Blockupy and The Politics of Crisis

by | 20 May 2012

The politics of crisis speaks among other things to the inherent crisis within the capitalist process. Nonlinear studies of capitalism, for example, take a far more honest approach to their subject matter. One can read the theology that is neoclassical economics and despair that even the first steps of scientific method are ignored. The primary failure is the belief amongst neoclassical economists that exceptions to their rules prove them. On the contrary, a physicist for example would build a model of some process and run the process to see if the model was correct. If something strange happened, they would not conclude reality is wrong, rather they would integrate the singular event into their model, or completely revise their model to fit the new picture. Neoclassical economists on the other hand see strange occurrences as failures of reality (humans), and stick rigidly to their models. The result: capitalist crisis is seen as a failure of humans, not of the neoliberal order, and the solutions prescribed are (i) reaffirmation of the infallibility of the model; (ii) disciplining of material humanity for having sullied the ideal form of capital; and (iii) perpetuation of the myth that crisis is unusual, rather than the norm.It would be wrong, however, to counter this by arguing that capitalism must end in crisis for to do so is simply to adopt the negative position which reaffirms the exteriority of crisis to capital. This carries with it the implicit suggestion that capitalism runs fine for seven fat years, then suddenly tips into a correction.

Surely the correct synthesis is in the conception of the process as such. Capitalism, being a process, already engages in the reflexive self-determination of the negative in its becoming. Put more simply, crisis is central to capitalism – it is in constant crisis – capitalism is the crisis.

We can see this for example already in the USD2bn lost by JP Morgan – the bank took positions, then hedged these positions and finally hedged its hedges. Hedge funds, smelling the instability of the bank’s stance, piled in and willingly took bets with JP Morgan, which duly obliged, which resulted in the massive loss. It is a nice story to see this as “risk management gone wrong”, but surely the point is that great profits were drawn, or derived, from the constitution of a massively unstable risk structure – one that was actively toppled this way and that by capitalists in order to increase the pent up “crisis” in the system.

Likewise with Greece and indeed all sovereign debtors. Last year the markets dictated massive austerity though anyone could see this was the wrong prescription for the crisis. This year, with austerity pushing countries into recession, the markets demand growth spending. The Italian government recently lost its temper when it followed the advice of the rating agencies in carrying out austerity measures, only for those same agencies to downgrade their bonds because they had carried out those same austerity measures.

When capitalism is conceived as crisis, it is evident that there is no externality to the process, or even latent flaw. The governance of the market is a governance which is neither seeking absolute orthodoxy to a model, nor suffering from the discontinuity between ideology and reality. Rather, the governance of the market is actively seeking the state of crisis, for this is where maximal profit can be found.

This is why today’s protests (Frankfurt 19th May 2012) call for an end to crisis politics – because such policies seek only the perpetuation of crisis, and consequently can only be considered as deleterious to human well-being.

Reposted from our own coverage of “Blockupy Day 4: 19 May – against the politics of crisis and authoritarianism


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