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The economic crisis: Changing the rules of the game PDF Print E-mail
The Labour Movement-Economy

worldthegafi_mapThe world economic crisis is unfolding according to the rules of the financial elite which is responsible for the concentration around itself of vast masses of capital and power.  Finding a real way out from the crisis presupposes a search for the political, psychological, and techno-economic causes of the crisis, which are interlinked and definitively affect our life. Unfortunately, there has not been up to the present any comprehensive discussion of this, in spite of the fact that everybody recognises that the causes are complex and interwoven.

In the case of the present stage of evolution of our civilisation, the bridging of the political, psychological, and techno-economic aspects of life in such a way as to avoid the temptations of totalitarianism without a lessening of the element of tragedy seems an exceptionally difficult project. Our anthropological nature and history militate in favour of the view which sees the element of tragedy as the more profound and rapid way to liberation and progress of consciousness. The tragic nature of our economy has led us to discover the 'other' as society. The tragic character of capitalism - as even Marx pointed out in the Communist Manifesto - with the uprootings which it brings about prompts us to quest for brotherhood, comradeship, freedom, and justice.

It would not be right for this quest to take place in order for us to attempt to curb the crisis and its tragedy in retaining an unjust form of power, alienating for the spirit, but rather for us to be effective and provident in length and depth of time. We must not function by shielding negative features, giving them a stay of execution, so that in the end they mutate in the future into more negative, neoplastic, malignant factors. It would be wise on our part for this to constitute our insistent criterion. Any crisis, in order 'not to be reproduced as farce', must be consummated at the level of an understanding of it and its therapy must have a depth, so that it is not restricted to the stereotyped interpretations that appeal to realism - which, in the last analysis, contributed to the crisis - and should not compromise with recourse to the makeshift solution of seeking for 'pain-killers' at a time when a very serious disease has been diagnosed.

Unfortunately, however, the handling of this crisis, as attempted by a broad range of governments and agencies, manifests opportunistic conservatism, which can, on the one hand, be a basic factor in dealing with the emergency and 'intensive care', but does not answer to its long-term management. It is to be feared that, when people draw back from the crisis, they think they revert to those points which are particularly attractive as illusions. As John of Sinai said: "only the one who has heard the death penalty pronounced against him will no longer be interested in schedules for theatre performances".[i]

On the recognition of the need for existential intervention in the market
We are called upon to put together immediate and effective measures with long-term regulations which, as is often the case, may belong to a different perspective from those we are expecting. The problem is that in these policies we are faced with a crisis which is at the same time one of concepts and of personnel. The human-technical-institutional character of the political elites is inherited from and structured by the past, as is the anthropological and economic character of mass society. At the same time, there is a lack of discrimination on the part of institutions, governments, and executives in the face of the crisis. We have not included in our purview the fact inherent in every crisis which is the law of diminishing returns… of the institutions of democracy, supervision, transparency, and the market.

The interconnection of interests and the spread of demand for indiscriminate abundance of means together with the declining performance of institutions and means have not been evaluated. It is only the dramatic nature of the crisis which has brought us to an acknowledgment of the perilousness, the potential, and the necessity for an existential intervention in the economy. By an existential intervention we mean an intervention at the foundations of privatism and of its authority on in the market itself.

The imperfect Obama reforms, Merkel's one-sided proposals, the Volcker Rule - all these in reality, with all their imperfections, bring to the fore the end of the self-evident status of the authority of privatism and of the market, only it is an end which does not manifest itself as completed. There is no real restructuring of the institutional surplus value of these 'self-evident' features through an understanding of the crisis. The ban on short selling, the Tobin tax, taxes on banks, the Volcker Rule on the prohibition of the use of deposits on the stock market (the detachment, that is, of the specific means in the 'evergreen' cycle of profiteering), the control of the credit-rating agencies and of the manipulation of ratings, the protection of consumers from aggressive tactics on the part of financial institutions and investment capital organisations- all these admit for the first time the aggressiveness or the malignancy which can exist in the actions of the market, of privatism, and of the corporate subject. Nevertheless, there is much still to be done to stop non-transparent tax, deposits, and property paradises operating, together with paradises for institutional, environmental, and social dumping, in parallel with the irresponsibility and anonymity of shares.

What has been built up is a false paradise and a hypocritically manufactured innocence and common benefit which wanted to be produced by privatism and profit. In the end, the acknowledgement of the aggressive tactics, of the risks and of the principle of sustainability in the face of the financial institutions - the hedge funds and private equity - which draw on capital which they then invest in a profiteering manner, the restrictions on the possibility of undertaking risks on terms of a profiteering and competitive market game, and the possibility, finally, of the splitting or control of economic subjects, companies, enterprises, and capital by the public authorities or third-party organisations in order to avoid collapse, as well as the possibility of splitting or merging by a third factor - these are an admission of this need for existential intervention in these institutional and conceptually self-evident items which had stifled the academic evolutionary process in a form of scholasticism.

The recognition of the circles of capitalist, insurance, banking, investment, and credit-rating organisations as factors for interdependent vested interests and as factors for a scale of power and hazardous profiteering interests permits us, now, to see the emperor without his clothes, to realise that there is a Lernaean Hydra or a host of 'voracious beetles'.

The whole crisis permits us to review anew the economic subject: economic concepts, the language of economics, brands, and communication. This is an enormous benefit and we must through re-positioning, re-thinking, and planning escape from narcissistic self-entrapment and our competitive individualism which is hidden as a leaven of frivolity or fragility, and which distorts, in the end, the ideological clarities of the Enlightenment, as these were expressed in the theory of Adam Smith or Immanuel Kant; the latter, moreover, was more far-sighted in speaking of the twisted timber of humanity and engaging in an on-going anthropological quest. Nevertheless, nobody could do an injustice to Adam Smith - nor should we - since, deep down, he was a thinker of 'moral sentiments' and of a sympathetic imagination, of the solidarity which is generated through the imagination, or of comradeship.[ii]

The basis of the procrastinatory handling of the crisis and of the disaster is founded upon the fact that we are not doing comprehensive work on the conceptual, academic, and institutional authority of the concepts, but, on the contrary, we are shoring it up with the prestige of demand and of academic and mass society. The prestige of demand is fed by the specific anthropological dynamic which is typical of the present point of evolution of man and of the next step which he is called upon to take.

The Gordian Knot of profiteering with vast popular share capitalism
The quest for profiteering in the stock market requires a vast popular share in capitalism, whether this is leveraged by the interdependence of vested interests, or by brands of communication or of the mass media. Precisely the same characteristic was to be found behind the belated trend towards and completion of control of profiteering manipulations of the stock market through short selling. The same demand of the vast popular share for the ensuring of successful profiteering lies behind the refusal of taxes, rules, and conditions. It is the same thing which is behind the generalised risk-related profitisation of the means as power and as lucre. In speaking of money, this is the basis for the rollover of private economy risk on to fiscal and recessionary restructuralism.

This is the basis, the nature, and the hypostasis of the Gordian Knot which we must cut by reasoning, by will, and by action. It is the same constituent which maintains the tax, deposits, and labour paradises with their lack of transparency, and, consequently, with their unfair competition and dumping.[iii] The issue of the cutting of this Gordian Knot must be made up of: (1) the basic axis of the relation between state and economy and planning or reason;[iv]

(2)the basic axis of the dynamic as a movement and culture of a new labour movement,[v] on a universal and local scale, without our attempting to control the field of innovativeness by fundamentalisms which will have no viability within us.

We have to make the institutions sustainable, in cultural and anthropological terms, thus changing the economic models both within us and in the economic system, which is from a functional point of view the deciding, definitive factor. We must throw light much more on the framework and issue of demand, in order for us to be able to control its evolution without totalitarianism and without a harsh and risk-laden market futurism.

Now that the self-evident property of the derivatives of the intangible economy is 'at an end', together with a series of other things once taken for granted, we must, through experience, look again at the totality of the concepts and the system, re-examining also our own relation with them.

This renders even more imperative our need for an anthropological initiation and development. The cultural and environmental needs which press for a change in the whole of daily life in the direction of a more harm-free energy footprint, and the needs which are connected with the recognition of a fundamental holistic model of human health, as well as the need for the updating of classic values - not in a fundamentalist but in a creative and evolutionary way - are what will initiate us.

On a succinctly rational, re-thinking and re-planning negotiation

We shall understand better how rotten is our fortuitous dynamic of managing the crisis if we become conscious of how catalytic the role of China and other countries has been. These countries were not included in the academic interpretation and strategy of the system and have operated as hybrid neoplastic markets; but it is these which, in the last analysis, have maintained the markets in state bonds of the developed economies and the dynamics of their transactions. They have also maintained demand, with the possibility of domestic demand in times of recession and have served as the reserve which has averted the total collapse of the world economic and financial system.

It is exactly through the scope provided to these countries for distortions as regards social and environmental issues or issues of political cost and regulation of the markets from the field of labour to that of consumption that a temporary postponement of the crisis has been achieved.

Generally, it could be pointed out that now we must rid ourselves of the geopolitical, geo-economic stereotype to which we have been accustomed. What is regarded as the basic backbone of the system, that is, the economies which are structurally 'more healthy' - such as that of Germany - has based its systemic sustainability and perspective on a controlled zone of monetary and institutional paternalism, as are the horizons of the eurozone, on none too healthy games of international comepetitiveness.

The chimaera of 'globalisation', of the 'end of history' and of 'neo-liberalism' has now shown definitively its limits by driving the model and the interpretation of Adam Smith to a fundamental long-term crisis.

It is by our ability to approach these issues from the foundations up that our future sustainability will be judged, but providing that re-thinking and re-planning will not be relegated to a simplistic and naive good will. We must take into account once again proposals from bodies such as the 'Club of Rome' and the 'Club of Budapest', which, while they operate on and are committed to lines of 'soft' politics, refuse to degenerate into the zone of a radical totalitarianism which itself functions as a recycling Lernaean Hydra of crises.

We need new procedures and a new method of approach. This is also prescribed by the critical re-thinking of the founder of the Club of Budapest, Ervin László,[vi] and of other thinkers with alternative proposals. What is needed is a clear will based upon a thorough and succinctly rational re-thinking and re-planning negotiation. Clearly, in the field of action, there is a need for a co-ordination of agencies for this to be able to achieve a transformation on terms which will make use of, alternatively, all the academic, systemic, and anthropological heritage creatively, in an evolving way, and cohesively, without the incompetence of low politics and the perils of a barren quasi-ideological radicalisation.

Ioannis Zisis, Writer

Photo from Wikimedia

[i] John of Sinai, The Ladder of Divine Ascent [in Greek], publ. Holy Monastery of the Paraclete, p. 163, para. 59, 'Concerning Joyful Sorrow on the Ladder'.
Sen, Amartya, The Economic Manifesto - Another Reading of Adam Smith.
Dumping: The exportation and sale of products at a price (or even below cost price) lower than that in the domestic market or at an international level with a view to annihilating the competition.
Moutsopoulou, Ioanna, The State in the Free Economy: the Economy as a Sector of Strength and Power.
Zisis, Ioannis, Decline and Rebirth of the Labour Movement.
László, Ervin, Quantum Shift in the Global Brain Greek version], Archetypo publications, 2009.

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