Posted 139 days ago
I was a little frustrated with this essay because it sometimes seemed like a standard introduction to progressive thought. But I was also glad to read it because it gave some fundamentals to progressive thought that I had never heard about before. For example, the social structures of accumulations (SSA) make a lot of sense when we look at the economic growth and recessions. I am typically skeptical of writers that say "we are on the cusp" of something, because it tends to be a form of alarmism. Everything is "unprecendented" or "ripe for change" and that sort of language often seems like unecessary flare that doesn't lead anywhere.
But, I do have to say that Kotz's perspective that the neoliberal era is coming to an end is a good one. He says not to expect it to end this year, but that the process of change is a slow one that has already started. This is apparent in the structural crisis:
Neoliberal institutions are no longer effectively promoting accumulation. The mechanism driving debt-fueled consumer spending, which had made economic expansion possible in the face of wage suppression, ceased to operate after 2008.
I think there is a lot to pick apart here. Kotz implies that the economic growth of the neoliberal area was driven mainly by household debt and the consumerism that the availability of money provided. Whereas spending actually increased, the real wages and earnings of working-class people stagnated or even decreased, unable to keep up with inflation and the flight of capital across borders in search for cheaper labor.
I think that this point, that labor was exported across borders is agreed on by the Left and the Right. The centrists, or otherwise neoliberals, are those who still think that globalism is fueling growth. This may be true for the growth of capital and certain countries. But domestically, working-class people saw their wages decrease and either opted for Right-wing nationalism, or Left-wing democratic socialism. Neoliberals try to target nationalists (including some socialists paradoxically) saying that they harbor racist ideologies. This may be true for some, but the resentment I think rests on the flight of capital and labor and less on ingrained racism. The Right has just been able to combine some of this rhetoric together and build some sort of a movement.
The other takeway from this piece is that for some reason, the Left believes that higher minimum wage and health care are somehow the property of the Left. This is simply not true. If you look at many authoritarians, they often argue for increased wages, affordable housing (which they often build outright) and better healthcare. The Left cannot claim responsibility for these things: everybody wants them (other than, arguably, neoliberals). We must move away from this rhetoric that we are somehow the only people pushing for these things, and instead change the rhetoric that the Left is the side pushing for these things while also giving power to the people (not usupring it into authoritarians).