Saturday, December 01, 2012

Unwelcome Guests #625 - Jettisoning Accustomed Categories of Thought (Marxian Class Analysis 2)

[MB: This lecture by Richard (Rick) Wolff is probably one of the best explanations/introductions to American political and economic history from the 1970s to the present - brilliant, accessible and engaging.]

Episode #625 - Jettisoning Accustomed Categories of Thought (Marxian Class Analysis 2)
Unwelcome Guests

The one thing that is clear is that new ideas won't emerge without jettisoning much of our accustomed categories of thought, which have become mostly shear deadweight if not intrinsic parts of the very apparatus of hopelessness, and formulating new categories of thought.

— David Graeber, Debt, The First 5000 Years

To prepare ... for David Graeber, ... the show [starts] with the soundtrack of a short video of Charles Eisenstein speaking about the nature of greed. Is [it] innate, or is it a function of a money system which produces artificial scarcity?

Next Richard Wolff develops the Marxian class analysis he introduced last week, and uses it to give an overview of the last few decades of American economics and politics. He notes that a combination of factors meant that labor was in great excess in US in 1970s, giving capitalists the chance to hold down wages while pocketing the increased surplus value. In the face of increasing social disengagement of the 80s and 90s, big business increased their control of the levers of power and managed to hold down wages, effectively changing the terms of the social contract as described recently by David Graeber. The working [class] maintained their consumption levels ... first by [reducing] their savings rate and then by borrowing ever increasing amounts. Meanwhile the increased disposable wealth of the capitalists birthed the 'Financial Services Industry' which used a variety of innovative 'financial products' to lend this money back to the working class, to substitute for their shortfall of wages. This is a 'bigger picture' talk which does not dwell on the economics but uses them as a backdrop to help explain changes in US politics and society since the 1970s.

[The episode ends with a continued reading of] David Graeber's [Debt: The First 5,000 Years, [with] his 'bigger picture' summary of the book's main message. Do we want to contribute an escalating proportion of the surplus to maintain the apparatus of hopelessness? This week Graeber reminds us of the bloody and violent origins of markets, something which economists seem determined to try and avoid.

To Listen to the Episode

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