Europe, historical perspectives, latest, UK, USA

Social-Democracy and the Centre-Left: Decline and Fall?

by Frank

Viewed retrospectively, the significance of the Reagan-Thatcher counter-revolutionary offensive of the 1980s has been seen primarily as a political project aimed at the overturning of the post-WW2 political and social settlement; an undertaking in which it has largely succeeded.  However, perhaps of equal importance was the political assimilation of centre-left, liberal class, into this emerging neo-liberal, neo-conservative movement. I would argue that its unseemly kow-towing to the new right was a largely fortuitous development; moreover, not just in the US/UK but everywhere in Europe where the centre-left/social-democracy (CL/SD) simply crumbled in the face of this concerted political onslaught. The right could hardly believe its luck as the mainstream CL/SD proved to be such an ideological push-over.

One important advocate of this abject surrender, Tony Blair, with his creations, ’New’ Labour and the ‘Third Way’ were the epitome of late CL/SD; he was the Talleyrand to Mrs Thatcher’s Danton. The same political shift was evident in the US with the rise of Bill Clinton and his handiwork, namely NAFTA, the expansion both organizationally and geographically of NATO, the abolition of the Glass-Steagall Act, the bombing of Yugoslavia, the gutting of welfare, expansion of the drug war and institutionalized the federal death penalty. Blatantly regressive policies were carried out and justified in the name of triangulation and electability. The progressive era of the Democratic party, the party of the New Deal and FDR, was to all intents and purposes, over.

Thus, a new dominant and regressive political alignment arose consisting of an extreme, centrist ideological mish-mash which had its roots, mainly though not exclusively, in the liberal/professional/middle, classes (call them what you will) based in London and the Home Counties and in the East and West coasts of the USA. These social strata provided the crucial political and ideological infrastructure for underpinning the New World Order. These professional classes were,

…the people with the jobs that every parent would like their children to grow up and get. In addition to doctors, lawyers, the clergy, architects and engineers – the core of the professional groups – the category includes, economists, experts in international development, political scientists, financial planners, computer programmers, aerospace designers, and even people who write books like this one.”Listen Liberal – Thomas Frank

Blair of course, was an archetypal member of this group. Young Blair boarded at Fettes College, a prestigious independent school in Edinburgh, after which he spent a year in London, where he attempted to find fame as a rock music promoter before reading Jurisprudence at St John’s College, at the University of Oxford, and then on to a career in politics.

Like most others of his ilk, Blair’s view of politics was managerial and administrative. There was no notion of paradigm shifts, no vision, no intellectual depth, no history, no personal hinterland, no question of what is and what ought to be. Just an approval craving narcissist, and unprincipled opportunists and careerists let loose upon the world – with disastrous effects.

In strictly ideological terms the liberal worldview was based upon the rejection of class politics (including most importantly, class solidarity) a pseudo-meritocracy, and the elevation of identity politics. We had it from Blair that the class struggle was over – when it fact it was moving into a new phase – and that the genesis of the new liberal-capitalist order – globalization – was a force of nature that no rational person could or should oppose. Globalization was in fact neo-liberalism writ large, and the former piggy-backed into history on the latter. The process was described by the UK Marxist writer (unfortunately now deceased) Peter Gowan as follows:

Anglo American journalists and politicians, insist that globalization is a mighty beast which savages all who fail to respect its needs. They assure us that its gaze ‘blank and pitiless as the sun’ (W.B.Yeats) had turned upon the Soviet bloc, the European Social Model, the East Asian Development Model bringing them all to their knees. For these pundits, globalization, is the bearer of a new planetary order, a single market place, a risk society, a world beyond the security of states, an unstoppable quasi-natural of global transformation.” The Global Gamble

This emergent economic/political phenomenon was initially formulated and presaged by Francis Fukuyama with his Hegelian ‘End-Of-History’ thesis in his book The End of History and the Last Man (1992), in which he argued that the worldwide spread of liberal democracies and free market capitalism of the West and its lifestyle may signal the end point of humanity’s sociocultural evolution and become the final form of human government. Although he subsequently modified this view, the thesis was that liberal-capitalism represented a sort of telos, an end goal of human development. This notion became all the rage among influential circles in the US academia, the political establishment, the media and various DC think-tanks. Having been incubated in the US, the theory then, like toxic mortgage derivatives before, crossed the Atlantic to become de rigueur in European elite circles.

This hypothesis was, ironically enough, almost a right-wing caricature of the cruder Marxist versions of Historical Materialism: namely the notion of history being a class struggle which would eventuate in the victory of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie and the ultimate establishment of the telos, a communist society. In this respect, it is interesting to note that the origins of neo-conservatism were to be found among a group of leftist intellectuals based in New York in the early 1960s, including Irving Kristol, Sydney Hook, Seymour Lipset, Irving Howe et al. who were at the time members of the Young Peoples’ Socialist League, and unabashed admirers of Leon Trotsky. Yet again, another familiar story of one totalitarian mindset moving with consummate ease to another. Neo-conservatism, the geopolitical flip side of neoliberalism, makes a quite unapologetic claim of being a ‘benign imperialism’ (can’t think of an oxymoron to match that one!) which of necessity meant a Unipolar word order based upon US dominance, possible, including of course regime change.

It is in this toxic pool of post-modernism, identity politics, neo-liberalism, and neo-conservatism that the liberal class and their 1% corporate masters swim. They represent the dregs of a terminal reactionary order and are at present having what can only be described as an apoplectic seizure to see their regime challenged.

How very different contemporary CL/SD is from its forebears of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and what a distance modern CL/SD has travelled since the social-democracy of the British Fabians, Eduard Bernstein, and Jean Jaures. Will the social-democratic tradition revive? Some think it will, given the ascent of Jeremy Corbyn backed by a large influx of new members and a revitalization of the Labour party. This excludes the PLP (of course) where Corbyn can only count on the loyalty of some 30 of 256 Labour MPs. In addition, already there is a back-tracking on the issues of Trident renewal and NATO membership, and Corbyn himself inexplicably surrendered his right to formulate EU policy within hours of his election as Labour’s leader, bowing to pressure from the Remain campaign. Not only would Corbyn not get his preferred policies – e.g. rail nationalisation – past the EU Commission, but in attempting to placate the PLP by advocating Remain in a possible rerun of the Referendum (which cannot be ruled out) such a move might well cost him dear if Labour supporters switch to the UKIP in Labour’s traditional northern heartlands which was where the Brexit Leave vote was strongest.

Personally, I think Labour, even under Corbyn, and even if it wins the 2020 election, will be forced into the usual compromised position by the US/EU power structures; a common pattern already established. But I might be wrong. A lot is going to happen in the next few years, and it is not going to be business as usual.  So, who knows?


  1. BigB says

    Corbyn yesterday laid out his vision of power – for the Tories for the next twenty years, that is.
    He havered on the single market ( with or without Schengen – “I don’t know, I can’t make up my mind, you decide – oh, ok, we’ll flip a coin”) and flip-flopped on a maximum ceiling for income. On the really important cogent issue of the NHS – which people are literally dying to bring attention to – the Tories got a free pass. Crisis, what crisis?
    I say this as a Corbyn supporter. I say this here as this is exactly how I remember it being when we were faced down by the full force of immorality (some misnamed it the ‘Rule of Law’) and the incipient police state in the Thatcherite ’80s. Opposition leadership, what leadership?
    I still believe Jeremy is a decent man and a man of principle. If I did not believe that, I would be inclined to think that he has sold us out and become a state-controlled puppet. Controlled opposition would be better than capitulation, which, on the face of it, is what we seem to have here.
    Maybe I expected too much of his ‘rebranding?’ Maybe not, coherence and consistency would have done.
    Apart from putting sand in the gears of the NHS, the Tories are doing the same with the prison service – so that they can ultimately sell it on the QT to their buddies at G4S and the rest of the private sector. In the coming private-prison-industrial-complex – there will be a room set aside for the likes of me and you.
    Welcome to Theresa’s ‘Fairness Society’!!!!

  2. bevin says

    Social Democracy suffers from all the weaknesses of its critics. Its great flaw is that it seeks-at best- to replace the rule of the propertied class with that of the poor masses by electing a majority of members in national legislatures. The flaws in this plan are so well known that it would be redundant to mention them, besides being so numerous that it would be tedious to list them.
    But something similar can be said of the Leninist alternative to Parliamentarism which is a coup carried out by professional revolutionaries organised politically according to Democratic Centralist rules.
    Both suffer from an inability to conceive of the masses as other than more or less enthusiastic supporters of initiatives,in the one case, by Parliamentarians and in the other of hardened professional soldiers in a revolutionary army.
    Thus it was that while Harman’s critiques of the Labour Party were very compelling, his alternative programme-to build the SWP around a Leninist core (!!)- was even less practical than that of the Social Democrats.
    The truth is that contesting elections and promoting reform socialist programmes can be very important ways of responding to the demands of the mass constituency, but what makes such campaigning important and crucial is that it involves the building of democratic, self governing, popular movements. Attempting to deliver the masses to a Parliamentary demagogue or a vanguard party are equally time wasting and demoralising.
    The watchword of socialists has to be that we know that we want the rule of the masses but we cannot know what it will consist of, only what we will put forward for discussion, nor can we know any more of how it will occur than that it will involve the transfer of power from the “1%” to the “99%”.

  3. “I think Labour, even under Corbyn, and even if it wins the 2020 election, will be forced into the usual compromised position by the US/EU power structures …”

    I think that Labour, even under Vladimir Lenin or even Karl Marx, and even if it was in power for the next 50 years under the existing constraints of bourgeois liberal democracy, would be forced into the usual compromises under what is in effect, to call things by their proper name, the capitalist power structures.

    Think Chile. Think Arbens. Think Mosaddeq. Think Harold Wilson in 1964 and again in 1968.

    Pertaining to the latter, to quote Harman quoting Wilson:

    We had now reached the situation where a newly elected government was being told by international speculators that the policy on which we had fought the election could not be implemented… The queen’s first minister was being asked to bring down the curtain on parliamentary democracy by accepting the doctrine that an election in Britain was a farce, that the British people could not make a choice between policies.

    And then Harman comments:

    It only needs to be added that, despite Wilson’s alleged indignation, for the next six years he did indeed follow the sort of policies demanded by the speculators.

    So yeah, that Corbyn, should he be elected, will be forced into the usual compromises, sounds about right to me.

    I mean, not to notice a pattern as old as liberal democracy itself, demonstrated a thousand times over, and given that money and property are still very much the fundaments of power, is at least a bit perverse if not outright bullheaded blindness. And yet we still talk about elections and candidates as if they really matter. It’s almost bemusing, that.

    • The speculators’ power is an illusion though. In reality ‘the market’ has no power over the issuer of the currency.

      I have no reason to believe that Corbyn or McDonnell understand that though. Certainly none of their vaunted ‘council of experts’ will volunteer it. Even if any they understand themselves.

      • But I think in this instance the term, “speculators,” is a catchall designating those who both control the issuance and allocation of money as well as that class of owners who pretty much control all major industries and on the whole control the markets in which goods and services are distributed. If your central bank is “independent” and the economy is mostly in private hands, there isn’t much leeway for the government to implement policies in favor of the general welfare. In the end, under these circumstances, it will always be profits over people.

        • No sorry. That’s the illusion.

          A government with a sovereign, fiat, non-convertible, floating exchange rate currency has all the power.

          Central bank ‘independence’ is a convenient myth. Central banks are ultimately subject to government diktat and they can only control the ‘price’ of money, not the issuance.

          • And having said that, their control over interest rates can only be achieved in conjunction with the Treasury/Exchequer.
            They’re two sides of the same sovereign entity but Treasury has the power of issuing the state currency.

          • Aye! Got it — I think.

            But since the government is bought and paid for by the ruling class as a whole, that circle is closed, n’est-ce pas?

            In Canada, for example, the central bank is very much the government’s bank and technically (legally) under the control of parliament. Both fiscal and monetary policy are supposed to be under government mandate, at least in principle, and so in this sense, the vaunted “independence” of the central bank is, as you put it, an illusion.

            But in practice, which at the end is what actually matters, the Bank of Canada actually and very much charts its own independent course in terms of monetary policy. I this sense, which is the one that counts — what is done in practice and not what the fluff of the law would you believe is the case — the power of money printing and its allocation is in the hands of the coterie of Bankers and they thereby, and non one else, have everybody else by the throat and not merely the working class, but all other players who must ‘borrow’ funds to conduct their affairs.

            But you are right: no government is sovereign that does not control the issuance of its currency.

            Do I understand you correctly?

            • And by the way, it is actually — again in practice — not true that under modern banking practices, only the Central Bank prints money.

              Commercial banks themselves issue currency through the mechanics of debt issuance.

              Two references for you:

              See Michael Rowbotham’s “The Grip of Death: A Study of Modern Money, Debt Slavery, and Destructive Economics Paperback – Aug 1 1998” — if you haven’t already.

              And something you can read online, by Richard Werner:

              Can banks individually create money out of nothing? — The theories and the empirical evidence

              And my apologies for my grammatically mangled comments. I’m using the wireless keyboard at the moment and my fingers seem to have a will of their own.

              • Yes I’m aware of both. And I’m aware that the banks create money. Werner is late to the party and still doesn’t quite get it.

                The banks issue bank credit, redeemable for state currency.

                But their credits are matched by liabilities so it all nets to zero.

                Only government spending its own liabilities into the private sector actually increases the net financial assets of the non-government.

                Vertical/Horizontal vs Exogenous/Endogenous


                Hope that helps.

            • Perhaps. The bankers have power certainly but my point is that that power is borne of an illusion.

              The central bankers can never control fiscal policy and the bondholders/money market can never, ever bankrupt or otherwise materially affect the government’s ability to spend or to control interest rates at their chosen target.

              These notions of desirable balanced budgets and out of control government debts and scary deficits are all myths and lies designed to mask the reality of the government’s real power to achieve public purpose.

              We can have full employment, we can have free tertiary education, we can have decent government pensions, we can banish poverty to history.

              • Yes! Yes! Absolutely agree!

                So it’s not a ‘technical’ problem at all. Yes, the national debt is a mirage. No question about that. It’s political, through and through. It is impossible for a sovereign government to ever go broke.

                The problem is that the sovereigns are being held hostage by the capitalist mafias, which unfortunately we cannot “vote” out of existence. That was the point, I think, of my first comment.

                Okay, we understand each other. And on top of that, I think we completely agree.

                • Excellent. It is very difficult to fight against the mainstream consensus though.

              • John says

                You may be right in some ways but you also have to take on board the operations of individuals like George Soros who single-handedly forced the UK out of the EU Exchange Rate Mechanism, thus forestalling UK entry into the euro zone.
                Viewed in retrospect – probably no bad thing, even if the lesson taught cost UK taxpayers £1 billion to learn!
                Where the global financial class do have a whip hand is when individual countries find it necessary to borrow on the international money markets through issuing large-scale central treasury bonds.
                The financiers can force up the rate of interest having to be paid to service the debt and it is these added costs that make it impossible to ‘have full employment, free tertiary education, decent government pensions, and to banish poverty to history.’
                The few – as always – profit at the expense of the many.
                “Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes the laws.”
                Mayer Amschel Bauer (1744 -1812), Godfather of the Rothschild Banking Cartel of Europe

                • Soros cost ‘taxpayers’ nothing. Tax payers are on the other side of the balance sheet from the government.

                  Currency issuers never ever need to ‘borrow’ in the money markets for that which they issue at no cost.

                  The money markets are at the mercy of the government when it comes to interest rates. The government sets the coupon when it issues ‘debt’ (thus its interest costs do not change) and it has unlimited power in the secondary markets to buy and sell securities and thus dictate price and therefore yields.

                  You have fallen for the illusion.

                  • John says

                    Strange then that ‘the illusion’ (as you term it) appears to have become objective reality in places like Greece.
                    There, people are living in extreme poverty and pauperism, with multiple food banks and even pharmacies running out of medical supplies. There are high levels of homelessness and suicides too.
                    From what you are saying, why cannot the Greeks simply wave all this away overnight?
                    Whenever you end up in debt – either as an individual or an individual government – it is only a matter of time before the bailiffs of one kind or another come knocking at the door.
                    Of course, in the case of Greece and all other countries in the eurozone, the traditional way of reducing debt – inflation – is no longer available to them as the Germans make sure it will not happen that way ever again.

                • I’m sorry John, but you haven’t thought that through.

                  Greece is not a sovereign currency issuer.

                  It gave up its sovereignty when it entered into the Eurozone.

                  And no, ‘debt’ is quite a different concept between a currency issuer and a household.

                  • John says

                    Greece is part of the euro currency zone.
                    It still needs to borrow money to service its outstanding debts.
                    It has insufficient revenue streams to service debt from income.
                    So, it has to pay the market price to borrow money on international money markets.
                    The interest rates they end up paying to borrow are determined by the market – not by them.
                    That is why they as a government and the majority of the people of Greece are broke.

                • “Greece is part of the euro currency zone.
                  It still needs to borrow money to service its outstanding debts.”

                  Yes John. That is rather my point.

                  Greece is NOT a currency issuer.

                  The conversation was about sovereign currency issuers.

                • “Where the global financial class do have a whip hand is when individual countries find it necessary to borrow on the international money markets through issuing large-scale central treasury bonds.”

                  A country is only under obligation to borrow funds from another if a) it needs that currency to buy something that can only be purchased by the currency of that particular issuer and b) it has nothing by way of goods or services to offer in exchange for the currency, that would, so to speak, cancel out the ‘debt.’

                  Ideally, between two sovereigns engaging on an equal footing in trade, currencies would be swapped in amounts roughly equivalent in value in terms of the goods and services each sovereign wanted from the other. This is only another way of saying that in a truly fair market, one nation’s fiat would be as good as another for the purpose of discharging a debt or buying goods and services from another.

                  This, however, is not how things actually are.

                  Not long ago, under the military hegemony of the U.S., oil for example traded between nations only in U.S.D.

                  This meant that two countries who were not the U.S., whether they wanted to or not, needed to avail themselves of American dollars to trade oil between themselves.

                  But there are only two ways for a country that is not the U.S. to get those dollars: borrow them or give something up in terms of resources or goods in return for them.

                  But here is the wicked bit: notice that the U.S. only has to ‘print,’ at no cost to itself, the money it loans to other countries in need of its dollars in order to buy oil, or the money it gives to those countries for the goods that they have to sell ultimately to the U.S. in order to get the cash they need for their oil transactions.

                  In a nutshell, this is the rotten game of the U.S. vis-à-vis all other nations it constrains, by the constant threat of war, to trade in international markets in its currency, the world’s so-called dominant reserve currency.

                  So jag37777 is quite correct when he says that the national debt of a truly sovereign nation is an illusion.

                  Only a country literally under the gun of another to use that other country’s currency in trade in international markets can ever be hobbled by “debt,” because in fact it is no longer a sovereign nation, that is, in a position to issue it’s own currency as either collateral or payment for debt to any and all other sovereign nations.

                  As hegemon, the U.S. is the only country in its sphere of influence that reserves the right to pay others for their goods and services in a currency that it literally prints at no cost to itself.

                  Every other nation, however, pays in the real and hard currency of its resources and goods and services that it must give up for the U.S. dollars it needs for the privilege of trading in the international markets controlled by the U.S. If it doesn’t or refuses to do so, it becomes a target like Iraq, like Libya, or now Russia, precisely for threatening to break free from the American dollar.

                  In the case of Russia, it is currently making a bid to ‘de-dollarize’ its oil in international markets, that is to say, to sell its oil in bilateral markets that trade and price its oil in Russian rubles, thereby placing that particular Russian asset in those particular markets beyond the reach of the American ‘petrodollar,’ the bedrock of American economic supremacy.

                  Get rid of the U.S. dollar as the international currency of trade, and America looses the means by which it rapes the world in economic terms.

                  This is what American aggression is about: imposing it’s currency as the dominant medium of international trade, a currency it prints while all others are obliged to “earn” it in one way or another.

                  And by the way, that scheme is also the secret and the template of how capital on a national scale operates: whosoever controls the issuance of the legally enforced medium of exchange, literally “own” the economy in its entirety, because whereas the issuer — in this instance, the capitalist class as a whole –merely in effect “prints” the cash it needs to lay claim to whatever it wants in the “free” market , everyone else must “earn” this cash, either as a wage or as income from a small business. Large and profitable and favored corporations, however, get “money” for “investment” purposes at virtually zero cost, and the commercial banks actually and in reality print their own.

                  • John says

                    There are some very interesting points in what you say, especially about Libya.
                    It was not only the US who wanted Qaddafi dead; so too did France (because Qaddafi was threatening the African franc zone) and Britain (presumably the City of London stood to lose out significantly if Qaddafi’s idea of a silver-backed African unit of currency was adopted on the whole continent). Qaddafi’s threat to denominate African oil sales in the new currency also clearly upset the USA, just as – I believe – the Shah of Iran did when he started demanding gold in exchange for dollars when selling oil on the international markets – ???
                    What you say about the US raping the world economy is true, which makes it all the more remarkable that they are on the verge of racking-up US $20 Trillion in public debt. If the US Dollar were to cease to be THE international currency of exchange, just how soon would the US house of cards collapse?
                    In the US, UK and elsewhere, the current preferred way to stabilise the global financial economy is quantitative easing – a ridiculous policy which generates few if any real jobs and just creates massive inflationary pressures in stock market prices, property bubbles and increasing commodity prices globally.
                    The brown stuff has not yet hit the fan – but when it does…….
                    That is why Western governments should be considering the application of window guidance or ‘suasion to guide their economies towards planned increases in real production and the creation of real jobs, instead of just handing over sackfuls of cheap cash to financial institutions for them to gamble with on international markets.

                • With all due respect, the importance of being the ‘reserve currency’ is highly overstated, at least since the collapse of Bretton Woods.

                  I’m not certain that ‘petro-dollars’ ever existed outside the mind of Henry Kissinger and the OPEC stooges that he was conning on behalf of David Rockefeller.

                  It has become a sort of received wisdom but it doesn’t make a lot of sense from an economic perspective.

                • @ Jag37777

                  “It has become a sort of received wisdom but it doesn’t make a lot of sense from an economic perspective.”

                  Okay. But you don’t explain how it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why don’t you do me the courtesy, then?

                • I think the term “printing” is misleading in this context.

                  $ are created by electronically crediting private sector bank accounts.

              • @ Jag37777

                “It has become a sort of received wisdom but it doesn’t make a lot of sense from an economic perspective.”

                Okay. But you don’t explain how it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why don’t you do me the courtesy, then?

                • Markets largely consist of private entities who pay for their commodities in the currency that their income is earned in.

                  Sure, there are forex transactions and eventually central bank swaps as a result and yes US banks get a slice (and the T-Bills to play with) but I don’t see how that gives the US any geopolitical power.

                  Maybe I’ve been missing something for a long time but no one has ever been able to give me a cogent economic argument as to how it works in a fiat, floating exchange rate world.

                  • Let me try: Saudi Arabia, for example, sells oil for American currency. Buyers must pay Saudi Arabia in American dollars. American dollars come from America. To get American dollars, the buyers must either sell something to America or go into debt to America – that is to say, in the last or first instance, and in the aggregate.

                    America, however, is the issuer of the international trade currency, and the only thing it needs to give up to settle any account is an American dollar which it can, in the last instance, print for itself.

                    So while the rest of the nations who must trade among themselves using the American currency have to go either into debt for dollars or must give away an actual “something” to get the dollars they need to buy oil from Saudi Arabia, the U.S. doesn’t and can just print money to pay it’s debts, effectively receiving imports at no cost or, if you will, as empires did of old, receiving tribute from its subjugated peripheral regions or subalterns for absolutely nothing in return but the promise of military aggression if any one of its incorporated vassals were to attempt to break out of this charmed circle.

                    Of course, in practice, the fleecing operation is infinitely more complex than the abstract way in which I here sketch it. But that is the overall logic of the thing and what makes the U.S. an empire in form and substance.

                    The dollar, then, as reserve currency, or rather as the medium of international trade, really does underpin the economic hegemony of the U.S., and beneath that, it is the military might of the U.S. that ensures the preeminence of the dollar, a military no less subsidized by the economies of other nations than is the economy of the U.S. itself.

                  • John says

                    I would just like to add that there was a court case – in New York, I think – where a US vulture fund sued the Argentine Government for full payment on its debt and the fund – from memory – seized an Argentine government sea vessel somewhere in Africa in part-payment of the debt.
                    That is how the ‘illusion’ of debt can be turned into reality.
                    The US authorities too are pretty litigious when it comes to enforcing their rules on dollar currency transfers.
                    Just ask a whole raft of European-based banks who have been fined many billions of dollars.

                • “the rest of the nations who must trade among themselves using the American currency have to go either into debt for dollars or must give away an actual “something” to get the dollars they need to buy oil from Saudi Arabia,”

                  I’m sorry but that appears to me to be a logical fallacy.

                  “Somebody somewhere does a currency exchange” would seem to me to be the most one can conclude.

                  Where is the one sided benefit?

                  I can understand why the US deep state sold the concept back when Bretton Woods collapsed and nations were wondering what the value of T-Bills were, but not now.

                  Again, I might be missing something but I just can’t see it.

                  • You understand that within the EU, Greece is not a sovereign state because it cannot print it’s own currency but must go begging for the Euro. The Euro is the means by which the EU has enslaved and plunders Greece. With the American Dollar it’s the same thing, only as pertains those goods or services that on international markets can only be obtained with American dollars. In those ‘market regions,’ exactly analogous to Greece as a ‘market region,’ those nations that cannot use their currencies but that of the U.S., are effectively without sovereignty and therein enslaved and plundered.

                    Whoever issues a necessary currency, whoever has the printing press for that currency, in those places where that currency is the mandatory medium of exchange, the issuer rules supreme and can lay claim to whatever circulates in that ‘market space’ for no more effort than it takes to ‘print’ the medium of exchange.

                    If you understand Greece’s predicament, it is but a tiny step to understand the situation of any country that absolutely must use American dollars in its dealings, not with America as such, but between itself and those other nations that must also use the American dollar. This is precisely the situation of a person who must earn a wage for a living. To get the money for the things one needs, one is obliged to give up ones labour power, otherwise one does not get ones living wage. Likewise, to buy commodities on the international markets that trade only in American dollars that are not your own printable currency, you must likewise give something up in resources or goods or services, wealth that ultimately ends up in one form or another in America as payment for the American dollars that America specifically put into circulation, at no cost to itself, into those markets.

                    After all, the American dollar doesn’t grow on trees. It’s printed in, by and for America — at no cost. Everywhere else outside America, it fetches a price. Consequently, no American dollar leaves America that doesn’t bring something to America quite literally for free in those international theaters of exchange where countries other than America must trade among themselves with American dollars. This is one of the ways in which money as such works, that is, how it extracts wealth from the serfs, be they wage workers or subjugated nations.

                    • John says

                      With reference to the US Dollar, the same situation applies internally as well as externally.
                      Just like Greece is impoverished by being within the euro zone, so too are poorer states in the USA.
                      The only remedy is a form of redistributional policy, which transfers resources from wealthier states – like Germany in the EU or Washington, D.C. in the US – to poorer states like Greece and Mississippi, respectively.
                      However, I somehow doubt redistributional policies are high on President-Elect Trump’s list and the same is also probably true of Chancellor Frau Merkel in the run-up to an election year.
                      Where things get complex is in deciding if the status quo is a form of already existing redistributional policy, i.e. from the 99 to the 1 per cent – or not?
                      It will take an enlightened political and intellectual class to get behind redistributional polices, designed to shift resources back down from the 1 per cent to the 99 per cent – though Jeremy Corbyn is starting to talk about it.

                  • John says

                    The real value of Treasury Bills will fall over time due to the effects of inflation.
                    In theory, they could increase in value during periods of deflation – but that rarely happens.
                    The only offset to the falling value of bills is the fact that they are discounted at the time of sale and there is a margin of appreciation between the original sale price and the eventual price at which they are redeemed, though I imagine this does not make very much difference over long-ish periods of time.
                    Where the true value of bills is maintained is through any annual interest premiums paid on the bills, though they historically tend to be low and may not keep pace with global levels of inflation.
                    Right now, it is probably true to say that China is keeping the US afloat financially due to their massive holdings of US Treasury Bills – though they are showing signs of jibbing on this policy with as Trump White House.
                    Trump’s election has also seen the discount rates on Third World debt increase dramatically, as there are global fears he will not be so supportive of Third World economies as previous administrations have been.
                    Even the much-vaunted BRICS countries are looking at double-digit rates now due to Trump’s election.

                • Hmmm, I am an Australian. We haven’t run a trade surplus in over 40 years. And we are not self sufficient in petroleum products.

                  We have no foreign currency debt.

                  Riddle me that.

                  • Does Australia have resources which is sells on the international markets in exchange for American dollars?

                    • John says

                      Australia in recent years exported vast amounts of coal and iron ore to China.
                      Arguably, it was Australian exports that fuelled the Chinese economic boom.
                      I assume the Chinese paid the Australian exporters in US Dollars.
                      There has been a reduction in trade since between Australia and China.
                      However, Australia probably still retains a surplus of US Dollars from the former trading.
                      That is my guess, anyway!

                    • It runs a trade deficit with the US. It has a currency that foreign exporteres are happy to retain.

                    • It has a trade deficit with the US. But a surplus with China, which has a surplus with the US. So where is all that raw material being exported to China ending up? Could it be that some of it is going to the US? And what is China getting in return? US dollars, right. And what does Australia receive for its exports to China? US dollars, maybe? Are all those US dollars going back into the US? But I thought you mentioned something about oil, didn’t you? And what is the “balance” on that score?

                      Look, the point is Australia pays for what it earns in US dollars with real exports, a part of which, through China’s trade surplus with the US, ends up in the US, paid for, not with US exports, but with US dollars. And have you noticed that the US trade balance, overall, with the rest of the world, is always — what? A deficit. One that, so long as that nation continues to maintain its military supremacy, it will be able to run into perpetuity and never, ever go broke because . . . (I’ll let you finish that sentence.)

                    • Well that’s a lot of assumption and surmising. But in the end, so what?

                      The world is moving towards using other currencies. But for that to be catastrophic for the US it would mean other traders refusing to accept $US entirely.

                      A far cry from reality.

                    • “it would mean other traders refusing to accept $US entirely.”

                      The US has a deal for traders that they can’t refuse. Ask Iraq. Ask Libya. I’m sure if you look around, your’ll find a lot of other bodies who thought they could refuse . . .

                    • I’m not convinced that the trading in dollars (or not) played any decisive role in any of those.
                      The world is awash with $.

                    • “I’m not convinced that the trading in dollars (or not) played any decisive role in any of those.
                      The world is awash with $.”

                      Perhaps you are correct. I’ve read persuasive arguments to the contrary, but I’m willing to concede that Iraq selling its oil in Euros or Gaddafi convincing the African continent of creating it’s own independent currency zone, these things would not in themselves have been much of a threat to the dollar in the current geopolitical context, and it is, as you suggest, likely not something that played into the US’s rationale for destroying those regimes.

                      More research on my part to be done on that. Maybe you have a few pertinent links at hand?

                    • With all due respect, I’d keep going on the macroeconomics. Try some MMT.
                      Maybe start with Warren Moseler’s 7 Deadly Innocent Frauds.

                    • And btw, I’m not saying that these things play no part. I just don’t think they are the decisive factors that some seem to believe.

                    • John says

                      The US has toppled or murdered various political leaders and regimes to ensure the dominance of their dollar.
                      Why else did Qaddafi end up with a bayonet up his rectum in Libya?
                      Going back further, why did the US support the military when they toppled Allende in Chile?
                      It is known that the Russians and Chinese are both working towards excluding the US Dollar from their trade.
                      I think the US military-industrial-media complex will find them rather harder to overthrow.
                      Perhaps that is why the mass media is softening us all up with fake anti-Russian and anti-Chinese rhetoric?

                    • You are assuming that these interventions happen due to a perceived need to maintain US$ dominance.

                      I would hazard that continued profit streams and access to resources for the inner circle of corporate America (which is international these days) is the predominant motive.
                      Any populist, leftist movement/government is seen as a threat to capitalist dominance.

                • ” Consequently, no American dollar leaves America that doesn’t bring something to America quite literally for free”

                  No US$ leaves the US banking zone, period. Unless by banknote.

                  • By an American dollar “leaving” America you know that I mean it has changed hands, by title property, from, say, an American dollar held by the U.S. to an American dollar held by Aurstralia, or Canada, or England, or Saudi Arabia, and so on. You can’t spend an American dollar on the international market that you don’t hold, by title of property, just like you can’t spend an Australian dollar that hasn’t by title of property migrated from the Australian banking system into your own hands, though it may not literally be in your own hands.

                    • But they don’t leave their own banking system.

                      Other than notes or coins a US$ doesn’t exist if it doesn’t have a corresponding $ in a Fed account.

                • John, the Argentine debt was in $US. It was the result of foolish pre Kirchner IMF influenced decisions.
                  The Kirchner government also handled the legal aspects of the case very badly.

                  The seizure of the ship was deemed illegal btw.

                • “Right now, it is probably true to say that China is keeping the US afloat financially due to their massive holdings of US Treasury Bills ”

                  China has a lot of T-Bills because it has run a massive trade surplus with the USA.

                  It swaps it reserve $ for T-Bills.

                  T-Bills are just like savings accounts.

                  That’s is all it is. It doesn’t prop anything up or otherwise.

                  • Wow. And you started out in thread suggesting that some people had bought into an illusion. Are you familiar with Michael Hudson. He has a website. You should look him up. He will explain to you exactly how all those T-Bills prop up the US of fucking A, and in particular, its military.

                  • John says

                    What if China decided to sell-off all its US $ 750 Billion worth of Treasury Bills?
                    It is unlikely they will because one effect would be to diminish the exchange value of the Dollar.
                    This, in turn, would make Chinese exports to the US much more expensive in dollar terms.
                    Not that it is likely – unless Trump pees off the Chinese really big time!
                    Then watch the “global” economy collapse like a balloon deflating rapidly!
                    Oh, to live in interesting times – as the Chinese might say.

                    • What if China decided to sell-off all its US $ 750 Billion worth of Treasury Bills?

                      They would have US $ 750 Billion on US$ bank deposits, the buyers bank deposits would have decreased dollar for dollar and the ownership of the T-Bills would have changed.

                      What else do you think it would mean?

                    • John says

                      It would mean that China would use its on-shore dollars to buy up American businesses and real estate.
                      It would be interesting to know how much of America is still owned by Americans?
                      I think most US ports are now foreign-owned.
                      The UK has a massive US investment portfolio, which generates massive currency flows to Britain.
                      America is in hock to many countries, taking it over bit by bit, business by business and building by building.
                      The same thing is happening in the UK, where power plants are being owned by French-Chinese consortia.
                      Foreign-owned rail companies use profits from UK passengers to subsidise rail fares in their own countries.
                      It really is a mad mad mad mad world!

                • I know Michael Hudson’s work well. But his language on some of this stuff is sloppy.

                  “propping up” may not mean what you think it means.

                  As we agreed earlier, government debt is an illusion. Are you retreating from that?

                  Government debt = non-government savings.

                  T-Bills are savings of existing $.

                  • “As we agreed earlier, government debt is an illusion. Are you retreating from that?”

                    No. No retreat — if and only if we are talking about a sovereign state that can print for itself the money that it itself legislates as the legal tender in those markets under its rule and control. For any debt that it incurs in its sovereign markets can always be discharged with money that it PRINTS, in other words, without any ‘conisderation’ in the legal sense of that word.

                    T-Bills are on the side of the issuer a ‘debt.’ US dollars were paid to acquire those T-Bills. Those dollars go where? Back into the U.S. treasury or some such equivalent, right? When the T-Bills come due, how are they discharged? With currency, right? Not with ‘exports,’ right? And where does the U.S., in the last instance, get its currency? Oh, that’s right: it PRINTS it.

                    Look, this isn’t hard. If the U.S. is always, but always importing MORE than it exports, doesn’t that look suspiciously like an empire receiving tribute?

                    So explain how it is that if the U.S. always takes more wealth in than it exports — not in currency terms, but in hard goods and services — it is isn’t receiving “something” for “nothing.”

                    • John says

                      All the previous empires that exacted tribute ended up broke, if not bust.
                      The same is happening to the American Empire.
                      Their debt is not being paid off, just rolled over.
                      US public debt is now around US $ 20 Trillion – about US $ 40,000 for every American man, woman and child.
                      Is that not the case?
                      One day the global bailiffs will come calling the the door of the US.
                      Then what?
                      The US hated French President de Gaulle because he insisted on the US settling its debts through gold transfers.
                      That was one of the factors that led to the US having to abandon gold backing for its dollar.
                      You see, it already started over 50 years ago…….

                  • John says

                    But surely private savings ratios in the US, UK and elsewhere in the West are at their lowest in decades?
                    What is keeping most western economies afloat is not savings but debt.
                    Look at the interest rates paid on savings – and then look at the interest rates charged on debts.
                    There is an absolutely massive difference currently between the two.
                    Let me put it this way: I conducted an analysis of the Bank of England’s interest rates over a 300 year period.
                    The average rate over all that time was around 5 per cent.
                    What is it today and for a number of years? 0.5 (a half of one) per cent?
                    How can we have those sort of rates after 300 years of interest rates being ten times higher?
                    It will all end in tears and gnashing of teeth.
                    And I count myself an optimist…….!!

                    • Private debt has exploded in the neoliberal era. That is due to suppression of wages, manufactured high unemployment and underemployment and disjointed, inadequate fiscal policy.

                • The US runs a trade deficit. So do Australia, the UK and numerous others.

                  The US is an empire but I think you overstate the importance of $ trading and the US’ ability to enforce $ trading.

                  The $ that buy Treasuries don’t go anywhere. It’s just a portfolio swap of private sector savings/accounting units.

                  • Jag3777, yes, it’s “just accounting.” Noting really goes anywhere. But the ‘claims’ on real world assets represented by all the entries of that accounting is ‘real,’ and those assets really do move around. They are the stuff of exports and imports. And when you have a nation that always imports MORE than it exports, would you say that maybe something ain’t right in that equation? And how would you explain it?

                • I don’t really understand this ‘claims on real goods’ thing. $ are transferable credits. They can be used/swapped for whatever the holder wishes but there is no inherent value or ‘claim’ on anything real.

                  For any country to run a trade deficit, as the US and others do, other countries have to run trade surpluses. Most willingly choose to for the employment gains (eg China). Others do so for misguided economic reasons (eg Germany).

                • John,

                  “US public debt is now around US $ 20 Trillion – about US $ 40,000 for every American man, woman and child.
                  Is that not the case?”

                  US ‘public debt’ = the US$ financial assets of the non-government sector/s.

                  You can’t be on both sides of the balance sheet.

                  A US government liability is a non-government asset.

                  That’s straight forward accounting and true by definition.

                    • The debt clock loons add ‘public debt’ to the total whereas it should be subtracted.

                      They’re trying to scare you into believing that government services and public purpose are a cost to you.

                      They’re not.

                    • John says

                      Strange: everyone else is wrong but only you are right.
                      No wonder La La Land did so well.

                    • Pete Petersen and his cronies are not ‘everyone else’, John.

                      Rather than go the insult route, why don’t you try to think of it in balance sheet terms?

                      Assets and liabilities.

                      $ are government liabilities.

                      So whose assets are they?

                      Have a nice day.

              • Jen says

                @ Jag37777

                “… We haven’t run a trade surplus in over 40 years. And we are not self sufficient in petroleum products …”

                Balance of payments is not solely about balance of trade. Balance of payments includes all monetary exchanges between Australia and other countries that may not be related to trade directly or indirectly (as in insurance). A country can run trade deficits for 40 years, maybe 80 years, may not be self-sufficient in energy resources and still run up BoP surpluses because of other financial inflows due to financial and other services it offers.

                How do you think some tax havens have survived and prospered despite not offering much more than sand to lie on and waves and surf to swim in?

                In addition, Australia offers a lot of real estate for foreign investors to park their money in.

                • Check out our BoPs and our CA balances for the same period.

                  Australia can run a foreign deficit as long as a) foreign exporters are prepared to hold AU$ and b) our Federal government runs fiscal deficits.

                  When they try not to (austerity) is when the whole thing goes to the pack.

  4. chrisb says

    ‘I think Labour, even under Corbyn, and even if it wins the 2020 election, will be forced into the usual compromised position by the US/EU power structures …’

    Corbyn’s main concern regarding BREXIT is that the UK has access to the ‘Single Market’. A so called socialist demanding that the UK remains part of one big free market? Don’t look to him for salvation.

  5. Neoliberalism of markets is an expression of the rise of corporate power and influence in the social structures and institutions the world over; government is the proxy of this power and the only reason government will remain an institution.

    Supply side economics, globalization, the weakening power of labor, the protections that corporations now enjoy, has given unprecedented freedom and protection to corporations to move across all markets the world over to seek not only new markets, but all resources and factors of production necessary to acquire more capital and thus power.

    This coupled with the fact that just a handful of corporations control the majority of media outlets, determines the messaging and information that the public ingests thus assuring their continued reign.

    It is not that complicated. For an interesting case study, check out the rise to power of the British East India Company. They existed for almost 280 years and during that time, gained complete control of Great Britain’s Parliament, subjugated and economically ravaged the entire Indian sub-continent, maintained an army of 250,000 and was the most powerful corporation that has ever existed. There is nothing new under the sun.

    • John says

      It should equally be noted that the East India Company was wound-up effectively after the events of the 1857-1859 Indian Mutiny and replaced by direct rule by The Crown.
      Eventually – after 1947 – India gained independence.
      No “empire” or colonial regime lasts for ever.
      Israelis should note that.

  6. It happened before Reagan and Thatcher.

    The UK’s first neoliberal budget (where fighting inflation became the primary target as opposed to full employment) was under the Callaghan government. In the US under Jimmy Carter. In Australia under Labor’s Gough Whitlam.

    The nominal labour parties were under the spell of the monetarists well before their Tory counterparts.

    The stagflation caused largely by the oil crisis gave capital the opportunity to fight back against labour’s gains made in the Keynesian post WW2 era to regain its share of national income.

    The bankers spearheaded the fight back.

    • Lumpy Gravy says

      It happened before Reagan and Thatcher.

      It did, indeed. Here’s a 2004 article which chronicles how neoliberalism wormed its way into West Germany …

      The End of ‘Rhineland Capitalism’: Germany at the Crossroads

      … slowly at first in the late 1970s under social democrat Schmidt, gaining pace during the 1980s under conservative Kohl, gaining more pace after the reunification of the country in 1990 and running amok (Hartz etc.) during social democrat Schröder’s reign 1998-2005. Today, thanks to Germany’s “liberated” capitalist economy the social climate in the country is more aggressive and nastier than almost anywhere else in continental Europe.

  7. Seamus Padraig says

    I think I agree with the author that Jeremy Corbyn (and Bernie Sanders) are probably not the Second Coming. They are too meek and submissive to authority. We need leaders who fight TPTB, not beg them for scraps.

    • John says

      While I think you are probably right about Sanders and Corbyn, they represent – at least – a start.
      They could be seen as the modern-day John the Baptists before the next “Messiah” (to use a phrase!).
      What Democratic Socialists in the US and UK need to do is get behind Sanders and Corbyn for the future.
      They are both of an age where they are unlikely to be around politically in 10 years time.
      Democrat Socialists in the US and UK need now to be creating replacement leaders for them.
      With newer and younger leaderships in place – and an accompanying set of policies – the future can be better.

  8. Corbyn, the wrong man leading the right revolution !

    What can go wrong most assuredly will, same old trap for the Masses while the Tories chuckle.

  9. John says

    There are a number of developments in the 1970s which ushered in the new neo-liberal consensus.
    The Mid East War of 1973 resulted in OPEC cutting oil production until Israel left occupied Palestine.
    As a result, the price of oil quadrupled – and Israel refused to budge even then.
    The knock-on effect of the increase in the price of oil was such that in the UK in the month of August 1975 (from memory) retail price inflation reached around 25 per cent and created a stagnant economy.
    The stagnant economy led to a rise in unemployment, thus creating the new phenomenon of ‘stagflation’ which the previously successful Keynesian economic policies were unable to deal with.
    As a result, the doors were opened wide in power centres across Europe and North America for the “new” neo-liberal ideologies and economic theories to make their mark in persuading some of the new more radically right-wing people like Reagan and Thatcher that it was time to try out these new ideas.
    This gave the fringe theories of the neo-liberals and neo-conservatives a new respectability and they struck swiftly to establish themselves as the new orthodoxy.
    Greed really had become good!
    People on the Left were bereft of any counter-ideas then and largely remain the same today.
    That is why new forms of radical left-wing thinking are so critically necessary today.
    Paradoxically, some very old ideas – such as those of Henry George and his land wealth taxation proposals – might now find their time has finally come?
    It would be interesting to read up more on some of the economic ideas of John Ruskin too, which are now little-known of today.

    • “Greed really had become good!”

      That movie, btw, was a brilliant example of a “satire” being used as effective propaganda for the worldview it was supposedly skewering. Which reminds me of Gaspar Noe’s “anti-violence” film Irreversible… the year the film came out, the file-sharing communities were flooded with Irreversible’s grisly, real time, CGI rape scene: teens were sharing it enthusiastically! Just like every WW2 epic in which the (albeit evil) Nazis are represented as stylish, intelligent, ideologically focused, handsome and remorselessly strong, you have to ask: who are they getting you, subliminally, to root for?

      The structural problem of the Left has always been: what are its unifying concepts and how compelling are they on a primitive level? The Right has the love of Money and the need for Power to get its (awful) membership energized and organized; Right-wingers don’t invariably splinter into ineffectual sub-sets over abstract quibbles as readily as the Left will. Being of the Left means being driven by (noble) Abstractions that are too open to idiosyncratic interpretation in a group setting. Whereas a dollar is a dollar and no one has to sit down a five-year-old and explain, to her/him how to feel greed, the five-year-old will need to be lectured extensively about justice (as it applies to others). How to overcome this imbalance?

      • John says

        While the average 5-year old will struggle to comprehend the concept of justice, it is a fact of biology and psychology that they comprehend the concepts of right and wrong, fairness and unfairness from an exceedingly young age – possibly before they have even learned to speak or comprehend the concept of value and money.
        If the Left were to appeal to the natural instincts of fairness and unfairness/right and wrong in all people, then they might be able to storm the commanding heights of the hegemonic values of all societies.
        One of the other “victories” of the neo-liberal clique has been their ability to cast everything into excessively individualistic terms. Anything that appears to be wrong leads to demands that we all as individuals accept individual responsibility for what has happened or is happening.
        However, what people have generally forgotten is that the post-1945 social democratic consensus was based upon a collective understanding of events, as well as a commitment to collective solutions.
        This is why the neo-liberal Right in Britain still find it hard to directly overturn the British peoples’ commitment to institutions like the National Health Service and the Welfare State.
        We all need to remind ourselves and others from time to time that we are not alone and that collective solutions are not only possible but preferable to attempting solely individualistic solutions. This is the reason why we all accept the need for general taxation – because our collective resources are superior to our individual resources.
        Going back to the days of religion-based charity and individual philanthropy is no solution.

  10. “The right could hardly believe its luck as the mainstream CL/SD proved to be such an ideological push-over.”

    Wasn’t it more the case that the one side of the supposed ideological divide took the Zeitgeist’s temperature and realized that certain pretenses were no longer necessary? Whereas the other side of the supposed ideological divide was already running rampant? But it all didn’t really go into hyper-drive until the NeoLiberal Con came up with the perfect accelerant: “Box cutters”. An improbable (if potent) symbol.

  11. Jen says

    ‘…the people with the jobs that every parent would like their children to grow up and get. In addition to doctors, lawyers, the clergy, architects and engineers – the core of the professional groups – the category includes, economists, experts in international development, political scientists, financial planners, computer programmers, aerospace designers, and even people who write books like this one.” ‘

    Thomas Frank obviously forgot to include journalists.

    • bevin says

      “Listen Liberal’ (…’books like this one..’) is a book written by a journalist.

  12. bevin says

    “…he political assimilation of centre-left, liberal class, into this emerging neo-liberal, neo-conservative movement…”
    Re-assimilation, I think. This class is the one that began to break away from the liberal imperialist Victorian ruling class at the end of the C19th. They were accomplices in “The Strange Death of Liberal England” by the end of the First World war they had drifted towards the Labour Party, soon they had, essentially, taken it over. The names , Strachey, Cripps, Wedgwood, Woolf, Stephen, Potter even Sassoon, are familiar enough to any historian of the Victorian, utilitarian liberal bourgeoisie. They are a caste characterised by their addiction to power, they are attracted towards it like moths, they see themselves as enablers, teachers, experts. They began their journey as Evangelicals scolding the poor for ignorance and idleness, then they became housing and sanitation reformers-easing themselves out of the Poor Law disaster into Public Health, like Southwood Smith, – they ended up as Fabians, running and ruining the Labour Party and distilling the libertarianism of socialism into the ‘nanny state’ in which they were the nannies and the working class were designated as lifelong children.
    Thatcherism was no problem. For them it was where they came in: neo-liberalism is but old liberalism writ large. And don’t ever forget it!

  13. Dave Hansell says

    One of the key features, which can also be seen as a bug, of the political managerialism of this, represented through those such as Blair, Clinton and their myriad of wannabe followers, is that every single one (and more) of the jobs/roles etc listed in the quote by Frank (above) are under attack by the managerialists on behalf of that system. This is because whatever its form, political of otherwise, managerialism, having as it does a generalist approach, cannot envisage any task which requires specialist expertise, knowledge and experience. The mindset is one in which all tasks can be simplified into an easily managed and controllable algoithm/script/process which anyone recruited from the local bus stop can carry out. Which is why you get managers with no knowledge of the necessary specialist skills or expertise firmly believing in the delusion that it is both possible and feasible to move from one industry to another with no loss Los of managerial efficacy or competence.

    The approach and it’s adherents despise professions of all kinds on the grounds that they represent a separate power structure to be destroyed and undermined at every opportunity. Thus we have for example education at all levels replaced by schooling with simplistic target setting in exam factories, treating young people like tins of peas on a production line, often carried out by people with no teaching qualifications and no other experience than that of mere managerialism in some part of the body corporate.

    As more and more automation through AI is brought on stream in the next decade and a half we will see many of those professions listed by Frank undermined and disappear. Already we have corporate entities exploring AI super algorithms to use on day to day routine decision making which will likely take out the first (lower) three tiers of existing management. Medicine (doctors), along with healthcare represents another profession liable to undergo such “efficiencies” in the name of the Corporate bottom line. What will be interesting is when, not if, the spotlight for such efficiencies of AI automation turns on the politicians and the Democratic process.

    • John says

      “We have had enough of experts” – Michael Gove, 17 June 2016.
      AI Robotocracy = Government of the people, for the people – by AI robots?

    • Jen says

      I suspect the managerial process described is the one that has already invaded universities and colleges, and medical clinics and hospitals also, where respectively students and patients alike are treated as “clients” with deep pockets. Packages of university and college courses are tailored to student “needs” and “demands” with a resultant loss in the quality of teaching and lecturers and tutors themselves reduced to the level of sales assistants in their pay and working conditions. In medical institutions, doctors are reduced to the level and work routines of factory workers processing patients in 15-minute time slots.

      I suspect also that firms where the human resources and marketing departments are growing at the expense of the core business that brings in the money are afflicted with the same managerial process.

      • This is covered thoroughly by Canadian philosopher John Ralston Saul. His tiny, but to-the-point book, “The Unconscious Civilization” explains the origins of our failed education system. Scientific management and Taylorism gripped industrialists and CEOs and was prominent in business schools until those bounds were burst and that thinking went into the wider society, including the education realm. The education system, influenced thusly is now meant for the benefit of the 1%. Students are viewed from the standpoint of their utility to those who own and run the world. Chomsky, in “Masters Of Mankind,” tells an interesting and frightening story about that influence, one resulting in the imposition on many schools of “balanced thinking,” which, as you can probably guess, is unbalanced. For example, 98% of the scientists believe and explain that global warming is real and anthropogenic. Powerful – rich – special interests want to ensure that students don’t get the ‘wrong’ idea about that and other things, so they managed to foist “balanced thinking” on schools, whereby you couldn’t dismiss the meterologists (!) and handful of serious scientists (funded by guess who) who dismissed the idea of human-caused global warming, but had to include, equally prominently, their ideas when discussions about global warming and it’s causes were up. Which reminds me, I meant to buy and read “Merchants Of Doubt” by now.

        We now have technocratic society (societies), where everyone is specialized into stupidity. The education system does not churn out well rounded, curious ‘citizens’. This does civilization no good. But it does wonders for the uncaring 1% who Chomsky, as do others, strangely views as a normal, good crowd, because he has decided that there’s no God and therefore no evil. He’s right about the power of systems and institutions and it’s absolutely true that no one escapes the corporatocracy. We are all cogs within it. The only question is: * Do you resist? * But to say that people like Ronald Reagan et al are not evil doesn’t sit well with me.

    • Well said Dave, I often wonder if the current model of education system we have, that is based on the assembly line, will ever be replaced by a new model that will lead to more creative thinking and a departure from managerialism. Nothing lasts forever.

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