Capitalism in times of cholera

Image: Najman Husaini


Opponents of positions that disagree with neoliberalism, who want to put the economy at the service of citizenship, become mortal enemies, cucarachas – in a metamorphosis without metaphor

The evolution of capitalism, initially, went through three moments: manufacturing, free competition and monopoly. The latter is characterized by the interdependence of monopolies and the State, in the 1950th century. One proof lies in the organic ties between war factories and world powers. Monopoly capitalism is distinguished by the fusion of banking and industrial capital, which formed financial oligarchies. Trusts and banks are at the origin of megacorporations, in a market that is still disorganized. Between 1960 and XNUMX, there was a shift from “capitalism in crisis” to “organizational capitalism” that historians of Western society and culture call “regulatory state”, passi passu with imperialist expansion.

Thus, through habit, the figure of the regulatory State was naturalized in the subjectivity of the people. On the right, it explains why governments deny plebiscites on the privatization drive of companies strategic to common sociability: water, electricity, gas, etc. On the left, it explains why anarchists had particular difficulty in spreading in the post-war period.

Neoliberal inflection

The radicalism of the free market spread across the North and South hemispheres in the 1980s, endorsed by the Washington Consensus. It shows the overwhelming ideological hegemony of neoliberalism – the fourth moment. Criticism of the principle of regulation and central planning is increasing, as it encourages the “culture of dependence” (to Leviathan). The claim echoes individual freedom to attack the welfare state. The egoic version of freedom hides the aporophobia against the poor and class eugenicism, translated into the cut of public investments to increase the “culture of enterprise”. According to Margaret Thatcher, “society does not exist, what exists are individuals and families”. In this conception, social life is a place of passage rather than a place of sharing. Goodbye to decisional democratization.

Regulation does not evaporate into the air; is transferred to the private sphere. However, even privatizations do not diminish the importance of the State, in theory, for two reasons: (a) they require the immediate creation of controlling agencies and; (b) the state apparatus is the one who legalizes hyperexploitation. The “new reason for the world” seeks to reconfigure subjectivity to litigate regulatory agendas, not to celebrate them. But the capitalist dilemma after railwayization, motorization and computerization continues. How to expand a propped-up system apartheid socioeconomic? How does the abandonment of millions of people set a systemic limit to necropolitics? “The social responsibility of companies is profit”, says Milton Friedman, to block the discussion (sic).

Broken democracies prioritize political representation, in the sense that citizens do not directly participate in the government of the polis; They choose representatives to delegate the power to decide on the direction of management. Popular aspirations are hijacked, with the financialization of the State. Finance in neoliberalism causes brutal deindustrialization. Artificial Intelligence replaces professionals with higher education in sectors of activity, and removes traditional jobs from the middle class, which is plunged into unemployment.

Liberalism separated itself from neoliberalism, at the time when parties were capable of institutionalizing and resolving social conflicts, respecting the Bobbian “rules of the game”. With the disallowance of dialogue, through hatred, there was a short circuit in the horizon of concertation. Social movements double down on active participation to politicize their actions. They are pushed towards national and international maximalism. Right-wing extremism imposes a gaze on the totality. Parliamentary cabinet articulations give in to the “politics of enmity”, enclosed in bubbles. Democracy in abstracto it was compatible with capitalism; in particular it's not today.

The great causes

If dictionaries are the cultural thermometers of each era, what did Oxford do in 2016 for “post-truth” (“post-truth”) a symbol of our time, it is worth turning to Dictionary of political science and political institutions, organized by Guy Hermet, Bertrand Badie, Pierre Birnbaum and Philippe Braud, to evaluate the sudden shift that affected the understanding of politics, a generation after the book's release. The edition printed in Lisbon, in 2014, repeats the 7th printing from 2008 of the original in French. The cover is Eurocentric, featuring an emblematic reproduction of the plenary session of the European Parliament in Brussels. It is understood, from the outset, that the core of the concept of politics refers to inter-party arrangements.

The entry “Politicization” (pages 239-40) classifies with the epithet “idealistic vision” (mistaken, detached from reality) the “conception of politics as a fight for 'great causes', permeated by ethical motivations: social progress in the name of solidarity, the sacrifice of particular interests in the name of patriotism, the emancipation of workers in the name of justice and reason”. Then consider. “Too intense politicization is dangerous in pluralist democracies, because it is likely to sweep away the spirit of negotiation and the concern for pragmatic compromise between social forces”. The entry is reminiscent of the “end of history” speculated by Francis Fukuyama, with the formalization of the end of the former USSR. In other words, politics should stick solely to parliamentary corporatism and give up revolutionary passions.

Normally, the dictionaryist's objection would even be understandable. Given the historical crossroads between fascism and democracy, the narrative is an anachronism given the threat from the extreme right. It is surprising that the entry has not been adapted to the era of post-liberalism, where opponents with discordant positions become mortal enemies, cockroaches, in a metamorphosis without metaphor. It is up to democracy to immunize itself from cholera to advance in a civilizing process, and to put the economy at the service of 99% of the citizenry. The discourse on the great causes – climate catastrophe, inequalities, wars, racism, sexism, invasion of privacy by algorithms, precariousness of work – articulates minds and hearts. The anti-fascist struggle is the other side of the anti-neoliberal struggle and the struggle to supplant theocratic conservatism today.

In Brazil, part of the so-called “elites” endorses the January 8 coup. Basically, on the one hand, there is the defense of finances and laissez faire – the free market; and on the other, support for regulation – State planning. The controversy over Petrobras' net profit is enlightening. Entrepreneurs want to distribute the extraordinary revenue of R$80 billion in the form of dividends to shareholders, in addition to what was expected: a practice against the country due to the misgovernment of Michel Temer and Jair Bolsonaro. With the Globo ahead, they opposed the federal government's Sustainable Reindustrialization Program (2023). Those who understand the role of the oil company in directing the Brazilian economy postulate the surplus to strengthen the company – the naval industry, the energy transition.

Here is the summary of the comparison of projects. At Globe News, resentment roared: “Talk from the eighties. Interventionist. Name and surname, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.” Mass media are part of, rather than arbiters of, the dispute, that is, activists of rentierism. Norberto Bobbio already in fin-du-siecle accuses the corporate media of being an obstacle to democracy, with the sophisticated argument: they pasteurize individual thought and destroy the basis of the Republic. The ideal of the neoliberal patrol is governability with voluntary servitude to financial interests.

By association of ideas, it reminds us of the speech of the late José Paulo Bisol back in 1994, in Largo Zumbi dos Palmares, in Porto Alegre, about the class struggle and the urgent importance of building collective resilience to make the people, subject from the story: “We feel small to fight, but when we hold and lift Lula's hand it becomes strong. Collectively discovers that he can overcome oppression and oppressors. So we walk into the future, together.”

* 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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