org/details/capitaltodaystud00cahnrich

The collapse of capitalism (1919)
https://archive.org/details/collapseofcapita00cahn

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Jun 21 2016 13:48

Noa, is any of that Kautsky translated into English?

Burgers
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Jun 21 2016 14:42

Jamal decadence theories existed before the ICC did and seriously you need to start moving on, as you seem totally obsessed.

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Jun 21 2016 15:05

omg, I'm totally obsessed with the trajectory/future/end of capitalism! how odd! how strange!

I personally think we're in the midst of a paradigm shift. I think major industries like agriculture and healthcare are changing in pretty significant, "progressive" ways which will extend the lifespan/trajectory of capitalism to a farther point in the future.

Notice this has shitfuck all do with the ICC. Ya'll the one who keep bringing them into the discussion. The thread Noa posted is a year old now. Probably everyone in there has changed their positions on the matter a little bit since then. Also, the thread was addressed to the ICC directly. I couldn't care less if they didn't show up in this one.

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Jun 21 2016 16:14

Translated passage from 1886 on the prospect of opening up of China. In Kautsky's bibliography I did notice some other early articles that might be relevant (eg on English colonialism, military expenditure, in Züricher Post, but this paper is quite difficult to find).

There is a translation being done of his 1902 article on Tugan-Baranovsky (mentioned by Luxemburg).

Nicholas Stargardt in The German Idea of Militarism: Radical and Socialist Critics 1866-1914 on pp. 82-83 discusses how Kautsky's views shifted.

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Jun 21 2016 18:52

When I read it in Kautsky, or others, I take it to mean, in a depression period, or recessionary period, that 'things are declining' class conflict growing sharper, profitability declining in general, businesses closing, people getting laid off etc. but this is a cyclical phenomenon in capitalism.

On the other side, in the macro historical sense, capitalism (as pointed out by others) has a progressive role in the liquidation of the petty-producers in the countryside, that come to being in degrees of relative strength as serfs/peasants struggle for rights and land against less and less powerful aristocrats and nobility in the 18th-20th centuries. The problem of masses of petty producers, undeveloped internal industry, reliance of development upon export of one or a few major commodities or resources appear to be ones which cannot be addressed by communism without a far reaching internationally organized communist movement in the developed countries which adopt specifically a plan of unremunerated export of development technology and laborers to the undeveloped countries. Short of that, we can have nightmarish bureaucratic/bonapartist 'development' adventures in depravity (Stalin) in the extreme, and less extreme balancing of foreign and domestic, petty producer, large bourgeois, and working class, elements in the process of national economic development. The 'role of capitalism' as progressive or decadent in this?

Well, it depends on how you define capitalism. If you think capitalism 'automatically' gives a country democratic-republican government, universal suffrage, trade unions, etc. then in many countries it is no longer progressive. If you think those are the result of class struggle that, yes is internal to capitalism, but points beyond it, then you can see there is a push and pull, conflicting tendencies to the rise in the organized and concentrated power of one class as against the other. It also means that in less developed countries, there is a struggle developing, of the working class to assert it's interests as against both the petty producers and the capitalists.

Am I making sense? Part of what decadence appears to do, is suggest that 'reforms' are impossible which is absolute nonsense. It also appears to suggest that organizing anything other than the committees to carry out the revolution (and agitation, i.e. propaganda leagues) is a waste of time. The only period when this *may* have had *some* purchase was the immediate post-world war 1 revolutionary upheavals. Arguably it was past before the end of 1918.
The 'left-communists' (a subset of left 2nd internationalists) unfortunately appear to see these conditions as always lurking beneath the surface, beyond every historical event involving people on a large scale, or strikes etc.

In short, it is an ill-defined and useless term, a shibboleth, IMHO.

S. Artesian
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Jun 21 2016 19:42
Quote:
I personally think we're in the midst of a paradigm shift. I think major industries like agriculture and healthcare are changing in pretty significant, "progressive" ways which will extend the lifespan/trajectory of capitalism to a farther point in the future.

Can we have some details? And please include how these changes are "progressive" in contrast to previous changes in the post WW2 period; and how these progressive changes extend the lifespan of capital, as opposed to the bourgeoisie extending the lifespan of capital.

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Jun 21 2016 20:25

Uh oh, here we go again.

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Jun 21 2016 21:28

It just seems that all too often people in their eager attempts to disprove decadence, just end up repeating variations of arguments from Bernstein. Incidentally, Kautsky's book against Bernstein has no translation.
Bernstein und das Sozialdemokratische Programm: Eine Antikritik (1899)

Lenin's review of it here.

S. Artesian
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Jun 21 2016 23:34

Details, please. Otherwise let's just close this thread with a link to the previous thread.

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Jun 21 2016 23:45

I'm not presenting a Bernstein argument, am I?

S. Artesian
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Jun 21 2016 23:55
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It just seems that all too often people in their eager attempts to disprove decadence, just end up repeating variations of arguments from Bernstein. Incidentally

Details, please, with citations from the previous thread where those of us disagreeing with decadence theory parroted Bernstein. Otherwise, you're just talking out your ass.

The point of all this is that you can call capitalism ascendant, or descending, "robust" or "decadent" and all such characterizations are irrelevant; holding no material historic content; no significance for class struggle. How capitalism reproduces itself, continues to reproduce itself. OTOH has exactly that critical import.

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Jun 22 2016 11:36

I don't think Noa Rodman ever leaves the library - nearly every response is a reference to a dusty book rather than a reply to what was said.

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Jun 22 2016 12:06

It's the alleged Zusammenbruchstheorie that Bernstein set up as a straw man to knock down. Bernstein did not propose his own theory, he just limited himself to some "critical questions", stressing the usefulness of reform struggles etc. I mentioned sources from the "decadence" camp (it's not necessary to get stuck up on the word) that analyze how capitalism reproduces itself (eg Herman Cahn's Capital to-day; a study of recent economic development).

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Jun 22 2016 15:14

Even to the extent that Kautsky employed the term, or Marx or Engels, it appears to function as unfounded hyperbole. Certainly capitalist development and change regularly shakes the foundations of entire countries. But it does not as a work system automatically collapse; the bourgeoisie invoke and impel crises where they can to take advantage and stave off in favorable conditions.

On the other hand, to the extent that Kautsky, Marx and Engels saw the 'decadence' of capitalism as a measure of the organization and education of the proletariat, it's fight against capitalism, that seems a more apt measure and defendable position. It also mirrors Marx's claim about capital creating g it's own gravediggers.

S. Artesian
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Jun 22 2016 16:36
Noa Rodman wrote:
It's the alleged Zusammenbruchstheorie that Bernstein set up as a straw man to knock down. Bernstein did not propose his own theory, he just limited himself to some "critical questions", stressing the usefulness of reform struggles etc. I mentioned sources from the "decadence" camp (it's not necessary to get stuck up on the word) that analyze how capitalism reproduces itself (eg Herman Cahn's Capital to-day; a study of recent economic development).

Breakdown theory, the inevitable collapse and disappearance of capitalism, is quite a bit different from decadence theory. No need to get hung up on the word? Ok by me. Not ok by decadence theorists.

Anyway, refer to the previous thread where we beat this horse to death and made ourselves need a drink. Or two.

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Jun 22 2016 18:39
Pennoid wrote:
Even to the extent that Kautsky employed the term, or Marx or Engels, it appears to function as unfounded hyperbole.

Kautsky writes that the term was invented by Bernstein, just as the "immiseration theory" btw. And I would not be surprised if Aufheben was the first to use "decadence theory".

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Jun 23 2016 09:24
S. Artesian wrote:
Can we have some details? And please include how these changes are "progressive" in contrast to previous changes in the post WW2 period; and how these progressive changes extend the lifespan of capital, as opposed to the bourgeoisie extending the lifespan of capital.

I understand a comprehensive answer is in order, but my time spent researching these questions deeply has been limited. I have not explored these questions enough in a purely academic manner. For now I'm just offering some thoughts.

I personally don't find the "progressive" or not thing super helpful. But when I do use the term, it's employed in an economic sense. When I hear the word "progressive", I think "growth". The world economy since WWII is obviously growing according to every statistic I've seen, but that rate of growth has been dropping off somewhat steadily; from 5.2% in 1970 to 2.2% in 2001. (http://www.ggdc.net/maddison/other_books/new_HS-7.pdf)

Here's a cool graphic of the US growth since 1800:

So overall growth is clearly still happening, only with longer "plateaus" of stagnation and in some brief periods actual decline, which seem to be occurring more frequently since after WWI.

This is what I mean by "paradigm shift". Sort of a permanent slow down of growth rates or something?

In this regard, there is a lot of talk from capitalists about reaching some kind of "equilibrium", where capitalism maximizes human potential above all else because that's what becomes cost efficient, or something. I'm not sure I understand it completely.

What I do know for sure is that the world around me is different. I was born in the 80s. Everything is changing. The distinction between what's natural and artificial has almost completely disappeared. We know today that within our own skulls is the most complex and little understood chunk of matter in the universe. We're starting to beat disease. People are becoming super human. The way we've started to integrate digital, physical and biological systems.

What we're doing might not be changing much, but who we are, what we are, is.

There were two big shifts in economic policy over the last century; first Keynesianism, then Neoliberalism. Seems we're due for a new shift. If in this shift, capitalism eliminates the most dire poverty and provides basic needs for everyone, what would we see? Is it possible for capitalism to do this? It seems so to me. In fact, global hunger and extreme poverty continues to lessen as we speak.

Our constraints due to lack of material resources seem to also be evaporating. If we actual start colonizing the solar system over the next 10 years, they'll disappear completely. What does that mean for growth?

S. Artesian
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Jun 23 2016 12:29

Jamal,

You haven't answered the question specifically regarding agriculture and healthcare.

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Jun 23 2016 12:51

Just to avoid repetition, Jamal had started this topic on the ICC forum last autumn already: http://en.internationalism.org/forum/1056/pierre/13423/how-does-century-...

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Jun 23 2016 12:51

Jamal, why don't you just apologise to the ICC and ask if they'll unban you from their forums?

Growth and decadence aren't directly connected as growth is a measure of production and decadence is a theory about class relations. High growth might make it easier for the working class to organise and low growth or recession tends to lead to retreat, but that's not the same thing.

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Jun 23 2016 14:58
S. Artesian wrote:
You haven't answered the question specifically regarding agriculture and healthcare.

Right, sorry. I think both industries are experiencing a technological revolution. The whole supply chain thing is changing, because more and more food and medicine is being produced within 25 miles of where it's needed. This in turn brings down how much other resources are consumed. We know more than ever how to grow food. We know more than ever about our bodies and our health, disease, etc. I see all of this knowledge being applied, new tech emerging, etc. Sounds like growth, "progressiveness", jobs for those who don't have them, etc...

Noa Rodman wrote:
Jamal had started this topic on the ICC forum last autumn already

Umm, no I didn't. Fuck the ICC