Our Great Depression of Post-capitalism and not of Capitalism
- Prof. Tonči Kuzmanić
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Prof. Tonči Kuzmanić, Faculty of Management, Koper/Capodistria University of Primorska, Slovenia
“You are what you is,
that is what it is!”
The aim of the paper is to reopen the problem of Capitalism from two perspectives. Firstly – and only formally – the aim is to tackle the problem from the perspective of “language games”. Within this kind of Wittgensteinian argumentation the connection between the »name« (capitalism) and the “thing” (to pragma) is of paramount importance. Emphasis of the paper at that level is twofold: firstly, to show that capitalism is not a “thing”. The-real-thing one should try to think and grasp is the endless quantity of language games about Capitalism. More precisely, the emphasis is not to be put on a “thing” but on something which is not at all “ordinary”, let alone “natural language”. Quite the contrary: the language which is the problem is the language of today's (post-modern) social sciences itself. If today we speak about Capitalism (as The-thing) and of “its crisis” from that perspective, we are not able to tackle the enormous existing problems at all. Rather, we just collect endless quantity of empty statements (including the responsibility for the existing mess).
Second and in a way “more concrete” perspective is the historical one. The paper will reopen the problem of the “Big depression” and try to show that the capitalism, as we usually understand it, already evaporated in the thirties and forties of the 20th century. The aim of this part of the paper is to show that the post-capitalism (“managerial revolution” not only in the sense of Burnham, but above all in that of F. D. Roosevelt) has actually already defeated capitalism (but not its language games!) in two various ways. Firstly, from within (USA, Great Britain…) and simultaneously from the outside (soviet Russia, fascist Italy, Nazi Germany…). In this part of the paper I strongly emphasise the revolutionary and irreversible “self-change” within the field of property relations, the role of the government (not the state!), and the management of entire society (“Big-society”). The central thesis of the paper is that without serious re-thinking of the irreversible revolutionary (!) changes from the thirties and forties we cannot understand today’s “globalisation” and “global crisis” and are literary doomed to failure in thinking of today’s “global society”.
Key words: post-capitalism, Capitalism, death of capitalism, “language games”, depression, economy, “managerial revolution”, “Big Society”.
1. Methodological remark
This is not an easy readable text, let alone the text of amusement based on post-modern bric-a-brac forms of rhetorical entertainment. Due to the complex macro objective I try to tackle, I tried to be as simple and as clear as possible. Firstly, I tried to escape all technicalities of citations and larger use of body literature in the sense of bringing the proof into the text from the outside. I am of the opinion that text has to stand as its own proof: it must rest in and simultaneously on itself. Alternatively, I offer some of the most important elements and units of outstanding (“classical”) literature used for the paper at its end (bibliography). Secondly, I also tried to develop simple wording in the sense of repeating the simplest possible forms of language regardless the style and possible rhetorical attraction contained in it. In this regard I followed two authors who are in my opinion worth of admiration: Aristotle and Wittgenstein. My aim was not to construct anything beautiful and amusing, let alone the splendour but rather something as accurate as possible in the form of Wittgesnteinian “apodictic” sentences. The argument is mainly carried out through frequent repetitions of fussed sentences causing minimum of diverse possible meanings at the level of the language games and understandings. The intention is a reduction through consistency of saying regardless the scholarly effects, which occasionally drives the argument to the edge of simplicity, and could operate as bored. The texts I prefer are not the terrain of the artistic fire-works aerobics, neither are they of moral or “works of love”, being predominant in today’s post-modern academic rhetoric. Accordingly, the price that one has to pay for achieving such kind of “apodictic execution” is the style. Execution of the present text is thus aiming at almost mathematical borders of the exactness itself. Namely, today’s bric-a-brac post-structuralist deconstructive exhibitionism cannot compete with the contemporary economical (already managerialised!) meta-language being the core of the problem. A real battle needs almost absolutely exact and precise forms of thinking and arguing, already at the very level of opening the elementary logical forms of existing problems.
2. Capitalist language games
Within the proposed kind of Wittgensteinian perspective of thinking the argumentation about the connection between the »name«, Capitalism in our case, and the “reality”, “thing” (gr. to pragma, ger. das Ding) is of the pivotal importance. The perspective within which the concentration is both on the epistemological and ontological problems of “being” (gr. to on) and speech/speaking (gr. logisthai and not language) is the Aristotelian and not Plato’s. More precisely, the point here is not either “name” or “thing” perspective, but something completely different, firstly developed in Aristotele’s Peri hermeneias (De Interpretatione, On Interpretation).
This perspective of thinking (dianoia and not gnosis) is dealing with something very basic, namely with the factum that the “being itself” is not a Thing. It is rather some-thing that is at least two fold if not many fold in “its meaning”. Saying in “its meaning” already stands for the language “use” and numerous possible “language games”. To put it in a more simple way, when one speaks about Capitalism as a “thing” for example, and tries to ask the question of what-capitalism-is, he or she always somehow “in advance forgets” the fundamental problem of the “being-of-capitalism”, as Heidegger used to express this with regard to Being (Sein). In a very strange way we a priori “forget” even to take into account the fact that capitalism “is” (if it is at all!). To put it in more existentialist form, instead of re-thinking the very existence of capitalism (namely, that(if)-it-is), we automatically presuppose its very existence, as if capitalism were something natural, a self-understandable or God-given Thing. In such a way capitalism suddenly becomes naturalised, unquestionable and out of our thinking abilities as such. The central point in this context is exactly that which should be presented and even proven in its very existence (“that-it-is”), and this – in some magic (post-religious) way of not-thinking – starts to function (in our own language games) as that-unquestionable. In such kind of thoughtless methodological procedure – exactly that is the machinery of gnosis on which all social sciences are still based – a certain Thing (for example Capitalism in our case) is appearing as always already (a priori) proven and even existing from always, so to speak from “the beginning of time”, as well as for ever. Precisely on the basis of such void and completely unquestionable presumption of “the existence of capitalism”, we then – instead of posing the necessary question about that what is supposed “to be”, and thus instead of targeting the very existence of capitalism – comfortably and even “scientifically” start to ask the relaxed question about What-capitalism-is. The tragedy of such non-position of today’s thoughtless (Arendt), and at the same time highly rhetorically developed social sciences is that there is no bigger logical and argumentative mistake which can be made in the realm of thinking, and it thus represents The-Mistake of all mistakes.
My main aim in this paper is to redirect the question of What-is-Capitalism towards the rethinking of Capitalism at the level of its own existence (If-it-is-capitalism), which today means at the level of the questioning scientific meta-language games. To put it differently, the aim is not any kind of “critique of capitalism”, since capitalism was already very profoundly criticized: not only by authors such as Karl Marx and others “in theory”, but also by actors such as F. D. Roosevelt and its team “in practice” (second part of the paper). The thesis of the paper is twofold: firstly, that the capitalism “as reality of our economical, social and political life” already evaporated in the thirties and forties of the previous century (New Deal). And secondly – the key point – that that which remains of it and even expands its own existence is a vast body of appearance of Capitalisms as language games in which Capitalism itself is hyper-produced. That hyper-production, a kind of overall mumbling, is what I call meta-language of Capitalism and which can also be called “economic”, or better, “social scientific fundamentalism” subsisting at the very core of all our post-modern debates and problems. In these meta-language games the non-Thing (of Capitalism) operates similarly as in religions, ideologies and related phenomena: the more the “God is dead”, the more religious appears the fundamentalist argumentation originating from it.
a) The very use of Capitalist-language games is our Reality
The given problem can be schematised in a more empirical and even political way: the so-called Left and Right are here and now endlessly “arguing” about Capitalism. But how?! Naturally, the right is “for capitalism”, and the left is, of course, “against it”. Similarly as couple of centuries ago when the “right” was “for God” (Angels, Demons...), and the “left” was “against it”. Of the central importance for us here is not either-or, Left-or-Right... perspective and matrix, but the very brutal factum that Right and Left are speaking literary the same language, that both are revolving around the same epicentre – that of Capitalism. Exactly this common-language of both sides (either-or, pro & contra...) is the Problem to be opened.
The task here is to go beyond the presented either-or Capitalist rhetoric, or better, to escape the kingdom of Capitalist either-or thoughtless persisting in the Heavens of meta-language of Capitalism. Consequently, the real problem is how to re-open the problem of language games of Capitalism, and, with this, a widespread ground of its own functioning, that which Right and Left have in common. Or to put it in a more precise question, how to show the common ground of all sides which in the conflict are targeting the would-be-Capitalistic quasi reality? I shall repeat the decisive emphasis: the problem is neither the Thing (Capitalism) nor it is its Name (singular). The problem is the plurality of meta-language games we are using (we are used by) about Capitalism. Exactly that plurality of use of Capitalism-language games, spoken from all sides of today’s academy and media, is The-Thing which is producing the quasi “reality of capitalism” as its own result, or, better, which is The-Reality of Capitalism itself.
My perspective is to show that this kind of would-be-Capitalism is not any kind of “Thing”, but is our virtual and scientific reality in which we are imprisoned, and this is something completely different than any ”thing” else. We are not living only in the midst of the “reality of things” (as it could look like from the post-religious perspective of today’s highly mediated social sciences), but in the midst of the reality of (Capitalist) meta-language games. They are our “real virtual”, at the same time presupposing and transcending all technics and technologies of what is usually understood as the virtual space and virtual reality. The-real-thing one should try to think and grasp is thus the endless quantity and usages of language games mumbling about Capitalism. More precisely, the emphasis should not be put on a “thing” (to pragma – something from which all pragmatisms, materialisms, empiricisms necessary begin!) but on something which is not at all “ordinary”, let alone “natural” language. In fact, the language which is The-problem is the language of all today's (post-modern) social sciences themselves, which are endlessly mumbling about Capitalism. This should be grasped as a highly problematical meta-language which desperately needs rethinking and understanding.
b) Right-Left binary quasi differences
How to pose the problem of the existing Right and Left (Capitalist) meta-language games? Or, better, how to “open” the total closure produced by Left and Right (wing) mumbling about Capitalism? Quite simply! One of the important questions from which it is possible to start (an Aristotelian) “procedure” of thinking, is the perspective of the cause/s (arhe-in, arhai). Of course not of the causes in the sense of “the Thing” (that would be Plato’s direction leading to more or less absolute knowledge of gnosis), but to try to think about the causes which enable the very movement and articulation of the Capitalist meta-language games and of quasi descriptions that automatically follow from them.
Without a serious possibility of a mistake is it possible to argue that there are basically two fundamental, highly important “families” and “grammars” (Wittgenstein) of capitalist language games in the sense of their causes and – based on that causes – of all their quasi descriptions which are they able to produce. First of them is “Nature”, and the second is “History”. To put in the simplest way – the quasi argument in “Right” Capitalist language games (today’s neo-liberalism, neo-conservatism...) is as simple as possible: “capitalism-is-natural”! That “means” that the previous sentence (actually “command” – Wittgenstein) should be read and grasped in a more profoundly and fundamental way as: “Capitalism =/”is” the same as nature”! The “opposite” is also “possible”: “nature =/”is” the same as Capitalism”! This kind of (tautological) language games is still caught in middle ages’ theological (scholastic) distinctions dealing with “Substance” grasped as One (sing.), God’s-Thing and accidences (pl.) of human-things. The “situation” in this scholastic matrix is in the last instance the following: to say “Nature” means to say “unchangeable” and simultaneously “out of time”, and even “before time”. Fixation on the Un-changeable grammar is The-argument in the sense of The-Thing with which one has to deal within this matrix of language games which are based on the quasi argument of “Nature”.
The Left argumentation starts from the second chain of causes in which (neo-socialism, neo-communism...) the main quasi argument is History. History is here just another name for “Change” being substantialised, fundamentalised and absolutised as God in scholastics. In this type of language games the matrix of argument is slightly different than in that based on Nature. The-Thing here is not Capitalism as such – which means as substantive – but puts “capitalistic” in the sense of the adjective. Here the substantive is something like a perpetuum mobile of (self)changing-society (self/changing-production, self/changing-economy...). With regard to this something which is “fixed”, “capitalistic” is in the position of the “accidence” (adjective). That which is fixed in the Left “discourse”, is – in last analysis – always the same: self-changing Progress in the sense of the endless Change, representing the same as in theology: namely, the Infinity itself (fairy tales about endless Progress of “productive forces”, of “liberalisation”, of “freedom” and even “democracy”).
c) Commonality and community of Right and Left language games
The result of both sides (Right and Left) is not philosophical but rather rhetorical matrix of the language games about Capitalism. The point which I would like to emphasise here – of course in order to re-open the exit out of the thoughtless matrix – is the following: it is not important what, why, when and how Right (wing) or Left (wing) of the Capitalist meta-language games is or are arguing. That which counts is the common result of the language games in the sense of blocking our very possibility of thinking, understanding, reasoning, and acting when we are trapped within them.
Moreover, I should especially underline that “we” of today are not only trapped in one of the mentioned language games (Left or Right). The fact that we could be – and usually are – trapped in one of them is, so to speak, only one, even less important side of the problem. The most important “thing”, the Real-Problem and Real-Thing itself lies in that which is beyond the possibility of being trapped in one of them (Left or Right). We are namely even more trapped in “both” of them. But by saying “in both of them” I only signal something else. This additional problem is even “more dangerous” and it is located in something which can be described as the community and commonality of both Left and Right at once, namely their common (Capitalist) meta-language itself. More precisely, Capitalist meta-language games are neither left nor Right but are simultaneously Left AND Right!
d) The “Third element” of endless usage of Capitalist meta-language
If we accept the “naturalness” and “realness”, objectiveness included, of the above schematically described capitalist language games, then the only remaining way of “change” is to change the alleged “inner side” of Capitalism. We are “free” (and that is our entire “freedom”) to choose either Left or Right quasi-position of quasi argumentation. This means that in our quasi freedom we are jailed in a beautiful circulus vitiosus midst which we are endlessly “looking” for the “solution” of the circle’s square. In such (“given”) circumstances it is per detinitionem not possible to break through the “glass ceiling”, let alone to seriously think about the community and commonality of “both” quasi argumentative sides (Left and Right). What needs the strongest possible emphasis here is the fact that the Capitalist meta-language games are not at all made only of One or of Two “parts” or “sides”, as it looks like. It rather appears as something infinite in its usages.
The-Real-problem here is thus not the choosing between “one or another” (Left of Right). The proper location and place (topos) of our problem is exactly that the “OR” itself should be grasped and “translated” as “AND”! The result of such understanding (and change) of OR into AND could be the following: Left AND Right “argumentations” are of course exclusive (Left is exclusive towards Right and vice versa) but they are not at all excluding each other as it appear to the ordinary audience being trapped midst the media discourses of Capitalism. The opposite is the case: Right AND Left are – as far as meta-language of Capitalism is concerned – actually two complementary positions. Together – and only together – they very successfully produce a commonality and simultaneously something “Third” and superior with regard to both of them. That “Third”, resulting out of the exclusivity (but not out of exclusion!) of Left and Right, is the common Master to both of them.
This “Third” is an ultra-important element of the matrix of Capitalist meta-language games, functioning at the higher (or, at least, different) level with regard to both, Left and Right. Moreover, the “Third element” with regard to the relationship “between” Left and Right is neither “one” of the already existing Left and Right sides, nor it is the “third side” (that is the reason why it is “invisible”). It word for word transcends – in Hegelian manner of Aufhebung - both sides (Right and Left) and any “side”. “Transcends” here means the ability to “produce” always the new and completely unexpected results. But why and how is that possible? It is possible mainly due to the endless appearance of the infinite chain of empty mumbling about Capitalism published in books, reviews, being at work in the air, on the radio or TV, and in other “virtual” transmissions, capturing the global audiences. This “liquid” (mediated) form of the Capitalist meta-language quasi-spoken from all walks of life is disseminated in a total and totalitarian way. It is disseminated from the top of all media and from two additional “sides”, but these are neither Left nor Right side. These two additional “sides” are, firstly, “from everywhere”, and, secondly, “from Nowhere”, thus at same time from everywhere & nowhere, since that is the definition of the “media virtual space”.
In sum, our target here is not the Right or Left form of the Capitalist meta-language games, but by the media disseminated entirety, totality of its being, appearing as something totally “natural”, “neutral” and even “objective” (“real”...), and thus dislocated into the mystical areas of unthinkable and even “natural”. This entirety covered by the mist of today’s media coverage and produced in the post-modern academy – mainly in social sciences – is the Third, “invisible element” we were looking for.
The problem from my point of view is how to challenge this naturalised, absolutistic, within totality of media enclosed Capitalist self-picture of meta-language? My attempt goes towards rethinking of the completely forgotten and silent – but powerful and extremely successful – revolution of capitalism itself, that happened in the USA of the thirties. With regard to the first and abstract part of the text the task of the second is to put some “real flesh” on the already schematised bones about the language games of Capitalism.
3. Historical perspective: not of Capitalism but of capitalist evaporation – New Deal
The core thesis of the second part of the paper is that capitalism is dead for approximately three quarters of century. This, however, does not mean that Capitalism in the sense of its language games did not survive its “real death”. Quite the contrary is the case. The language games of Capitalism persist its own divine, “endless” life to which I will try to pose certain limits (horisomai). Thus the aim of the second part of the paper is to reopen the minimal possibility of re-thinking of the problem of how the “managerial revolution” defeated capitalism within its own language and installed post-capitalism. The target is also to show how Capitalist language games still survive and persist exactly on the “basis” of missing “real capitalism”.
The beginning of the “practices” of dissolution of capitalism took place around the years of the “Big depression”. These revolutionary events are still less analysed and sometimes even systematically forgotten. Forgetting this extraordinary revolution is mainly the result of highly ideological and militarised forms of “our” own (Western) thinking, circling mainly around the economical meta-language of Capitalism. In this kind of fundamental ideological surrounding we are able only to “see” the Things of “revolutions” (Russian, Fascist, National-socialist...) and wars (First and Second World War...). My point here is that the global managerial revolution of capitalism took place/s (pl.!) in at least two various ways, forms and also locations. Firstly, they took place from “within” the already highly developed form of capitalism (in the USA) of the thirties, and simultaneously from the “outside” in the sense of the changes of underdeveloped forms of capitalisms (soviet Russia, fascist Italy, Nazi Germany…).
Both kinds of managerial revolutions of capitalism after WW II merged into the global post-capitalist (and not any more capitalist!) post-modern ultra-development which is The-Thing being today in a Great depression. What is in depression today is not at all capitalism of the Great depression, since the Great depression was the end of capitalism itself. The Big depression is just another name for the end-of-capitalism, and the managerial revolution from these days was the way out of capitalist surrounding into something which I am defining as post-capitalism. Today’s Great depression is the depression of immensely more complicated and complex post-capitalist society and not any more that of the “good old” capitalism which evaporated in the depression of the thirties. As far as Capitalism (not capitalism) is concerned, it is besieged by a Great desperation of the existing meta-languages, especially of the fundamental economical one which unfortunately still controls our gaze by covering the horizons and hiding away both: any kind of possibility and perspective.
a) Total revolutions of society and not only of economy
Of course all this is not at all something which is possible to think and grasp – let alone to accept – within the predominant meta-language games of economy (social sciences included, since the meta-language of economy is the “basis” for their thoughtlessness as well). In this second part I will try to speak a kind of a more historical, empirical, and less formal form of speech while dealing with two crucial “aspects” of the “real” capitalism and not of Capitalism of today’s meta-language of economy and social sciences. The emphasis will be on problems of property and will also concern the problem of society in the largest sense. Let me start with the second one, since it is far more complex problem.
The mentioned fundamental and global changes whose appearance is possible to locate in time between two World Wars did not mark the change of this or that part of capitalism, of this or that of its sub-systems. Instead, it was the fundamental change of capitalism itself, of the capitalist system, the change of its whole, challenging its fundamental principles. This was thus not a change “in economy”, it was not a revolution “in technology”, but the change of the entire society as such, its leadership above all. In Europe (also in Japan and elsewhere) this was a quite visible alteration, even though the very long chain of similar changes happened all around the (capitalist development) globe. More precisely, it was the Change of all changes. Socialist (1917), Fascist (1922) and Nazi (1933) revolutions challenged not this or that part of “their” society of the day (being already in deep crisis due to the World War I), but literary attacked the very society itself in the sense of its own fundamental principles (“capitalistic” included). All these visible revolutions – more or less proceeding from some kind of “connection” with the WW I – targeted the existing society in its entirety, in its foundations, main principles included. The aims of all these revolutions were without any exception simple, but this ultimate premise is not recognised yet, let alone incorporated in our common thinking and understanding. Instead, it is still trapped into the superficially economical meta-language of the ancient capitalist from XIX. century mumbling about “the economy”. The aim of all these revolutions was – even at the level of the declarations and published legal documents (not to mention numerous books from that time) – exactly “New Society”. Moreover, the purpose was to produce the “New man”, sometimes even explicitly posed as the Übermensch. Only if we start to think these buried events from the perspective of totality (all three mentioned revolutions still “bear” the name of totalitarianism) in the sense of the total change (revolution) of the System as such, it becomes possible to grasp the fundamental “spirit” of these years and decades. Emphasis here is on the System as such, and not on the change of any kind of partiality be it economy or anything else. Of course, all these revolutions and their leaders also talked about the “changing of economy”, about the “change of this or that” part of society (changes in sub-systems), but the fundamental emphasis was One and the same: the total revolution of the System as such.
Only while keeping in mind the “desire for totality” and starting exactly from that totality as the “regulative idea” of these revolutions, it is possible to work out and maybe to comprehend – the historical magnitude of these global (!) events. The entire late modern history of the “developed West” cannot offer anything comparable to these total revolutions and events. There are no similar, parallel events in the whole late history of the Western (global humanity included) society. Today’s “Arab revolutions” are probably of the similar magnitude, but this is rather another question and problem. Meanwhile, the highly celebrated and mystified quasi Big revolutions of the ’68 were – in comparison with these events – childish games presented to the already infantilised audience by the media and propaganda.
b) Big Society & small society
Where to start from the understanding the problem? From the Big depression! But how? Simply asking in genitive (genesis/genesthai method in Aristotle’s terminology): Big depression of what? The answer is: the point was not the Big depression of economy as it was and still is falsely presented in connection with our own today’s fundamental depression of society. It was the case of the Big depression of the entire society, of its deepest (capitalist!) foundations, principles and causes (gr. stoicheion & arhein). It was a total depression of capitalist society, and exactly that was the reason for the appearance of the phrase Big (society) and its “family” (Wittgenstein) of language games which we have to try to understand.
Firstly, how to comprehend “Big”, what was that “Big”? The “Great”, “Big” was not anything in the sense of quantitative “Big thing” only. It was a qualitative Big in the sense of something completely, revolutionary New, of something which was not seen ever before. In order to grasp the main point in the “family” of language games about “Big” we should get rid of the “déjà-vu” matrix which is the main obstacle in thinking of “New”. Otherwise we are forced to make the very elementary (logical included) mistake of reductio ad absurdum and translate everything that-is-new into something “already seen”, that already “had been”. That form of logical mistake at the level of conclusions is going extremely well together with the mentioned meta-language of economy, with the neo-theological mumbling and void rhetorical argumentations “based” on “Nature”, “Un-changeable”, etc. To put it in Wittgensteinian way, only the perspective of not confounding “quantitative” Big (in terms of mathematics and statistics, for example) with “qualitative” Big (for example in the sense of philosophy) language games, opens the chance for understanding the next two very important notions from these important years: that of “New Deal” and of “Big Society” itself.
F. D. Roosevelt was the first who spoke about the New Deal in political and not just economic terms, as he won the elections on the political platform of the language game which applied to the notion of “Big”. Why? The reason was that in the circumstances of the Big depression the Old Deal (capitalist society) was not functioning and was not possible any more. New Deal was not Roosevelt’s pre-ordered and planned enterprise – it was not violent revolution in European sense of party revolutionaries – but it was rather something into which he was forced. In the circumstances of the USA the force and violence were not primarily on the side of the party revolutionaries subjectively producing revolutionary violence, but it was rather on the side of the Old (capitalist!) System itself! Roosevelt and USA, grasped as system’s totality, were forced by the given events and circumstances such as hunger, unemployment, threat of Left and Right revolutions (in European sense from the beginning of the 20th century), and dissolution/implosion of the entire capitalist society. New Deal was so to speak an emergency exit through which the USA, leaning exactly on the New Deal itself as a New Method of building the New society, were able to escape the existing capitalist trap of depression. Capitalist trap? Of course! It was a capitalist trap which captured the entire (capitalist!) society within a definite dead end! How is it possible to explain this most important point? Only outside of the dominant meta-language of today’s economy: Roosevelt’s argumentation was not at all revolving around economy (for example for or against capitalism, for or against productivity and efficiency...). It was – nothing else was possible – spoken out mostly in terms of entire society, trapped and self-blocked within the capitalist dead end. Of “entire society”? Definitely! If it were not the entirety of society under the threat, it would not be at all possible to generate exceptionally important revolutionary concept, opening the possibility of entirely new, Big Society.
What were political and rhetorical functions of the “Big Society” at the level of language games of that time? There is no doubt that Big Society was the key concept that was critically targeting its opposite. Moreover, Big Society was the powerful device for opening the prospects for tens of millions of workers and farmers who supported the president. One should thus ask about the reason (arhein) of the application of the very term “Big Society” and its family of language games? The term was functioning as completely New revolutionary language game targeting something of the highest importance. The problem here is that exactly the most important thing, it’s opposite (opposite of “Big Society”), was not even mentioned and functioned chiefly as an “invisible-No-Thing”. This invisible could and should be termed as “small society”, without any prospect of making a mistake. In order to grasp the full “meaning” of the “Big Society”, its role in the language games of the time, we should first of all discuss the problem of its opposite, of the “small society”.
What was “small society”? The answer: everything concerning the “Old society” (capitalist society), not desired and not possible any more, which came into a dead end exactly with the “Big depression”. But why would one employ the name “small” (society) in order to understand the proper meaning of “Big Society”? The reason is again quite simple: the New Deal was presented as literally The-Deal-For-All: for ordinary people (workers, farmers, intellectuals, whites, blacks, even foreigners...) and not only for “the few” (as Roosevelt used to speak of it). Finally, the main point of distinction between “Big” and “small” in the dominant family of society language games of those terrible days was radical and revolutionary (all conservatives immediately realised the dangerous revolutionary potentials of Roosevelt’s position). New Deal was articulated in terms of inclusiveness and not exclusiveness, to put it in another, today probably more understandable perspective.
Synthetically speaking, Roosevelt’s “New Deal” grasped as Big Society’s revolution was not “violent revolution” against something (as it was the case in Europe in all above mentioned revolutions) but silent revolution “for something”. That “for something” – and not against (for example “against capitalism”) – was and remains the Big Society itself as a kind of a “positive new project”, to put it in today’s managerial parlance. The “Big” here – within the societal language games – meant primarily inclusiveness or the Society for all the USA inhabitants (L. Johnson was repeating the Big Society language games in times of Vietnam war, racist conflicts in the South, and the same is – in vain, of course – trying to do B. Obama today).
c) Silent and forgotten total societal revolution of inclusion
Who and what was the target of Big Society and the New Deal? Abstract answer is already given: small society was the target, and the old deal was the target. But that is only one, less important side of the highly important coin. The question needed here is: what was the “concrete meaning” of that kind of revolution midst the given desperate circumstances of the thirties? Analysis of the Roosevelt’s legislation and governmental measures shows that the target was primarily Big Capital. Exactly Big Capital was the epicentre around which was organised that which was targeted as “small society”. Exactly Big Capital – as the epicentre of small society - was “The-reason” for the problems of (Big) depression. In order to reach the Promised Land of Big Society (that of inclusion of all Americans), Roosevelt was forced (observing from his perspective there were no other solutions!) to somehow exclude or at least to diminish exactly the role of the Big Capital. Consequently, through targeting Big Capital and only (only!) in this indirect way (difference with regard to more direct Europeans leaning on party violence) of targeting the capitalism itself, it was possible to hope and even to develop Big Society and get a highly desired New Deal. And this goal was reached primarily through the numerous governmental measures.
It was reached, for example, through the “re-setting” of the old existing financial “settings” (Roosevelt’s first move after the elections), and through opening of the society (that is New Deal and New Society as the new direction of post-capitalist development!), through the enormous legislative production at the beginning of the thirties. Of substantial importance here is to understand that just at the point when – economically understood – industrial production of things has stopped (“Big depression” of small capitalist society!), the enormously legislative productivity of Roosevelt government started. Started to do what? It started to unlock the possibilities for development of the New Society, of the Big Society, of the New Society of inclusion. The point was not at all solely to open the possibility for the “new economy” – that was a socialist perspective, for example in Soviet’s NEP (new economic politics) during Lenin’s and Stalin’s years and conservative perspective in the USA – but for the New Society in the largest sense. Economy as “production of things” remained more or less the same in all these years. Rapidly changing was the very context, the entire New Society in the sense of “implementation” of completely, revolutionary new Inclusive Society (Big Society) which “resulted” in post-capitalism.
But this is only one side of a rather multifaceted coin. It cannot be underlined enough that this completely extraordinary situation of depression should under no circumstances be termed in categories of free-will. This would as a rule result in language games about “making revolution”, or “manufacturing revolution”, by this or that “revolutionary subject”. Roosevelt and his government were not any such kind of Subject, and Post-capitalism was not in advance planned New society by any sort of a free subject or any subjective free will whatsoever. Post-capitalism was thus no first premeditated and then implemented grandiose project (as socialism, for example), it was and remains incrementally established counter-system (counter to capitalism), born out of the purest possible necessity of Big/Great depression. It was the “only” solution within the given circumstances and not any kind of choice. The USA and Roosevelt came to post-capitalist “anti-position” and “anti-system” not through attacking capitalism but by defending it! Post-capitalism was not longed for but had happened as an entirely unpredicted result of the struggle for elementary survival of the System of society as such. Exactly such silent and unpredictable path of post-capitalism’s materialisation amounts to the explanation why there is almost no serious sign of the recognition of the very existence of post-capitalism whatsoever.
Anyway, here it is possible to isolate at least four basic moves of Roosevelt’s government, but only in an abstract way, of course. First, already mentioned financial consolidation, connected with the numerous “faith” and “trust building” procedures. These were the task for governmental legislation, but consisted to the large extent of the rhetorical (and political) “food”, being packed in numerous presidential speeches which aimed at the “trust building”, or better, at the creation of hope midst the completely hopeless surrounding. Radio speeches and newspaper dissemination were the paramount vehicle for this kind of hard governmental work, lasting for a few of harsh years. Second, rather careful and step-by-step marginalisation of the decisive influence of the richest (“anti-trust”, anti-monopoly legislation, diminishing profits for private enterprises...) took place, and simultaneously a promotion of the “activity” of “ordinary working people” (opening the space for trade unions, new strike legislation, etc.). Third, only on the basis of two additional elements was it possible to rebuild the social trust: with the control over the prices (wages of farmers & workers, “prices” of capital & interest rates included) and with enormous investments into the work force, and not in Capital (that was conservative conception). All these (and much more of them not even mentioned) measures were promising only on the basis of highly sophisticated (for that time) control over the role of the “blind” Market forces.
d) Investments in societal beings
At this essential point we reached now with regard to investments, we should be extremely cautious and exact as possible. They were not investments into the work as such but rather, the investments into the workforce. The question is how to grasp this difference correctly? There were investments in hungry people and their possibility for survival, but also into their dignity, and that was a highly important “moral side” of the Roosevelt project, which cannot be tackled here. However, as far as this element is concerned, as it is consisting of the so called “public works”, I should say a few additional sentences about it. Public works were the Roosevelt’s revolutionary project which perhaps even saved the US. Public works (electrification, road & bridge building, infrastructure...) were not at all profitable in any of possible economical terms or meta-language games of Capital(ism)! Quite the opposite was the case: judged from the point of view of economic efficiency and Capital(ism) they were completely “unproductive” (exactly that was the ground for the attacks on them from the conservatives). These huge investments were in a way explicitly anti-capitalist (anti-small-society), and simultaneously – that is the core of my thesis - post-capitalist! Observing from the point of view of capitalism (“small society” being in Big depression) there were par excellence new kind of investments. Besides, such a move was only possible on the basis of the mentioned “Roosevelt’s morality” and due to the launching of “virtual” (“not-yet-existing”) money which was taken from the next generations, creating the problem of dept, still present in USA.
Nevertheless, the central emphasis in this connection is the following one: although they were not “productive” – observed from the perspective of economic language games (and from the point of view of capital/ism), they were extremely productive from the point of view of the Big Society (post-capitalism) and its endurance. It was the investment into the foundation of the New, Big Society which was the “real object” of Roosevelt’s desire. The crux of the matter here is this one: the very inner logic of escaping the Great depression developed by Roosevelt’s government was not at all economical one! It was rather the societal (and social – here is the location of the mentioned Roosevelt’s morality). These two different “logics and principles” (economical and societal) are not at all the same and One logic and principles! They are not the same language games resulting into the same politics and action and into the same results. As already emphasized above, the investments which took place were not in capital(ism), not in production grasped in economical way (in productivity, efficiency), but into the work force, and later on – especially in WW II, when the opportunity appeared – also into the working places.
The question here is: what that “work force” meant, how to understand that revolutionary new point? It was simply the investment in the working people in the sense of the all members of Big (not any more small) Society. To put it in more direct way, these investments did not go to the members of this or that enterprise and factory any more (that is something that capitalist himself had to do), but in the completely new direction! The investments went to the members of the Big, inclusive Society (a kind the US form of “welfare state”). The underlying logic of Roosevelt’s government was not economy & capital (capitalist logic) any more. That logic was even seen as a kind of “ill object” in desperate need of larger/societal and social care. The underlying logic of Roosevelt was (Big) Society itself. Exactly that revolutionary change in emphasis form economy to Society (which is not possible to “see” from the perspective of economical/capitalist fundamentalism) was The revolutionary new paradigm which was – if at all – only partially and marginally present in the context of the previous, pre-depressed (small) capitalist society. The point was: in that radically new perspective, human beings, men and women, were grasped as social beings (“Thomistic element” from which the new morality progressed) within the new notion of Big Society, within New Society. Individual in Roosevelt’s eyes was not only homo faber any more (as in economical fundamental capitalist form of conservative thinking of these and latter days) but was rather a social being (ens socialis).
What counts here (still today) is the understanding of something very fundamental. No more investments in capital and in workers (as it was in socialism, fascism and nazism) and consequently in “production of things”, but above all in a completely new creature: that of a buyer, consumer grasped as “social being”. To put it differently, the largest context that needs to be grasped about Roosevelt’s fundamental moves is that the point was not only production and economy (as in capitalism, socialism, fascism and national-socialism included), but rather investment in societal beings and their “societal” consumption which started to function as new “societal economy” (post capitalism). That was the beginning of “social economy” about which all today’s managerial (not economical anymore!) theories are speaking when arguing about “social capital”.
Fourth, and most important, Roosevelt’s government took the initiative which is completely unthinkable in any kind of former capitalist arrangements. It took the position of the Manager of the entire (Big) Society in silent, invisible, but deeply revolutionary manner. Various governmental bodies – employed and lead by government, even by Roosevelt himself – started to lead the entire body of USA Big Society as being one big family/social enterprise. To put it differently and in slightly oversimplified form: the role that once upon the time (before Big depression) was played by capitalist (in capitalism) at the level of the factory (enterprise, company) was somehow overshadowed and even overtaken by the revolutionary new supreme role of government, led now by governmental managers. In these circumstances Roosevelt himself has became the Manager of all (his) managers. They managed not this or that company, but now the entire Big Society of America. That New Big Society of America was not understood any more as society (die Gesellschaft) or community (die Gemeinschaft)) of workers and capitalists (company, enterprise..., economical type of fundamental miss understanding) in previous sociological and economical language games. It was rather grasped and developed (“social constructivism”), as a lively organism in terms of the total “Social Body” (Aquinas). For example, the “enterprise” was not any more the centre of society (as it was in capitalism and socialism), it was not “the central cell of society” anymore, but only of economy (schematically speaking: predominance of society over economy in USA, and predominance of state over economy in Europe...). In that way a completely New kind of Enterprise (social, societal enterprise) in the sense of the “Enterprise of Big Society" took the supreme, most decisive role which is not yet at all grasped in entire social sciences, still trapped in economical fundamentalism. Only from that kind of revolutionary changes and on that Roosevelt’s “basis” from the thirties it was possible that “international” and “big enterprises”, “multi-national-enterprises” which appeared after WW II, shape our entire today’s existence. Solely on that “societal” post-capitalist (and not capitalist anymore!) basis from the thirties globalisation has become possible.
4. Management of the Big Society as the new paradigm of post-capitalism
There were three outstanding points and sets of new forms through which it is possible to understand the silent Roosevelt’s post-capitalist revolution aiming at the Factory of Society or projecting the Big Society as productive Factory that include all Americans. Firstly, it was already mentioned complex of macro leadership of (governmental) managers functioning, of course, from top to the bottom of entire Big Society. Secondly, there were crucial, revolutionary important changes in the complex of investments (especially in the mentioned concentration and the direction of investments), and thirdly, there were, consequently, radically changes in the complex of property.
a) Manager as the key person in total societal revolution of the Big Society
Besides what was said above we should also strongly emphasise the very logic and magnitude of changes in leadership (managerial leadership-of-Big-Society). Traditionally, capitalism was grasped as led by the “invisible hand”, which meant that the sovereign role of the market was somehow central to any capitalist economy. But that is – as already shown – only the economical (partial) side of the societal coin which was of paramount importance for Roosevelt’s revolutionary project. Society could not be led in the same way (that is the point which conservatives of all walks of life were never able to understood), especially not in an allegedly democratic surrounding. On the contrary, society is desperately in need of something more and different from the capacities of the invisible hand. Speaking at the metaphorical level, society desperately needs something like “visible hand”.
Such visibility is not just about “the government being visible”, or that the “governmental business” should be “transparent”, as it is usually argued in conservative and liberal literature which is based on the meta-language, still fundamentally mumbling about economy. Neither is it about setting down “basic parameters” for “business” (the “minimal state” ideology in various forms). The problem of society-leading and of total, societal (not only social!) leadership, is revolving around the problem that the leaders of society should somehow plan and even predict the “coming” events. Or better, they should plan and even produce the events and (post-festum) re-present them as “inevitable”. These events – at the level of society – cannot function like the “natural phenomena” in the sense that their appearance is left to society’s own “natural laws” (as fundamental meta-language of conservative economy uses to put it). Society-leading means much more: it means the ability of manufacturing the events in the sense of production of the society itself. “Producing society” here means to produce “fitting” societal relations and “right”, proper social forms of “normal” relationships and behaviour at large (in totality). To put it in the form of a very old distinction: the economical logic is a logic which can function at the level of this or that kind of “production of things” (commodities, their consumption included). The societal (not necessarily social) logic is mainly the logic of the “production of people”, to put it into Marxian words, of their physical, social, psychological, and “behavioural existence” in the sense of becoming “social” and not “anti-social beings”. This extremely large, not any more minimal “machination” of the people enclosed in the factory, is approximately that which Foucault detected as “bio-politics”, and should now be present strictly in every cell of the Big Society itself. It must be ingredient of planning immigration, jobs, schooling, social behaviour, of the very planning of the rates of mortality and even of “normal” criminality (not to speak about the planning of Wars). Leadership of total, Big Society, should not count on market as its automatic organiser (Descartes’ idea of “automaton). There is no – not in the nature and not elsewhere in human creativity – such a thing as a man or a woman “as thing”. The point that we should face today - understood in an extreme form - is the following: if one (regardless of whom and why) wants to produce such kind of commodity – man and women as the thing, as commodity – one must be able of far reaching, so to speak total, planning. One has to be able of total (total!) organisation, of total producing and controlling of the societal (“bio”) enterprise of society! Exactly that was the point in Roosevelt’s revolution based on the people (Big Society, “American people”) and not on “things” – the pattern which died together with the Roosevelt’s fundamental revolution of old (capitalist) society.
The crucial point here is to understand the very centrality of that historically new person, of the Manager as a new form of social being (ens socialis) or a Social-being-proper. There is no doubt that from the point of view of economy (and economic meta-language games) capitalist (private ownership, private initiative, private investments, the role of the market) and capitalism are the very centre of the system. But observing from the point of view of the entire society (Big Society not known in the USA before Roosevelt), the very economy (and capitalist, commodity production included) has become just one of (or among) sub-systems of the Big Society and nothing more!
b) Fundamental revolution in (Governmental) public investments
Roosevelt’s macro analysis concerning the “small society” and “old deal” – in the meaning of capitalism which led to the crisis and depression – was very simple and simultaneously exact. Investments (based also on credits and banks which caused problem of financial looses in 1929) were mainly in private (capitalist) hands and their interest groupings. In order to struggle against the depression Roosevelt’s team targeted exactly that areas of small society which were based on old deals among big capitalists (magnates, tycoons...), especially those tightly knitted around the banking sub-system. New managers from the Roosevelt’s government strictly blocked the money flow towards these groupings (“small society”) and redirected it. They redirected it in the first place towards the government (themselves), and towards the Big Society as explained above. In result the government (its managers!) suddenly became the very epicentre of all revolutionary events, and/or the main investors. The government also became (in the forties, especially due to the World War II) the main “spending factor” (“militarisation of society” was described in USA sociology only in fifties and sixties!) at the level of entire Big Society. Exactly spending (under the influence of Keynesianism from Europe) has become the dominant form of regulation of the entire metabolism of society (Body Society). To put in another parlance, the spending (and not production!!!) has become the epicentre of the planning of entire “fabric of Big Society”. And that was already the very foundation of the post-capitalist problems we are facing in our own depression of today.
c) Revolutionary changes in the structure of property: “mandatory” property
Today’s reasoning about property is usually trapped into still important but simultaneously oversimplified distinctions made by Berle & Means theories, targeting the “difference” between possession (property) and its “use”. The “management” of property in this “distinction” is understood in a way that capitalist simultaneously somehow represents both, owner and manager, while the manager is just someone managing/using capitalist property. The problem with this quite important distinction, which has become “classical” in social sciences as such, was and remains that it simultaneously opened a new possibility of thinking but it also kept secret if not even completely hidden something even more important, namely the very appearance of a new form of property, that which transcends the private property. The point is that Berle & Means’ “distinction” was still made under the fundamental and monistic (Locke’s!) quasi understanding of property in the sense of private property horizons as absolute ones.
As already strongly emphasized, the very central figure in the revolutionary post-capitalist new situation of the thirties was not capitalist any more. It was rather a completely new kind not of proprietor but that of leader, of Manager. As far as the property was (and is!) concerned it is important to realise that the manager was not any more “playing” any kind of “production game” with and for his own, private money, property and financial resources. He was rather playing the game with something else: namely – and that is the pivotal point - with public money or, much better, with public debts! The new game of post-capitalism was played through the so-called “financial industry”, mostly through the “politics of debts” and trading also with debts: first with credits and later on with leasing (after WW II). Our problem of thinking and understanding the contemporary situation in that connection is that today it is not enough to speak about production or trade or commerce and similar “economical problems”. Today we mainly have problems with production, trade and commerce with debts. We are in radically different non-position and non-situation: we are not in any “positive position” but rather in totally “negative situation”!
If one wants to put the here merely tackled problem of property into the “pure form” of a model, then it is possible to say that for capitalist (within the circumstances of capitalism in which the figure of capitalist is the central one) it is completely normal and even natural (that “naturalness” is crucial for entire economical meta-language of today fundamentalism) that in the game of production (of things!) he (or she) is going to win or lose his (or her) own private property. This means that he or she is per definition extremely responsible to him/herself (looses in crises witnessed hundreds of suicides of capitalists, but just few managers in 2008/2009 took their lives). And yet, what is for capitalist normal, is for the manager (central post-capitalist creature) for a very good reason not normal at all, but rather completely abnormal! Manager – and this is very important – is not the owner in the sense in which the capitalist used to be the owner of almost everything in the production except of the work force that was hired. Moreover, if manager loose, that means that the public and not his own, private money was lost as well as maybe also his or her employment (“working place”). This radically new situation appears as “illogical” and even immoral (quasi argument of “greed” so often present in today neo-Thomist economical moralisations) only within the highly sophisticated and totally mistaken economical meta-language of today’s thoughtless matrix. The problem is radically different and it must be grasped from an entirely different perspective: the fact that while losing, managers (“bad managers”) are still gaining - also in times of total depression and great looses – is something completely normal in the sense of their leader-work as employees and not as capitalists any longer.
The central feature and new “basis” of post-capitalist life (not only in the USA) which has not yet been seriously recognised and analysed by economists (let alone social scientist) was and remains the invention of a completely new form of property . This was a kind of “public” or even “societal” or “socialised property” which in times of Roosevelt was first concentrated and then administrated (through huge public investments at the level of totality of society) exactly by the governmental managers of the Big Society. The point here is that there was no escape from capitalist depression and economy in the late twenties and thirties without exactly this kind of revolutionary innovation in the field of property. Concentration of almost all societal resources (resources of entire society) in the hands of the government, projected debts as the main tool for investment, centralisation of all funds and investments, concentration of the entire capital of the nation/society is just another way of describing the new form of “public”, “societal property”. Such exit from the depression was not at all possible within the old, small society of capitalism revolving around the private property and of invisible hand of market surrounding. A new brand of post-capitalist Big Society, now revolving around the public (mostly clouded in debts), “societal” property, has to come to existence. Moreover, within these revolutionary circumstances the production was not based on former, past accumulation (in hands of private capitalist) any longer but was shaped as the quasi production established on the (non)accumulation yet to come in the future. Because of the political circumstances in the USA in which the elections are the same as the fight for management of total “societal” investments of exactly this “public”, “societal” property, I call this new form of property “mandatory property”. The winner of the elections is by definition winning exactly the mandate to manage (total management) the property of entire nation/society, that of private investors in banking systems, insurances, etc., of course, included.
To put it more philosophically: if by now the property used to function (still today’s fundamental rhetoric of economy) as “to have” (gr. ehein) complex, after the post-capitalist Roosevelt’s revolution it has become the question of “to be” (gr. einai). Moreover, in our times it developed into the problem of “to be or not to be”, which is just another way of definition of what today’s globalisation is about as well as about its own, now visible, horizons and absolute limits.
* * *
In sum, mainly due to typically Western and ad infinituum exaggerated preoccupation with wars and “political” (violent) revolutions, The biggest and The most important revolution of the XX. century, that of New Deal, still remains completely invisible. The Big depression and the New Deal as a response to it in the USA was not any kind of the “continuation of the capitalism with another means”, but it was rather the revolutionary turning point of no return! It was the way out of capitalism and towards the post-capitalism. Thus capitalism, as we usually understand it, evaporated already in the thirties and forties of the XX. century. But its own language games still persists as the document of former times in which we are still trapped. These language games are becoming even more and more noisy they are literary shouting on us and even blocking our elementary potentials for thinking. These increasingly fundamental and simultaneously completely void Capitalist language games of the previous dominant form of life sill persist mainly within today’s new managerial forms of knowledge, in that of economy and social sciences at large. More over they persist above all in our own quasi natural language, highly mediated and manipulated by the media machinery. This is why the desperately needed critique of managerial and economical as fundamental meta-language of today’s social sciences is one of the most crucial possibilities for serious re-thinking of our own time and its global problems.
In order to go “beyond” these problems (as a matter of fact to reach “here” and to “come back” from the heavens of religions, ideologies, sciences and knowledge, preaching endless Progress) it is completely out of place to try to explain what capitalism was. We rather need to understand what post-capitalism is about. Even less appropriate is, in order to come to grips with our own, existing depression of post-capitalism, to celebrate the alleged hopeful past of capitalism. We must be aware of and at least try to face the existing reality of nothingness which is exactly the nothingness of the post-capitalism itself.
1- I am using »Capitalism« to mark the level of language games, while »capitalism« stands for anti-political (republican and not democratic!), economic and social system in the sense of its Western existence. The fact that the reality of Capitalism is obviously “stronger” and that it even hides the very possibility of thinking that-which-is outside of the Capital-mumbling, is among the reasons for my »attack« on Capitalism as the meta-language. The aim is to emphasize that capitalism is not material, empirical, “real” pre-supposition of or for Capitalism, but that the contrary is the case: meta-language of Capitalism itself – its endless language games – is word for word manufacturing capitalism in its infinity in which we are trapped as in our own golden “scientific” cage.
2- Not new as such but new in the context of the USA history, while Europe and other parts of the world were already familiar with various forms of public, common and numerous another forms of property. “People” (“American People”, “American nation”) was radically redefined with the appearance of the Big Society. It has lost any political emphasis in terms of “la nation” of the French revolution!
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