Finance and cities

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By LUIZ MARQUES*

In important municipalities, the 2024 elections will function as a kind of plebiscite on the neoliberal city model

In the United States, there are those who postulate that governability results from the pact of different elites, in situations of conflict and compromise, and that political pluralism goes hand in hand with social pluralism. This “polyarchy” (government of many) expresses social orders governed by competitive and inclusive elections. If they do not exactly coincide with popular sovereignty, it helps in the collaborative atmosphere based on the binomial “competition with negotiation”.

There are also those who defend governance orchestrated by a unitary “power elite”, in a “political-industrial-military complex”, and want to transform the State into a real community to deepen democracy. The mention of elites and not social classes, in both perspectives, is a sequel to McCarthyism rather than a theoretical or methodological option.

In Latin America and Brazil, the discussion is less about who has power and more about how the exercise of power is practiced. For the Marxist thinker Fredric Jameson, in The culture of money, “we are paying more attention to investments and the stock market than to industrial production, which is about to disappear.” Like a boat that has lost its rudder.

The good news is that, if the idea of ​​cutting taxes on the rich (Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher) marks a neoliberal shift in the world in the 1980s; In the opposite direction of finance, President Lula and Minister Fernando Haddad include the taxation of large fortunes on the contemporary agenda. The proposal in solidarity with the welfare state reaches the G20 and Pope Francis – pollen germinates.

A rentier dictatorship

At the beginning of the 20th century, money was concentrated in cities and changes invaded populous cities. Currently money goes to the stock market. The end of the productive stage of capitalism opens the door to easy profits in the financial transactions themselves, Money/Commodity/Money (DMD), through the snowball effect. The trade formula of selling one commodity to purchase another is reversed, to circulate the economy (MDM).

Then new parasites appear, where the aristocracy used to be. Capital flight to geographies with higher rates of return on investment or cheap labor is left behind. The money does not come from the factory floor, extraction niche or highly profitable technologies, but from the Stock Exchanges. Financial capital separates money from concrete soil, to fly like a butterfly after metamorphosing into the chrysalis and flapping its wings in globalization.

Social life becomes hostage to rent-seeking. Deindustrialization causes the accelerated vacancy of production territories. In the old historic centers, factory halls, warehouses and offices for importing and exporting goods become deserted. Transparent buildings appear in a degraded scenario, with what has been called “corporate urbanization”. Revitalization does not bring back productive activities, only deposits and neoliberal institutes. As in a fifth-rate detective novel, the killer always returns to the scene of his crime.

Surnames of megaconstructors (Melnick / Porto Alegre and Patriani / ABC paulista) single out the movement of “creative destruction” of urban spaces. Real estate speculation discovers other forms of profit through intervention in Master Plans. Buildings are built not for people to live in apartments, but to invest and profit. The productive economy in Brazil sinks, while the orchestra plays.

Surveys show that families and companies pay around one trillion reais per year in interest and various fees for unproductive financial services. This is the host toll on the real economy. The extreme right takes advantage of the counter-revolution of nonsense. La bete humaine violent, obscurantist and corrupt anomie lurks.

Imagination to power

The drama of the climate crisis in Rio Grande do Sul, the result of denialism and the evident negligence of the state governor (PSDB) and the mayor of the capital (MDB), triggered a warning to sailors in these murky waters. The wear and tear is less than would be reasonable, given the obvious responsibility of those responsible for the extent of the cataclysm. From the Guernica In Brazil, what remains is the resilient image of a horse on the roof to escape the flood – and the urgency of reflecting on the circumstances of politics in our time. The 21st century demands from the left the imagination and power to formulate syntheses between the economy, culture and nature, anticipating experiences of utopia.

In important municipalities, the 2024 elections will function as a kind of plebiscite on the neoliberal city model. The rational alternative involves progressive political forces in association with the Workers' Party. The PT has paradigmatic successful experiences in municipal administration in various regions of the country. Institutionalized at the federal level, the ideological mark of social participation reveals the path to popular sovereignty. The libertarian and egalitarian dimension of politics must be exercised by the people, as subjects of history.

Voters will be faced with two visions for living. One refers to the speculative financialization of the public sphere, in which the conviviality of the commons is discarded: “society does not exist”. Due to cognitive limitations and human deficits, urbanity is interpreted based on its majesty, the car, and gated communities. Otherness configures the enemy, and creates prejudices behind colonial walls. Individual freedom comes into direct contradiction with collective happiness. “While the whole night revolves / over the unequal homeland”, to evoke the verses of Ferreira Gullar.

The alternative vision defends the appreciation of diversity and solidarity in a multicolored context, protected by the presence of young people and cultural, sporting and leisure activities. Without which republican democracy becomes a monstrous caricature of itself. But to win, we must combine economic struggles for redistribution in society with agendas for identity recognition. The vote can no longer be explained solely by the economy. If that were the case, approval in federal government surveys would hit records, with a positive GDP balance. Issues of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, environment and religion also affect hearts and ballot boxes. The moment requires a lot of creativity, courage and boldness. The new person must show his/her face, without any fear of being happy.

* Luiz Marques is a professor of political science at UFRGS. He was Rio Grande do Sul's state secretary of culture in the Olívio Dutra government.


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