Ordocapitalism and anarchocapitalism

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By ELEUTÉRIO FS PRADO*

The State began to be seen to some extent as an enemy, as in Javier Milei's speech that rails against its protective and redistributive activity

Introduction

In this article, an effort is made to understand these two extreme – and extremist – forms of capitalism, which contradict the normal course of capitalism (liberal or social democratic). They appear in history when capital faces crises that it cannot overcome through mere mercantile functioning – falls or increases in production, expansion and contraction of markets, destruction and creation of capital.

Preliminarily, it is indicated here that the first form mentioned appeared with historical fascism and that the second has manifested itself through neoliberal extremism, which is thriving in various parts of the world.

These two historical forms of capitalism will have to be better explained, but they can be clarified here, introductory: if ordocapitalism was an expression of “a rising and expansionist logic” that affected this mode of production in certain centers of capital accumulation , anarcho-capitalism currently presents itself as the “social logic of decline and collapse” (Catalani, 2020, p. 14).

As we know, this logic began to expand after this mode of production fell into obsolescence, especially in the West. Before trying to construct a more complete explanation, it is necessary to take two initial steps, the first of which consists of presenting a general framework of the problem.

The corporate organization that implements and allows the reproduction of the capital relationship is not limited to the economic system, but also includes the State. If the capital relationship, as a production relationship based on private ownership of the means of production, places structurally antagonistic classes, the State is constituted as the superstructural form that “suppresses” this antagonism, establishing a unit that takes the form of a nation. This creates a class domination capable of reproducing itself in historical time.

Now, to better understand the relationship between the economic system and the State, it is necessary to be aware of the base/superstructure duplicity. This is because it has not been understood as rigor, but, on the contrary, it has been very mistreated in Marxist literature.

As Ruy Fausto (1987) explains, this duplicity cannot be understood as a spatial or architectural metaphor. It does not refer to two floors that would be overlapping, even if the lower/upper distinction suits it. Nor can we think of levels that interpenetrate or interact through reciprocal causality. The base/superstructure duplicity forms a contradictory totality, whose poles are in a tense relationship, even if they are complementary. In fact, even so, they cannot be thought of separately or as if they were only externally united.

Note: the base is implicit in the superstructure and it is through the latter that the first becomes socially effective, albeit in a way that hides it. In other words, the base is presupposed in the superstructure since the function of the latter consists of positing the former positively, that is, through the negation of its contradictory character. Given this relationship of constitution, it is understandable why the base, which is inferior, has a superior determining force: this is where the engine of the system as a whole is found.

The second step is to present classical capitalism in broad terms in terms of its ability to face the crises that are engendered by it. Now, this can be understood from a development of the dialectical presentation that consists of The capital. In this capitalism, capital enters into crisis and overcomes these crises under the complacent supervision of the State.

The key to understanding the logic of crises is therefore found in this well-known thesis by Karl Marx: “The true barrier to capitalist production is capital itself”; because, “the means – unconditional development of the social productive forces of labor – comes into continuous conflict with the limited objective, the valorization of existing capital”. “Capitalist production constantly seeks to overcome these barriers that are immanent to it, but it only overcomes them by means that put these barriers before it again and on a more powerful scale”. (Marx, 1983, p. 189).

However, the two forms of capitalism investigated here, one of which appeared in the second and the other in the fourth quarter of the 20th century, are historical (negative) developments of classical capitalism, in which the State positions itself as an interventionist – positively or negatively – and passes to play an important role in overcoming barriers to capitalist production.

Classical capitalism

Now, the derivation of the State as a basis in The capital, which is presented here, is found in a seminal text by Ruy Fausto: “the presentation of The capital does not put the State” [explicitly, even though this was in Marx’s plans]; However, “the categories of The capital they implicitly contain, that is, they presuppose (in the sense in which the post is opposed to the presupposition as the explicit to the implicit) a theory of the State” (Fausto, 1987, p. 287-288).

Thus, to better understand this societal organization, it is necessary to consider the exposure of the circulation and production of capital as a whole in order to derive the State as a necessary complement to the economic system. Ruy Fausto shows that the State in its classical configuration has to be understood based on the contradiction between the appearance and essence of the capitalist mode of production. In what follows, 'appearance' and 'essence' are taken as reflexive determinations.

By “appearance” we must understand social relations as they appear in the circulation of goods, a sphere of action in which men place themselves as equal economic agents, as free contractors and as self-interested “subjects”. And by “essence” we must understand the social relations that structure the production of goods, a moment in which men appear to form classes, that is, as “subjected subjects” who assert themselves as workers or capitalists.

These social classes are in opposition, but interact in the production of goods; behold, the capital relationship becomes a relationship of subordination of work to capital, in which the working class is exploited by the capitalist class. Appearance and essence are in contradiction and it is from there that a presentation of the State arises.

See what Ruy Fausto says: “Traditionally, it is stated that the State must be presented based on the 'class' contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. This formula is not wrong, but it is not rigorous. (…) The starting point of the development of the State is (…) the contradiction between the appearance and essence of the capitalist mode of production. (…) The capitalist State (considered in terms of forms) does not derive from the contradiction between classes: it derives from the contradiction (interversion) between identity and contradiction”. (Fausto, 1987, p. 293).

In other words, through the force of laws, the actions of its bodies and the agency of its employees, the State guarantees and reaffirms the identity of contracting agents, as well as their status as people with rights; in doing so, he contradicts the class contradiction. It is, therefore, a constitution by negation. Just like liberal ideology in its classical form, “the State only keeps the moment of equality of contracting parties, thus denying class inequality, so that, contradictorily, the equality of contracting parties is denied and class inequality is posited” (Fausto , 1987, p. 300).

If the force of ideology operates in culture and, thus, in the understanding of the world of social individuals, the State operates in society as a material force; uses violence against transgressions of laws in a preventive or repressive manner.

In addition, the State dresses economic agents with the status of citizens of a certain nationality. The set of social individuals – atoms as such – forms only an abstract universality since they, therefore, are united only by an external bond; in this way, they are positioned as apparently equal economic “subjects”. Now, as this bond is insufficient to hold society together, the State also constitutes a concrete universality: it places the set of atoms as members of an illusory community, the nation.

This second negation also has a structural functionality: “it is necessary that the atoms have been placed as non-atoms so that the position of their totality as a totality of atoms is possible” (Fausto, 1987, p. 306).

The State is, therefore, in the words of Ruy Fausto, the guardian of identity; its function is to guarantee the stability and continuity of the process of reproduction of social relations that constitute capitalism. These relationships require this supervening and supervising instance precisely because they are contradictory. It turns out that capitalism is not a peaceful system that expands quietly; on the contrary, because of the disruptive nature of its contradictions, not only does it not exist without minor and major crises, but it contains within it the possibility of collapse. Hence the guardian can transform itself, under the demands of necessity, into a strongly intervening State.

It should be noted, however, that the State never acted in a merely reactive manner. The classical State not only took care of defense and justice, but also produced public goods such as infrastructure, education, health, etc. In doing so, it exposed the contradiction between the social character of production and the private character of appropriation: State spending, even if necessary for the subsistence of capital itself, even if it creates effective demand, impacts on profitability, and was therefore perennial object of criticism by liberal incontinence.

As the State is also, in principle, a collective capitalist (Engels), it can go beyond the limits set for the classical State, thus configuring itself as an intervening State itself. Thus, it regulates and manages competition, acts to prevent (ex-ante) and to mitigate (ex-post) the effects of imbalances and economic crises; It makes use of fiscal, monetary and exchange rate policies, etc. for this purpose.

Furthermore, he intervenes in the class struggle, on the one hand, facilitating or constraining the capitalists, on the other, repressing or protecting the workers; its purpose, in these cases, is to prevent this struggle from advancing and threatening the existence of the system itself, whether through revolts or revolutions. Furthermore, the State can transform itself into an economic agent; in this case, it implements industrial, technological and geopolitical policies with a view to addressing deficiencies and incapacities in the private sector; with this objective, it can occupy “empty” spaces in the “national” productive network through the creation and development of state-owned companies.

All of this deserves a detailed explanation and is found in the recommended text by Ruy Fausto. Here, however, only the two cases mentioned in which state intervention becomes extreme are examined. Therefore, the appreciation of their similarities and differences instructs on the tense complementary relationship between the State and the economic system.

Ordocapitalism

What is here called ordocapitalism was described in a very pertinent way by Herbert Marcuse when he examined the configuration of capitalism under National Socialism (1999). To understand it, it is necessary to see that every crisis in this system reveals itself as a crisis of overproduction; and that structural crises occur when the concrete forms of social relations of production begin to prevent the advent of a process of overcoming. The ruling class then feels that it needs to change them. To this end, he sees it as necessary for an extraordinary policy to modify the current situation, altering institutions, as well as the power relations between classes.

This is how this author characterizes the situation in Germany after the end of the First World War: “Germany rebuilt its industrial apparatus at an astonishing pace, but the shrinking of the internal market, the loss of foreign markets and, above all, the social legislation of Germany Weimar Republic, prevented the profitable use of this apparatus. In these circumstances, a return to a direct imperialist policy offered itself as the most plausible solution.” (Marcuse, 1999, p. 111).

Now, this is the situation that National Socialism, but also other historical fascisms, face. The process of capital accumulation in certain advanced countries was constrained by the lack of markets and colonies at a time marked by expansion and imperialist struggle. Overcoming this situation seemed, then, to require a reordering of production relations internally, as well as the adoption of a national project that had to be militaristic, ascendant and expansionist.

To do this, fascisms did not create a totalitarian state that subordinated all private and social relations to itself, that repressed the individual and stripped him of all his rights; differently, he suppressed the traditional separation between State and society, thus building a State in which all classes became corporately integrated. Instead of appearing as an illusory community, it now presents itself as a mystical community.

In this way, says Herbert Marcuse, a political system is created in which dominant social groups directly govern, especially the party, the armed forces and the great barons of industry and commerce. To legitimize itself – says Herbert Marcuse – this government needs to “manipulate the masses by releasing the most brutal and selfish instincts of individuals” (idem, p. 109), just as they have already been shaped by capitalist sociability itself.

Herbert Marcuse quotes speeches by Hitler himself to show what this transformation consists of: as “modern society perpetuates itself through relentless competition between unequal groups and individuals” (idem, p. 112), the central task of the fascist party consists of positioning the nation , on the international stage, as a winning power. To this end, economic relations needed to be transformed into political relations, so that decentralized decisions began to be centrally coordinated.

The State, as a result, had to be reorganized according to the large company model; the principle of efficiency that creates large monopolies should be the basis for the reorganization of society as a whole. Hitler then promised that “the new State will become the executive agent of the economy, which will organize and coordinate the entire nation for unlimited economic expansion” (idem, p. 114).

Ordocapitalism, however, is not the only historical form of capitalist extremism. This, in general, tends to appear when formidable barriers to the resumption and continuity of capital accumulation arise. These are generally constituted by tanatory, pseudo-heroic ways of confronting the limits of capitalism.

Anarchocapitalism

Under this name, extremism thrives (originating, in fact, from neoliberalism) which, unlike the previous one, aims to politically depoliticize economic relations that were politicized by workers' struggles, as well as by the actions of socialist or social-democratic parties within capitalist formations. In contrast to what is aimed at by ordocapitalism, the purpose of anarchocapitalism is to impose the empire of mercantile competition as a way of guaranteeing the sovereignty of the capital relationship in the production of goods.

To understand why this modality is emerging now, it is necessary to be aware, as was done in the previous case, of the specificity of the crisis of overproduction in the current stage of capitalist development. What extraordinary barrier has now been put up by capital? Why is he having such a hard time confronting her?

As we know, neoliberalism consists of an economic, social and political response, and even a practical normativity, to the profitability crisis that undermined the growth of Western capitalism after the end of the 60s. Now, this crisis affected not only some imperialist countries that were competing for supremacy with others in the world market, but the system as a whole and, in particular, the uncontested hegemonic power since the end of the Second World War. Furthermore, it brought the system to an impasse (Prado, 2023).

The persistent fall in the profit rate and thus the structural crisis hit both the core countries and the peripheral countries. For this reason, neoliberalism presented itself as a discourse that preached the dismissal of the State; henceforth he himself would need to stop being responsible for a large part of the public service he had been in charge of until then.

State intervention would have to be reversed, that is, it would have to dismantle social protections, counter the progressiveness of taxes, deregulate health, work and environmental systems, etc.; Furthermore, he should promote private initiative by implementing a policy of privatization and facilitation for private capital.

To justify these policies, the State began to be seen to some extent as the enemy. This is what can be found, for example, in the speech of Javier Milei, champion of anarcho-capitalism who vociferates against the protective and redistributive activity of the State: “Libertarian thought opposes any and all attacks on individual property rights, the person and to objects that he voluntarily acquired. (…) All people and schools of thought reject the random exercise of violence against the individual and property. However, the fundamental difference between libertarians and other people is not in the area of ​​private crime, but in their view of the role of the State, that is, the government. For libertarians, the State is the supreme aggressor, the eternal, the best organized. The State is a criminal organization. All States everywhere are, whether democratic, dictatorial or monarchical.” (Milei, 2022, p. 170).

Instead of the State being seen as a mythical community as in fascism, or as a community in the process of realization as in social democracy, or even as an illusory community in classical capitalism, it is seen as “excessive” by libertarianism. Here, he thinks based on a mythical market that can be conceived without the State.

Even so, it surreptitiously admits that the State must maintain its functions in the sphere of defense, justice and, above all, security, as well as infrastructure, as it is the guarantee of the existence and functioning of markets and competition. For this reason, he believes that he needs to give up as much as possible of his preventive functions in the fields of employment, health, education, etc. Behold, any redistribution of income and wealth is criminal for anarcho-capitalism; it ultimately undermines the profitability of capitalist enterprises.

Even though it cultivates the use of violence against surplus labor and against socialists and communists, anarcho-capitalism is therefore neither fascism nor neo-fascism (Prado, 2024). Now, this second name has been used as a mere rhetorical device; in fact, it is just a way of thinking about this historical form that does not take into account the dialectical presentation in which it consists The capital.

As the political ideology that also supports this historical form is characterized by being denialist – it denies that the solution to the crisis requires the destruction of accumulated capital, especially financial capital, it denies that the climate crisis puts human civilization at risk, it denies that the goods public are necessary to maintain society, etc. – this new extremism really deserves to be called ecocidal, genocidal and suicidal.

*Eleutério FS Prad is a full and senior professor at the Department of Economics at USP. Author, among other books, of From the logic of the critique of political economy (anti-capital fights).

References

Catalani, Felipe. “After midnight in the century: Adorno and the analyzes of fascism”. Presentation to the Brazilian edition of Aspects of the new right-wing radicalism. São Paulo: UNESP publishing house, 2020.

Fausto, Ruy. “About the State”. In: Marx: Logic and Politics – Investigations towards a reconstitution of the meaning of dialectics. São Paulo: Editora Brasiliense, 1987.

Marcuse, Herbert. “State and individual under National Socialism”. In: Ideology, war and fascism. São Paulo: UNESP publishing house, 1999.

Milei, Javier. The path to the libertarian. Buenos Aires: Planet, 2022.

Prado, Eleutério FS “No, it’s not fascism”. https://eleuterioprado.blog/2024/02/11/nao-nao-e-fascismo/

Prado, Eleuterio FS Capitalism in the 21st century – Sunset through catastrophic events. São Paulo: CEFA Editorial, 2023.


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