"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Nov 11, 2010

On Austerity

Austerity is not "about the economy." It has nothing to with competition, job creation or fiscal solvency. It's not about efficiency. It's not about the commonweal. Austerity is about changing the function of the State back to an older, more versatile, more enduring stable form. Austerity is about preserving the State as a military-policing instrument, whilst shedding those functions which currently provide a buffer against the mastery of the class which controls the state. Where once the ruling class had to buffer the laboring class from the worst excesses of capitalist accumulation, in order to maintain a sufficiently stable and trained laboring population, this condition no longer obtains. The ruling class can, because of globalization and the "offshoring" of plant capacity to crippled and re-colonized "third world" nations, now return to a more traditional set of relations with labor and the growing lumpenproletariat.

Tripling the rate of tuition, or cutting social security - regardless of your opinion of public education, government schools or social insurance - doesn't make the state any more or less solvent. The ruling class will have the State which serves its interests best. It will always fund the State it needs.

It - especially now that globalization has engendered a compact supranational master class -  no longer needs nationally disciplined industrial working populations. So, from the vantage of the ruling class interest, it makes sense to reduce the size of the managerial education pool by pricing out those competitors for positions who lack the class interest. This has the added benefit of more clearly identifying those persons who are willing and able to pursue management and professional education, as well as those with the drive and self-deceptive skills necessary to rule others and pretend that this means "liberty."

So too, with the now overt intent to reduce the carrying capacity of the already meager American social insurance system. Again, regardless of opinion about government social welfare, the ruling class no longer needs a labor force shielded against the vagaries of the market. Nor does it any longer require the artificial construct of the nuclear family, in any large numbers, to produce the isolated and alienated workers and professionals who formerly staffed and managed large scale industrial concerns, as well as their support, food provision and health maintenance adjuncts. So, it has begun to shed those State functions which encouraged both the disciplining of labor by education and social security, as well as the disciplining of persons by the artificial nuclear family isolated in single family homes, and raised with an insular, parochial morality of "self-determination."

This is what austerity is about. The transformation of the state. We are lucky enough, if our perspectives are sufficiently broad, to be witnesses to a new set of initial conditions.

And to fuck with them hard, if we get our act together...

[h/ts to Dead Horse and slackbastard for the inspiration]

UPDATE, some 8 hours later: Well damn. BDR says it really well, and in less words:

"Corporate (I'd change the metonym to Triskelions if I thought enough people got the allusion) doesn't want more or less gov't, it wants gov't to do what the fuck Corporate wants gov't to do which is to enact regulations that protect private property from Democracy and to dismantle regulation that impedes their amassing capital at such a greedy pace the machine would crash of itself and/or spark a revolution. Call the first the GOP, the second the Democratic Party, in either case the motives are the same.

It's not coordinated - the economy may collapse yet, resource wars are sure to erupt between competing triskelions - but Corporate enforces orthodoxy and orthodoxy says power always wins."


@ndy said...

Glad to help. (Hope you can find the 99% hard work!)

Off the top of my head: probably also worth recognising the (economic) contradiction between enforcing austerity on the one hand and requiring increasing consumption on the other. To some extent this has been solved by military Keynesisanism (in the US), but is arguably not sustainable in the longer-term as other productive forces develop elsewhere...

Nice blog btw.

Jack Crow said...


Thank you.

Great point about the tidal force tension between consumption and austerity.

Is it possible that the (military, subsidization, tax credit, etc) encouragement of broad late capitalist consumption is an attempt to create a temporary stop gap, once which allows the various factions and clusters of financial elite time to create legal and structural firewalls around the emerging forms of capital and exchange systems* which appear likely to dominate exchange (between those with access and wealth, as well as between master, client/creative, laboring, lumpen and fodder** classes) in the near future?



* - For example: the cell phone as a currency transfer/banking/consumption node? And its potential replacement of credit cards and other payment vehicles?

** - it's my belief that the future presents an opportunity to global capital to capture, especially in third world and peripheral zones, a sub-lumpenproletariat whose sole purpose, from their perspective, is to provide fodder for wars and terrorism, as well as bloodsport...

Jack Crow said...

Bill Gates, on cell phones:


Heh. Thanks, Bill. Funny thing to find on the SwoonPo this am...

Anonymous said...

Yeah Jack. Yeah.



Quite easy and not inconsistent to have "austerity" for los pobrecitos and ramped up consumerist spending for las ricas.

"We'll bail out the mortgage banks, but you broke Ameicans losing your homes to foreclosure, you're gonna have to learn some austerity."

Always the way, in Amerikkka.

Jack Crow said...

Thanks, Charles.

I'd also like to kindly recommend Justin's piece at Americana. He does a better job with the subject matter than I:


Justin said...

You did just fine.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Austerity is about preserving the State as a military-policing instrument, whilst shedding those functions which currently provide a buffer against the mastery of the class which controls the state

Feudalism's back.

** - it's my belief that the future presents an opportunity to global capital to capture, especially in third world and peripheral zones, a sub-lumpenproletariat whose sole purpose, from their perspective, is to provide fodder for wars and terrorism, as well as bloodsport...

The prevalence of sex-tourism junkets is a foretaste of this.

Jack Crow said...

Wow, BBBB. That's a great insight. Do you mind if I make reference to this (sex tourism) in the future?



@ndy said...


@Jack: Maybe. Dunno. I suppose one of the things that occurs to me as an issue is the question of agency. That is, to what extent the particular permutations of the (global) market economy at any particular historical juncture are the product of state or corporate planning (conscious political agency) as opposed to proceeding from the cyclical nature of capitalist production (the investment cycle). To put it another way: I wonder to what extent financial or other elites can determine the general thrust of their responses, whether in terms of encouraging particular forms of mass consumption, employing legal strategies, or crafting state policy. I suppose I have in mind shit like the G20 summits and other meetings of the transnational ruling class, their planning systems and institutions. Also, to what extent the global economic system is structurally bound to generate 'crises' of one sort or another.

The situation is further complicated to the extent that (you or I or) we make further distinctions -- specifically in terms of exchange -- between other kinds of social relations (that is, in addition to capital/labour). Also, to what extent any is reducible to the other.

Fwiw, and on a slight tangent, I've been reading some blah blah blah by Mark Latham (a former Australian Labor leader) recently on 'social capital'. It's this kind of thinking -- described, broadly speaking, as constituting the 'Third Way' -- which I think, perhaps especially in Australia and the UK, aids our understanding of the kinds of broader social planning Western elites are engaged in in response to the contemporary economic and social crises associated with 'neoliberalism'. It's also worth noting inre the recent upsurge in social struggles in Europe in response to the (attempted) imposition of new austerity measures...

Where was I?

Oh yeah.

About the creation of a 'sub-lumpenproletariat whose sole purpose... is to provide fodder for wars and terrorism, as well as bloodsport...'.

Pretty much, yeah. Only, I think this role has been allotted to many for some time. In fact, perhaps even a lesser role (that is, termination). In which sense it's not 'new' perhaps so much as seemingly terminal. (I have in mind the kinda stuff written by Mike Davis et al.)

@Charles: Oh yeah, totes. And it's a general trend, not peculiar to the US by any means (altho' of course each territory has its own local peculiarities). But as I understand it, mass consumption actually varies in its economic effects from that associated with the om nom nom of elite sectors. That's why economists, those miserable scienticians, debate the nature of 'stimulus packages'. It appears to be generally recognised that re-distributing some minor fraction of national incomes to the poorer sectors in the economy is much more likely to lead to increased consumption, whereas subsidising 'los ricos' can often provide a weaker stimulus to the economy given elites' rational preference for re-investment (and further accumulation).

If any of that makes sense.

Anyway, here's a song you might enjoy...


Anonymous said...


Only some of it made sense. The "economics" part, the Qs on econ-policy strategy... I find them pointless, like sports fans discussing statistics instead of playing the game.

cripes said...

Thinking I was having an epiphany of sorts the other day, I was trying to explain to someone that this austerity nonsense has nothing to do with "saving money."

It is precsely about the fact that Americans are just another cog in the international capitalist order, and the project is intended to render them, and Europeans, as indigent as the rest of the planet and desperate for the plantation wages that colonials have suffered for years.

The privileges of a national proletariat once served to secure their loyalty to the order are outmoded, and rapidly disappearing.

The only thing exceptional about this country is in playing the role of world capital's military enforcer, and the astounding ignorance of our people.

Jack Crow said...

Cripes: "The privileges of a national proletariat once served to secure their loyalty to the order are outmoded, and rapidly disappearing."


But I wouldn't wager on their scientific commitment to socialism, all the same.

When it comes down - especially in a country with as much lingering jingoism and jeebus, that whole "wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross thing" comes to mind.



@ndy said...

@Charles: Fare enuff.

@cripes & Jack: hmmm, maybe, dunno. I think what secures the loyalty of a national proletariat to the state/elites is complex/over-determined. Isn't one of the apparent contradictions of contemporary US politics the support given hostile political actors (Republicans blah blah blah) by a largely White, and impoverished 'proletariat'? Like, as analysed by, for example, Joe Bageant, or Tom Frank? At which point, a whole other question about race and US political constitution comes into play. And 'false consciousness'. And a whole lotta other stuff.


This essay may be of interest: