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Crumbs of Capitalism For You and Me

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Our ruling class steers us into disaster after disaster, cheering for ruinous wars… But accountability, it seems, is something that applies only to people at the bottom….

– Thomas Frank, Easy Chair, in Harper’s, August 2012

The platitudes are not new. Only nowadays, they ring more hollow than ever before: ‘We are living above our means’, ‘When times are hard we all have to make sacrifices’ or ‘First things will get worse before they can get any better’.  What was initially described as the financial crisis of 2008/09 is now described on Wikipedia as the ‘2007–2012 global financial crisis’ (1) and what a crisis it is turning out to be, already half a decade long and with no end in sight. The Governments in rich and poor countries alike have struggled to contain the crisis but their policy fixes have done little to tackle the causes, which are largely rooted in an intensified economic globalization that increasingly eludes attempts at political regulation or democratic accountability.

In 2010 protestors around the world joined ‘Occupy Now!’ campaigns, to voice their discontent and take political action to oppose the injustices and inequalities of the globalised capitalist system.  In the USA it is election year and ‘the economy’ will be the ‘front & centre’ topic debated in the popular media. What the Occupy movement has highlighted, that rather than smart-talk and pseudo science about which economic models and strategies can ‘turn things around’ the real question to ask is ‘who’s’ economy are we talking about?

This is essentially what is meant by ‘political economy’: what is an economic system based upon, how is it organized, who are the people controlling the economic system and what social forces exist or can be politically mobilized to ensure economic decisions benefit all of society and mot disproportionally a few of its privileged members.

Truly a taller order to discuss than the polished and intellectually limited debates that usually find their way into the broadcast superficial debates and the pretty charts that pass as analysis that are produced by the opinion pollsters.

Many of our mainstreamed TV commentators were quick to voice outcries of injustice when the French national assembly voted to tax the highest earners in the country at a rate of 75 per cent, following on a campaign promise made by recently elected President Francois Hollande.

The measure would affect earnings of more than €1 million ($1.27 million) per year but only for the next two years. It would be paid by an estimated 1500 people and provide the government with an extra €210 million ($267 million) in revenue per year.[i] If such an amount were made available in the US, it would be sufficient, assuming a lower-end average estimate of $750 a month, to cover daycare for over 350 000 children. That this many kids do not have the chance to go to day care does not stir up any outcry from the aforementioned commentators.[ii]

The financial crisis cannot be meaningfully discussed or properly understood without situating the finance dimension of the economy into the much broader, systemic crisis of the global development model we have come to view as ‘globalization’.  A positive side effect of the increased attention to the turmoil in global markets is the heightened awareness of economic in equalities and injustices throughout the world.

In the homeland of uncontrolled capitalism, the numbers have been lop-sided for decades. In short:

“In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2007, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 34.6% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.5%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 85%, leaving only 15% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers).” (2)

As the crisis persists, governments become deeply dependent on the very financial institutions, which have fed the global debt crisis with their insatiable hunger for ever-rising profits.

Around the world we seem to be witnessing, “ …the drama of democratic states being turned into debt-collecting agencies on behalf of a global oligarchy of investors”, as “.. the markets’ have begun to dictate in unprecedented ways what presumably sovereign and demo­cratic states may still do for their citizens and what they must refuse them. The same Manhattan-based ratings agencies that were instrumen­tal in bringing about the disaster of the global money industry are now threatening to downgrade the bonds of states that accepted a previously unimaginable level of new debt to rescue that industry and the capi­talist economy as a whole.” (3)

There are solid arguments is support of reversing of wealth accumulation amongst the numerical minuscule but politically nearly untouchable ultra-rich in North America.  Indeed, the arguments for radical reversal of income inequality must be made at a global scale.  But while the state once also played a buffering role through redistributive and welfare programs and acknowledgement of labor rights and demands, the state today is far less of an ally of the disadvantaged than it has been in decades.

While financial bailouts are created for those who regularly push the capitalist market to near-collapse, the low-waged, seniors and unemployed are those who are expected to jump off so-called fiscal cliffs.

This pattern of state retreat from the public and civil spheres of society in favor of the corporate and privileged spheres has become a globalised, thus deepening an already significant legitimacy deficit amongst the still formally democratic but increasingly semi-representative political systems especially in the richer countries of the North. “… (W)ith the penetration of the market has come not a retreat of the State, but rather a shift in the State’s priorities. States no longer prioritize being responsive and accountable to their populations, but rather increasingly look to protect and advance the interests of corporations and economies at the expense of society.

Neo-liberal globalization has, moreover, not only intensified exploitation at the workplace and extended exploitation to the sphere of social reproduction, in such matters as health care and education; it has extended its own reach to the furthest corners of the global South.”[iii]

However, those with power and in control of society’s political and economic institutions tend to be among the wealthy themselves and obviously have no interest in dismantling the towering podium they and their rich friends are comfortably sitting upon. Even as the global crisis deepens and spreads, the“…  trend in the U.S. and Canada to rising income inequality thus leads to periodic financial crises, greater volatility of aggregate income and, as governments respond to mass unemployment with counter-cyclical fiscal policies, a compounding instability of public finances.  ….. The conundrum in all this inequality-induced macro-economic instability is that it clearly can be avoided. A steeply progressive income tax system can reduce the instability implications of increasing inequality… Yet, in both the U.S. and Canada, the progressivity of the income tax system has been substantially eroded, over the same period in which the pre-tax incomes of the top 1% have grown most strongly. (4)

Even officially, the poverty rate for the U.S. stands at 15 percent for 2011. Poverty is greatest among children (21.9 percent), compared with seniors (8.7 percent) and working-age adults (13.7 percent).. the median annual household income declined for the second year in a row to $50,054, lower than it has been since 1996.  [iv]

Indeed, as Sam Pizzigati has said, ‘most Americans have essentially spent the last 20 years on a go-nowhere treadmill. They’re working longer and harder and have zero new wealth to show for their labor.’ (5)

To elaborate a bit on the case of Canada, the arguments in favor of a more equal society were largely acted upon in the past, when universal healthcare was introduced nationally and wage earners saw wage increases above annual inflation rates.

Those days are long gone and although many Canadians still believe that ‘things are better here’, there are few meaningful statistics to back- up such a feel-good psyche. For years, productivity and innovation rates in Canada have been falling as wage incomes remain below those in US.

Among peers, Canada is being noticed, for all the wrong reasons:

“Income inequality among working-age persons has been rising in Canada, particularly since the mid-1990s … and is above the OECD average. Moreover, that of the richest 0.1% more than doubled, from 2% to 5.3%. At the same time, the top federal marginal income tax rates saw a marked decline: dropping from 43% in 1981 to 29% in 2010. … Taxes and benefits reduce inequality less in Canada than in most OECD countries. (6)

The numbers are there for anyone to read:

“In OECD countries today, the average income of the richest 10% of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10% – a ratio of 9 to 1. However, the ratio varies widely from one country to another. It is much lower than the OECD average in the Nordic and many continental European countries, but reaches 10 to 1 in Italy, Japan, Korea, and the United Kingdom; around 14 to 1 in Israel, Turkey, and the United States; and 27 to 1 in Mexico and Chile.”

Recent OECD reports show that there is nothing inevitable about such unsettling, growing inequalities. However, being essentially a ‘rich man’s club’ amongst the world’s nations, the OECD is unable to prescribe any policies or even political strategies that could call for abandoning the free-market capitalist growth model the global rich thrive upon. Capsizing their own ship is not an option the 1% will ever contemplate.

The language of ‘change’ thus remains nebulous and mostly general in nature: “Globalisation and technological changes offer opportunities but also raise challenges that can be tackled with effective and well-targeted policies”. As the global working classes continues to impoverish they are encourages to stay the course of free markets continuous economic shocks and downturns as somehow, the very system that unleashes these crisis, will miraculously self-correct itself.

Glenn 1(c) 2012, G.Brigaldino

One serious consequence of prolonged inequality that results from ‘the war on salaries’ is the erosion of health and life expectancy among the poorer segments of society. Simply speaking, the poor live less healthy and shorter lives than the rich.

Research published in the online journal ‘Population Health Metrics’ demonstrates thatduring the period 2000 to 2007, life expectancy in the US and most of its counties fell behind the progress seen in other nations.”

The authors go on to note that the:

“US has extremely large geographic and racial disparities, with some communities having life expectancies already well behind those of the best-performing nations.  In 2007, life expectancy at birth for American men and women was 75.6 and 80.8 years, ranking 37th and 37th, respectively, in the world. Across US counties, life expectancy at birth ranged from 65.9 to 81.1 years for men and 73.5 to 86.0 years for women. … The extent of geographic inequality is substantially larger in the US than in the UK, Canada, or Japan.

In spite of the US maintaining ‘ its position as the country that spent the most per capita on health care throughout this period (2000-2007).”  (7)

One would expect that very few of the 1% reside in a country with a life expectancy of only 65.9 years.

From a public health perspective, it is no new phenomena that those who are poor experience dismal health outcomes. The trend is common in the world’s poorest countries and regions. There, as in the homeland of inequality-breeding capitalism, the 2008 global economic crisis has had a disturbing and sad effect upon women and children.

Researchers at the Asian Development Bank have reported that:

“Economic downturns tend to have stronger effects, especially for girls, than economic booms: life expectancy of girls and boys increases by an estimated 2 years during good economic periods but decreases by 7 years for girls, and 6 years for boys, during adverse economic times.

There is “an average increase in infant mortality of 7.4 deaths per 1000 births for girls compared with 1.5 deaths per 1000 births for boys for every one or more unit fall in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).” (8)

That inequality has no upsides for the poor goes without saying, and those within a society who tend to benefit when inequality levels are high and entrenched, cannot deny that

“Inequality has the greatest impact on the poor and those living in the most deprived areas of society. Children do particularly badly in unequal societies – from worse infant mortality rates, through to lower levels of participation in further education. In more unequal societies, children are more likely to be overweight, to be victims of bullying, and to become teenage mothers.

Once they become adults in more unequal societies they are more likely to have mental health problems, to have problems with drugs and alcohol, to work longer hours and have more debt pressures on family life. And social mobility is lower in more unequal societies, so it is more difficult for children to escape from inter-generational cycles of poverty and deprivation.”

On both accounts, with regard to inequality and child well being, the US performs extremely dismal compared to other rich countries. (9

This trend is threatening to turn into a common pattern in rich(er) and poor(er) countries alike, as being ‘born unequal’ is clearly related to worrisome disparities in health outcomes.

For example, “… disparities in health outcomes do not only exist in poorer countries. In Canada, one of the world’s eight richest countries (characterized by deep regional inequalities, with child poverty rates varying from just over 10% to more than twice that), low-income children are 2.5 times more likely to have a problem with vision, hearing, speech or mobility.”[v]

So while the effects of inequality are there for all to see, pro-market Governments are finding it hard to take off their sunglasses.  The platitudes heralded from G8 and G20 summits alike, capture little attention among the working poor and unemployed.  First subtle advice to reverse course is now even emerging from within the summiteers’ very own policy think tank, namely the OECD.

Perhaps somewhat daringly for a mainstream organization, it has sub-titled a recent publication ‘The Role of Empowerment’.

On the cover of the 300-page report, a chain bursts apart, presumably to demonstrate a bold move for “strengthening poor people’s organizations, providing them with more control over assets”.

The report goes on to observe:

“Globally, extreme and persistent inequalities linked to poverty, gender, ethnicity and language are holding back the development of human capabilities. Policies that successfully counteract such inequalities include improving accessibility and affordability by cutting fees and informal charges; improving quality by providing highly skilled teachers and health workers; expanding entitlements and opportunities by integrating health and education strategies into wider anti-marginalization policies, such as social protection; reinforcing legal entitlements; and supporting a fairer distribution of public spending. “(10)

Word has gotten out earlier still, as few illusions exist among the authors of a 2011 ILO report, who question the effectiveness and indeed, the economic relevant of the so-called recovery programs launched so far.

As they point out:

“The global economic outlook has deteriorated significantly since 2010, signaling that the policies implemented to date have failed on a number of fronts. … As long-term unemployment rises and workers begin to leave the labor market entirely, the window for taking decisive action is closing. Urgent action to place employment creation at the centre of the recovery plan is necessary. “(11)

Such doubts are echoed by UNICEF, which notes that “…ironically, while fiscal stimulus packages mainly benefited wealthier income groups—not the poor—during the first phase of the crisis, budget cuts are disproportionately impacting the poor during the second phase.” (12)

The arguments and statistical evidence demonstrating ‘failure by design’ of what is still called the free market are substantial. Only protagonists of the status quo, those who either indentify with the 1% or belong to them (or both), put on a serious face when defending their ‘more of the same’ economic medicine, or their phony potions for economic recovery.

Glenn 2 (c) 2012, G.Brigaldino

The math is actually quite simple: what the wealthy are given in tax breaks essentially corresponds to wage erosion, limiting of labor benefits and cuts in public services to the unwealthy. In the past year we have all witnessed what has happened in Greece and is now being replicated in Spain, where on top of massive job and income losses, about half of all youth and young workers are now unemployed.

Basically,“ while governments across Europe are making cuts in public expenditure to reduce their deficits, the moral case for proper tax enforcement is particularly strong: every €1,000 of tax that the rich avoid paying, creates the need for another €1,000 of cuts to services to the least well off.

There is an awful inevitability about how the poorest end up paying for the mistakes and dishonesty of the rich whose actions led to the present recession. The scale of tax avoidance among the rich almost begs everyone else to go on a tax strike until the rich are made to pay.” (13)

Maintaining profits for the rich remains the unarticulated mantra of the political class as they continue to preach restraint to the masses.  The ‘we all need to tighten our belts’ rhetoric may have subsided under conditions of increasingly blatant inequality as this kind of hollow talk angers more than it consoles.  There are more subtle ways, and almost comically creative ones when it comes to squeezing more money out of those who are already living from paycheck to paycheck. We probably have all realized that food prices in the supermarket have risen.  The ways in which higher prices are passed on are intended to keep consumers in spending mood. New carton designs for your favorite cereal chase the fact that there can be 10 to 15% less cereal inside the box but the price is the same as before.

At the ever-bustling Dollar-stores, what used to be had for a buck now costs $1.25.  Basically everywhere else, products displayed as ‘On Sale’, are nowadays often sold at what used to be the regular price, but are shown as ‘normally’ having a 20% higher regular price.  Many other products now come in smaller packaging while the aisle price is unchanged, creating the illusion of ‘stable prices’.  Last year a friend of mine bought red bricks for a backyard footpath. When he bought more of them this year to extend the path, he discovered that although the price was unchanged, the bricks were now 2cm shorter.

At school, kids learn nothing of political economy. Instead they are fed half-truths and economic fairytales of how growth produces jobs, told that honest work pays or are led to believe that the  ‘laws of supply and demand’ somehow miraculously determine prices in what is still labeled as a ‘free market’.

Our youth are encouraged to accept student loan and credit card debt to drown in: they will be enticed to consume their lives away and buy things that often only meet artificially generated needs and to burden themselves with mortgages until they have retirement in sight. Their kids will hopefully do much of the same it is hoped by the ‘business world’, in order to keep the lopsided consumer society afloat a little longer.

The notion that everybody pays taxes for public goods and services has turned into little more than a mirage.  In fact the richer you are, the less you pay anything that resembles a ‘fair share’. Share-issuing companies have adhered to this principle for decades, knowing that if they shift their profits to subsidiaries, frequently based in tax havens, and apply accounting techniques that allow them to demonstrate an annual loss year after year; their tax ‘burden’ will be zero.

Especially in the US, the ‘don’t raise taxes’ rhetoric is nothing else but the rallying call of the ultra-rich to avoid paying taxes at the rate an average Walmart employee has to pay. Such favorism comes with a hefty price tag for the poor, in terms of declining incomes and reduced or eroding public services:

“The share of the federal budget funded by corporate income taxes has dropped dramatically since the 1940s, from 28.8 percent of the budget to 10.3 percent.

In 2010, U.S. corporations avoided approximately $60 billion in U.S. corporate income taxes by using a variety of devices and gimmicks to shift profits to foreign subsidiaries, while the Fortune 100 companies received some $89.6 billion in federal contracts. … major U.S, corporations are avoiding tens of billions of dollars in U.S. corporate income taxes through a variety of devices and gimmicks which allow them to hide profits overseas, often artificially assigning these profits to countries with little or no corporate income tax. (14)

So one can confidently say that the numbers are in, the data is confirmed and the system-discrediting evidence has been produced: inequality is deep and widespread, increasing and worst of all, it is depriving millions of people around the world of decent livelihoods and of hope. Any society that idly stands by or turns a cold shoulder to the politics and economics that create massive inequality is arguably an unethical one. “What to do about it” is a question any decent person will be asking.

Once this is asked, the central issue of how to change society arises and importantly, the “who” will do something about it needs to be asked. The search for the progressive ‘historical subject’ is on.

In his well-written book, ‘The Great Divergence’ Tim Noah has addressed many of the inequality concerns also expressed in this article. Disappointingly, the final chapter titled “What We Can Do About It” falls short and does not say who the “we” actually are or to convincingly elaborate on any “how” to overcome today’s global inequality. (15)

Ultimately, Noah places hope in benign reforms and technocratic fixes of the system and in those who have historically perpetuated it. He seems at a loss to locate a social counterforce to the ruling economic and political class.  Rightfully so, he recognizes the changed frame of mind amongst those who are upset about growing injustices.

Where once anger turned into at times violent political protest and revolt, today, resentment is said to dominate and is often kept inside. I suggest that this might be true for many people; the emergence of the Occupy movement has opened up a multitude of possibilities to oppose, challenge, bypass and undermine the inequality economy. (16)

It is too early to say that the Occupy protests are merely a flare-up of dissent but I would wager that although the movements’ intensity and visibility might heavily fluctuate, the desire and preparedness to engage in lasting socioeconomic change is genuine and is bound to have a prolonged, dislodging impact upon the current capitalist political economy.

The people who oppose, object and revolt against the capitalist world of systematic inequality, are of course those posing a serious challenge to capitalism and its’ ‘business as usual’, technocratic and cosmetic approach to dealing not only with economic, but with social and environmental issues as well.  It is quite possible that the more radically they (the Occupy movement and its supporters) question and act against the system, the greater their revolutionary impact potentially becomes: within the core capitalist countries and throughout the emerging alternative centers as well as on the economic margins and desolate geographic fringes of what has also been labeled ‘armed globalization’.

The ruling classes within free-market preaching states may increasingly fail to compensate for the market failures and environmental and social consequences of unrestrained capitalism. It comes as no surprise that the global governing elites“… offer only a technical fix to the present (systemic) crisis and have no real…intention of conducting any meaningful radical reform or transformation of the system itself.”

But precisely such transformation is needed and is most likely, if indeed at all in the nearer future, to be brought about by“.. all those very people who have been negatively affected by the present system and who, through their lived experiences, realize the need for radical thinking and for radical action” (17)

As ‘forces of resistance’, these people are likely to continue to form alliances and organize through social networks, and engage in ‘conscious collective political action’ that challenge the ruling system and unjust distribution of wealth, opportunities and political power. What is fascinating is that with the mobilization of protest and dissent in the Occupy / We are the 99% – movement, indeed such new forms of organizing protest and political action have emerged, facilitated notably through social media (the political outcomes of such mobilization in the wake of the ‘Arab Spring’, have yet to demonstrate how profoundly they are rooted and based on democratic and socially inclusive aspirations and principles).

In North America and Europe, it has taken many by surprise that a protest movement can in fact be distinctly leaderless: thus representing a stark organizational contrast and alternative to the system-conform efforts of the so-called leaders of our existing, nation states.  It is a protest movement, as we have witnessed in Quebec where students have vehemently opposed tuition hikes, which is prepared to ask questions that simply are not asked in the mainstream media, such as “Democracy, as viewed by the other side, is tagged as ‘representative’ – and we wonder just what it represents.” (18)

Spontaneous actions of people who’ve ‘had enough’ of being ripped off, of being manipulated by entertainment and consumer industries, or being taken advantage of from the ‘cradle to the grave’, are finding new ways to express their dissent. As violent conflicts rage outside the borders of our core ‘homeland’ capitalist countries, living inside the ‘free world’ has lost much of its meaning for many. The inequalities in the ‘land(s) of the free’ have definitely become synonymous with ‘pursuit of happiness’ for those living the good life while floating on their wonderful clouds of luxury, while below, it never stops raining injustices on us common mortals.

References

(1) Wikipedia, 2007–2012 global financial crisis.

(2) Distribution of net worth and financial wealth in the United States, 1983-2007 by G. William Domhoff

(3) THE CRISES OF DEMOCRATIC CAPITALISM, Wolfgang Streeck in: New Left Review 71 Sept/Oct 2011

(4) Instability Implications of Increasing Inequality – What can be learned from North America?, Lars Osberg, 2012

Also see:  Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%, Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2011

(5) Sam Pizzigati, Magic Act: Making the Super Rich Disappear, June 2012 ‘Too Much’ commentary of the project of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good of the D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies.

Also see:  The war on salaries – Enough is enough by Sam Pizzigati in Le Monde diplomatique Feb 2012 “US radicals came up a century ago with sound proposals for a maximum income, enforced through progressive taxation, to ensure that the rich couldn’t so easily buy political influence, as well as to adjust inequality “.

(6)  Divided We Stand – Why Inequality Keeps Rising, OECD 2011

In terms of living standards, it has recently been reported that since 1981, “Canadians experienced a widening of income and wealth inequalities. There have been poverty reductions, but the reductions were not nearly as large as the increase in wealth inequality.

See:

Center for the Study of Living Standards, Research Report 2011-17, Andrew Sharpe and Christopher Ross

(7) Falling behind: life expectancy in US counties from 2000 to 2007 in an international context
Sandeep C Kulkarni, Alison Levin-Rector, Majid Ezzati and Christopher JL Murray Kulkarni et al. Population Health Metrics 2011, 9:16

(8) The other crisis: the economics and financing of maternal, newborn and child health in Asia, Ian Anderson, Henrik Axelson, and B-K Tan, in: In Health Policy and Planning, 2010

(9) The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, Bill Kerry, Kate E. Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, in: Child Poverty and Inequality: New Perspectives, Isabel Ortiz, Louise Moreira Daniels, Sólrún Engilbertsdóttir (Eds), UNICEF, 2012

(10) OECD (2012), Poverty Reduction and Pro-Poor Growth: The Role of Empowerment

(11) World of work report 2011: Making markets work for jobs / International Labour Office.  2011

(12) United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 2012, A Recovery for All: Rethinking Socio-Economic Policies for Children and Poor Households, Isabel Ortiz and Matthew Cummins (Editors)

“ An analysis of the winners and losers of the crisis must further consider that, particularly in the economies of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a large share of stimulus packages included tax cuts, mainly through reductions in personal income tax for the wealthy. Thus, ironically, while fiscal stimulus packages mainly benefited wealthier income groups—not the poor—during the first phase of the crisis, budget cuts are disproportionately impacting the poor during the second phase.

The massive bailouts for the financial industry further indicate that the real problem in addressing this global crisis was not the availability of money, but rather the lack of political will. In fact, the amount of money needed annually to achieve the MDGs is a miniscule fraction of the estimated trillions of public money that was mobilized for bank bailouts.”

(13)  Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett in: TAX JUSTICE FOCUS – THE INEQUALITY EDITION THIRD, 2012, issue 2, downloaded from: http://www.newleftproject.org

(14) Corporate America. Untaxed. Tax Avoidance on the Rise. Samuel Kang and Tuan Ngo

(15)  The Great Divergence: America’s Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do about It, Timothy Noah, 2012; Reviewed by Felix Salmon in New York Times

(16) For an interview Michael Hardt, co-Author of Empire and Multitude see: Democracy on the Defensive – September/October 2005 issue of Newtopia Magazine, interview conducted by Glenn Brigaldino.

(17) Going South: capitalist crisis, systemic crisis, civilisational crisis, Barry Gills in Third World Quarterly: vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 169-184, 2010

This article argues that the current protracted and severe financial and economic crisis is only one aspect of a larger multidimensional set of simultaneous and interacting crises on a global scale. The article constructs an overarching framework of analysis of this unique conjecture of global crises. The three principal crisis aspects are: an economic crisis of (over) accumulation of capital; a world systemic crisis (which includes a global centre-shift in the locus of production, growth and capital accumulation), and a hegemonic transition (which implies long term changes in global governance structures and institutions); and a worldwide civilisational crisis, situated in the socio-historical structure itself, encompassing a comprehensive environmental crisis and the consequences of a lack of correspondence and coherence in the material and ideational structures of world order. In these ways, the global system is now `going south’.

All three main aspects of the global crisis provoke and require commensurate radical social and political responses and self-protective measures, not only to restore systemic stability but also to transform the world system.

In “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt” (Knopf, 2012) Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco show in words and drawings what life looks like in places where the marketplace rules without constraints, where human beings and the natural world are used and then discarded to maximize profit. For an upbeat review see Tim Knight at:

http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2012-08-05/days-destruction-days-revolt

(18) Share our future – the CLASSE manifesto, reposted by www.OccupyWallSt.org July 14, 2012. The document goes on to note:

This brand of « democracy » comes up for air once every four years, for a game of musical chairs. While elections come and go, decisions remain unchanged, serving the same interests: those of leaders who prefer the murmurs of lobbyists to the clanging of pots and pans.

Each time the people raises its voice in discontent, on comes the answer: emergency laws, with riot sticks, pepper spray, tear gas. When the elite feels threatened, no principle is sacred, not even those principles they preach: for them, democracy works only when we, the people keep our mouths shut.

http://occupywallst.org/article/share-our-future-classe-manifesto


Article © 2012 by Glenn Brigaldino

Glenn Brigaldino is an independent political analyst living above the 49th parallel. He was a contributor to the 2002-2005 Newtopia Magazine venture and remains loosely affiliated with the new project.

In the early 1980s he was an active member in the German Green party, until it became absorbed in the political mainstream. As a specialist in international cooperation, he has worked for aid and relief organizations in Africa, Europe and elsewhere.

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