On the Crisis

Some questions


Do we live in a crisis today? If so, what sort of crisis — political? economic? social?

If several simultaneously, how do these crises interrelate?

In other words, what effect does the present global economic downturn have on prospects for politicization? If it results in political radicalization, does it tend toward the Right or toward the Left?

Oppositely, does the absence of a viable leftist alternative today change the character of the social or economic crisis?

What sort of social consequences has the economic crisis generated, in terms of classes? Why the discourse (ideology) of “the disappearing middle class”? At a political level, has this social upheaval led to anything in the way of a renewed “class consciousness”? Is class still even important?

How does the present crisis operate (unfold) in terms of time and space?

How does the present crisis relate to past crises of capital? How is it the same? How is it different?

What is the duration of the present crisis? Is recovery on the horizon? Is there an end in sight? Or are we witnessing, as Marxian economists like Bertell Ollman and Immanuel Wallerstein have contended, the “terminal crisis” of capitalism? If not the end of capitalism as such, does the present crisis at least signal an end to neoliberalism? If so, what is the character of the transition? Does neoliberalism (post-Fordism) revert to a neo-Fordist configuration, or something else? Can the outcome of the this crisis be understood to entail “progress” or “regress”?

How does the crisis in North America since the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008 relate to the sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone since 2010? Are these crises at all related to the wave of political revolutions of the Arab Spring?

What is the extent of the present crisis? How has it been distributed spatially? Unevenly? What does globalization look like during a time of prolonged crisis? Is the era of US hegemony at a close? If so, to where does the locus of geopolitical power now shift? (China? Russia? India?)

Do different interpretations of the crisis really recommend different political strategies?

What are the political stakes of the perennial Marxist debates about crisis or the trajectory of capitalist development? What are the ramifications of disputes over the immiseration thesis, the falling rate of profit, the validity of the labor theory of value, and overproduction vs. underconsumption as the underlying catalyst of capitalist crisis?

Do different methods and analyses of social/economic crisis imply different modes of political organization and mobilization? If so, what sorts of differences?

If not, what is the significance of this fact? What would it mean to say that two interpreters of the crisis might disagree substantially over its root causes and ultimate effects but offer identical political solutions? What would it take to make these disagreements meaningful at a political level again?

What does it mean to interpret the world without being able to change it?

Why do the most sophisticated leftist understandings of the world appear unable to assist in the task of changing it? Conversely, can the world be thought intelligible without our capacity to self-consciously transform it through practice?

Can society — the capitalist social formation — be understood as an entirely objective phenomenon, without ever producing a subject capable of intervening in its processes? Does capitalism still make sense as a pure “structure” or system devoid of human agency?

Can Marxism survive as an economics or social theory without politics? Does it continue to exist as simply one “lens” or “perspective” amongst others? Should the intractability of the current social, political, and economic crisis not result in a crisis within Marxian economics or social theory as a discipline?

5 thoughts on “On the Crisis

  1. If there is a crisis out there it involves the two things Civilization abhors most, isolation and complacency.

    I think chiefly it is about complacency, especially in developed, mature countries, thinking that we had arrived at some end point. Our societies were taking too much for granted, like there was always money to pay for things. We were living of the fat of the land without producing adequately. Also a dangerous hubris developed within capitalism after and because of its triumph over communism.

    Having said that, there is no alternative to capitalism or free markets if societies want to maintain and sustain themselves
    in the future. However, capitalism has to realign and reinvent itself and be more inclusive, something only capitalism can do. Other economic systems collapsed because they couldn’t reform or renew themselves.

    The Arab Spring is connected to this crisis. In many respects the Arab/Muslim world wanted to remain isolated from the West but yet they depended a lot on the West for their lively hood. Also, their leaders remained complacent in the fact that thinks could remain as they were without reforming their archaic ways of governing. They wanted to live in the modern world without adapting to it or paying the price.

    So the crisis is about a changing world and a lack of reform to meet and address it.

  2. Pingback: What is behind the economic crisis (Part 1) « Re: The People

  3. Pingback: What is behind the economic crisis (Part 1)

  4. sn’t thinking that “there is no alternative to capitalism or free markets if societies want to maintain and sustain themselves”, itself a form of complacency? I do not believe that this thing we call capitalism will ever reform itself from within. There are too many interests which desire that it doesn’t; which continue to draw power and an imbalance of wealth from the fact that it doesn’t. There will be no reform. There will be an upheaval or a collapse, because this thing of ours cannot sustain itself indefinitely, running as it does.

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