Capitalist fratricide (neoliberalism)

April 29, 2015

 

The nation-state and capitalism were born as twins from the fertile, ancient womb of greed and power-hunger. They grew up together, were playmates from an early age—going on treasure hunts, playing Cowboys and Indians, in their later years preferring Monopoly—learned from each other, helped each other achieve their dreams, relied on each other in difficult times. Their youths and early adulthood were full of storms and stresses, brutal competition with bullies in their neighborhood—feudalism, aristocracy, absolute monarchy, foreign empires—in addition to more distant but redoubtable enemies like community, untamed nature, and the stubborn human urge for freedom, but in the end, working together, they were able to triumph over all adversaries. And yet just at the pinnacle of their glory, cracks in their relationship emerged: the nation-state, the (slightly) more responsible partner, resented capitalism’s reckless and profligate ways and thus demanded adherence to codes of behavior that capitalism found onerous. So the latter, having always been the more ambitious and restless one, plotted to free itself from all constraints, whatever the cost. At last the opportunity arose: with the help of new technology it broke free of nation-statist, welfare-statist restrictions and roamed the world unencumbered by social contracts or conscience. Power-mad, it reveled in orgies of violence and destruction that reduced every country they touched to semi-chaos. With blind disloyalty, having been corrupted to the point of insanity by power, it finally even turned against its brother and plotted to kill the nation-state. Perhaps the state’s continued remonstrances against the totalitarianism of profit-making, feeble and infrequent though they were, annoyed it. Whatever its motives, capitalism resolved to sabotage the laws, conventions, contracts, treaties, borders, and civil society organizations that were the conditions of its brother’s life: former compromises between the siblings were scrapped, and capitalism appropriated more and more of the world to its own private sphere of arbitrary power. The resultant social disorganization, popular protest, and ruination of nature amounted to a slow-acting poison wending its way through the nation’s metabolism, making it ever sicker and more desperate to suppress every rebellious symptom of the illness. At the same time the state, ironically, behaved especially abjectly toward its conniving and too-powerful brother/partner, trying to stay in capitalism’s good graces—and too weak now, anyway, to act independently. All its efforts, however, were for naught: its sibling had outgrown it and showed no mercy. The nation-state succumbed to its afflictions and approached death.

 

–But a surprise lay in wait for capitalism. Far from now being the supreme, unchallenged power on earth, it found, as it stared in epiphanic panic at its collapsing brother, that in killing the nation-state it had also killed itself! A reckoning worthy of Edgar Allan Poe’s horror! The dying state could no longer protect capitalism from its enemies or its own demonic will to self-destruction, and so it, too, advanced swiftly to its mortality. Thus the brothers, still dripping with blood from all their conquests, were swallowed up in the death-heap of history, to which they had themselves contributed so mightily. Death reclaimed its own.[1]

 

 

[1] See my paper “The Tortured Demise of the Nation-State.”

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NOTES OF AN UNDERGROUND HUMANIST

© 2014-2019 by Chris Wright