Friday, January 25, 2008

Tony Judt: Anti-Communist
But if I am right and our present circumstances will not endure indefinitely, we might do well to take a second glance at the way our twentieth-century predecessors responded to the political challenges of economic uncertainty. We may discover, as they did, that the universal provision of social services and some restriction upon inequalities of income and wealth are important economic variables in themselves, furnishing the necessary public cohesion and political confidence for a sustained prosperity—and that only the state has the resources and the authority to provide those services and enforce those restrictions in our collective name.
Funny. Everyone's trying to find a way to bring an idea of the collective back into polite conversation. But the state is only a byproduct of community: of the networks of reciprocal obligation which then authorize it to act. Contra neoliberalism market exchange is not the model for social exchange; it's not the model for community but an aspect of it. Ask DeLong if he wants any of his children working for an honest arms merchant. Ask him what it means if he says "no" not as a lawgiver but as a person. How does one communicate and extend that logic not through law but through social exchange, conversation and argument?
In his version of our present dilemmas no one is to blame. "As citizens, we may feel that inequality on this scale cannot possibly be good for a democracy.... But the super-rich are not at fault."

...Like its nineteenth-century predecessors, this story combines a claim about improvement ("growth is good") with an assumption about inevitability: globalization—or, for Robert Reich, "supercapitalism"—is a natural process, not a product of arbitrary human decisions.
If supercapitalism is natural, then so is the opposition.

A Brief History of Neoliberalism: Thanks to my old roommate for the pointer.
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Here's DeLong with his usual snide commentary and a link to the letters section of the NYRB.

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