Posts Tagged 'capitalism'

Neoliberal Globalization and the Bangsamoro Struggle in Mindanao

Soldiers from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front

Dr. Kenneth E. Bauzon writes that while the Moro National Liberation Front created a semi-autonomous region in the Philippines due to peace negotiations they were soon subsumed by the devastating effects of global capital. An effect that they had failed to perceive due to low theoretical grounding in political economy. Much of the programs and investment implemented by the U.S., U.S. affiliated organizations, and the G-7 countries, have been heavily geared toward counter-insurgency operations in order to undercut local autonomy and groups that fight against global capital investments.

Whether the government is determined to fully implement the rules of neoliberalism as in the case of privatization, or is unwilling or unable to enforce existing laws that appear to stand in the way of monopolistic tendencies as in the above-cited laws, the ultimate outcome of either scenario is the emergence of the Philippine state as the final arbiter in behalf of the forces of neoliberal globalization, enacting and enforcing laws that facilitate their penetration into the domestic economy, and easing their control and domination over the country’s valued resources…It is under this set of conditions that makes the Philippine state a distinctly neoliberal state through its active share in the promotion of the market economy on a global scale quite distinct from the prevalent conception of the state over a hundred years ago governed by the principle of laissez fair and seemed quite disinterested in the economic affairs of society or seemed all too happy to get out of the way of business.

Further implications may be discerned concerning the future of the Bangsamoro struggle as represented currently by the [Moro Islamic Liberation Front].  With its history of uttering rhetoric for independence spliced with religious verses, on one hand, and accommodation and negotiations, on the other, it seems that we are bound to experience a similar scenario in which the [Republic of the Philippines], with its greater resources, would simply wear down the MILF both at the negotiating table and the battlefield.  Negotiations have been the government’s way of dangling promises that it knows could not be kept and in pushing the adversary into a corner from which it could not escape.  Thus, the dizzying series of talks, delays, further talks and further delays constitute not much more than a fancy footwork in a dance for pure entertainment but leading to nowhere (Bauzon, 67-69).

Source

Bauzon Kenneth E.  2008.  Ruminations on the Bangsamoro Struggle and Neoliberal Globalization.  In The Moro Reader: History and Contemporary Struggles of the Bangsamoro People, ed. Bobby M Tuazon, 59-71.  Quezon City, Philippines: CenPEG Publications.

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Marx’s Contribution to Political Economy

Lego Marx (photo by Dunechaser).

Ken C. Kawashima writes:

One of the abiding insights made by Marx in Capital is that in the colonies of capitalist nation-states the illusions of the capitalist law of supply and demand of labor are shattered.  In the home country, the great beauty of capitalist production consists in being able to reproduce the wage worker by periodically setting him free, i.e., firing him, and producing a surplus population that stands in relative exteriority to capitalist production as the precondition for the commodification of labor power.  Periodically treating labor power as a disposable commodity is thus the way capitalist production can ensure that its most indispensable commodity–labor power–is always already there when capitalist production experiences so-called labor shortages during times of industrial expansion.  It is this reproductive mechanism that allows for the smug deceitfulness of the political economist, not to mention the Japanese colonial policy maker, to think, and to formalize into naturalized axioms of economic movement, that owners of labor power–who are in fact compelled to enter into a relation of dependence with the wage form–can enter into a free contract between sellers and buyers, between owners of the commodity labor power, on one side, and owners of capital, on the other.  In the colonies, however, “this beautiful illusion is torn aside” because the conditions for the appearance of owners of labor power on the stage of the capitalist market do not originally exist there.  The dependence on wages must therefore be “created by artificial means,” and until that happens, the law of supply and demand of labor is torn aside.  In this way, this artificial and historical process in the colonies represents that which originally took place in the home country, but which has long since been repressed and disavowed there.  The political and economic unconsciousness of the home country dwells in the artificial processes in the colonies (Kawashima, 25).

Source

Ken C. Kawashima.  The Proletarian Gamble: Korean Workers in Interwar Japan.  Durham, USA: Duke University Press, 2009.

Review of “Latin America and Global Capitalism”

Serra Pelada gold mine, Brazil (Photo by Sebastiao Salgado).

Jeffery R. Webber, of University of Regina, reviews the book Latin America and Global Capitalism: A Critical Globalization Perspective by William I. Robinson in the October edition of the Monthly Review:

In chapter two, one of the most powerful and persuasive, Robinson charts the crisis of developmental capitalism, or import-substitution industrialization, in the 1960s and 1970s, and then shifts to neoliberalism, or export-led development, in the 1980s and 1990s across Latin America. Drawing on the historical materialist categories of proletarianization and primitive accumulation, he examines the contours of the new economic model through a focused exploration of nontraditional exports and services. He offers a penetrating look at the cut flowers industry in Ecuador and Colombia, the explosive growth of the fruits and wines sector in Chile, soy production in Argentina and the rest of the Southern Cone, and winter fruits and vegetable production in Central America. He demonstrates how there has been an “accelerated replacement of noncapitalist by capitalist forms of agricultural development” and a “concomitant displacement of the peasantry and its conversion into a rural proletariat. This has occurred along with an increase in rural to urban and transnational migration”; promotion of “flexible…work in the new agro-export platforms”; a move to “predominance of female workers in these platforms”; and “the articulation of local agricultural systems…to global agricultural and industrial food production and distribution chains.”

The main weakness in this otherwise compelling portrait of the political economy of the Latin American countryside today is the one-sided structural power allotted to capital. Opportunities for increases in agricultural workers’ bargaining power under certain conditions, such as those examined by Ben Selwyn in his important study of export grape production in North East Brazil, are elided.

Keynes and Long-Term Economic Stagnation

Keynes

In his book The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, written in 1936, economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) stated:

[T]he actual phenomena of the economic system are coloured by certain special characteristics of the propensity to consume, the schedule of the marginal efficiency of capital and the rate of interests, about which we can safely generalise from experience, but which are not logically necessary.

In particular, it is an outstanding characteristic of the economic system in which we live that, whilst it is subject to severe fluctuations in respect of output and employment, it is not violently unstable.  Indeed it seems capable of remaining in a chronic condition of sub-normal activity for a considerable period without any marked tendency either towards recovery or complete collapse.  Moreover, the evidence indicates that full, or even approximately full, employment is of rare and short-lived occurrence.  Fluctuations may start briskly but seem to wear themselves out before they have proceeded to great extremes, and an intermediate situation which is neither desperate nor satisfactory is our normal lot…The same thing is true of prices, which, in response to an initiating cause of disturbance, seem to be able to find a level at which they can remain, for the time being, moderately stable. (Keynes, 249-250)

Sources

Keynes, John Maynard.  The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1964.

Quoted from John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney, “Monopoly-Finnance Capital and the Paradox of Accumulaiton,” Monthly Review 61, no. 5 (Oct. 2009): 1-20.  http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.sfpl.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=44371140&site=ehost-live (accessed November 2, 2009)

The Mode of Production Debate in the Philippines

A Hacienda Luisita peasant plants rice in a freshly tilled field (Photo by Jack Stephens).

A peasant plants rice in a freshly tilled field in Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac, Philippines (Photo by Jack Stephens).

In her book on the Communist Party of the Philippines (MLMZT) author Kathleen Weekley briefly goes over a debate about whether the Philippines was really “semi-feudal” or more “capitalist” in nature:

The first substantial critique of this formulation from inside the national democratic movement came in the late 1970s from Rigoberto Tiglao, who presented a dependency theory perspective on the economy, concluding that concentration on the peasantry as the social base for the revolution was ill-conceived. The gist of his argument is that the Philippines is a “peripheral capitalist social formation” in the global capitalist order and was so even during the years of American colonialism. “It was precisely the capitalist means of production which made possible the transformation of Philippine agriculture into an export-producing sector.” Citing the extent of mechanization in key crop industries and the relationship of tenant farmers to the system of market forces, he concludes that “the ‘landlord class’ in the Philippines [is] more of an agrarian bourgeoisie” the biggest of whom ‘together with transnational corporations [control] the industrial component of the export industries…as well as the comprador enterprise.” the political aspects of peripheral capitalism have important implications for revolutionary strategy, Tiglao argued. “Limited sources of capital accumulation” he says, “result in explosive intra-elite struggles.” Martial law was imposed in order to manage these struggles, but it is not “semi-feudalism” that is the “social base of this fascism” as the CPP puts it. Rather, “the Philippine industrial bourgeoisie is the social basis of such political authority [and] rural and urban working class movements rapidly erode whatever level of stability such a centralized authority has achieved.” In other words, the CPP ought to concentrate its efforts on organizing and mobilizing working class resistance to the Marcos dictatorship, rather than organizing the “peasantry” into an army to fight a protracted war in the countryside, ignoring the real source of capitalist power.

In 1987, a Negros news magazine, Viewpoints, published an anonymous article criticizing the CPP analysis of Philippine society as “semi-colonial, semi-feudal.”…

The Viewpoints article countered that while a feudal superstructure remains on the island [of Negros], the economic base is largely capitalist. The crisis in the sugar industry, brought on by various factors including reduced demand from the U.S., plummeting world sugar prices, escalating production costs and shrinking domestic consumption, reached catastrophic proportions in the mid-1980s. That crisis, the Viewpoints author argued, has “shown that the sugar planters must bear the costs of production and are subject to the financial risks inherent in the industry. It follows, then, that the plantation workers cannot properly be regarded as “peasants.” While they labor on the land, the workers’ interests and aspirations are different from those of the peasnt.

“Given the choice between tilling his own land and working in a factory at satisfactory wages, it is highly probable that the farmworker would choose the factory job. (Weekley, 57-58)

When Jose Maria Sison, one of the founders of the CPP and its first chair, and latter a consultant for the National Democratic Front, got out of prison he delivered a series of lectures at the Center for Asian Studies at the University of the Philippines in order to answer these criticisms:

Agricultural land totaling 12 million hectares in 1980 is the principle means of production. It produces the food staples for domestic consumption, the overwhelming bulk of surplus products for export and some amount of raw materials for local processing.

There is negligible use of modern farm technology beyond peasant brawn, hand tools, plows and work animals on lands devoted to rice, corn and coconut, all of which comprise 90.4 percent ot total agricultural land. The promotion of costly imported farm inputs and equipment during the 1970s affected only a few hundred thousands of hectares. Estimates range from 500,000 to 800,000 hectares.

…No more than 4 percent of total agricultural land is worked by tractors and other farm machinery.

Every piece of modern equipment in the agricultural, Industrial and service sectors of the economy is imported. It is paid for with foreign exchange earned on raw material exports, mostly agricultural…

Even hand tools are imported to the extent of 85 percent. And of course, the remaining 15 percent are fabricated locally from imported metals. There are no well-established industries which produce from the available local raw material basic metals, basic chemicals, capital goods and the like.

According to NEDA figures, there were nine million peasants and farm workers, accounting for 52 percent of employment; 2.5 million industrial workers, 14 percent; and six million service sector workers, 34 percent, in 1979, which was a year of economic growth still bloated by excessive foreign borrowing.

These figures indicate, therefore, that peasants and farm workers comprise 78 percent of direct producers of goods and industrial workers 22 percent. There are four peasants for every industrial worker.

Only 74 percent of industrial workers are in manufacturing; and in turn 70 percent of workers in manufacturing are employed in small fabricating and repair shops, each employing less than ten workers and therefore hardly qualifying as truly manufacturing enterprises.

The figure for employment in the service sector is bloated by decreases of employment in the agricultural and industrial sectors during the 1970s. Agricultural employment went down from 59 percent in 1970 to 52 percent in 1979; and industrial employment from 17.6 percent in 1970 to 14 percent in 1979. The employment rate of the real producers of goods has decreased from year to year since 1979. (Sison, 81-83)

And while still in prison, earlier in 1982, Sison and de Lima (released around that time), wrote:

It is said that farm workers are now 55 percent of the farm population and are bigger in number than the peasants with definite plots to till…It is difficult to make a national survey distinguishing the farm workers who depend mainly or wholly on their wages and the poor and middle peasants who augment their income as farm workers. But assuming the figure is correct, it does not mean any significant advance into capitalism away from semifeudalism…it means that the semifeudal economy is bursting at the seams with surplus labor it cannot employ…

Land concentration mainly by landlords and semifeudal rich peasants continues. Foreign and local farm capitalists still have to deal with local owners of land. However, the new-type of landlords take the initiative of employing capitalist processes such as getting crop loans, using imported agricultural inputs, hiring farm workers, etc. (ibid., 49-50)

Sources

Anon. “The Negros Enigma.” Viewpoints 2, no. 15 (1987), reprinted in Diliman Review 36, no 4, quoted in Weekely.

Sison, Jose Ma. and Julieta de Lima. Philippine Economy and Politics. Philippines: Aklat ng Bayan, 1998.

Tiglao, Rigoberto. “Non-Progress in the Periphery.” The Diliman Review (1979), quoted in Weekley.

Weekley, Kathleen. The Communist Party of the Philippines 1968-1993: A Story of its Theory and Practice. Quezon City, Philippines: University of Philippines Press, 2001.

Marx and the Commodity Fetish

Capitalism

In the July 2009 issue of Rethinking Marxism John Lutz goes over Marx’s theory of commodity fetishism and how it relates to human relations and the human psyche in a capitalist society:

One of the central contradictions that Marx seeks to identify in his theory of commodity fetishism involves the extent to which capitalism, in inverse proportion to the extent that it expands the power of human beings over nature, disempowers individual subjects by subordinating them to the imperatives of capital.  While it appears to expand the sphere of human freedom, the concrete effects of the labor process lead to the economic and psychological diminishment of the majority in order to benefit the minority materially.  Marx’s theory of commodity fetishism is intended to expose the mystification of social relations in the commodity form as the basis for a bourgeois conception of autonomy that exists in the implicit contrast with its socialist alternative.  In this respect, the dual manifestation of commodity fetishism as a mystification of social relations promising power and fulfillment and its reality as a form of economic domination are fundamentally intertwined. (Lutz, 421)

Source

Lutz, John.  “A Marxian Theory of Subject: Commodity Fetishism, Autonomy, and Psychological Deprivation.”  Rethinking Marxism 21, no. 3 (July 2009): 420-34.

Information Capitalism

information technology

Christian Fuchs writes that despite all of the talk about living in a “post-capitalist,” “post-modern,” or “information society” we still live in a society that is dominated by the structures of capitalism and class divisions:

For describing contemporary society, Marxist scholars have suggested terms that focus on transformation of the productive forces, like digital capitalism…high tech capitalism…informatic capitalism…and communicative capitalism…I prefer such terms to radical discontinuous terms like information society or postmodern society because the first contain a critical negativity.  But they convey the impression that technology (digital, virtual, high technology) determines society: that is, that the relations of production are a linear result of the productive forces.  Change in contemporary society affects forces and relations, structures and actions, because society is based on a dialectical dynamic of these two qualities…

Concepts like knowledge, information, postmodern, postindustrial, Internet, and network society fail to grasp the dialectic of continuity and discontinuity of society.  They construct the changes connected to new media as radical novelties and ignore the continuing dominance of capitalist structures.  In order to stress that capital accumulation is transformed by the rise of knowledge and information technologies and the transnational spatial model connected to the flexible regime of accumulation, I have suggested using notions like transnational network capitalism, transnational informational capitalism, or transnational knowledge capitalism as key concepts for describing contemporary society. (Fuchs, 390, 399)

Source:

Fuchs, Christian.  “A Contribution to the Critique of the Political Economy of Transnational Informational Capitalism.”  Rethinking Marxism 21, no. 3 (July 2009): 387-402.


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