The paradox of globalization

Image: Pierre Blaché
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By ANDRÉ MÁRCIO NEVES SOARES*

The world has never been so divided despite the process of capitalist globalization

"How Is There Going To Be Peace\ When There Is No Justice, Oh No, Oh\ Someone Is Taking More Than Their Share\ Of The Bounties Of This Land And That´s Not Fair\ So Little People Got More Than They Need\ While There´s So Many Hungry Mounths In The World To Feed\ And I Am Would Give My Heart So True\ And I Will Give My Love For You, Tell Me\ How Is There Going To Be Peace\ When There Is No Justice Oh No , Oh\ Someone Is Taking My Share And They Just Don´t Give A Darm\ No They Don´t Care\ So You Just Might As Well Face It\ Cause There Ain't No Other Way To Erase It\ And I Will Give My Heart So True\ And I Will Give My Love For You, Tell Me…” (Jimmy Cliff, Peace).

Globalization, as the final paradigm of humanity, aimed to make human society one, breaking down borders. This dream (perhaps the most appropriate term is reverie), cherished especially by the most powerful forces of big transnational capital, has attracted efforts, in the last 50 years, in the sense of accelerating the process of capitalist globalization. In fact, we are gathered in a kind of global village like never before. From the most remote corners of the North Pole to the research and surveillance stations in the most extreme part of the South Pole, there is no lack of control and surveillance communications from the countries that operate these endeavors. And yet, the feeling I have, and which is shared by many people I know, as well as corroborated by the news that infests us daily, is that the world has never been so divided. To be honest, barring the globalization of financial markets for play money, the reality of planet Earth has never been so calamitous.

In this sense, the paradox becomes even more perverse when we realize that technological progress has raised us almost to the category of the mythological demigods of antiquity, both in terms of the wonderful ability to propose previously unimaginable solutions to save lives and to envision future nuclei of human life on other planets. . However, that same technological progress, in the hands of a small contingent of people, has served to segregate and kill many human beings.

I don't need to go far to remember the daily drownings in makeshift boats (or even precarious boats) for crossing the Mediterranean Sea, which transported/transported human beings fleeing the horror of hunger and war in their countries of origin.[1] Indeed, the recent initiative of the government of England, to transfer refugees to Rwanda in exchange for money, demonstrates the cruelest face of this upside-down globalization. Fortunately, for the time being, this frightening measure, which clearly reveals man's total lack of empathy with his fellow man, is suspended by judicial determination.[2]

The Hungarian thinker Karl Polanyi (I prefer to refer to him that way, as his curriculum is vast) wrote a book that is now considered one of the 100 most important books of the last century.[3] In it, Polanyi translates all the social implications of a particular economic system, the market economy, which reached its fullness in the XNUMXth century. But not only that. Polanyi also dared to try to demonstrate that the market economy was the main pivot of the social devastation sponsored by what he understood to be the tragedy of the Industrial Revolution. As you can see, even though the capitalists have ferociously launched themselves in pursuit of excessive profit, it was the transformation of man to the condition of labor and of nature to the earth, as merchandise, that chained the history of human society to the shackles of a system greedy and insensitive economic system unheard of in the last two centuries.

However, not even such a powerful mind was able to completely get rid of the capitalist foundations he described. In this sense, Polanyi states: “The congenital weakness of nineteenth-century society was not the fact that it was an industrial society, but a market society. Industrial civilization will continue to exist even when the utopian experience of a self-regulating market is no more than a memory” (2000, p. 290). That is why he admits inequality, large estates and rent-seeking. And this is also why your prediction of the end of the self-regulating market system has so far failed. Let's see: “The collapse of the traditional system will not leave us in a vacuum. It would not be the first time in history that improvisations would contain the germs of large and permanent institutions... But the result is common to all of them: the market system will no longer be self-regulating, even in principle, since it will not include work, land and money” (idem, p. 291).

Now, how to reconcile such a conclusion, allowing wage differences in the economic system, private property and investment management? The corollary of Polanyi's misconception is to imagine the end of market society without eliminating the market itself. Thus he wrote: “These (markets) continue, in various ways, to guarantee the freedom of the consumer, to indicate the change of demand, to influence the income of the producers and to serve as an instrument of accounting, although it ceases to be, entirely, an economic self-regulation body” (idem, p. 293). And yet, the dilemma he was unable to resolve lies precisely in the paradox of globalization between institutional regulation, intra and inter-walls, and individual freedom, in a society as complex as that of the XNUMXth century and even more so of the contemporary one.

Therefore, in order to advance in this brief understanding of what such a global paradox means, we need to turn to someone more current, in this case, the French economist Thomas Piketty.[4] Our intention here is not to discuss his work, but to point out a historical peculiarity of capital that will allow us to unveil the veil that permeates the capitalist dynamics, from the 2014th century onwards, when this author managed to gather more or less complete historical series of the main countries developed. In this vein, what calls the most attention in the first half of the book is his perception that “Excess capital kills capital: whatever the institutions and rules that organize the capital-labour division, it is natural to expect that productivity capital marginal decreases as its stock increases” (211, p. 1975). However, in complete paradox with this maxim, the capital stocks of the most developed countries increased again in the final third of the 2010th century and the beginning of the 15st century. In fact, as Thomas Piketty showed, the share of capital in rich countries between the period 25-1970 went from 25 to 35% of national income in the 2000s, to something around 2010 to 217% between the years XNUMX-XNUMX ( ditto, p. XNUMX).

In this perspective, globalization has not promoted the reduction of world inequality through scientific progress. On the contrary, making use of what Thomas Piketty called the “bargain of capital against labor”, the last decades have seen increasing mobility of capital after less regulated markets and precarious labor, in order for it (capital) to continue expanding relative to national income. The consequence of the increase in capital stocks in the main countries of the planet shows that, although the human portion of this capital will remain important in its uninterrupted production process, nothing guarantees that the labor factor will also increase in the same proportion, given the great elasticity of replacement capital-work (>1) in contemporary times by the substantial accumulation of these capital stocks by the technological race. Furthermore, the technological increment itself requires constant updates in the qualification of human work, which will necessarily narrow the portion of the world's population qualified for this changing technology.[5]

Thus, Thomas Piketty recalls Karl Marx's teachings on the process of capital accumulation, to say that capitalists "dig their own grave" by forcing human capital to accept an ever-smaller share of national income, when the permanent growth of productivity and/or population declines. The balance of this equation that does not close resulted, many times, in revolutions and generalized expropriations, due to capitalism suffering from its own internal contradictions.

In fact, Thomas Piketty showed that even liberals, such as Paul Samuelson, knew that Marx's idea about the infinite accumulation of capital promoted a continuous instability in the growth process of the economies of these rich countries and that, for this very reason, short-term volatility The term of this balanced growth did not guarantee any harmony in relation to the distribution of income “and did not imply any form of disappearance, or even decrease, of inequality in the ownership of capital” (ibidem, p. 227).

We arrive, at this moment, to conclude Thomas Piketty's participation in this article, to the current scenario of the paradox of globalization, from an economic point of view. Indeed, it is quite possible that we are seeing a resizing of capital stocks in rich countries based, mainly, on the meager demographic growth. But not only that. With big capital no longer having borders, and the increase in the elasticity of substitution between capital and labor in the long run, it is possible, as Thomas Piketty says, “the share of capital to be around 30 – 40% of global income, or close to the levels observed in the 228th and XNUMXth centuries – perhaps surpassing even this value” (ibidem, p. XNUMX).

In this way, we would be going back in time to the time of Belle Epoque, of strong expansion of capital participation during the first phases of the Industrial Revolution. This scholar's conclusion, that economic and technological rationality does not necessarily lead to democratic rationality and meritocracy, is instigating, although predictable, as is the conclusion that technology and the market have no limits or morals. If productivity growth, resulting from the increase in technical knowledge, frustrated, for the moment, the worst Marxist predictions about the disastrous consequences of the infinite capital accumulation process, nothing prevents this apocalypse from happening if the deep structures of capital are not changed .

Nevertheless, I think it is important to try to envision the next footprints of globalization, even if the path is under heavy fog. In a recent article translated into Portuguese,[6] Michael Hudson of the University of Missouri showed, according to David Graeber's book – Debt: The First 5.000 Years (ed. Três Estrelas) –, that the neoliberal narrative of the “sanctity of contracts” and “property security”, as a “continuum” historical, does not make the slightest sense. Indeed, as Michael Hudson goes so far as to ironize, if a Milton Friedman clone had convinced any Pharaoh of Egypt to follow the “free market” playbook, archaic civilization would not have lasted so long. For no past civilization, not even Rome, survived when, in Hudson's words, it "instituted what has become the distinguishing feature of Western civilization: handing over control of government and its legislation to a class of wealthy creditors to monopolize the land. and property”. And yet here we are, over the last 50 years, developing new apologies for the “free market”, especially in the western world.

Consequently, what is historic is the continuing attempt by Western oligarchic families, at least since the heyday of ancient Greece, to maintain the legal system that Michael Hudson called “pro-creditor”, to reduce the bulk of the general population. to the condition of debt slavery and servitude and, currently, to the clientele of this (re)producer system of goods – capitalism. This finding opens a gap for us to elaborate on two possibilities for the future of globalization: the first is the optimistic view of economist and Harvard professor Dani Rodrik,[7] about a possible restoration of economies and societies, after the damage caused by what he called “hyperglobalization”, on the part of policy makers under the mold of a new spirit of what was Bretton Woods. Well, imagining that is the same as acquiescing to a possible third world war, given the context in which the peace agreements Bretton Woods happened. But would we survive another world war?

The second possibility would be to start creating the right conditions for human society to create a new, more rational social and economic order, therefore an alternative to capitalism, which will free us from self-destruction as a species. At this point, in economic terms, the main necessary measure that immediately jumps to the eye would be “de-profitability”[8] of everyday life.

In other words, at that first moment it would be fundamental to interrupt the dynamics of the current mode of production of the pursuit of excessive profit. Obviously, economists know how to do this. But I dare to ratify the central idea of ​​a portion of economists who imagine a future with the redemption of money only as a means of paying everyday debts, as Hudson well illustrated. Thus, salaries consistent with the daily needs of each one; moderation on the part of governments, in line with the old maxim of economics: “unlimited desires x scarce resources”, so imperative in these times of severe climate change; in addition to a strong and progressive tax on large incomes, which, by the way, would not be new for the Nordic countries. This could be a promising start to resolving the globalization paradox.

* André Márcio Neves Soares is a doctoral candidate in social policies and citizenship at the Catholic University of Salvador (UCSAL).

 

Notes


[1] See what happened recently in the Spanish enclave on the “horn” of the African continent of Melilla, Morocco: https://www.ihu.unisinos.br/619900-espanha-e-marrocos-transformam-melilla-num-cemiterio-para-quem-tenta-fugir-das-guerras-e-da-miseria-denunciam-teologos

[2] https://g1.globo.com/mundo/noticia/2022/06/14/voo-de-imigrantes-do-reino-unido-para-ruanda-e-suspenso-apos-liminar.ghtml

[3] POLANYI, Karl. The Great Transformation – The Origins of Our Time. Rio de Janeiro. Elsevier. 2000.

[4] PIKETTY, Thomas. Capital in the XNUMXst century. Rio de Janeiro. intrinsic. 2014.

[5] Here it is important to emphasize that what is stated above, specifically in that last sentence, does not refer to Piketty's writings because he only based himself on statistics from rich countries, in the first half of his book. In the second half, in which he addresses the issue of inequality and capital concentration, in addition to proposing a new welfare state for the future, it is possible to have a more global view of this global paradox between capital x labor.

[6] https://aterraeredonda.com.br/como-a-civilizacao-ocidental-derrapou/

[7] https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/after-hyperglobalization-national-interests-open-economy-by-dani-rodrik-2022-05/portuguese

[8] Readers forgive this neologism, but it seemed to me the most appropriate way to emphasize what I intended to write.

 

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