Saturday, April 25, 2020

Old Findings For New Times

From John Kenneth Galbraith's The Affluent Society (1958), I know that widespread attitude to waged work among some in the United States is outdated. The conventional wisdom is that work is necessary because it is needed to produce the goods that sustain society. That was largely true before productivity increased so much, for example, in the post war golden age. Some jobs are still essential, by any narrow definition, but much wage work goes to creating goods and services that in any previous society would have been considered useless luxuries. (As I get older though, I disagree with Galbraith about medicines to improve peristalsis.) But waged work, in the current system, is essential for providing the income needed to sustain the demand to keep the system going.

From Paul Davidson and Joan Robinson, I know about the distinction between historical and logical time. It as not as if the economy is in an equilibrium that will be approached again, and quickly, after a downward shock is removed. People will recall, and those who are out of work will try to cut back their spending. States and localities that have had to increase their spending to address such a shock will need to retain the ability to spend, and even to increase spending.

From Michal Kalecki's "Political aspects of full employment" (1943), I know that the ruling bourgeois class cannot be counted on to support what is even in their immediate short term financial interest. Unemployment is convenient for keeping the mass majority of the population, the labor force, cringing and hard to press for more of a share in the commodities that they produce. Even so, the backwardness of politics in the United States these days is hard to explain.

From Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), I know that one strategy in implementing totalitarianism is to declare a marginal group stateless, outside your laws and international laws. Refugees and immigrants are one such group that one could try to apply this strategy to, if you are for evil. From Carl Schmitt's The Concept of the Political (1932), I know that sovereign is he who can declare the state of exception. I resent that these ideas are relevant today.

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