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Late capitalism

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Anonymous
Feb 3 2014 12:10
Late capitalism

I keep seeing people referring to capitalism as 'late capitalism' and it's incredibly fucking annoying. I can only assume they're using late as in 'belonging or taking place far on in a particular period' which is plain daft. As an economic system industrial capitalism has only existed since the mid-18th century it could last for hundreds more for all we know.

Sorry, needed to get that off my chest after seeing it in a Guardian headline.

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Feb 3 2014 14:17

I always thought it was meant as "mature", or sometimes even "decaying".

snipfool
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Feb 3 2014 14:24

I think the term did stem from a belief that capitalism was doomed and soon coming to an end. But the emerging features of capitalism at the time this term was coined seem to have come to define a period of capitalism still called 'late capitalism' even if there isn't still the belief it's necessarily the 'final stage'. Mandel defines it in contrast to previous periods of 'freely competitive capitalism' and 'monopoly capitalism'. In late capitalism there are increasingly fluid, multinational corporations and globalised markets. Just going on wikipedia really, don't really know. I find it a curious term, too.

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Feb 3 2014 14:37

I don't know, I think it's one of those terms that liberals (and liberal outfits like the Guardian) use because it allows them to be critical of some aspects of capitalism while still maintaining it's 'still the best option we have' sort of attitude. Besides being liberal bollocks, it belies a fundamental misunderstanding of how capitalism functions.

Other terms which do the same - "gangster capitalism", "monopoly capitalism", or "disaster capitalism" - really freakin' annoy me.

All that said, I do think there's a usefulness in terms like "industrial capitalism" or "neoliberalism" because as much as capitalism is capitalism, it does go through stages - stages no doubt linked to the state of the class struggle as well as capital's own internal contradictions.

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Feb 3 2014 14:55

"neoliberal" capitalism
"Crony" capitalism
"late" capitalism

All seemed to me like ways of changing the name so that theoretical shifts that might seem heretical might be more acceptable. Obvious is crony capitalism "It's just those banksters and their unregulation!"

Late capitalism- "an inssurection at the margins of dispirted, no choice, anti-workers poses more of a threat to capital than all you leftoids LARPing the JFT or I.W.W."

"Neoliberalism ate my homework" etc.

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Entdinglichung
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Feb 3 2014 15:09
snipfool wrote:
I think the term did stem from a belief that capitalism was doomed and soon coming to an end. But the emerging features of capitalism at the time this term was coined seem to have come to define a period of capitalism still called 'late capitalism' even if there isn't still the belief it's necessarily the 'final stage'. Mandel defines it in contrast to previous periods of 'freely competitive capitalism' and 'monopoly capitalism'. In late capitalism there are increasingly fluid, multinational corporations and globalised markets. Just going on wikipedia really, don't really know. I find it a curious term, too.

in earlier writings, Mandel used the term "neo-capitalism", in a way his take on Kondratiev's theory of "long waves"

snipfool
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Feb 3 2014 15:50
Chilli Sauce wrote:
I don't know, I think it's one of those terms that liberals (and liberal outfits like the Guardian) use because it allows them to be critical of some aspects of capitalism while still maintaining it's 'still the best option we have' sort of attitude. Besides being liberal bollocks, it belies a fundamental misunderstanding of how capitalism functions.

Other terms which do the same - "gangster capitalism", "monopoly capitalism", or "disaster capitalism" - really freakin' annoy me.

My readings of 'late capitalism' haven't given me that sense. It's more akin to 'merchant capitalism', a label for a stage in capitalism's historical development, that has different features to different stages.

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Feb 3 2014 16:14

Fair enough, Snip, I'm sure it could have that sort of connotation - although I'm not sure that's what the Guardian has in mind when they use it?

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Feb 3 2014 16:39
Chilli Sauce wrote:
All that said, I do think there's a usefulness in terms like "industrial capitalism" or "neoliberalism" because as much as capitalism is capitalism, it does go through stages - stages no doubt linked to the state of the class struggle as well as capital's own internal contradictions.

Yeah, I think Marxists use the term in the same way 'industrial capitalism' is used to describe a distinct stage in capitalism' development, although I still don't know what its describing (though I assume we're in 'late capitalism'). I'm not too read up on the term.

When liberals use it, I assume they're trying to sound smart.

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Feb 3 2014 18:08

Welp,

I think there might be good cause to use this term. As far as I can tell right now capital is in major crisis and being artificially kept alive through various bubbles (student debt, health care) that are going to burst at any moment.

And yes capitalism has always existed on a cycle of crisis, but the pace of the crises has been quickened enormously with the advent of finance capital. In late 1980s with the securities bubble, then the 1990s dot com bubble, then of course the 2008 crisis, and now looming crises that at least according to David Graeber could be much worse than than 2008 crisis.

Maybe an example of capital's precarity is the fact that federal reserve was reduced to printing trillions of dollars in order to keep the financial institutions afloat and thankfully it did not cause mass inflation.

Also in the future, due to the decline in oil reserves there could be severe oil price shocks which would again threaten to bring on petrodollar gluts in oil producing countries which could in turn lead to the same conditions present during the 1973 OPEC crisis when the world nearly plunged into depression (coincidentally? I guess this danger has been somewhat mitigated by the recent NATO takeover of Libya). Add this on to increasing catastrophes due to the destruction of the planet and the still very real constant threat of nuclear war/nuclear attack by some terrorist cell and it really would seem that things are coming to a head here.

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Feb 4 2014 01:15
Chilli Sauce wrote:
I don't know, I think it's one of those terms that liberals (and liberal outfits like the Guardian) use because it allows them to be critical of some aspects of capitalism while still maintaining it's 'still the best option we have' sort of attitude. Besides being liberal bollocks, it belies a fundamental misunderstanding of how capitalism functions.

Other terms which do the same - "gangster capitalism", "monopoly capitalism", or "disaster capitalism" - really freakin' annoy me.

I think "monopoly capitalism" is a bit different, since it does describe a specific historical phenomenon--the consolidation of many small firms into a relatively small number of large firms that dominate particular industries. Recognizing this really helps in understanding the roots of imperialism.

I do agree with the general point, though, and I'm sure "monopoly capitalism" is used by some liberals to try to distinguish this "bad" capitalism from the sort of hard working small business owner ideological nonsense that's so popular in American politics. I remember "casino capitalism" and "vulture capitalism" being pretty popular during the last presidential election as well. It's interesting that, despite the modifiers, major politicians were even using the C word at all rather than fully sticking to the usual "free market."

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Feb 4 2014 11:00

Those are fair points, T.

So I've been outside of the US for some years now and recently I went out to dinner with a Tory family relative (I know, a practicing Tory, in London...). Anyway, he made a comment complaining about government interference in the "free market".* I found it really jarring, actually. It's so blatantly ideological to talk about the "free" market and it's something I hadn't heard since being in the States.

*In relation to - I shit you not - living in a rent-controlled flat!

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Feb 4 2014 16:42

Actually Jim, I think you're right. This student debt bubble business is a bit overblown according to Dean Baker.

There is however maybe a crisis looming with the university structure in general. Universities almost all operate in debt, as they buy bonds to finance constant expansion projects. Of course in order to pay back these bonds they must raise tuition. And if all of a sudden there is a drop in the number of students going to college because they can't afford to, then the universities will be unable to pay back the bond principal. It does seem that this is a sort of bubble similar to the housing bubble. In a short period of time tuition to major universities has skyrocketed past the rate of inflation while still providing the same product ( a degree) that was being provided 30 or 40 years ago. From my understanding a crisis amongst the universities could lead to inability to pay back bond principals, which would then lead the major banks into needing to hike interest rates to make up the difference (not to mention the loss incurred by all those speculating on those bonds). Anyway...I'm pretty sure I don't know what I'm talking about.

I just was saying that it seems as though there has been a noted increase in the pace of the crises. I would assume that if the U.S. went into economic crisis it would soon envelope the whole world because so much of the world is pegged to the U.S. dollar (petrodollars, China).

A nuclear attack on U.S. soil would be catastrophic. The response would be war on an unprecedented scale, and most likely a much more heavy handed police state. I don't know exactly what the effect on capital would be, but the world would undergo major changes and it's impossible to say exactly what would happen.

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Feb 4 2014 18:25
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
I'm not sure I'd disagree that expansion of finance capital has made capitalism more crisis prone but I'd be interested in reading any studies which make that case empirically.

Rober Wade's piece has some data on the frequency of financial crises: http://newleftreview.org/II/38/robert-wade-choking-the-south (it's paywalled though, will email).

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Feb 4 2014 19:27

I've always assumed "late capitalism" refers to its present stage of globalization. This is also capitalism's (and the human species') final stage, for it means that capitalism's insatiable "grow or die" pursuit of profit has enveloped the planet and can no longer be externalized into new territories and people. Thus capitalism must now increasingly maximize an internal exploitation of human and nonhuman life, employing such systemically and humanly disastrous scams such as subprime mortgages and carbon pollution trading in a desperate search for profit.
Capitalism is an organic, systemic process as the Marxist materialist dialectic understands, and so are life and healthy human forms of community (communism, anarchisms). Capitalism, however, acts as a cancer of all living systems as it takes its energy and being from other forms of life, and it has now reached the end of its process. A globalized, malignant cancer of life has metastasized Earth and humanity and will now, as cancers do, kill its hosts and itself.
The problem is not government, corporations, industry, the UN, IMF, the World Bank, the United States, or the EU: the problem is that these are all CAPITALIST institutions, as is a captive human species that is born into and thinks within THE SYSTEM. Capitalist globalization represents a universalized Marxist fetishism of commodities
My experience is that there will be heated objections to what I have written. But rather than simply giving me a "down," how about stating your objections so they can be discussed. We might learn something, and we are obviously in a crisis situation in which we need to learn a lot.
Mr. Natural

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Feb 5 2014 05:50
Steinbeck wrote:
monster

Marx wrote:
vampire

Mr. Natural wrote:
cancer

Personally, when I talk about capitalism metaphorically, I tend to employ an awful lot of what we might call "violent sexual imagery." No accounting for taste.

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Feb 5 2014 13:16

This is what happens when the media are stuffed with ex-members of the IMG.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/mattick-paul/1972/mandel.htm

slothjabber
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Feb 6 2014 09:59

Great typos in that article. I like 'the Jaws of motion of capital'.

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Feb 6 2014 11:02

There's always the chance that that's what Mattick meant to write. grin

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Feb 10 2014 13:38

I always assumed late capitalism to mean the sort of post fordist, globalised sort of thing capitalism has got going at the moment, neoliberalism etc etc.

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Feb 11 2014 18:03

Late capitalism means capitalism that missed its period and will be having Communism in 9 months