Degrees of Complexity

This article is a follow on from my previous essay on the false narratives of Brexit and the wider meta-political discourses that it has shrouded. It also looks to add to some of the arguments Chris Dillow presents in his article on plebiscitary politics.

The world as it currently exists, despite the attempts at universalisable discourses and the production of narratives that are black and white in their dichotomies, is extremely complex and full of varying degrees of socio-economic knowledge. A full calculatory system that can aggregate these variable forms of knowledge and processes is practically impossible, as was seen in the failures of state socialism and in the many failures of capitalism (which requires continual subsidy to exist). These are the most important lessons of Hayek and Mises, but also the most ignored. Utopian thinking of a top-down kind continues to exist, with everyone from neoliberals to modern leftists believing that everyone is rational or believers in the universal. Things like parochialism, gaps in knowledge and complexity are tacitly ignored. Continue reading

Political Falsity: The EU Referendum

The EU referendum, and the resultant Brexit, has become increasingly more important and polarising since the original vote last year. Whether it be calls for a second referendum or a “hard Brexit”, the concept of consensus politics seems to have gone out the window as debate and discourse become increasingly more adversarial. In one sense, developing a wider engagement in politics that moves debate outside the typical forums can be seen as refreshing, as the consensus politics that has defined the British parliamentary system for the past century has been stultifying. Poor voter turnout and the increasing apathy of voters seems to have received a shock from this referendum. However, the stultification of representative democracy has not been truly broken. Instead, new efforts to develop some kind of “politics of truth” has developed on both sides of the referendum campaign, ignoring wider meta-political and socio-economic debates. Continue reading

The Full Extent of Subjective Valuation

Nominal libertarians regularly invalidate their own claims to support the socio-economic understanding of subjective valuation when they focus simplistically on profit (in the capitalist context) as the main axiomatic goal of economic exchanges, and talk of systems of private property as pure enclaves of individuality. These two systems, which seemingly define modern libertarian thought, are taken to be foundational and static in their conceptual makeup, rather than as constituted systems which involve political and social wrangling. They become conceptually conceived as positively anti-state, which is nonsensical rubbish when looking at the historic developments of these systems. Private property is not just simply protected by the state, but also created through processes of enclosure and the purposeful privatisation of ground rent. That is not to say private property cannot exist in a stateless society, but that it cannot exist outside a social context. Similarly, profit can be something developed through generally consensual means as the product of one’s labours, but its existence as a subjective axiom means it is realisable via the state. Our modern rentier economy is a testament to this inconvenient truth. Continue reading

Privatised Keynesianism and Social Reproduction

The effective privatisation of social reproduction and the creation of mechanisms of debt and marketisation have meant that the burden of crises have been placed on those responsible for the reproduction of society: households and the families and women that inhabit them. “The privatisation of the economic crisis”[1] has led to the legitimation of structural adjustment programs, purposeful ‘deregulation’ and the smashing of social commons in favour of marketised systems. The welfare state, engendered as an imperfect form of commons, provided the means toward shared social reproduction between the family and the community, with the costs of childcare and healthcare offset by communalised subsidies. However, neoliberal doctrine has ended such a general system, pushing instead debt-based safety nets that have created a form of privatised Keynesianism, whereby consumer-debt instruments have overtaken communal provision. Continue reading

Basic Income as a System of Control

“Basic income – in both the north and the south – all depends on how we frame it. Will it be cast as a form of charity by the rich? Or will it be cast as a right for all?”[1]. This quote encapsulates both the promise and potential consequences of a basic income. Much has been made of the radical potential that a universal basic income inculcates in our sclerotic neoliberal societies, supposedly able to end the necessity of work and make wages a tool of social policy rather than simply an economic consequence of the labour market. It is easy to see the potential when labour markets are extremely sticky, with low-pay staying low and wages continuing their decoupling from productivity gains. Technological unemployment presents the dystopia of a world where further productivity that is reaped from machines is controlled by a transnational capitalist class of international investors and corporate megaliths, continuing the monopolisation of the economy and entrenching a precarious form of wage labour relation. Continue reading

Corporatism and Capitalism

Libertarians seem to believe that the semantic debate over capitalism is settled by the use of one term, corporatism. The highly complex nature of capital accumulation, based around different structures that involve both competitive and planned dynamics, is made simple by differentiating between corporatism, a bastardised form of crony capitalism where monopoly dominates and the state’s regulatory apparatuses are at their most coercive, and a pure capitalism, “a world of perfect competition among enterprises who are all market price takers (none has the power or size to shape markets), where no advertising enables producers to shape the desires of consumers, where all workers bargain individually for their wages, and so on”[1]. Continue reading

The Centralising Axiom

The multiple debates surrounding ideology constantly devolve into simplistic concepts like capitalism and socialism, referring to each other as opposing axiomatic systems that proffer significantly different visions of the world. However, both are fundamentally centralist systems. They understand society, economy and politics as universalisable wholes that need to be integrated into a full structure of production and decision-making. For capitalism, the main axiomatic point is the profit-motive achieved through multiple avenues of capital accumulation. Markets and states are the main entry and exit points through which capital is accumulated and profit is achieved. For socialism, it is the production of value for the meeting of basic needs and necessities, providing a society of equality where political and economic cohesiveness is supposedly developed. Economic planning  and social provisioning through centralised structures (usually the state but forms of global democratic planning have been theorised) are the mechanisms for this accumulation. Continue reading

Is Anarchism Worth It?

This question comes as a result of the lack of cohesiveness amongst the adherents of anarchism. Anarchists, while professing a common universality of values and beliefs, act as roving tribes when it comes to meetings between their different ideological sects. None seem to coalesce around any unifying concept, with each trying to outdo the other in how left-wing, anti-racist or intersectional they are. That’s all well and good for debate stages and internet forums, but it hardly builds a movement that can be politically and socially strong and that can challenge prevailing power structures. It leads to the question of whether anarchism, as the according ideology to so many beliefs, is really worth the time, the activism, the commitment that it is given. Continue reading

The Precariatisation of Work

With changes in work and employment patterns in 21st century there has been a precariatisation of work, where employment contracts are de-securitised, low-pay dominates and there is an increasing individuation of work-life, alongside a blurring of work and leisure. Developments like the sharing economy and the move toward a self-employment in-name-only represent a significant economic reorganisation of work. While this precariatisation has certain elements that have become universalisable amongst developed and developing nations, this essay will focus primarily on workforces in the post-industrial West. Continue reading

Basic Income’s Role in a Traditional Society

The idea of basic income is that work is not the centre of one’s life. While laziness is not meant to be encouraged, there is a tacit recognition that under an unconditional system it may well be, leading to a potential system where the productive are subsidising those who choose to be unproductive. While problematic under most understandings of political philosophy, this precedent is particularly problematic in the concept of a traditional society (that shaped by Burke’s little platoons of local and parochial institutions). Without a work obligation, one is receiving a right without reciprocating with duties. They’re receiving something for nothing. Continue reading