The Politics of Globalisation: Ideology and Critique

Submitted by libcom on November 1, 2005

The Politics of Globalisation: Ideology and Critique

Werner Bonefeld


'Globalisation' has been established as one of the organising terms of contemporary political economic inquiry. The term indicates that the idea of a cohesive and sequestrated national economy and domestic society no longer holds and that we witness the creation of a truely global economy and society and that everyday life is dependent on global forces. Thus, the claim is made that 'globalisation' constitutes a qualitative transformation of capitalism in that there has developed a new relationship of interdependence beyond the national states. Marx's view of the world market and his notion that the need for a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeosie over the whole surface of the globe, appears to be emphasised by the 'theory' of globalisation. Yet, it is not. For the globalisationists, there is no such thing as the bourgeoisie; instead 'capitalism' is viewed as some sort of economic system endowed with functional mechanisms that pertain over and above the social individual rendering both the working class and the bourgeoisie helpless. Both are seen to be subjected to the risk that globalisation appears to present (Beck, 1992).

The defining elements of 'globalisation' can be briefly summarised as follows:

1) The increasing importance and significance of the financial structure and the global creation of credit, leading to the dominance of finance over production: Harvey (1989) has argued that finance capital has become an independent force in the world and Strange (1988; 1991) has emphasised the increased structural power exercised by the financial superstructure;

2) The increasing importance of the 'knowledge structure' (Strange 1988; Giddens 1990): Knowledge is said to have become an important factor of production;

3) The increase in the rapidity of redundancy of given technologies and the increase in the transnationalisation of technology: Here the emphasise is on knowledge-based industries, inreasing reliance on technological innovation, and increased risk of technological backwardness (Giddens, 1991);

4) The rise of global oligopolies in the form of multinational corporations: Corporations are said to have no choice but to go global and multinational corporations, together with, and importantly, transnational banks, have become most influencial powers beyond the national states and their national economies (Strange, 1991);

5) The globalisation of production, knowledge, and finance. This development is to have led to, on the one hand, the retreat of the national state as a regulative power (Strange, 1996), and the globalisation of political power in the form of a plural authority structure associated with the UN, G7 (now G8), on the other (Held, 1995). The erosion of the national state is seen to lead to (a) greater global institutional and regulatory uncertainty and (b) to the hollowing out of national democratic systems of accountability and regulative power. The national state is seen to have transformed into a 'competition state' (Cerny, 1990).

The so-called new freedom of capital form national regulative control and democratic accontability is said to lead to increased ecological destruction, social fragmentation, and poverty. For Hirsch (1995), globalisation is based on a class society without classes. Globalisation thus means that workers are virtually powerless to withstand economic dictates (Anderson, 1992, p. 366). In short, globalisation is viewed as the realisation of capital's impossible dream: to accumulate uncontested. Globalisation theory, then, depicts 'labour's purposful activity' (cf. Marx) as no more than a human factor of production.

In short, since the late 1980s, the bourgeois world proudly presents itself as history's end. The spectre of communism has been replaced by the spectre of liberal democracy. Yet, while this claim is made, the bourgeois world proclaims that democracy can no longer be. It is argued that the capacity of liberal democracy to regulate the economy has been undermined by globalisation. We are thus faced with the bourgeois paradox of democracy as history's end and of democracy as an empty shell. Democracy, then, as the rule of the majority can no longer be because globalisation has undermined a politics that recognises the demands and aspirations of the majority, and that is the working class. Such views on the limited nature of liberal democracy are, of course, as old as liberal democracy itself. Globalisation, in this sense, merely provides a new justificiation and legitimation for the exclusion of the working class as the democratic majority from the democratic oligarchy that liberal democratic presents.

The above has summarised the main planks of globalisation orthodoxy. The next two sections supply a critical commentary on 'globalisation': Where does the global begin, where does it end? The argument will make reference to Marx's Communist Manifesto whose 150th anniversary in we celebrate in 1998.

What is Globalisation?

Over the last decade there has been an increase in the trafficking of women and children, prostitution and slavery. New markets have emerged in human organs and babies, reducing the proprietors of labour power not only to an exploitable resource but, also, to a resource to be operated on and sold, with babies being produced for export (see Federici, 1997). Some have suggested that we witness the re-emergence of conditions of primitive accumulation. Regardless of whether the concept 'primitive accumulation' is appropriate, these works nevertheless show clearly that Marx's insight according to which 'a great deal of capital, which appears today in the United States without any certificate of birth, was yesterday, in England, the capitalised blood of children' (Marx, 1983, p. 707), still remains a powerful judgement of contemporary conditions.

Looking at the above summary of globalisation orthodoxy, this human suffering is neither acknowledged nor of any concern for the theory of 'globalisation'. For its proponents globalisation has somewhat 'solved' the crisis of capitalist accumulation, has left behind 'social relations between people' and thereby undermined resistance to capitalist exploitation. All that can be done is to recoup the loss of liberal-democratic values by transnationalising democratic government. Only in this way, it is suggested, will the rights of the citizens of the world be secured. However, the so-called human factor of production is no less a citizen and conversely the citizen is no less a factor of production as a wage-labouring commodity. As Elson (1991, pp. 29-30) argues in her work on the restructuring of so-called under-developed countries: 'oppressed and disatvantaged groups find that change creates the conditions for new forms of struggle. Trying to resist the tide of change ... rarely works. A more creative approach that tries to influence the terms of restructuring ... may have more chance of success. [However], the very poorest people, on the barest margins of survival, may be unable to do more than desperately seek to adapt to the adverse conditions through existing strategies; and even in this they may fail... But for those able to survive there may be the possibility of strategies going beyond survival to transformation of existing social relations of oppression and disatvantage'. In Elson's view, then, the survival of the fittest will provide a opportunity structure for the creation of 'true' relations of citizenship between men and women. As Elson (pp. 41-42) suggests, in order to mitigate the effects of structural adjustment on the conditions of women, male privileges have to be reduced by, for example, the introduction of new taxes on cigaretts and alcohol. For her this type of consumption drains the resources available to women. For Elson, at least, something can be done against the power of globalisation: cut down on smoking! In short, globalisation orthodoxy claims that capitalist development has become all too powerful to be resisted: all that can be done is to accomodate to economic dictate and safeguard the rights of citizens through a transnational reorganisation of liberal democratic values.

What is to be understood by the notion of the liberal democracy and its state? Liberals, since Adam Smith, have argued that the state is indispensable for the provision of the exact administration of justice to resolve clashes of interest, the protection of property, the military defence of its territory, for the povision of public goods that are essential for but cannot be provided by the market, and for facilitating relations of equality and freedom, including the 'encouragment' of competition and therewith of conditions of so-called market self-regulation. Have these liberal 'notions' of the proper role of the state been undermined by globalisation? Has the liberal state come to an end with globalisation? Commentators offer the notion of the competition state as an adequate definition of the state under conditions of globalisation. What are the states competing about? Are they competing to extend, safeguard and exploit their comparative advantages, as conceived by Ricardo? Or is the competition state something like this: The state should not and cannot try to protect jobs by interfering with investments because, 'if a capital is not allowed to get the greatest net revenue that the use of machinery will afford here, it will be carried abroad' leading to 'serious discouragement to the demand for labour (Ricardo, [1821] 1995, p. 39). There is, then, a considerable paradox: for the globalisationists, liberal democracy has been undermined at the same time as which the 'national state' has been transformed into a liberal state!

With Marx, we might wish to argue that 'theoretical mysteries ... find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice' (Marx, 1975, p. 5). For globalisation orthodoxy, however, such a view is deeply problematic, if not 'anachronistic' (Hirsch, 1995) because it gives dignity to those who, for the globalisationists, stand disregarded as mere factors of production. The notion of 'globalisation' not only assumes that 'capital' has suddently left its domestic skin by globalising its existence but also that 'capital' has globalised 'itself', has suddenly become more based on scientific expertise, has discovered monetary accumulation beyond and dissociated from productive accumulation, has expanded into a borderless world. In short, for the globalisationists, capital appears to have suddently, since the late 1980s, discovered the world market! Where was 'capital' before? What does it mean to say that 'capital' has 'de-nationalised' itself? Was capital constituted nationally, was it a national capital, in the past?

Globalisation orthodoxy posits the capital relation as a relation of capital to itself rather than a social relation of production. In other words, the conceptualisation of capitalist development is based on the competitive relationship between capital and capital - a self-relation. The social constitution of this relation cannot be determined: The answer to the question what is 'capital' is already presupposed: capital is capital and vice versa. As shown by Gunn (1991), this refinement amounts to an infinite regress of meta-theories, seeking to discover the practical meaning of invisible principles. The eternal quest of political economy (and of those seeking to supply a blue-print of a new faced capitalism) to discover the practical meaning of invisible (as well as inevitable) principles ends up as an irrational exercise because what needs to be understood is presupposed as something beyond reason.

The attempt to find 'truth' in the 'invisible' has always been the character of traditional theory, that is, of a theory which resists an understanding of our social world as a world made by humans and dependent upon human transformative power . In short, analytical approaches to 'globalisation' fail to conceptualise the fundamental relationship between labour and capital. This relationship remains untheorised and is replaced by a tautological understanding of capital as a self-relation. In this view, labour is merely seen in terms of the wage relation, that is as a labouring commodity (on this: Bonefeld, 1995a). As a consequence, labour as the substance of value is excluded theoretically and class struggle obtains merely in terms of a domestic working class which is controlled by capital through the threat of moving production to areas more favourable to exploitation. The notion that capital is a thing, and not a social relation, belongs, of course, very much to the tradition of political economy. Political economy is first and foremost characterised by its trust in the invisible principle of an effective, efficient, and fair power of an almighty hand. However, it is disturbing that globalisation orthodoxy appears to have forgotten its own theoretical heritage. Adam Smith at least sought to provide a scientific understanding of the constitution of the bourgeois world - however flawed his theory of value. For the globalisationists the world is accepted as a given, as a thing in-itself. In short, they accept the invisible and seek to make it accountable to regulative institutional mechanisms. For the proponents of transnational democracy, neo-liberal market freedom is structurally unable to generate acquiesence and recommends 'democratisation' on a transnational level as a remedy to ensure a social market capitalism on a global scale. The debate, then, on transnational democracy goes beyond the vulgar liberalism associated with Hayek int that it seeks an arrangement whereby the global relations of liberty would be institutionally embedded. It seeks, in other words, to safeguard market freedom through institutional reforms and so to guarantee economic liberalism through ordo-liberal arrangements. Might there not be a good case to argue that the proposals for a transnational democracy seek to guarantee the rights of citizenship at the global level so that the liberating potential of hard labour can be cherished on the basis of equality, freedom and Bentham? In sum, the proponents of globalisation, on the whole, do not 'like' what 'capital' is doing when apparently left unattended by regulative institutions of a liberal-democratic sort. Yet, while they might not 'like' the invisible's hard hitting 'hand', they are forced to accept it because the acceptance of the 'market' entails that the cunning of reason amounts to no more than the invisible's own project.

State and Society

The concepts 'state' and 'society' are usually understood in a 'domestic' sense. The 'state' is perceived in terms of national sovereignty - a sovereignty which is exercised over a definite territory and in relation to a people or peoples. The relationship between 'state and society' is perceived as one of the administration of political space, including especially the people living in this space. This understanding of the relationship between state and society is 'domestic' insofar as the inquiry into the constitution of the 'state' is based on an understanding of the relationship between a given society and its state. As a consequence, the study of the inter-relation between states is conceived in terms of diplomacy, trade, as well as inter-national cooperation, conflict and competition. In this view, the politics of national states are conceived in terms of Ricardo's notion of comparative advantage. The 'globalisationists' emphasise this by arguing that the national state has transformed into a competition state and dismiss it by arguing that the national state is in retreat. Neither view offers an understanding of the political constitution of capitalist class relations. Both are based on the bourgeois notion of a national society, a national capital, and a national state. Does globalisation merely mean that capital has left its national society behind, that capital has de-nationalised itself? What is a national society?

The notion that 'society' connotes a national entity seems, at first sight, uncontroversial. We are used to speak about British society and so on. Though, what is society? In classic political economy, society was understood in terms of its economic constitution. On this, the classic statement is provided by William Robertson (1890, p. 104) who argued that 'in every inquiry concerning the operation of men when united together in society, the first object of attention should be their mode of subsistence'. The relationships of subsistence, of social production and reproduction, are one of capital. Would this mean that society amounts to capital? Is capital society? We know about the attempts of political economy to define 'capital'. Usually it is seen as a 'thing' with invisible but hard-hitting qualities, which supplies structure and dynamic to 'society'. Here, society and capital are seen as interrelated but nevertheless different and the relationship between them remains obscure in so far as something 'invisible' determines the constitution and dynamic of social relations. Marx's critique of political economy supplied a - negative - solution. His conception of social relations overcame the dichotomy between society and capital by arguing that 'capital' is not a thing but rather a definite and contradictory social relationship of production. There is no need here to review his critique of fetishism and theory of exploitation. For our purposes, the understanding of society as a capitalist society, as a society of class antagonism subsisting through exploitation and constituted by class struggle is sufficient because it raises two interconnected issues:

1) the critique of the domestic character of capital and therewith the domestically defined antagonism of labour to capital;

2) the critique of the state as a national sovereign and impartial administrator of political space.

The capital relation is, by its very form, a global relation. Indeed, Marx argued that the world market constitutes the presupposistion of capitalist social reproduction 'as well as its substratum' (Marx, 1973, p. 228). The relationship between the state and society is not a relationship between the national state and its national society. Rather, the state subsists as the political form of the social relations of production only in relation to the world market. Thus, as von BraunmŸhl (1976, p. 276; my translation) puts it, 'each national economy can only be conceptualised adequately as a specific international and, at the same tame, integral part of the world market. The nation state can only be seen in this dimension'. The national state relation to 'society' is fundamentally a relationship between the national state and the global existence of the social relations of production, that is, of the class antagonism between capital and labour. It is this global dimension 'in which production is posited as a totality together with all its moments, but within which, at the same time, all contradictions come into play' (Marx, 1973, p. 227).

In sum, the proponents of globalisation have no concept of 'capital'. At the same time they do not 'like' what 'capital' is doing when apparently left unattended by regulative institutions of a liberal-democratic sort. Hence, their call for the transnationalisation of liberal democracy. In short, globalisation theory amounts to a theoretical project that espouses the spectre of capitalism. However, while the globalisationists say farewell to the working class, the bourgeosie keeps to its principles. The very circumstance that bourgois social relations stand for relations between property owners has never been forgotten by the bourgeoisie. Fanatically bent on making 'its' wealth expand itself, it has never ceased to make the worker work for the sake of work and that means the treatment of humanity as a resource that is sacrificied on the pyramids of accumulation. The bourgeoisie knows what class divisions are and what class struggle entails. Marx understood the role and function of the bourgeosie well and would not be surprised that it, faithfully and relentlessly, continuous to perform its function and role with unsmiling vigour and a posture of respectuflness that does not lack a certain charm. What, however, would Marx have to say to the globalisationists in a 1998 edition of the Communist Manifesto?

Contemporary studies of a political economy kind assert that the capitalist world has suddenly globalised, has left the national state behind, has become a cosmopolitan order that can not be resisted. Would Marx merely point out that the Communist Manifesto, written as it was in 1848, emphasises the global character of capitalist relations of exploitation? Would he merely recommend that the Manifesto is to be taken into consideration when the cosmopolitan character of the bourgeoisie is assessed? Or might he simply turn back in frustration muttering to himself that, since his time, the executive of the modern state has always been but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie? I suppose he would. Yet, the endorsement of his 150 year old views would not be without qualifications. History does neither stand still nor repeat itself. Would he thus not demand that contemporary developments of 'globalisation' are conceptualised not merely in terms of the objective laws of capitalist development but, rather, that these objective laws require a thorough conceptualisation in terms of class struggle? Would he, then, not charge that the contemporary accumulation of capital cannot be studied in abstraction from class but, rather, that it can go forward only on the basis of an analysis of class? In short would he not demand that the purpose of the critique of political economy is the discovery of the real living relations between humans and that this discovery has to be an analysis of history? What would be the reply of the proponents of globalisation? Would they argue, as indeed they do, that today's developments are driven by technological demands and requirements that are quite independent from and develop in abstraction from human relations? What would he have to say to that? Might he invite his listener to read the classic texts on political economy, including his own critique of political economy? Or might he simply turn round in anger shouting 'you are mystified by the self-presentation of a world which knows nothing about itself'? To think scientifically is not to repeat the everyday religion of a perverted, a fetishised world. Rather it means demystification: Neither 'nations' nor 'history' nor 'capital' have made war. 'History does nothing, does not possess vast wealth, does not fight battles! It is Man, rather, the real, living Man who does all that, who does possess and fight, it is not history that uses Man as a means to pursue its ends, as if it were a person apart. History is nothing but the activity of Man pursuing its ends' (Marx/Engels, 1980, p. 98; my translation).

In conclusion, there have certainly been major changes in the relationship between the national state and the world market since the early 1970s. However, what constitutes this change? Does the change merely consist in the retreat of the national state as an agent of economic regulation on behalf of a national society? What is a national society? Is it a všlkisch entity? Are there no classes? What indeed does it mean to say that the national state is in retreat? Retreat from what? Welfare? Full Employment? Or does the national state retreat from providing the legal framework that economic liberalism sees to be indispensible for relations of market freedom? The debate on globalisation has two distinct characteristics. On the one hand, there is no doubt that 'globalisation' is used as an ideological device to legitimate the attack on the working class to make workers comply with lower wages and deteriorating conditions. On the other hand, however, globalisation suggests, rightly, that we are witnessing the re-constitution of a world-market society that, speaking with Marx, is characterised by the real subsumption of all aspects of social, of human life to the 'requirements' of capitalist accumulation. Fundamentally, this process of real subsumption reposes the question of the relationship between the political and the economic. Regarding this question, globalisation seems to have outgrown the regulative capacity of what is conventionally seen as the Keynesian state. This state was characterised by its ability to accomodate mass democratic participation with the requirements of capitalist accumulation. However, the Keynesian era did not present a third way between liberalism and socialism. The so-called Keynesian state amounted fundamentally to the rescue attempt of market liberalism that reconciled mass democratic demands with the progressive accumulation of capital (Holloway, 1995b). The demise of Keynesianism, then, does not mean that 'democracy', understood as the self-determination of the multitude, of the people, has lost out. While liberal democracy was forced to concede the extension of the franchise - a victory after a long and hard battle, liberal democracy retained its bourgeoise character with the seperation of 'mass democracy' from mass democratic 'government', rendering mass democratic infuence on the executive comittee of the 'political' ineffectual (Agnoli, 1967/1990; Kirchheimer, 1964). The crisis, then, of the national state in the face of globalisation is not a crisis of mass democracy understood in its proper sense as the decision making by the majority, the working class. During so-called Keynesianism mass democracy mobilisation was treated as a threat to democratic government. Rather, the crisis is one of 'democratic legitimacy' through which violence (coercion) is balanced by the creation of consensus. Neo-liberal policies of 'market freedom' fail to generate the sort of consensus that the well-functioning of the rule of private property requires, domestically and on a global scale. Capitalist accumulation, domestically and globally, depends on the peaceful and well-ordered compliance on the part of the working class within the nationally constituted legal-regulative framework of labour market. Such compliance does not come cheap: Keynesianism raised it to a principle of class politics through, for example, the commitment to welfare and the recognition of trade unions as legitimate organisations. The crisis, then, of the national state is not just one caused by globalisation but, in fact, a crisis of the political and economic integration of the working class into the brave new world of increased productivity in exchange for lower wages and deteriorating conditions. The next sections focuses on this issue by surveying the crisis of capitalist accumulation since the early 1970s.

The New World Order

The term New World Order has become a catch-phrase employed to describe developments post-1989. It refers to a new, as yet undefined, rearranging of political space since the end of the Cold War. Within the framework of this paper, new world order has a slightly different and distinct meaning. Sudden movements of vast amounts of money have, over the past years, triggered three big crises of political stability. The first was the European currency crises in 1992 and 1993, the second the plunge of the Mexican peso in December 1994 which rocked financial markets around the world, and the third the so-called Asian crisis since 1997. Currency instability and speculative runs on currencies have been described as a new form of foreign policy crisis (see Cockburn and Silverstein, 1995; also: Benson, 1995). This does not mean that old-style foreign policy crises with aggression between states, movements of troops and the threat of nuclear war, have been replaced by potential national bankruptcy and the threat of global financial collapse. The former still exists in deadly form, while the potential of global financial collapse has been part of the history of capitalism since its inception. Nevertheless, there have been significant changes in the relationship between the national state and the global economy. These changes have been working themselves through the capitalist world since the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system in the early 1970s.

The consequences of the breakdown of the system of Bretton Woods can be summarised as follows:

1) The crisis of the post-war attempt of integrating labour politically, economically, and socially through commitments to full employment, politics of inclusion and prospects of higher living standards - or, as Agnoli (1967/1990) saw it, a politics of pacification effected through institutionalisation;

2) The construction of regional systems of co-operation (NAFTA; EU; APEC) around the most powerful capitalist states: the USA, Germany, Japan.

3) The emergence of new currencies as international standards of 'quality', i.e. financial security, certainty and measure of other currencies (DM/Euro, Yen_ and Dollar), replacing the dollar as the sole quality currency. The emergence of these currencies hints at a new territorialisation around blocs of regional co-operation and a new inter-bloc imperialist rivalry.

The breakdown of the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates occurred shortly after the tremendous wave of struggle associated with 1968. The revolt of those years, as in the early part of the century following on from the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, was contained in part through violent suppression, but to a much greater extent through the expansion of credit. The consequences of '1968' (the accumulated wave of struggle that showed its crest in 1968) were less dramatic but nevertheless equally profound as the upheavals of the earlier part of the century. The precarious relation between the monetary system and the rate of productivity was ruptured fundamentally, as reflected in the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system in 1971 (on this: Marazzi, 1995).

The struggles of the late 1960s manifested a new intensity of discontent that had been unknown since the late 1920s. Furthermore, the exploitation of labour productive power was confronted with depressed rates of profits. The exploitation of labour's productive power had become much too expensive. In other words, the post-war attempt at integrating labour's productive and disruptive power through institutionalisation was failing. Capital responded by financialising profits and by moving labour-intensive production to so-called developing countries where cheap labour costs were seen to provide competitive advantages. Yet, despite this expansion of productive capital to new centres of cheap labour, the dissociation between montary accumulation and productive accumulation continued unabated and on an increasing scale. From the late 1960s, especially since the oil hike in 1974, the dramatic increase in global money capital has not been matched by the reduction of necessary labour, the constitutive side of surplus labour. Wealth started to be accumulated in the money form without a corresponding increase in the exploitation of labour power in the factory. Capital attempt to 'liberate' itself from the contested terrain of production and to go beyond itself by asserting itself in its most rational form of money capital (M...M') indicates the fictitious character of capitalist reproduction. Since the early 1970s, the rate of monetary accumulation has by far outstripped that of productive accumulation. In fact, the creation of a credit-superstructure amounts to an accumulation of 'unemployed' capital (cf. Marx, 1966), of capital which is suspended from the direct exploitation of labour. At the same time, however, the creation of a global 'credit-superstructure' represents an accumulation of claims on the future exploitation of labour. In short, the guarantee of M...M' depends on M...P...M', that is the exploitation of labour.

Growing investment into the fantastic world of monetary self-expansion recomposed the global relations of exploitation and struggle. The world market became a market in money (on this: Walter, 1993). The attempt to make money out of money created a much more fragile capitalism on a world scale. Without the global search for profit in money it would have been unthinkable for the Mexican crisis of 1982 to have had such an immediate knock-on effect on 'western' banks and through them on the global circuit of capital. Mexico 1982 indicated that the formidable attempt at containing social relations through a policy of tight money associated with monetarism had reached an impasse. The 'crisis of 1982' indicated a tremendous recomposition of the class relation. Seemingly OmarginalÕ pockets of resistance to the politics of austerity, a politics that was introduced from the midit-expansion not only sustained the boom of the 1980s in an increasingly fictitious dimension. It also helped to promote the notion of the market, unleashing a pre-emtive counter-revolution through the imposition of abstract equality, i.e., the equality of money. The policy of market freedom associated with neo-liberalism equated citizenship with the power of money. Everybody is equal before money. Money knows no special privileges. It treats poor and rich as equalthe radicality of the challenge to capitalist power, and of the fear that followed from it that every upturn in the economy would reactivate conflict. A testimony, in short, that the dismantling and restructuring of all parts of the capitalist valorisation process is still in full motion' (Bellofiore, 1997, p. 49). Although, as Dalla Costa (1995a, p. 7) puts it, 'social "misery" or "unhappiness" which Marx considered to be the "goal of the political economy" has largely been realised everywhere', capital has failed to redeem the promise of future exploitation by subordinating labour in the present. In other words, the inflation of money capital in relation to productive activity confirms negatively the difficulty in securing the subordination of social relaur in the present. This means that the exploitation of labour has to deliver rates of profit adequate to redeem debt and to allow for expanded capitalist accumulation. This exploitation of labour presupposes the recomposition of the relation between necessary and surplus labour. There is no surer indication than the ballooning of bad debt that capital has not succeeded in imposing a recomposition of the relations of exploitation adequate to the accumulated claims upon surplus value.

The experience of the last twenty-five years suggests that the transformation of money into truly productive capital is both essential and impossible. When a repeat performance of the crash of 1929 threatened in October 1987, even the most fierce monetarists advocated expansion - anything to avoid the catastrophe, and confrontation, that a slump would bring. As Samuel Brittan of the Financial Times put it in 1987, 'when a slump is threatening, we need helicopters dropping currency notes from the sky' (quoted in Harman, 1993, p. 15). This response to the 1987 crash, specific though it was, has always been at the forefront of bad debt management. As Susane George (1992, p. 106) has argued, 'during the 1980s, the only thing that was socialised rather than privatised was debt itself'. The current attempt at preventing a world-wide collapse of bad debt, and through it at guaranteeing the capitalist property rights on the future exploitatin of labour, shows the same politics of socialisation: banks are refinanced and kept afloat by the state in its role as lender of last resort and that is by taking money out of the hands of workers. While the social wage of the working class has been attacked and labour intensified, and while conditions have deteriorated and while the working class is told that it is free to look after herself, banks, it appears, can not be asked to be regulated on the basis of market freedom: swim or drown. Their losses are socialised while their profits are protected by the law of private property. The strutural adjustment politics advocated by the IMF entails the imposition of poverty upon those whose labour secures the validity of credit as a claim on surplus value still to be pumped out of the worker. The IMF responds to the crisis in Asia represents, as during the so-called debt crisis of the 1980s, an imposition of poverty: work harder for less reward to secure the banking system and with it the capitalist property rights of exploitation.

Yet, the recession of the 1990s, the Mexican crisis of 1994, the European currency crises of 1992 and 1993, and the Asian crisis of 1997, indicate that there seems to be no way forward, for capital or for labour. Yet this is not the first time. Writing in 1934, that is after the first global imperialist war and in the face of fascist/fordist attempts of discipling labour, Paul Mattick suggested that capitalism had entered an age of permanent crisis: The periodicity of crisis is in practice nothing other than the recurrent reorganisation of the process of accumulation on a new level of value and price which again secures the accumulation of capital. If that is not possible, then neither is it possible to confirm accumulation; the same crisis that up to now had presented itself chaotically and could be overcome becomes permanent crisis. In contrast to previous crises of capitalism, which had always led to a restructuring of capital and to a renewed period of accumulation, the crisis of the 1930s appeared to be so profound and prolonged as to be incapable of solution. Crisis, Mattick suggested, had ceased to be a periodically recurring phenomenon and had become an endemic feature of capitalism.

MattickÕs suggestion, pessimistic though it was, turned out to be far too optimistic. The crisis was resolved, in blood. Capital was restructured and the basis for a new period of accumulation created. The 'golden age' of post-war capitalism is now a memory, as is the blood-letting through war and gas. Once again it would seem that we are in a situation of permanent crisis. It is possible that the crisis will be permanent, with a progressive 'south-africanisation' of the world. It is possible too that the crisis will not be permanent, that it will in fact be resolved: what the resolution of 'permanent crisis' can mean stands behind us as a warning of a possibly nightmarish future.

The prospect of a world constituted by human dignity and sincerity has to go forward through a critique of political economy, including, of course, revamped versions of Keynesianism. The summoning of a new world order should be taken seriously. The old 'new world order', the world order post-1945, was brought about by a nightmare. While I share Lipietz's (1985) nightmare about a capitalism walking on the thin air of credit, I do not share his call to keep capitalism away from the abyss. This is, despite its good intensions, a dangerous view to take. It is dangerous because it accepts suffering without dignity and thus endorses the rescue of capital through the continued treatment of humanity as a resource for the accumulation of abstract wealth. This treatment resolved the crisis of the 1920s and 1930s.


Globalisation orthodoxy fails to see 'globalisation' as a major 'capitalist offensive' and, from within this view, fails to address the very contradiction that lies at its heart. This paper has argued that this contradictions is constituted by the presence of labour's productive and disruptive power, a power in and through which capital 'exists'. Globalisation orthodoxy fails to see the misery of our time and projects, instead, capitalist global reorganisation as an inevitable development. This view ignores that the globalisation of capital is at the same time the globalisation of labour's presence in and against capital, and is ill-equipped to comprehend the vast implications of current developments. These I summarised in terms of Mattick's notion of a permanent crisis. Lastly, methodologically, globalisation orthodoxy is founded on an analytical theoretical persepctive. At best, this perspective confers on capitalist development an objectivity that merely serves to generalise empirical data in abstract theoretical terms. In this way, the ideological projections of 'capital' are confused with reality. This perspective fails to supply enlightenment as to the crisis-ridden nature of globalisation. Instead, it offers abstract generalisations which already presuppose that the market reigns supreme. As was mentioned earlier, the uncritical acceptance of the market entails that the cunning of reason amounts to no more than the invisible's own project. Globalisation is thus rendered practical as the project of the invisible itself. Against this view the paper argued that 'in the misery of our time, we find the "positive" only in negation' (Agnoli, 1992, p. 50). And the national state? Surely, the gobalisationists are quite right to argue that globalisation has rendered obvious the myth of the national state as a framework for the achievement of conditions where the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all. According to the advocates of bourgeois society, the spectre of communism has been replaced by the spectre of democracy at the same time as spectre of globalisation has undermined the conditions of democratic government. History when it was declared to be dead, appears full of surprises: is this the irony of history or the making of history?


Globalisation orthodoxy espouses the notion of historical necessity: globalisation can not be resisted and is inevitable. What, however, is to be understood by historical necessity? What about barbarism, famine, a universal war of devastation? Was the slaughter at Verdun a historical necessity? Was the killings of millions and millions in world war II, was Auschwitz, a historical necessity? A necessity on whose behalf and for what purpose? Is the apparently more recent 'invention' of 'baby farms' where babies are produced for sale on the world market a historical necessity? Have these truly disgusting developments that have characterised this Century not been with us since the inception of capitalist social relations? Are they merely the results of historical laws whose development cannot be resisted? Or are these disgusting 'occurrences' the result of 'too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce' as is reported in the Communist Manifesto when the argument turns on the contradictory development between the relations and the forces of production?

The Manifesto celebrates the possibility of self-comprehending existence and of better things to come in the name of humanity, an existence where Man exists as a purpose and not as an exploitable resource. This, I suppose, is why the Communist Manifesto espouses the idea of an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all. Within the argument of the Communist Manifesto, gravediggers do not only bury the dead weight of history but, also, set free the soul of history: the age-long longing for a dignified life of a humanity that exists as a subject in control of its own affairs, in possession of itself and, that is, as a mature human being that views herself, and therewith nature, as a purpose and not as a resource for the exploitation of Man by Man. On these issues, the globalisationists keep quite. For them, Man is merely a citizen endowed with abstract rights. As such a citizen, Man is recognised by the globalisationists as a wage earning commodity. In short, for them, Man is merely a human factor of production that oils the machinery of economic mechanism.


1) For alternative views on globalisation see: Hirst/Thompson (1996); and Ruigrok/van Tulder (1995). These authors provide rich empirical evidence that questions the 'abstract generalisations' of the globalisation orthodoxy. Their argument is, however, firmly fixed within the globalisation agenda.

2) See, amongst others, the contributions to Dalla Costa and Dalla Costa (1995, 1997); Dalla Costa (1995a, 1995b); and Midnight Notes(1992).

3)This list of 'state functions' draws on Skinner's introduction to Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, Penguin, Harmondsworth.

4) For a critique of this view see, for example, Burnham (1994, 1995) and Holloway (1995).

5) The crisis in Asia has, of course, weakened the Yen as a global standard of quality, and might well lead to a deep depression on a global scale.

6) Parts of the following section draw on a paper written jointly with J. Holloway, 'Money and Class Struggle', published in Bonefeld and Holloway (eds.) (1995).

7) See Armonstrong etal. (1984) and Mandel (1975) for documentation

8) For an interpretation of Marx's work on money and credit see: Bologna (1993),Bonefeld (1995b), y Ricciradi (1987)

9) On this Marx (1966) and, for commentary, Bonefeld (1995b).

10) On this see Gambino (1966) References

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