Thursday, May 14, 2009

Brief history of modernity

Adapted from Streeck & other places

Luther's 95 Theses: 1517.
Peace of Westphalia: 1648.
American War of Independence: 1775-1783.
Critique of Pure Reason: 1781 / 1787.
American Constitution: 1787.
French Revolution: 1789–1799.
Hegel is professor in Berlin: 1818-1831.
De la démocratie en Amérique: 1835 / 1840.
Communist Manifesto: 1848.
Das Kapital Vol. 1: 1867.

The organised capitalism of the 1950s and 1960s was an international response to the social devastations that were widely perceived at the time to have been caused by the unfettered operation of self-regulating markets in the 1920s and 1930s. Cf. "advanced capitalism / organised capitalism / late capitalism" (Habermas); "state capitalism" (Pollock); "late capitalism or industrial society" (Adorno). Cf. Miliband, Poulantzas, Laclau, Offe, Hirst.

The early Dahl is a representative theorist of the welfare state compromise: his classical pluralism draws on the republican tradition of stability in mixed governance, updated in light of the perceived extremism of both the capitalist and and communist modes of social integration, and informed by social-anthropological research into the empirical operation of democratic institutions.

Free trade was regulated under a system of fixed exchange rates (Bretton Woods) anchored by the US dollar's convertibility into gold at a fixed price. Fixed exchange rates were incompatible with free flows of capital.

The political economy of Fordism or Keynesianism, terms that were used almost interchangeably, was deliberately designed to reconcile capitalism with social stability. It allowed for a newly settled way of life for the generations that had been through the Great Depression and the Second World War. At its centre was a regime of social rights, generated by democratic politics, that was to take precedence over the mechanisms of the market: rights to a minimum level of income, freedom from poverty, a modicum of social and economic equality, equal access to education, and social security in periods of unemployment, illness, and in old age. Cf. Marshall.

By the 1970s, the Fordist promises of economic and social security and stability began to be gradually withdrawn. Increasingly, employers and governments urged workers and unions no longer to insist, in an ever more competitive world, on what now was denounced as the “rigidities” of a defunct old regime, and concede more “flexibility” in just every aspect of the employment relationship.

Workers must respond faster to market changes; bear a growing share of the costs of structural adjustment; accept more regional, occupational and in particular downward mobility; submit to “lifelong learning” and feel responsible for their own “employability”; give up security for “flexicurity,” which means accepting spells of unemployment hoped to be short due to effective support by the government employment agency; agree to increasing shares of pay being commuted into bonuses dependent on individual and collective performance; understand that there can be no family wage any more as employers can no longer pay for two when employing just one.

Cf. "Zumutbarkeit", what is acceptable, & Habermas's idea in LC about the risks of the administrative intervention in socio-cultural system --> public themeatization of boundary conditions.

The dissolution of the Fordist social order extended to the institutions and to the social structure that such institutions had supposedly been set up to support.

Obviously, flexible labor markets that are open to all cannot offer the same sort of security and stability as the labor markets of Fordism --> "liberationist" model. "Market pressure" model: Beginning in the 1970s, stagnant real wages and rising unemployment compelled households to supply more labour to the market to defend their accustomed standard of living.

Improving market access for “outsiders,” in turn, required that institutional protections of “insiders” were disabled at least in part, intensifying the spreading sense of uncertainty about the future. As opportunities for all sorts of “atypical,” flexible employment proliferated, so did the pressures on the standard employment relationship at the center of the employment regime. Unlike in the liberationist story, that is to say, where market participation clears the way to a desirable social life, in the economic pressure scenario markets are imposed rather than sought, with market uncertainties undermining the formation of stable social commitments or thwarting them in the first place, as the system of social rights invented in the postwar period to protect society from commodification gives way under the impact of marketization.

Ways of reconciling: (1) models blend, w/ "liberationist" the relatively more accurate towards the top of the income distribution & vice-versa; (2) "liberationist" model an ideological form of the "market pressures" model.

Where formal institutionalization of family relations carries with it obligations to mutual assistance that replace entitlements to social security benefits, modern welfare states may entail economic incentives not to enter into formalized family bonds.

Corporatist (?) programme of cultural re-education, teaching people to regard flexibility and uncertainty as individual challenges – as opportunities not just for economic prosperity but also for personal growth – rather than as violations of collectively achieved social rights. Cf. Habermas on administrative milking the socio-cultural system for legitimation points.

The tension between female labour market participation and the political expectation, inevitable for fiscal reasons, that families will bear the main share of the growing burden of care for the aged.

For a number of years now there has been a growing consensus, even among “conservative” parties like the CDU, that flexible family structures and employment patterns force the state to take responsibility for child rearing if children are what government perceives to be in the public interest.

State provision of free childcare, higher child allowances, a new family allowance for parents of newborn children, increased child supplements to social assistance and other benefits are currently about to transform child raising from a private to a public responsibility, well into the middle classes.

In both accounts of the co-evolution of flexible labour markets and of deinstitutionalized patterns of family life – the market opportunities as well as the market pressures account – marketization causes gaps in social structures and gives rise to collective dysfunctions that must be repaired at public expense.
Here as elsewhere, while private profit requires subsidization by a public infrastructure, the private problems caused by its pursuit need to be fixed by social policy. The logic seems remarkably similar to that of the current banking crisis, where the liberation of financial markets from traditional constraints and the progressive commodification of money have ultimately issued in irresistible pressures on the state to step in and restore with its specific means the social commons of stable expectations and mutual confidence.

In both cases, and perhaps generally, capitalism seems to imply a need for a public power capable of creating substitutes for social relations invaded by market relations and as a consequence becoming unable to perform some of their previous functions. There is of course no guarantee that such work of social reconstruction can always be done. Even where something is considered “functionally necessary” by social theorists or social agents, this does not mean that the political will and the economic resources can in fact be mobilized to procure it. In the case of family policy filling the gap caused by the destruction of traditional family relations due to the attractions and pressures of markets, the problem is for an already overburdened and indeed highly indebted welfare state to divert the necessary funds from other commitments.