- Elected representatives shovel billions of dollars at police to support their slavery calling of assaulting, harassing, destroying, and mass-murdering working-class people, mostly of color.
- English Common Law.
- We cannot distinguish between a union that contributes to public value and a police fraternity because English Common Law.
- That is because most of us do not have the concept public value anymore. The neoliberals killed it over the 20th century.
- Other assassinated, crucial concepts that we cannot use today in public: inhumane; democratic Enlightenment; egaliberte; the motley crew; commodification; mystification; exploited; expropriated; slavery.
- Meritocratic technocrats manage populations: They masterfully practice the techniques of efficiently dehumanizing, isolating, immobilizing, exploiting and expropriating, crippling, and stunting people, as with the stepwise expansion of the carceral market-state, the imprisonment of immigrants, and the near-universal pandemic confinement of productive female workers to home cells while the public sphere is reserved for masculine policing.
- The Silence of the Geographers: COVID-19-justified policy does not reflect regional COVID-19 conditions.
- Technocratic autism: Leaders–politicians and public health officials–block mobilization toward increasing virus testing capacity, because they want to protect resources for hospitals and doctors and the commercial vaccine market. They do not care what happens to people’s health when they are dehumanized, isolated, immobilized, and impoverished as the solution to epidemics and pandemics.
- Anglo-Americans are proud of having leadership that never imagines policy that avoids the cardinal Anglo-American virtues of dehumanizing, isolating, immobilizing, expropriating, and stunting humans.
- Lazy-ass, reflexive sexism.
Political partisans have been trying to claim that Sweden’s Public Health authority, fronted by Anders Tegnell, is unique in pursuing a “cruel” herd immunity goal. It is a bald lie. Herd immunity to COVID-19 is the end-game for all decisionmakers in public health, including in the authoritarian-coalition NPI (Non-Pharmaceutical Intervention, AKA mass, indefinite Isolation and Immobilization) response designed by Biosecurity experts (See the FOIA’d Red Dawn emails in the New York Times).
The difference from Sweden’s democratic-scientific approach to the pandemic is that the authoritarian coalition’s NPI Mass Isolation & Immobilization approach allows the security state to practice implementing population lockdown (Red Dawn emails discuss this goal, along with testing the internet.), while technocratic epidemiologists are thrilled to be using societies as laboratories (See https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/opinion/coronavirus-pandemic-social-distancing.html). All the “early”/”late” implementation discourse in the media is scientistic nonsense typically used to sell Biosecurity indefinite mass house arrest, as opposed to a testing-forward, selective-isolation policy that no coalition has emerged to champion within the authoritarian societies.
But we must start focusing on the bait dangled by the authoritarian-coalition strategy. The avalanche of economic, social and health costs it unleashes cannot be worth the golden carrot swaying before the manhandled public: an immunization crafted over 18 months for one (1) version of coronavirus, where novel coronaviruses develop repeatedly. (A new avian flu, the Red Dawn biosecurity experts noted, had developed in China early this year even while COVID-19 was taking the spotlight.)
The people must rise together and demand compensation from the state for their epic sacrifices to the authoritarian coalition’s social-control practice and universal-lab conveniences.
Reviewing the US perspective (Paul Gallis, Congressional Research Service, 2006) on French foreign policy requires some interpretation, or reading between the lines, but here are notes:
- Anglo-Americans cannot understand that French societal reproduction balances the deeply-antagonistic cultural contenders, laicite (secularism) and Catholicism. Managing this explosive cultural antagonism is why there is precious little independent room for other religions to shift French societal reproduction.
- Anglo-Americans misread French culture as wholly secularized because, as Tories and slavers, Whigs and capitalists, they are scandalized by the persistence of any democratic reproduction capacity at all. It consumes their attention, while Catholic culture seems natural.
- Sources of French sovereignty include:
- Proven European coordination capacity;
- Consensus-cohering human rights and democracy brand;
- The UN;
- Arab and worldwide colonial ties;
- US governance has been constrained by economic orthodoxy, which reduces US strategic degrees of freedom.
- For example, France can (and can coordinate Europe to) take advantage of extreme US averseness to disrupting core FDI-based commercial relations, permitting the “medium size” “modest resource” country strategic sovereignty to resist and counter some of the US’s military geostrategic disruption and reorganization initiatives.
Caged within the orthodox econ framework that political-economic organizers like Paul Samuelsson and Milton Friedman had erected, it was impossible for the American polity to understand why France did not cooperate with the belligerent imperial takeover of Iraq, and worse, it was impossible for them to understand how France was able to not cooperate. According to econ theory orthodoxy, the FDI ties should have absolutely subordinated France to US sovereignty. After all, the territorial invasion and takeover was executed on behalf of the immediate economic interests of an international capitalist community–though monolithically conceived and under-specified.
Designed to support financialization and expropriation, the orthodox econ perspective rigidly excludes interests external to its view-from-the-top framework. France was afforded greater strategic degrees of freedom by French theories–including a revolutionary theory of democracy that economic orthodoxy had excluded and rendered completely illegible/irrational to US polity members. (This sheds light on the value France places on maintaining its own semi-sovereign philosophical establishment.)
Although France was the target of US exasperation, the conceptual and strategic constraints imposed on the US polity by total economic orthodoxy capture was a significant source of frustration to the US Congress in the early aughts.
I hypothesize that, relatively freed by its conservative paradigm (with its sacred social hierarchy core, as opposed to the more constraining liberal paradigm core, absolute private property right), the Republican aspect of the US Congress learned from this conflict with (what it viewed with frustration as) an “illegitimate” European power.
Trump was propelled to leadership by the Republican Party because of his capacity to engage imperial strategy beyond economic orthodoxy. Trump’s dogma is conservatism, wider than private property-bound economic orthodoxy, and endowed with more strategic degrees of freedom in the current expropriation-oriented context. Unlike Bush strategically constrained by economic orthodoxy in the early aughts, Trump today can suppress France’s sovereignty, and other sovereignties, and subordinate other governments and alternative interests to US strategy because he can temporarily suspend commercial relations. Prior to Trump, that tactic had been unthinkable. In both orthodox economic and Ordoliberal theory, only capitalists, and not states, were supposed to have the capacity to suspend economic relations as a power tactic. As President Bizniz, Trump is trusted to wield capitalist and state powers.
While other countries today are frustrated with Trump’s tactical suspension of commercial relations to impose absolute US sovereignty, it is important to point out that this phase is the consequence of foiled, unrealistic expectations that were implanted by the artificial constructs sewn by the theoretical monopoly of economic orthodoxy–to which most those countries (not SE Asia in 1997, not France in the early aughts, not Russia or China) and factions still cling. Two truisms apply here: “It is difficult to get a man (or a polity) to understand something, when his salary (GDP) depends on his not understanding it” (Upton Sinclair); 2) They want their cake and to eat it too.
The Democrats are in disarray as remnant heterodox factions struggle to expand their theory and collective action repertoire, and their core continues to try to pursue traditional neoliberal policies constrained by orthodox economic theory, and the traditional racial management objectives that coordinate global ruling class interests. The crisis in a US that has been nearly gutted of theory diversity, including the democratic Enlightenment theory that allowed its independence, is between a faction operating within the authoritarian slaver legacy of conservative theory, as embodied in the Southernized US military, and a faction around the DNC, operating within economic orthodoxy and devoted to managing domestic and international racializations (including with military coercion) to serve secure private property rights to major global asset acquirers.
The enduring entanglement of modern property law with this original “feudal calculus” is a thread running throughout Pistor’s book. Most importantly, it informs her skepticism about the alignment that is commonly assumed in liberal grand narratives among progress, property rights, and the rule of law (understood in the sense of the universal applicability of general rules, such that no one class received preferential treatment by the state).
There have been revolutionary moments, Pistor concedes, in which property owners did line up behind the demand for general rights—the American and French Revolutions being cases in point. But once their property was established, owners became, like their feudal predecessors, defenders of privilege. They have advocated not universal binding rules, but what Max Weber called a “modern particularism,” finding ways around the law when it suited their interests.” —Tooze reviews Pistor (2019).
The Usual Suspects: The University of Chicago, Ronald Coase, and Aaron Director established the school of Law and Economics in the 1960s. Its purpose was to diffuse the functionalist liberal grand narrative on capitalist law, in which capitalist law is mythologized as harmonizing interests throughout society by creating rules that maximize efficiency, productivity, and economic growth. This obfuscatory economist-managed myth factory helped distribute resources and power globally, but within the inegalitarian rules of feudal privilege that efface the citizenship and interests of smallholders and life on Earth.
Responding to the 20th-21st century expropriation explosion and democratic dissipation, Pistor is part of a new school, Law & Political Economy, that clarifies that global Anglo law, based in New York and London, actually marries exceptionalist feudal restrictions on [immobile] land property alienability with increasing volumes of extremely-mobile exclusive private property claims [only obliquely upon–but governing the disposition of– tangible assets], so that states enforcing this elite, privately-manufactured law have come to unequally, inequitably, exceptionally enforce the asset claims of large, global capital owners against the interests and welfare of the rest of societies.
Note the gendered leadership of the Law & Econ v. Law & Political-Economy networks. Together patriarchs may imagine their protection racket as benevolent. Women are experientially informed about the central, pervasive, destructive role of expropriation in capitalism.
Bhattacharya, Tithi. 2017. Social Reproduction Theory. Pluto.
Choudry, Aziz & Adrian A. Smith, eds. 2016. Unfree Labour? Struggles of Migrant and Immigrant Workers in Canada. PM Press.
Ghodsee, Kristin. 2018. Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism.
Graeber, David. 2006. “Turning Modes of Production Inside Out: Or, Why Capitalism is a Transformation of Slavery.” Critique of Anthropology 26 (1): 61-85.
Kalecki, Michal. 1971. Selected Essays on the Dynamics of the Capitalist Economy 1933-1970. Cambridge University Press.
Kato, Daniel. 2015. Liberalizing lynching: Building a new racialized state. Oxford University Press.
Law & Political Economy blog.
Lawrence, Andrew G. 2014. Employer and Worker Collective Action. Cambridge University Press.
Marx, Karl. 1867. Part VIII, “Primitive Accumulation,” Capital V. I.
Moore, Jason. 2015. Capitalism in the Web of Life. Verso.
Orren, Karen. 1991. Belated Feudalism: Labor, the Law, and Liberal Development in the United States. Cambridge University Press.
Pistor, Katharine. 2019. The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality. Princeton University Press.
Hypothesis 1: At least a portion of the lower-managerial and producer “Middle” working class is systematically afflicted with an inability to accurately assess power relations and strategize messaging and action.
Hypothesis 2: This social segment’s systematic analytical error reproduces collective action incapacitation within working-class communities.
Corollary: In particular, non-elite subjectivities can be strategically handicapped by an overly-simplified Power Structure and Power Resource analytical framework. The interactional failures this analytical oversimplification produces in turn reproduce an inadequate tactical and strategic repertoire biased toward individual and collective de-capacitation.
The Non-elite Power-perception Error: Deploying an overly-simplified model of power, and importing elite perspectives on non-elite individuals’ object status, non-elite dispositions can misrecognize any individual power as monopolized sovereign power. For example, they can imagine that a strong individual will or passion alone can reliably overmaster and subordinate other individuals in any situation. As well, they theorize inaccurately that when an objectified will does not simply submit to the command of a presumptive Master will, this is because the objectified person is a faulty object. As with other objects that fail to ameliorate human sentience in the world, the resistant person targeted for objectification is psychologically apprehended by the presumptive Master as treasonous.
Psychological or discursive domination can work on a limited scale; but it is more limited than authoritarian non-elites tend to perceive. Psychological domination tends to work at a low hum along, and not against, categories of social status. Its effects may not be reliable or durable. In a complex society, psychological domination is not transposable to all interactions and relations.
Consequent to a misrecognition of all power as monopoly sovereign power, an authoritarian non-elite individual A (ANE-A) will tend to assign to other non-elite individuals (NE-N) the responsibility for carrying out ANE-A’s own personal interests. Probably, other individuals will not serve as instruments for the individual passion of ANE-A, but rather will pursue their own individual interests or the interests of a more-powerful, organized collectivity.
This is because non-elite individuals do not have sufficient structural social power to individually incentivize or impose what is a hierarchical functioning (subordinating others’ wills, converting other people into manipulable objects, tools, hands).
This structured experience the authoritarian non-elite individual (ANE-A) psychologically projects as a function failure, or malevolent defection, of the object (the objectified), NE-N. Psychological projection of harmful intention onto objects is natural (See Scarry 1985.); but the error that leads to the objectification of people, and projection of treasonous intent or incapacity upon insubordinate people, lies in power-relations illiteracy. The authoritarian non-elite subjectivity misinterprets insubordination as a malevolent and dysfunctional (incompetence) withholding of cooperation and credit in a world of fluid but absolute monopolized sovereignty, realized in simple domination by force of personality in individual interactions.
Emergent problem: Because the structured experience of subordination/objectification failure is rampant within authoritarian non-elite relations, incompetence and treason are perceived as ubiquitous in non-elite subjectivity, and so non-elite people tend to lean heavily on punishment as a tool for managing all but ideal patronage relations. This reinforces a tendency toward patronage-seeking behaviour and social hierarchy. Where corporal punishment is inaccessible, authoritarian nonelites will rely on moral condemnation in an effort to break down their target’s semi-sovereign (social but positionally-distinctive) self.
This produces a collective-action problem within the working-class: Working-class communities are bound up in punishing and thwarting each other. Their strategic capacities and tactical repertoires–including Power Structure and Power Resources analyses, negotiation, and cooperation–are constantly bound, atrophied, and stunted, and not just from above. Defection is universalized within the working class.
In capitalism, capitalists are relieved of universalized defection and crippling by monopoly control over resources. Their monopoly access to social power allows capitalists greater tactical latitude to make allies, form coalitions, and collaborate with rivals, while distributing patronage to delegate their agency. These rich tactical and strategic resources also incentivize capitalists to hysterically avoid expulsion from the capital-saved network and fortify class boundaries. Capitalists can be authoritarian without undermining their collective action capacity. This is not true of non-elite people.
Common “ameliorative” interventions in this serious social inequality problem tend to be constrained to moral discourse: Smallholder identity group coalitions simply exhort each other to act more deferentially, validating authoritarian non-elite individuals’ analytical error–the overprojection of hierarchical relationships of command and objectification. Doomed to fail and to proliferate a sense of alienation, the deference-demand “fix” reproduces the class’ strategic incapacitation.
Note: Some theory entrepreneurs have intimated that British Commonwealth or Southern US culture provide superior deference skills–presumably such that prevent, for example, authoritarianism from eroding nonelite collective action capacity. They suggest that a strong deference culture provides a micro-interactionist solution to collective-action capacity inequality, or makes collective-action capacity inequality a moot issue. I think this (often chauvanist) claim can be contested, including with empirical evidence from the Commonwealth and US South.
If we allow ourselves to imagine that non-elites can use their supposed surfeit of time to become psychological therapists preserving authoritarianism, then we can alternatively propose that instead, they can be assisted to better conceptualize power and improve their collective action capacity. Non-elite people need a better power-analysis framework and a relational-tactics and strategy repertoire expanded beyond authoritarian Master-servant relations, however glorified as “deference,” toleration, or accommodation. For a model, elites are not only better incentivized to understand each other as more than simple hands, they are also better socialized to use a broader array of interpersonal tactics and strategies, to work together coalitionally across rival interests. The sociological craft tradition (Mills, Bourdieu, Lamont, et al) can study and convey to working-class, racialized, and feminized people more expansive power knowledge.
Recommendation: To organize the balkanized smallholders, including feminized and racialized contingents, use the television series Game of Thrones, up through season 8 episode 3 (“Battle of Winterfell”) as a resource to stimulate power-structure and power-resources identification and theory development. Like The Prince, The Prison Notebooks, and The Power Elite before it, Game of Thrones is designed up through season 8, chapter 3 as a prolonged, multi-pronged, didactic corrective to popular misunderstandings of power relations. It was built to stimulate power-theory development. More effective would its pedagogy be if implemented as curricular discussion material in collectives.
(Note: After season 8, episode 3, Game of Thrones degenerates into a dog’s breakfast of Whiggish ideology and movie industry auto-canonization. Zeynep Tufekci (2019) recognized the show abandoned sociology for psychology at the end. If you’re the sort who enjoyed the democratic Enlightenment, or even if you’re a non-slaver American, you will hate being force-fed the Red Coat/Cold War moral framing of Daenerys’ clunky M.O. swerve, along with most of the hackneyed gruel you’re served after the Battle of Winterfell. Orly, Sam Tarly is a naive academic, but our True ‘n’ Just King is The Storyteller. Get over yourselves, Renaissance Festival. Truly, neoliberal times blow in terms of moral-fable product.)
The goal of power-theory development and tactical-strategic repertoire building amongst non-elites would be to replace the preponderance of thwarting and punitive tactics–both corporeal and psycho-discursive–with a broader, more valid power-relations analysis and skills repertoire, thereby reducing working-class political stunting.
Game of Thrones: Lessons on Power
GoT power-relations lessons are not necessarily encapsulated in pithy verbal recommendations, but rather by examining how characters embody power-relations tactics and strategies, and their effects, as well as learn over time. Still, the character Peter Baelish pivots to advise Sansa Stark, as she moves into a queen role, with an important reminder to remain strategically adroit:
“Everyone is your enemy, everyone is your friend… Live that way and nothing will surprise you. Everything that happens will be something that you’ve seen before.” –Peter Baelish to Sansa Stark, Season N, Episode N.
Adorno, Theodor et al. 1950. The Authoritarian Personality. University of California Press.
Benner, Erica. 2017. Be Like the Fox: Machiavelli’s Lifelong Quest for Freedom. New York: Penguin Random House.
Game of Thrones, seasons 1-8, episode 3.
Kierkegaard, Soren. 1846. The Present Age.
McAlevey, Jane. 2016. No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age. Oxford.
Machiavelli, Niccolo. 1513. The Prince.
Mills, C Wright. 1956. The Power Elite.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1887. On the Genealogy of Morals.
Tufekci, Zeynep. 2019. “The Real Reason Fans Hate the Last Season of Game of Thrones.” Scientific American, May 17.
There are four outlier countries in the affluent world, each characterized by an extremely high percentage of the working-class population employed in guarding property from the rest of the working-class population: Greece, the US, the UK, and Spain. Depending on how you count it, 1 out of 4 (or 5) of every US workers is guarding property from other workers. That proportion increased over fourfold in the US between the late 19th century and today. By contrast, there is only 1 guard for every 20 workers in Sweden.
Brought together, empirical analyses by Bowles and Jayadev (2007), and Gourevitch (2015) reviewing Brecher (2014) and Mitrani (2013), identify correlates of the guard labour market & militarized police state: 1) socio-economic inequality; and 2) a strong history of class contention. Bowles & Jayadev caution that though these factors, and not others, correlate with the policed society, by themselves they cannot explain the extent of guarding and policing in a society, because in the US, guarding continued to rise as a proportion of employment even in the exceptional, lower-inequality Trente Glorieuses period following WWII and prior to 1975. However, as Gourevitch will clarify, even during the short period of reduced aggregate socio-economic inequality in the US, at a finer-grain level of analysis we recognize that inequality reduction was very patchily distributed (Fraser 2017), and quiescence was even briefer, as the Civil Rights Movement was organizing during that period to more widely distribute novel social citizenship and welfare state protections from expropriation.
Although the state is designed to protect large domestic (and some global) capitalists from expropriation, only white male smallholders enjoyed new state protection from expropriation during the short Trente Glorieuses (Fraser 2017), spurring other social groups to organize to expand those protections and state accountability to the entire working class, including African-Americans and other racialized groups, women, and indigenous peoples in the US. This organization was famously met by expanding US police forces and militaries as warfare, and it was met by politicians with carceral expansion (Murakawa 2014), contributing to continued guarding and policing expansion. Moreover, as we see below, in 1947, at the outset of the Trente Glorieuses, the US cemented in an extraordinary legal regime for hobbling working-class people in the US.
While there are surely automatic structural mechanisms, both macro and meso-institutional, favoring capital and crippling working-class people in capitalism, the briefness of the Trente Glorieuses is well explained by the extraordinary level of capitalist organizing to restrain and divest the American working class of collective action capacity, including by diverting work into guarding and militarized policing, as well as via legal mechanisms (Pistor 2019). On both sides of the pond, of course, deregulation of finance, beginning in the City of London only a third of the way into the Trente Glorieuses, permitted the reorientation of US capital from national to global class alignment, permitted inflation coordination as a form of capital strike, and thereby permitted the dismantling of working class-accountable institutions (social citizenship, the welfare state, public infrastructure) within the US state–converting nascent US state capacity to protect workers from expropriation into military, militarized policing, and guarding property, a Nightwatchman state exclusively protecting global capital from expropriation.
But why did the working class, which had developed independent, leading ideas about the good, democratic society, had been highly organized in previous decades, and had innovated and led policy in the FDR era, acquiesce to this massive state conversion, to its tremendous neutralization and increasing disadvantage? Given its former independence and leadership, why did the working class allow itself to be co-opted into a giant police force merely doing the bidding of economic Masters, circling a drain of decreasing capacity to protect itself as a class from expropriation?
There are intermediary steps to this conversion, and path-dependency can be a factor. However, if we explain the rise of the policed society by returning to the question of Why Greece, the US, the UK, and Spain (with NZ, Australia, and Belgium in hot pursuit)? it becomes reasonable to suggest that in the late capitalist era, these places may be distinguished as the most desirable combined markets and territories from both a capitalist and labour perspective. These are the contested territories of capitalism.
The US and UK contain the globe’s leading financial institutions, all of the top four policed societies feature brash traditions of conservativism and antihuman repression targeting the working class, and Greece, the US, and Spain contain some of the globe’s most liveable territory, from a human perspective, combined with at least moderately-developed economies and institutions. I hypothesize that what distinguishes surveilled, militarized, policed societies is an ongoing history of class warfare over primo global territory. This explanation has the virtue of also explaining the observed correlates of socio-economic inequality and bursts of civil warfare. Greece, the US, the UK, and Spain are barely nations. Riddled by class and regional internal divisions, they are nations in the sense that they are cemented together by heavy resource expenditure on force and nationalism.
We can return to the issue of increasing guard labour in the US during the Trente Glorieuses with the explanation that, despite the cross-class consensual drive to continue the economic expansion initiated with high state-capital coordination during the war, the class conflict over the territory was not closed, and the domestic police force was being built out of the imperial military post-war in order for global capital to resume control of the territory by 1980. This hypothesis is confirmed by the 1947 passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, and its perpetual institutional maintenance, preserving the absolute rejection of workers’ human rights in favor of limitless, global capitalist liberty in the US. When the US built global capitalism back up following WWII (Varoufakis 2011), it was rebuilding global capitalist class collective action capacity to storm the lands that everyone wants to claim.
Because it’s capitalism, the global capitalist class has secured the hierarchical social order and regulated collective behaviour in the heavily-policed societies. Interesting follow-up project: A working-class Moneyball TM analyst would recommend the (relatively-neglected) best places for labour to migrate to based on attractive features without the Policed Four’s military level of surveillance, co-optation, repression, thin citizenship, and mounting expropriation.
Though, a Geographic Economist I once knew said that capital follows labour. Could the working class even abandon the US, UK, Greece, and Spain in significant numbers? Or are compensating factors, and the complicating factors of migration, so overwhelmingly on the side of these four lands that the class conflict and militarization of society cannot help but lurch on?
Certainly the Anglophone model provides a steam valve in its repressive framework. It directs social subsidy to capital, incentivizing a large portion of the American working class to migrate into and through precarious small-business ownership (Nail salons!) as an alternative to suffering the obscene state-reinforced class dehumanization and unfreedoms.
In Lawrence 2014, pp. 205-206 are particularly succinct and poignant summaries of the stand-out manacled life of the American working class. The legal mechanisms for shackling the American working class include the following:
- Following its codification by US Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes in the 1937 NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp (affirming the Wagner Act), American law denies “the fact that the coercion and intimidation inherent in a threat of discharge (firing) are intrinsic to virtually all employment contexts” in capitalism (Lawrence 205). US law refuses to recognize and regulate capitalist powers, including capital strike.
- Preserving absolute private property right, Taft-Hartley section 2(5) prohibits workers from bargaining (contributing information or decision-making to) many issues affecting their work, the business, the community, and the socio-economy: layoffs, plant closings, production decisions, investment decisions, product pricing, etc.
- Enforcing “Right to Work” TM laws, Taft-Hartley section 7 enables vulnerable workers to forfeit to state-protected, politically-mobilized, wealthier employers the workers’ own, human collective action capacity.
- Taft-Hartley section 8(b) prohibits the following repertoire of worker solidarity and collective action: sympathy strikes, solidarity strikes, support strikes, industry-level agreements or cross-class planning (in an industry, or in an industrial council).
- Taft-Hartley section 303 illegalizes sympathetic boycotts.
- Taft-Hartley section 301 enables employers to use their superior economic resources to sue and break labor organizations via US federal court. This includes, when an employer repeatedly violates an employment contract, and if the union responds with a strike, the US courts enable the employer to sue and financially cripple the labour organization; and if a wildcat strike breaks out, the US courts enable the employer to sue and financially cripple the workers’ labor organization.
- Taft-Hartley section 14(a) provides a grotesquely-expansive definition of the workers who are not allowed to unionize, whom employers can force to serve as scabs: Any worker whose work includes any sort of “coordination” or “guidance” to other workers.
- On behalf of absolute private property right, Adair 1908 established in the US the unilateral managerial right to fire any worker “at will.”
- On behalf of absolute private property right, Mackay 1938 established in the US the unilateral managerial right to replace workers with scabs.
- US law denies working-class peoples’ rights as human rights (Lawrence 2014: 204). The 2000 Human Rights Watch report highlighted how US labor law violates fundamental human rights.
- In labor law, the US stands out as preserving property owner (employer) absolute liberty, based on servitude, per American slaver John C. Calhoun’s and others’ influential formulation.
- That is why the US Supreme Court features so many jurists educated in the ancient conservative Catholic legal tradition, developed to support warlords’ feudal privileges.
- This extreme anti-worker legal framework, treating working-class people as second-class citizens (or third-class in the case of slaves, prisoner-slaves, immigrants, and immigrant prisoners and prisoner-slaves), is unique in the world for its dogged enforcement and lack of modification over the years (Lawrence 2014: 199). It is also probably why investment capital flooded into the US when Nixon took the dollar off the gold standard in 1971, and why global capital is attracted to the US. The US has committed to sacrifice its own people’s freedom and suppress their human development, in order to most faithfully service domestic and global elites.
Bowles and Jayadev (2007)
Fraser, Nancy. 2017. “From Exploitation to Expropriation: Historic Geographies of Racialized Capitalism: Roepke Lecture in Economic Geography.” Economic Geography 94(1): 1-17.
Gourevitch, Alex. 2015. “Police Work: The Centrality of Labour Repression in American Political History.” Perspectives on Politics 13(3): 762-773.
Klare, Karl E. 1977-78. “Judicial Deradicalization of the Wagner Act and the Origins of Modern Legal Consciousness, 1937-41.” Minnesota Law Review 61: 265-339.
Lawrence, Andrew G. 2014 Employer and Worker Collective Action: A Comparative Study of Germany, South Africa, and the United States. Cambridge.
Lambert, Josiah Bartlett. 2005. If the Workers Took a Notion. ILR Press (Cornell University).
Mittelstadt, Jennifer. 2015. The Rise of the Military Welfare State. Harvard.
Murakawa, Naomi. 2014. The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America. Oxford.
Orren, Karen. 1991. Belated Feudalism: Labor, the Law, and Liberal Development in the United States. Cambridge.
Pistor, Katharina. 2019. The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality. Princeton.
Reply to Reader:
Thanks to the contribution of the reader with an institutionalist meso-level hypothesis on how the US (ignoring the other countries discussed above) produces extreme guarding (not including policing) of the American population. Meso-level, institutional facts, such as high levels of litigation or insurance requirements in the US, suggest a couple of the possible mechanisms for how the US arrives at extreme policing and guarding, and nest under and support the above socio-geographic explanatory (why) framework. Logical modesty begs a distinction between identifying mechanisms and inferring causality. (Causal explanation would have to be able to address the factors the explanatory frameworks address: Why have the mechanisms changed in the top four policed & guarded countries? Why aren’t they as important factors in some other countries? Are they as important in Spain, Greece, and the UK?)
Without assessing common incentives and sanctions driving mechanisms, and without even acquiring a fuller map of mechanisms and their relative contribution to building policed societies, collectives could organize to address a couple of the mechanisms–insurance incentivization and sanctions, and litigation capacity, as suggested in this case. Liberal and conservative political collectives do that all the time. No one really wants to stop reformist organization. I only suggest here that identifying a couple of mechanisms cannot be the be-all and end-all of knowledge. Such undertheorized, piecework reforms are a lot of grinding work, take a lot of coordination and a long time to organize, fail to avoid conflict, still redirect and consume lots of resources, and in the end, the George Bush IIs of the world can keep chortling about how they make the world and the underlings only tap-dance in reaction. The hazard of accepting a couple of institutional mechanisms as a fulsome explanatory framework (accepting how for why) is that if you intervene to suppress these identified mechanisms without considering the underlying cause, you’re just playing whack-a-mole. Whack-a-mole may be profitable for lawyers, and it may occupy political wonks and unfree bureaucrats while more powerful collectives make the decisions, but we pursue social scientific knowledge to improve collective agential contribution to change. They’re two types of knowledge with different functions, built for advancing different types of societies: technocratic v. democratic.
Alternative to using technocratic knowledge to preoccupy the staff, a scientific research contribution for an institutional, meso-level analyst would be to run a regression testing those (litigation rate, volume of insurance requirements for guard protection) and other theorized mechanisms proliferating guard labour (such as extent of military welfare/keynesianism (Mittlestadt 2015), carceral growth rate, etc). If a researcher were able to do that (using rate of change data) across countries, that would be particularly helpful towards mapping out the mechanisms by which policed societies are built. Again, that’s not explanation. It’s not philosophy, and it’s not science. But it would contribute toward science, a collective knowledge, and thus, unlike technocratic knowledge, would not foreclose against democratic development at the outset.
My thesis presented above is distinctively designed to explain not only Bowles & Jayadev’s comparative findings (About guarded and policed societies, inclusive of, but not just lost in the blare and glare of the US. Because they are comparative, they can support more disciplined, valid hypotheses.), but also the work of political historians (also comparative data, across time). As Gourevitch points out in his review of Mitrani & Brecher’s historical work, we can observe the connection between, on the one hand, the historical, high levels of impactful working class (and Civil Rights Movement) organization and the subsequent growth and militarization of policing in the US, solidified into the extremity and comparative absoluteness of working-class repression in the US, see also the notes on US labour law above (per Lawrence 2014), and changes in citizenship law & administration (See legal theorist David Abraham’s work) since 1970. The macro-level explanatory thesis presented here is designed to explain both the political history of militarized policing and labour law & administration in the US, and Bowles and Jayadev’s comparative studies of guarding, as it is reasonable to explain the coincidence of quantitatively-extreme guarding with quantitatively- and qualitatively-extreme policing, though they may have different arrays of mechanisms of implementation, particularly as we have observed change over time and variation across countries in guarding and policing. (Particularly given policing is a state function, insurance or legal “markets” is not a response that can provide adequate insight or explanatory power.)
Explanatory power: The contribution of the macro-level explanatory thesis, here highlighting the relationship between human preferences in geography, climate, and institutional development–particularly state capacity to protect groups from expropriation (Fraser 2017), (as well as aversion to dislocation and loss of financial, cultural, and social capital), is that it supports and guides a number of reasonable, useful consequent hypotheses concerning support for the ongoing development of social conflicts, policing, militarization, surveillance technology, domestic and international politics, racial formation, gender relations, and migration, within the US and similar policed societies (Greece, Spain, the UK).
For example, some of these consequences even impact lawyers. Consider a consequent hypothesis about the spectacular growth of disciplinary student debt amongst lawyers. A fair question that people have asked is: Why do American lawyers put up with that expropriation? With the theory in this post I suggest: Because despite the fact that debt, expropriation, is a major cost to many lawyers, the US still presents globally-comparative benefits (along with the constraint of illiquid smallholder assets): climate, geography, and state protection from even more expropriation (directly or indirectly transferring capacities and assets to financial metropoles). As well, we can add the hypothesis that a litigious market contributes another offsetting benefit to lawyers. This cost-benefit constellation continues to reduce workers’ strategic degrees of freedom; they cling on, with no recourse to voice and no exit strategy. (As well, in the highly-policed society, the voice of the policed is replaced with the sovereign’s voice (See Scarry 1985).) There’s no effective voice for democratic change–it’s bound and gagged by militarized policing and guarding, and as yet there is no substantial defection (exit). So the expropriation– in this case, law school debt– stays. For now, even lawyers are impotent to protect themselves in significant ways.
I also suggest that even taking into account the adverse conditions that exiting the US would impose within the human lifespan (and which Americans, observing, exploiting, and violating immigrants, are very familiar), this individual cost-benefit rationality is not in equilibrium: The structural and political tendency has been and continues to be toward increasing expropriation. In this sense, global capitalists are all the more committed to claiming the hot, policed societies, because they can easily and cheaply mine them. However, that understandably-strong preference (even backed up by state support and a sense of class entitlement) is also a strategic constraint in the changing context of expropriation.
Aziz Rana’s (2019) policy-development prescription (somewhat reformulated by me) for Justice Dems and labor organizers, as a polity-challenger coalition:
1) Labor organizing, building networks capacitating internationalist immigrant organizing leadership.
Problem: “The overwhelming tendency–and not just on the Right–is to present immigration as an issue that begins at the national border, with virtually no attention paid to the particular histories, international economic pressures, and specific US foreign policy practices that generate migration patterns” (Rana 2019).
2) Democratic budgeting exercises reworking the security state budget, to demonstrate popular capacity to democratize foreign policy, and to reintegrate foreign and domestic policy beyond the shallow, corporate-military “America First” working-class appeasement campaign.
3) Policy ideas for transitioning the US from overgrown military keynesianism on behalf of global capitalists to a wealth-circulating, democratic-tech developing, social reproductive economy appropriate to an “overdeveloped” (rentier capitalist) economy.
4) Develop trade policy with constraints on transnational property rights, linked to the domestic economy via enforced labor and environmental standards throughout supply chains, as well as policing redirected toward repatriating (sharing across production-impacted countries) excess profits and other private accumulation stockpiles.
I would add:
5) Organizing needs to address the great portions of the American working class materially and symbolically co-opted by the capitalist security state, particularly guard labor and owners of marginal businesses. These are the American working class, herded by right wing orgs and socially- subsidized into supporting global, militarized rents extractivism at the astronomical cost of global, social and environmental destabilization. Besides designing and investing in a democratic social reproductive economy to reincentivize this working class population, how can as many as possible of these co-opted working-class Americans be reorganized into supporting a transition to democracy, demilitarization, and a social reproductive economy? David Graeber’s lesson in “Army of Altruists” (2007) can be a starting point in organizing strategy: People want to work together for a great purpose.
6) Required: an assessment of policing and military capacity to tolerate v. oppose advancement to a democratic economy and polity in the US. Assessment needs to include an inventory of tools of suppression at police and military disposal.
7) Required: an assessment of the implications of US demilitarization and democratization on international investors, private and state, and their capacity to tolerate v. oppose, including an inventory of tools of suppression at their disposal.
8) Required: an assessment of antidemocratic imperial state partners’ capacity to tolerate v. oppose US demilitarization and democratization, including an inventory of tools of suppression at their disposal.
9) Note that the fight for social democracy in Sweden required that political organizers concentrate on building unions and a union confederation across the country for three decades before launching into the polity with a political party.
This planning sketch recognizes that much of finance-organized capital, as well as the conservative-Catholic US judiciary, and most of the polity are organized against democratic development. As well, it also recognizes historical structural shifts, including those identified by Rana, that can enable organizing toward stymied social, economic, and political democratic emancipation.
I distinctly remember thinking Jeff Manza had his shit together. I thought that in grad school. Then I read a review he wrote in 2015 “Reconnecting the political and the economic in the New Gilded Age.” Did something happen to him–or to me–in the intervening years?
A Review of a Review: Upshots, with my corrections for reality.
- Once upon a time, Sociology reduced inequality to “social stratification,” an anti-Marxist concept that helped Sociologists ignore increasing X-treme class inequality, until a French economist forced them to tapdance.
- U Chicago-brand Monica Prasad wrote a book on how finance is defs not politically- organized. I think this is the same book as the one where she thought, based on not looking for disconfirming data, that the flood of global capital to the US from Nixon on was just lucky and in no way the result of prior elite organizing and the way capitalism works. According to Manza, Prasad’s 2012 thesis is that financialization happened from below, when Midwestern farmers (AKA the German Populist Enemy Within) demanded and got cheap credit.
- I hope (but doubt) that what Prasad is doing is clearing a place in the hearts of elites for Sociology as a court philosophy. I will look away while she does that, and I am not going to be worrying about whether she will be rewarded for such work.
- What is particularly disturbing is the degree to which the sociological hierarchy falls all over itself praising Prasad’s various “historical” narratives about how finance is defs not politically organized. Only one causal chain can explain that protection racket as far as I can tell, and it is the facts that Dems take their money from finance (Manza 2015: 456, citing political scientist Nolan McCarty’s work), and sociologists fall in line as small-time Dem Party hacks. This loyalty (I can’t believe it’s patronage.) is fast turning Sociology into that academic discipline that uses a flimsy, transparent moralistic claim that it is so concerned with the Little People that it is now explaining the rise of social, political, and economic inequality as the micro work of the Little People. Sociology, the discipline thats sine qua non is societal expansion, goes from denying inequality in the 20th century to, in the 21st century, explaining that the irrational Little People made inequality. Just shut the whole shitshow down.
- The sociologists try to argue that finance, the organizing force of capitalism, had no agency in anti-inflationary policy, capital flooding, and by extension inequality. In the bat-shit crazy Dem Party view forwarded by Prasad, Krippner, and Manza, Volcker’s wage-suppressing anti-inflationary policy was just serendipitously followed by an influx of global capital. No, that doesn’t make sense from anything anyone has ever known about financial capitalism ever.
- In defense of this indefensible Crazy Coincidence thesis, Manza mumbles something about how Greenspan was “natural”…and in no way a GIANT POLITICAL MACHINE of the 20th Century as has been shown over and over again.
- So Manza struggles throughout this 2015 review to establish “the popular foundations of a high-inequality regime” (457). It is really painful to watch. The Little People caused post-Trente Glorieuses epic inequality. Ahhhggggghh. That’s the sound of my eyeballs rolling. How, uh, counter-intuitive. How contrarian. Wow. Much agency. So capillary. Amazeballs. With that kind of theory fueling them, no wonder the Dems are so hapless.
- On p. 450, Manza confuses Institutionalism with Power Resources Theory, by erasing the part of PRT that identifies labor movement and labor movement repression as causal factors.
- Usefully, Krippner 2011 (Capitalizing on crisis: The political origins of the rise of finance) shows that the role of finance grew throughout the US capitalist economy. In 1950, 10% of US corporate profits were financial; by 2000, 40% were financial. This is good data to use in building an argument that increasingly, economic growth is about claims on past and future wealth.
- While Manza likes Krippner because Krippner, like Prasad, is saying that the American working class was paid off and supported financialization and inequality, it seems that somewhere in Krippner there is also an allowance for the fact that financialization may have been in the interest of capital. Weird. HELP US, GHOST OF BOURDIEU!
- Apparently it is not enough to finger Midwestern farmers as the cause of financialization and inequality. Manza goes insane attempting to report on Krippner’s theorization of the causal relation between the American working class, qua consumers, and anti-inflationary policy (Manza 2015: 454).
- Supporting evidence for all this American worker-fingering insanity is information from Streek (2013) that American “consumers” benefitted from anti-inflationary policy. Holy shit, liberals (I don’t mean Streek, who got plucked here). Consumers have always been the intermediate beneficiary of imperialism, colonialism, slavery–cheap goods.
- But beyond that Triangle Trade capitalist jump-start moment in the industrializing cities of England, in their worker/reserve army form, that is, most of their lives, the people who are occasionally consumers are not necessarily the beneficiaries of anti-inflationary policy, commodity cheapening, diminished state accountability to the working class and reduced working-class supportive public infrastructure, junk jobs and underemployment.
- American “consumers” are still the primary global consumer beneficiaries of capitalism. Nonetheless, that does not mean that these people caused anything. They are among the most powerless people in the world. It is illegal for them to organize. They have no political representation. Working Americans are famously indebted to the teeth. They are under continuous, massive surveillance. They are infamously incarcerated en masse. They are global capitalism’s worker prisoners, and the cage is usually not gilded. If they’re agents, they’re not sovereign agents, their agency is delegated–Meaning, to understand causation, we need to identify the sovereign agents whose interests are delegated to the non-sovereign agents.
- There may be symbolic domination going on, but it doesn’t mean the interest is American consumers’ own interest, which the Sociologist Dems are leaning on to try to build their causal argument. The American working class has been consuming, not on income, but on debt. Individual debtors benefit from inflation, not anti-inflation.
- American working class debtors are massively different from the exceptional American capitalist class and state, in that American working class debtors’ terms of credit are far, far worse.
- Bereft of the means of production at the expensive center of global capitalism, consumption is required; this consumption is not unambiguously in working peoples’ interest.
- Do you know what is unambiguous? Anti-inflationary policy is the unambiguous interest of finance. If we’re interested in causal arguments–we have the motive. Now all we need to do is look to see if financial capital used its power for political organization.
- Manza tries to claim he is using a Gramscian framework. If that’s a Gramscian framework, then let’s just kill it off before we add any more insult to the injury of Gramsci’s death in Turi di Bari.
- Supporting evidence for all this American worker-fingering insanity is information from Streek (2013) that American “consumers” benefitted from anti-inflationary policy. Holy shit, liberals (I don’t mean Streek, who got plucked here). Consumers have always been the intermediate beneficiary of imperialism, colonialism, slavery–cheap goods.
- Also on 454, Manza seems to think that Power Elite/Power Structure research was defeated by Institutionalism in the 1980s-90s. Wut? Skocpol and Domhoff fruitfully argued throughout their careers (Kind of a model career-long debate, really.), until ultimately, Skocpol admitted she was wrong with her thesis that middle class state workers make US policy. …Because state-centrism was a bat-shit crazy thesis that only survived because capitalism works through misdirection and lying.
- Manza gives a nod to a non-crazy theory. Mark Mizruchi (Michigan, 2013) associates the rise of inequality with the decline of politically-organized capital’s willingness to compromise, eg. when the CED (Committee on Economic Development, from 1942) converted into the fascist Business Roundtable in the 1970s. Mizruchi thinks that business went fascist because rivalristic payments to shareholders became the focus of business management. That begs the empirical question of how finance was deregulated to make shareholders’ financial interests the governing interest.
- On p. 455, Manza reveals his “own view” on what caused “the extraordinary shifts in distribution and life chances inaugurated by the high inequality regime”: When the Little People elected Reagan, that forced a “rational” CEO reaction “to support policy agendas that may prove destructive in the long run.” Groaaaaannnn. Oh, Dems. What happened to you, Jeff Manza? Were you always a putz?
- Jeff Manza sweetly believes that the US is a “democratic polity where the interests of the 99 percent have ample opportunity to demand” democratic policy (455). Now he’s just trolling. He is baffled by why the 99 failed. How has pluralist theory even survived into the 21st century?!!??? It’s not pluralism. It’s frustrated, ad-hoc Dem Party efforts at electoral strategization without acknowledging the political-economic structure that they have contributed to building. At first, I thought Manza was willfully ignoring the work of Gilens and Page, but then toward the end it seems like he might know of its existence?
- Manza has to resort to some political scientist dudes (McCarty et al) to figure out how the Little Peoples messed up Camelot. The idea he gets from Polisci McCarty, and proposes to import into Dem Party Sociology, is that the US has “polarized” politics. “Polarization” refers to the fact that immigrants have reduced citizenship, where capitalists have super-citizenship, were one to obliquely admit of class. No, it’s not clear what this has to do with Manza’s agenda. But as we have since seen, what the Dem Party did with that “polarization” insight was to endorse the Chamber of Commerce’s Open Borders (Decimated Citizenship) platform…permitting the continuance of polarized citizenship and inequality. They must have decided, against the empirical evidence, that the citizenship polarization was not between immigrants and capitalists, but, more fancifully, between immigrants and working-class Americans. It’s difficult to say how Dems construe the decimation of social citizenship rights and the epic growth in criminalization as enhanced working-class citizenship. We are forced into the hypothesis that political and ideological liberals have been conservatized by their dependent relationship with finance.
- In a flat-ontology approach to surveyed attitudes data that should leave Dem Party wonks creaming their pants, Leslie McCall discovers that “Americans do not support programs of redistribution that reward people who are not working” (Manza 2015: 458).
- To me, in all this mess, what is really interesting, and for further exploration, about this manufactured consensus and sine qua non of living in the US, is that owners are considered to be part of the working people, per conservative economic theory. So liberal Anglo-American policy provides public subsidies to business owners, regardless of the business’ function and functionality, in direct opposite to the social democratic policies forcing/incentivizing profitable business and quality jobs. With increasing productivity, and technological unemployment and underemployment, the liberal state that follows existing attitudes is forced to endlessly, irrationally subsidize business owners and withhold resources from workers, or imprison workers. That is the social contract in the US: If you own a business, you will be socially subsidized. If not, you may get lucky, or you may be made into a prison slave.
- Manza thinks that McCall, Newman, and Jacobs’ survey findings indicate that “egalitarian politics are crippled by public preferences. What I am especially attracted to…is the simple possibility that since the origins of the American welfare state, in the broadest possible sense Americans have more or less gotten a version of what they want”…including CRIPPLING INEQUALITY!!! It’s so hard to tell if Manza is a minor Dem Party hack or a Canadian. Manza considers Little Man individual preferences to be “the most parsimonious and elegant solution to the puzzle of the comparative weakness and limited generosity of the American welfare state” (and here he cites himself, from a time in which I didn’t find him loathesome). We have conservative economists. Why do we need sociologists? Why does anyone need a junior economist who can’t do math? Fold up the shop.
- Then, bizzarely, far, far too late in this game, Manza acknowledges Gilens (2012): “the rich (those at the ninetieth income percentile) get what they want (their average policy preference) far more often than the poor (respondents at the tenth percentile).” Manza learns nothing from Gilens, because unlike the Dream Jeff Manza that I have carried in my head all these years, the actual Jeff Manza is stone-cold class blind and utterly unconcerned with face validity.
- That sick fuck Manza goes on to cite a fanciful discussion of oligarchy by a fellow named Winters (2011) in which the US–despite all empirical evidence–is not a “warring oligarchy” but a “civil” oligarchy. WHAT ABOUT THE FUCKING BIGGEST FUCKING MILITARY, MULTI-TIERED POLICE SYSTEM, AND CARCERAL SYSTEM THE PLANET HAS EVER KNOWN?????!!!!! Fuck. Put the fucking Dem Party sociologists out to pasture.
- I will be far less exercised if someone can tell me that Manza wrote that whole review sitting on his hands and trying earnestly to suck the cocks that need to be sucked for Sociology not to die.
- Suzanne Mettler (2011) calls the tax expenditure system “the submerged state.” Manza coins the term “tax avoidance industry” (or something like that. I can’t find it now and am leaving. Might try to find it later. Might have a life instead).
- In the end, Manza recommends researchers find out how former public servants get rich serving capital and then prancing through the revolving door into capital’s waiting opium den. Such Elite Theory interest dissection would probably contribute to providing knowledge for a future society that didn’t want to devolve into a giant stinking pile of shit. I have no idea what the fuck Dems are going to do with that knowledge that they’re not already doing, which is parlaying a sclerotic, capitalist-elitist political system into personal family fortunes.
- I am just going to underscore that never once in that entire Manza lit review article did anyone ever feel the need to justify with clear scientific data or theory the elitist assumption that the American hoi poloi want to be raped. Liberalism has been captured by conservatism.
After the Civil War Democrats almost never won in the Midwest, and the Democratic Party was controlled by business conservatives who were happy enough to lose. They saw their role as freezing out the Progressives and the Populists.
It didn’t always work. In 1915 the North Dakota Republican Party was taken over by a Socialist splinter group called the Nonpartisan League, which was a major factor in ND politics for 30 years and controlled the state for some of that time.
–from HS Merrill. Bourbon democracy of the American Middle West, 1865-1896.
Distinguishing social democracy:
Under left-liberal (as opposed to soc dem) regimes, organized labor does not participate in mid- to longer-range socio-economic planning. However, left think tanks can contribute mid- to long-range planning analyses.
Conversely, there are a variety of ways in which business leaders contribute to public policy formation, because business (public and private, but not cooperative) is regarded by the lib-left govt as the engine of growth.
This exclusion of cooperatives from the field of perceived contributors to growth indicates that lib-left govts may also be distinguished from social democratic govts by an assumption that growth is a product of “efficient” social-hierarchy-inflating organizational forms.
In lib-left regimes, labor views its role, and the liberal government views labor’s role as (often obstructive) ballast to economic growth initiatives that are seen as the natural concern of business. That’s labor’s negative role. It’s not a leadership role.
Labor’s positive role in capitalist democracy thus largely devolves to delivering votes to the left-liberal govt, because although the lib-left does not regard labor as a central social or economic policy resource, as opposed to conservative govts the lib-left govt will not actively try to break organized labor and it may implement those modest proposals of labor that do not impede the business-driven growth planning.
Hence, with a range of ruling (capitalist) political perspectives that always preemptively block information from labor (except what little leaks obliquely through the market), we repeatedly sink into crisis cycles–crisis of profit begets > capital deregulation and overmobilization, working class overregulation, demobilization, and dispossession beget > speculative bubbles/primitive accumulation beget > underconsumption crisis begets > further primitive accumulation, repeat. We fixate on the speculative bubbles moment in the midst of all this autistic failure, hoard wealth, and laud ourselves endlessly for being such top-notch managers and philanthropistes.
This is why for Rawlsianism to work, socialist politics and the communist horizon must be more highly valued, and even defended– by liberals.
As far as I know, this seeming impossibility has only been (temporarily) accomplished in Scandinavia and Minnesota. (While Latin America leftists tried to forge a left-lib coalition from scratch, the US destroyed this effort and enforced conservative rule in Latin America, see Greg Grandin.)
In “Right-wing Rawlsianism: A Critique” (forthcoming in Journal of Political Philosophy) Samuel Arnold argues that if liberals agree that agency is the essence of justice, then liberals have to pick which side they are on–because economic democracy fosters more agency than Trickledown provides.
Arnold’s is a clever detonation of a bridge from liberalism to conservatism, using some of the bridge-builders’ own ideal theory tools. (Particularly with respect to Rawls’ difference principle: A liberal justice-maximizing directive to choose the political-economic system that maximizes the least-advantaged group’s expectations for an index of primary goods that include income and wealth, but also status (qua capacity for agency in the workplace and self-respect in society).)
Upon deriving the optimal realization of liberal justice (agency) in workplace democracy, Arnold concludes (p. 32),
Milquetoast liberal egalitarianism is unstable: liberal egalitarianism must move far to the left in order to avoid being jerked far to the right.”
We need to keep heaping on the demonstrations that economic democracy fosters more agency than GDP/GNP tumescence.
For one example, insofar as political-economic systems can be said to have intentions, how plausible is it that capitalism does not intend to support social pathologies (Arnold, p.29)? Studies of primitive accumulation, the WEB DuBois tradition, socialist feminists, Harvey et al have a lot to say about how capitalism “intends to” (is built and maintained to) and does depend upon and support social pathologies. This approach apprehends the connection between economic (eg. workplace) tyranny and racism, sexism, colonialism, etc., for a powerpunch assertion that inequality is both fundamental to capitalism (even if it is shifted around across some social groups, over time and space) and fatally (from the perspective of justice) undermines agency (power to).
…& on the matter of historical-materialism’s putative incapacity to deal with difference (from a postmodern POV), from Arnold (p. 29):
Patriarchy, discrimination against the weak or the different, pressure to conform, and countless other social practices that prevent people from realizing their full agential potential: how long can these pathologies withstand the countervailing winds of a social democracy, with its democratic workplaces, its flattened division of labor, its robustly egalitarian public institutions?”