The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Is Capitalism Near Its End?

In the book Does Capitalism Have a Future?, Emmanuel Wallerstein argues that capitalism cannot be saved because capitalism requires the endless pursuit of profits, and the world system is at a stage where there is no room for another wave of exploiting people who are largely outside the system, which capitalism, in its modern form (from about the late 15th century), requires.

The ur-rule of capitalist behaviour, per Wallerstein, is that one must pursue ever-higher profits. If one doesn’t, they’re out of the game. (You and I, dear reader, are not in the game and never were, unless some billionaire or CEO is reading this.)

If you don’t pursue endless profit, you fall behind those who do, and they buy you out, or you go bankrupt, or even you become a small or medium business and have no real power. To have power in capitalism, one must be ever striving for the apex. It’s a red-queen’s race, as in “Alice in Wonderland.”

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

Now, the next thing is that capitalists actually don’t like workers who fully depend on them for survival: they want workers who have other supports; generally some sort of subsistence or government support. Traditionally this would be workers in hinterland regions (in Europe or Britain to start) who still had some land or animals and took the work only to get some extra money.

Other arrangements did exist: You could pay them less than they really needed to survive (the early British proletariat, as can be seen from accounts at the time), or, in the modern world, you can be Walmart and instruct your workers how to get food stamps, welfare, and medicaid, as you pay them less than they need to survive.

Various other companies, including Amazon, who rely on similar supports and school, which is a form of babysitting, can be seen this way as well; workers who have to care for their own children 24/7 can’t work. Extended families, in countries which still have them, do the same thing — grandparents or other relatives care for the children while the parents work.

Each wave of capitalism has gone out to places where there were still people with extended families and means of subsistence, and brought them into capitalism. At first it was cheap, then wages rose as workers became proletariatized and wanted their wages to cover their actual expenses.

Getting government to step in and subsidize workers is a poor substitute, which can’t work in the longer run, because the workers still have to be supported. Even if a specific company is dodging all its taxes, someone is paying, and if that someone is the workers, well, that strategy is only viable while there is wealth to steal from the poor and middle class, because – obviously — taking wealth from the rich defeats the point.

The last wave, to Wallerstein, was this last wave: There are no countries of significance not in the capitalist system, and there is no significant group of people with extra-subsistence to bring into the system to support cheap labor.

Without this, the current form of capitalism is doomed. Profits can only be increased by impoverishing societies as a whole, which destroys the wealth customers need to buy goods.

Though Wallerstein doesn’t emphasize it, there’s also the issue of simple depletion of minerals and of climate change. There are plenty of hydrocarbons in the world, but using them is destroying subsistence, food production in general, and drawing down water, and so on. We are running out of other materials, almost exactly as “The Limits To Growth” report predicted five decades ago.

The reason people like Bezos and Musk are obsessed with space and automation if that if space mining, colonization, and automation are the only viable solutions can the resource constraints and the expansion constraint be broken. It’s the only way that this style of capitalism continue, possibly nearly forever, by expansion to new worlds, the asteroid belt and so on.

Unfortunately, with our current technology, space colonization is a no-go. We can’t even create a biosphere (a closed environment) capable of supporting anything more complex than mold slimes. We can’t deal with the radiation in space. Mars colonization without terraforming will be very limited; it’s a more hostile environment than Antarctica, which we haven’t been able to colonize either.

So, assuming you agree with Wallerstein’s model of modern capitalism, at least in its broad strokes, there’s no way for capitalism to survive.

If it is near the end, what you’ll see is a structural crisis with wide fluctuation. Change to a new equilibrium generally happens with snaps to the new equilibrium, then snaps back. At first, the snaps to the new equilibrium are brief — over time, they become longer and eventually there are no snaps back.

This is also likely to be the case for climate change, the question is where the new equilibrium will be, which is not as easy a question as some people think, because while earth has had high carbon in the past, conditions then were quite different. One example is that atmospheric pressure 2.7 billion years ago was half what it is today.

In any case, whatever the new equilibrium will be is unclear, both socially and environmentally, and how the social equilibrium sets will work is also dependent on where the climate stabilizes.

So at this point, we can say, if we find Wallerstein persuasive, that the modern form of capitalism, which has run progressively larger parts of the world for about five centuries, is on its last legs. What we can’t say is what will replace it.

The goal of those of us who see what is happening is to create ideas; ideologies, which will be available when change becomes so imperative that people are desperate, and reaching for new options. If we don’t, the worst people will dominate with their worst ideologies, and the new system could be even worse in many ways.



Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 5, 2022


Spring of Down, Chapters VII-IX, By Stirling Newberry


  1. Z

    Is Capitalism Near Its End?

    Let us hope, and let us hope that it doesn’t take all life on this planet along with it.


  2. Willy

    John Michael Godier likes to play around with various Fermi’s Paradox scenarios. And then people in the comments sections play around some more.

    I’m wondering if anybody does similar with the Capitalist Paradox. Why if there are so many life forms existing on earth, and exoplanet likely, are humans the only capitalists we know of so far? Shouldn’t another species have tried to sell us their alien trinkets and toys by now?

    I’d also be happy with discussions about alternatives to capitalism. Maybe the Matrix Hotel concept, or that world where cities roll around on giant tracks and prey on smaller towns which only get to have wheels. I’d avoid stuff like “Thatcherian TINA” or George Carlin’s “Just Assume There’s Nothing I Can Do and It’s All Gonna Turn To Shit Anyways so I’m Gonna Poke Fun at the Ensuing Calamities.” I’d bet there’s some interesting ideas out there. Maybe even plausible.

  3. bruce wilder

    Somebody said that Twitter’s greatest contribution to political discourse has been to demonstrate that billionaires are just dumbasses, too, no smarter than the rest. I don’t know any billionaires personally, so difficult to verify if that’s true or the outcome of selection pressures sorting out those seeking the spotlight.

    I expect the “snaps” to a new political-economic equilibrium will be more violent than those manifesting in the climate system(s). The political classes know not just that “the game is rigged” but also that the “jig is up” and all the techno-maniac talk of “sustainable” and magical “waste-free” energy generation is just the empty propaganda they have spinning since 1970. Crazy lies is what they sell for a living and sales pitch on craziness will just escalate from the conquest of Russia and China to more bizarre plans. Someone may shortly realize that the same authorities that brought us COVID are working re-evolving smallpox. And that isn’t anywhere near peak crazy.

    It would be lovely if there were a “market demand” for ideas for a quiet, restrained future within a reservation well within the bounds of earth’s carrying capacity. Otherwise, we may be duking it out with slime mold on that last snap back to 300 years above 5+ degrees north of now.

    On that cheerful note, it is a lovely Summer day just now for me.

  4. Whistling in the dark

    Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.
    Thus spoke Zarathustra or someone.
    Does it really matter?
    We are so screwed no matter who said what to whom whenever.

  5. StewartM


    Somebody said that Twitter’s greatest contribution to political discourse has been to demonstrate that billionaires are just dumbasses, too, no smarter than the rest.

    My mom, who I know would be a Trump supporter today if she was alive, had a sign up in our room: “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you RICH?” I firmly believe that ordinary Trumpists, no matter how badly they are abused by the capitalist system, firmly believe in its “rightness” (no wonder; isn’t that what not only Rs but “capitalist to the core” progressives like Liz Warren have been telling them for decades now?).

    For me, the curtain over the truth fell when I was a college student, waiting tables for my university town’s hoi poloi. Yes, they thought they were smart, because they had money, but they were the stupidest lot of clowns I’d ever met. Most of my dirt-poor student friends knew vastly more than these guys. Trump (“ingest bleach”) was just the first public unveiling of how much of a lie the fancy new set of clothes our capitalist emperors sport.


    My prediction is that the movement conservative/Any Randian/libertoon class will consciously drive us to mass die-off. Funny, as these guys always spoke of Stalinism and communism as a group of devotees blindly following the party line, but these guys outdo even those in ideological rigidity. Rather 4 or 5 billion people die than to go to an “immoral” (Ayn Rand) alternative economic system. Of course, these John Galts, think they’ll manage fine despite all that, despite knowing nothing practical and indeed not having a clue on how to feed, clothe or shelter themselves (one of the members of Ayn Rand’s “Commune” wryly noted how none of her inner circle had ever run a business themselves or been involved with developing a new product or service; they were all academics or literary types who had never done anything waste good trees).

  6. StewartM

    Reading your commentary on Wallerstein, supplemented by your own ideas, on capitalism’s future when there is no one left to be looted (and I am glad for people to finally see that capitalism’s great “wealth creation” shtick is akin to the ACA giving people healthcare–yeah, some benefits can be realized, but only at the very inefficient cost of paying off a class of people who contribute NOTHING to actual wealth creation, who only skim off resources (money) that could have be used to provide an even better product or outcome)–what happens next?

    I recall my younger days in the 1980s, when I first started my current job, and how Reagan looted the poor of what little they had. Sad to say, many of my fellow coworkers applauded this (having done a stint in amongst the poor myself, I was appalled to hear how “easy” they thought the lives of the poor were). A generation or so later, their middle-class and even upper-middle class successors are being looted: real pay lagging behind inflation, pensions slashed then eliminated altogether, medical benefits cut, etc. What I then would anticipated is that once people in the 70-90 percentiles have been looted, the looting will focus on the 90-95 %, and then the 96-99 %, and so forth. People who cheered when those beneath them were looted instead of defending them against the robber class will find themselves looted one day too.


    Early on, during my stint amongst the poor, I found out the effect of the minimal wage. Even now I’m relatively well-off now, I still firmly believe my best economic interest lies in boosting the minimal wage and otherwise improving the living standard of both our and the world’s poor. The poor and minorities are our canaries in the proverbial coal mine; what our upper robber class plans to do to YOU one day they first try out on *them*. Count on it! Even in terms of enlightened selfishness, with no larger altruistic ends, your smartest course of action is thus to defend them and to help them. I find it odd that many people are too-short sighted to see things this way.

  7. marku52

    “You don’t have to publish this, but thanks Ian. posts like this one are why I support you. Thanks again.”

  8. Willy

    People who cheered when those beneath them were looted instead of defending them against the robber class will find themselves looted one day too.

    Are they cheering or mentally defensing? In denial? After my career was wrecked with root cause being mandates bought by the robber class, my two worst family critics by far were the only in-laws I had who not much later, would not only lose their own careers but become unemployable.

    I think that coming after me was their way of unconsciously trying to persuade themselves that they were immune, that they still had all the same power over their own lives as they’d had back in Reagan’s time, when in reality, their gut was telling them that this was far from the case anymore.

    There’s an old contractor’s maxim: “People buy on emotion and justify with logic.” I’ve been trying to get that one morphed into something a bit more accurate, since there’s nothing logical about buying a shiny turd. One who does so is just following emotion with more emotion.

    There’s also “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Actually, roads called “good” get paved towards hell, intentionally. And most people are just too emotional to notice.

  9. coloradoblue

    And speaking of climate change, this was from the Eschaton website this morning:

    “If the Great Salt Lake, which has already shrunk by two-thirds, continues to dry up, here’s what’s in store:

    The lake’s flies and brine shrimp would die off — scientists warn it could start as soon as this summer — threatening the 10 million migratory birds that stop at the lake annually to feed on the tiny creatures. Ski conditions at the resorts above Salt Lake City, a vital source of revenue, would deteriorate. The lucrative extraction of magnesium and other minerals from the lake could stop.

    Most alarming, the air surrounding Salt Lake City would occasionally turn poisonous. The lake bed contains high levels of arsenic and as more of it becomes exposed, wind storms carry that arsenic into the lungs of nearby residents, who make up three-quarters of Utah’s population.”

    Sounds lovely.

  10. Ché Pasa

    Stewart M is absolutely correct regarding looting of the lower orders by those above them, and how this loot-fest, which has been going on for decades, will inevitably bite and consume those well-off men and women who think they’re protected and immune. They aren’t.

    But then, capitalism is a system that depends on looting and pillage and enslavement and environmental ruin and all sorts of unpleasantness, doesn’t it? When resources are cut off or run dry, climate goes haywire, markets implode, supply chains collapse, and no one quite understands what to do about it except exploit more, loot more, oppress more and shed more blood and call it Our Democracy, then yeah, we’re probably nearing the end of the capitalist experiment.

    What comes after?

  11. different clue

    A parallel book in this vein was written by Walter Prescott Webb, perhaps without any knowledge of the work Immanuel Wallerstein was also doing. It is called The Great Frontier. It is roughly about how the sudden Euro-Conquest of so much exploitable land and people set aside the steady-state ideologies and approaches of Medievalism and made the approaches of Individualist Piratization and Capitalism seem feasible because of “more resources available” to inspire them and support them.

    Here is a bunch of images of Walter Prescott Webb in case anyone wants to go url diving.;_ylt=AwrE185M8aBigCMAfABXNyoA;_ylu=Y29sbwNiZjEEcG9zAzEEdnRpZAMEc2VjA3Nj?p=walter+prescott+webb&fr=sfp

  12. Oregoncharles

    “(You and I, dear reader, are not in the game and never were, unless some billionaire or CEO is reading this.)”
    This is misleading. If you own anything that yields income – rental property, a farm, a business (like this blog), even a savings account – you’re technically “in the game.” Indeed, the same is true if you’re an employe. That covers probably most of us. As our economy is set up, capitalism is not optional.

    I THINK this means that, unless you’re a major player, you’re largely powerless. That is pretty obviously true, and becomes truer as ownership becomes more and more concentrated. In principle, we can gain power by banding together, whether we’re small businesspeople or employes – that’s what unions are all about, and also local Chambers of Commerce, etc. (The national C of C seems to be strictly about the big players.) However, banding together effectively has been made more and more difficult, essentially as the market portion of capitalism shrinks away.

    My favorite model for an alternative approach is market socialism, the Mondragon model: worker ownership and control, especially of dispersed, monopoly-free businesses. Another, congruent model is customer-owned businesses, especially utilities or stores. These two models are a form of socialism – but mediated by market mechanisms, more than central planning, which is at best fantastically clumsy.

    To clarify: Capitalism and markets are not the same thing; they aren’t even the same KIND of thing. Capitalism describes the ownership and organization of businesses; it’s top-down, based on ownership outside of the enterprise itself. Markets are the mediating mechanism BETWEEN enterprises, based on feedback (negative feedback; positive feedback is usually a bad thing.) Among other things, they depend on the entities being relatively small and a free flow of information. Capitalism tends to centralize power (that’s its original purpose – to create large pools of capital for projects), eventually cancelling markets (even though we call some of its elements “markets”). So does “free trade”, incidentally.

  13. Ian Welsh

    Small business owners and people who rent a house or two are not in the game. They are in the system, but that’s not the same thing.

  14. StewartM


    Are they cheering or mentally defensing? In denial? After my career was wrecked with root cause being mandates bought by the robber class, my two worst family critics by far were the only in-laws I had who not much later, would not only lose their own careers but become unemployable.

    This was during the Reagan administration. I could write a post on my coworkers of that time, as it illustrates so much about how we got here, and what’s right and what’s wrong about the analyses of people like Thomas Frank. A short summary:

    a) They believed that (my company isn’t unionized) that the very worst thing that could happen to them would be for my company to be unionized. Capitalism just by its very nature produced their ever-increasing pay and benefits. (But then again, isn’t that what not only Rs, but Cold War Democrats had been telling them all their lives?). They did not realize that, quite the contrary, it was an economy that had a greater degree of unionization back then that had accomplished this.

    b) They were racist to the core. No African-American (there were a few) nor brown person of any type “deserved” their job. My first supervisor took offense when I made a disparaging (read: accurate) remark about the KKK, saying “The KKK did a lot of good things too!” When the debate on making MKL day a national holiday was ongoing, I heard a lot of “Martin Luther Coon” remarks and how the Civil Rights movement was all a bunch of “paid communist agitators”.

    Finally, being the young and foolish person I was, I brought in a MLK birthday cake to celebrate. My first supervisor (the one who defended the KKK) suddenly went on a diet. Another coworker openly refused to work with me. But several of the younger people, and two of the African-American scientists who worked there, sought me out as a friend. When I was asked about it, I just said “I was tired of hearing the racist BS”.

    I could go on (did you know that being in prison was a cushy life of “no work and three squares a day?” Or how AIDS was a ‘good thing’? or that we could end it if we “just lined all of the people with HIV up and just shot them?”) but I mention this as people like Thomas Frank (who I actually like a lot) have written this narrative how the Democrats went corporate and betrayed the white working class which is why turned to Reaganism. But that’s just not the true timeline. The white working class started leaving the Democrats well before the Democrats went conservative/corporate, during the late 1960s (Wallace anyone? All in the Family ?). And they did it largely because of racism, of intolerance for anyone non-conforming, and for the Warfare State (keep building those bombs with union labor, baby!! Paul Wolfowitze, architect of Iraq, started out for the Cold War Hawk Scoop Jackson, who was labor’s favorite candidate). My former coworkers had not been “dumped” by the Democrats, they had known nothing else but good pay raises and better benefits and I recall them talking how in the future “we’ll all get five weeks vacation or more”) and the like. Instead, Democrats went corporate because their white working class base dumped them for the Rs because of Civil Rights.

    Now–to be sure–while racism more than specific economic policies does a better job explaining the political trends of the last 50 years, racism in the US does have its ultimate roots in economics, for sure. Slavery and the replacement of poor whites with black slaves to do the “shit work” lifted the economic and political status of poor whites, and everyone at the time and later knew it. It’s why poor whites fought in the Confederate armies (“if the blacks aren’t picking that cotton it’s going to be us”) and also why poor whites in the North fought in the same war for black freedom but with the purpose of “keeping the blacks down in the South and not here competing with us”.

    It’s also why “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa was burned to the ground–the anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells got started when a friend of hers was lynched, and for what crime–raping a white woman? Killing or injuring a white man?–oh, no, he was hung from a tree until dead for the horrible crime of RUNNING A SUCCESSFUL GROCERY store that competed with those of whites. People like Booker T. Washington had taken to heart the reasons why whites said that they were against equality for blacks–blacks were uneducated, unsuccessful in careers and business, etc–and had encouraged blacks to be successful. Tulsa showed those supposed reasons where all a lie–“your job in America is NOT to be successful, but to do the shit work so that we don’t have to, and to do it for pennies to boot’.

    American democracy from its onset, Edmund Morgan wrote, “has always been corrupted by a contempt for the poor and the black”. It’s been the reason why we’ve never been able to move to something like, say, a Scandinavian-style social democracy, because conservatives have always been able to paint a black face on anyone who benefits from such an arrangement, even though most of the recipients of social welfare programs are white. Racism for more than a generation has gotten a good many whites to shit in their own beds just because blacks got some of the goodies too. I can’t think of a better support for ‘critical race’ theory than that.

  15. Willy

    People have been talking about racist dog whistles for years. Only now do I fully realize they weren’t kidding. I can see the white evangelical point of view, even understand it, but still have trouble wrapping my head around why Archie Bunker ignores his white PTB but prefers to attack their victims.

    It’s like public school shooters never imagining to vent their evil rage on an exclusive country club instead.

    I see the divide in two public education worlds, bible belt red and effete coastal blue.

    My old Wonder Years midwestern suburb, so white Christian in the 70’s that alternatives seemed impossible, recently closed all my public grade, middle and high schools which had been brand new back then. Apparently, the kids educational choices are now between ethnically dark public schools which are underfunded and decrepit, or far whiter and wealthier private schools.

    The exact opposite is seen in my rich and trendy west coast city. My ancient musty-dusty but functional public high school was recently remodeled into a five-star high tech dream at great taxpayer expense, and is now full of ambitious STEM Asian immigrant offspring. The local competing Catholic school looks much like it did back then.

    It seems our Archie Bunker sees those two choices, but doesn’t seem able to look at things from a larger perspective. As in, why are things so different from “That 70’s Show”, and who or what exactly was it that caused all the change?

  16. Jason

    “White and Black” doesn’t allow for much humanizing nuance.

    In the places I visit, the vast majority of blacks walk right by the homeless blacks asking for money. They don’t help the poor whites, either. Nor the poor Chinese. Nor the poor Spanish. Nor the poor Latin. Nor the poor non-Han Chinese. Nor the non-Ainu Japanese. Nor the Ainu. Nor the Indian poor. Nor the indigenous poor. Nor the Muslim poor. Nor the Christian poor. Nor the Buddhist poor. Nor the atheist poor. Nor the…

    Just spend an afternoon on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, NJ.

    You can replace “vast majority of blacks walk right by the homeless blacks…” with any other conceivable identity you can muster. The basic psychology/sociology is exactly the same. People act exactly the same towards “their kind” – where “their kind” is the much more outward-facing homo-economicus self. Their “cultural” self is left in the dust if it doesn’t keep up with the principles of homo-economicus – itself a theoretical abstraction!

    But what of this “cultural self?”

    An indigenous African never knew she was “black” until the “whites” came along. And vice versa.

    This “coincidence of opposites” serves to redefine personal identity in the interest of something other than “self.”

    The “interiority” of our selves is always in alignment with others at the most human level, while also quite different due to ages of cultural and societal inputs.

    The recent modern world seems more and more to be a monolithic culture-and-society-destroying homogenization machine.

    Instead of feeling alike at the most basic human level and recognizing and appreciating the vast cultural differences, the opposite is happening at an accelerating pace: People feel more and more different at even the most basic human level (a mis-feeling being intentionally created by TPTB) at the same time that cultures and whole societies (themselves previous destroyers of smaller, more tight-knit cultures) are being destroyed.

    People with no culture, no redeeming society, and an utter sense of alienation at even the most basic human level are easily “re-cultured” in the interest of homo-economicus.

    Which is, of course, no culture at all.

  17. different clue

    The Democrats retained a majority in the House of Reps until after the Clinton Free Trade Betrayal.

    The “Reagan Democrats” in Michigan who voted for Reagan for racial reasons also voted for Dem Representatives because of anti-Free Trade reasons. McComb County in Michigan was considered a hotbed of Reagan Democrats. But those same Reagan Democrats kept voting for Rep. David Bonior for pro-Union anti-Free Trade reasons.

    Once Clinton conspired to bring America into the Free Trade system in order to destroy American industry in order to destroy the Unions, those Reagan Democrats for Democratic Representatives like David Bonior were deprived of any remaining reason to vote for any Democrat for any Federal office.

    I just thought I would add that corrective to the “timeline”.

    Where from here now? A Lower Class Majority Party under whatever name would be a good thing. And it would have to force the issue of the choice that StewartM describes the racist Whites he knew as making. Tax-funded benefits for all races. Nothing for them? Nothing for you. It might also consider running on Free Trade Abolition and Protectionism Restoration, because in a Free Trade environment, absolutely nothing is possible.

  18. Willy

    My favorite workplace lunchtime gang included an Andrew Dice Clay, a Denzel Washington, a Garth Brooks, an Andy Griffith, a Gabriel Iglesias, a Ted Nugent, and an older, saner version of Richard Pryor. At least the more dweebish engineering equivalent of such, such as they were.

    That was 25 years ago. I can’t imagine such a crew being able to coexist today, let alone wanting to go to lunch together or toss around toys during breaks.

    Back then I once saw my little niece introduce her black doll as “Shaniqua” and her half-Filipino father shrugged: “Diversity.” His son married a new age Anglo and his daughter a Chinese liberal.

    Today all three are big into making and displaying money. The nephew especially, after his high school sweetheart wife left him for a man making and spending more money. I’m no longer the amazing Bob Vila uncle, able to leap tall projects in a single bound. More like a strange hermit who enjoys doing strange menial things.

    I’d agree with “homo-economicus”. It’s obvious that we’re being conditioned. Most of the ads I see depict 30-ish mixed race couples carelessly enjoying the fruits of their upper middle-class labors, when stress, depression, and economic and cultural anxiety is far more the norm, even from upper middles.

    It’s like prevailing values from days of old, good or bad, got carefully pushed into brainwashing directions in an effort to get people to consume, divert attentions, or to scapegoat when the former doesn’t work. Thankfully, there are many progressive resources exploring, and explaining, the actual reality.

  19. StewartM


    I just thought I would add that corrective to the “timeline”.

    But that’s the 1990s, and after the Rs had taken over the government (functionally). And no, “the Democrats” (as a national party) didn’t truly control the House of Representatives before that else Reagan wouldn’t have gotten his agenda passed. Remember the Southern “Boll Weevil” Ds, who were as conservative as most Rs, who broke ranks with their national party and voted with the Rs?

    The Democrats started going conservative in the 1970s–Carter ran as the moderate/conservative in 1976, beating the candidate I favored (Mo Udall). By even then, “liberal” was a dirty word, so Udall ran as a “progressive”. The real corporatist national Democrat was “New Ideas” Gary Hart in 1984. Mondale, being more the FDR heritage, held out but got trounced in the general as even though Mondale was fully of the Midwestern progressive tradition Franks echoes in his books. Working class whites, at least the successful ones, still didn’t follow him.

    One of the things I think happened was the success of the New Deal in promoting general prosperity was its downfall. Once working class whites with “good jobs”, the way Michael Moore portrayed UAW workers at GM, got prosperous, with vacation homes and sending their kids off to college, they started to identify more with Republicans (who of course consciously encouraged this mistaken affiliation by the use of race and culture war issues). My coworkers I described in the 1980s would be included in this set. Of course, small business owners often follow suit as some of the most reactionary people around (they were the bulwark of support for the Nazis; and likely Trump too) even though progressives policies boost their chances of successes against competition against large corporations. But race and “culture wars” symbolic stuff played a big role too.

    Political parties chase voters, but when a voting bloc dumps them then they become less attuned to the needs of that bloc. Corporatist Dems succeeded in talking over the party in the late 1980s and 1990s precisely because working class whites stopped voting for them, so they turned to other constituencies. Franks inverts cause and effect, in my opinion.

  20. bruce wilder

    If voting still mattered, they’d make it illegal. I am not convinced they even count the vote in my county anymore. This is not about voters or voter blocs. Political parties don’t chase voters so much as they herd them. It is pretty clear on issues that matter to very, very rich people and the top management of giant business corporations, what masses of voters want does NOT matter.

    Resentments are like cattle prods applied to people. Stir up people’s resentments in the right way and you can direct their political attitudes and prejudices pretty reliably.

    As for the sequence of key political events and developments, I think there are two or three I would see as critical. One is that it stopped being possible to make a career out of leading and representing masses of ordinary people. I put that assertion in the passive voice to emphasize I do not see a singular reason that should be so. So I am a bit skeptical of a narrative that emphasizes the idea of the “working class” simply deserting the liberal-left or progressive values or some such. I think the liberal-left lost interest in leading the “working class” and demagogues from the right stepped right in, as they always do when the opportunity presents itself. Then, the New Democrats offered themselves to the rich and powerful as an alternative means to herd and corral the masses. My point is that bottom-up flow of political power to fuel a politics of opposition to oligarchic domination has been absent from the U.S. for a long time, a politics of true mass-membership organization non-existent for a generation or three.

    I am not sure Americans are even capable of political organizing that isn’t funded and managed from above for above. I mean not psychologically or socio-culturally capable, not prepared by upbringing or social habit.

    The crazy I see manifest among my decidedly not working class acquaintenances is no less pathological than that of any Trumpist. Watching a bunch of Russiagate propagandists trying to embarass or shame some fools over Jan 6 is cringeworthy television but is it any longer democratic politics? It looks a bit like 19th century Republicans waving the bloody shirt at Rum, Romanism and Rebellion, but is it the same.

    After my grandmother died and it was time to shut up and sell off the house my mother had lived in and returned to every few weeks for over 60 years, my mom took me for a ride around that town of roughly 1400 with its Federal houses and dying or dead elms. We drove to the other side of town, to the literal wrong side of the tracks. I had lived in that town for the first five or six years of my life and been visiting regularly ever since. I do not know that I had ever seen “Dublin” — the tiny towns Irish-Catholic ghetto. My mother’s father was Catholic, but also the engineer who ran the all-important railroad junction in the town. He was the Chair of the School Board, who married the principal of the high school, my grandmother (a formidable lady who looked a bit like Eleanor Roosevelt). And, my mother showed me the humble church in “Dublin” where they came to mass and talked to me for maybe the only time in my life about her childhood and its “politics”.

    When the modern woke say, ” Latinx” or talk the successor ideology of the 1619 Project I think Franks is contrasting that shiny, silly veneer with something more basic and genuinely lived, in a populist Kansas long ago. Something I glimpsed that day in “Dublin”.

  21. different clue


    I remember reading at the time and after a concept of “National (Presidential)Party” and “Congressional (Representatives) Party” and many Dem voters abandonded the “National Party” before the passage of the Free Trade Agreements. Certainly the savage defeat of Mondale by Reagan illustrates the Dem voters abandoning the “National” Party before it finally abandoned them.

    But the fact remains that those same voters who abandoned the “National-Presidental” Party remained supportive enough of the “Congressional ( House-of-Reps) Party” that the Dems retained their majority there, and kept retaining it as long as they kept defeating or promising to defeat Free Trade Agreements. And , taking account of your timelines and realizing that they do indeed apply to the fortunes of the “National Party”, the fact remains that those very same DemVoters kept the House of Reps in majority Democrat hands until after the Great Clinton Doublecross.

    McComb County was full of anti-Blackitic White people who voted for Reagan. But those same White people voted for Democrat David Bonior for House of Reps over and over and over again, partly on the strength of his obvious New Deal attitudes and his rejection of Free Trade Agreements.

    It was Clinton, David Boren, Alan From , Al Gore (sadly) and those other economic traitors of the DLC who forced the Free Trade Agreements into law and destroyed the House Dem Majority for decades to come ( and more decades yet to come because the DemParty continues to remain a Clintonite Economic Treason party).

    So a Newer Deal Party, should one emerge, would have to run on a kind of Trash of All Races United party and go from there. TAR United. Trash of All Races, Unite and Fight!) Maybe it could call itself the Lower Class Majority Party to force people to accept their Lower Class status in their hearts as a condition of joining the party.

  22. different clue

    @Bruce Wilder,

    Given how hard the Sharia Law Christian Gilead Republican Party is working to make voting illegal for some people, they must think that some peoples’ votes still matter. Can you demonstrate that they are wrong to think so?

  23. bruce wilder

    Voting is closely related to how the system solves the problems of political legitimacy, which remain even after the problem of choosing personnel for key offices is solved.

    I think if you look closely at Republican efforts and rhetoric around “voter fraud” and so on, you can pick out the theme of political legitimacy quite easily, but neither Party spends any time or resources on enlisting masses of ordinary people in membership organizations or movements to intelligently choose officials fit to purpose, any purpose of any mass grouping. There’s plenty of disinformation spread about and shenanigans in the Party processes of choosing candidates to (possibly) elected, but the end result is that the vast majority of American voters vote more or less at random — differently across a spectrum of attitudes to be sure, but with no sure knowledge of what is at stake or sense enough to follow up and “control” the career of a politician. No knowledge and no memory.

    A relative handful of enormously rich people do invest money and attention in electoral politics, buying journalists, politicians and political operatives and giving them livings and careers, in and out of office. Those supported by the rich staff the Parties, the campaigns, the Media and it all continues because the rituals of popular political argument and elections legitimate the system, a system that serves the interests of the rich almost exclusively.

    When I asserted that voting does not matter, I should have been clearer that it does not matter as far as policy choice is concerned or legal integrity to some large extent. A catastrophic loss of legitimacy, which is possible, is avoided for the time being by the show.

  24. different clue

    @Bruce Wilder,

    You may be correct. It seems the Christian Sharia Law Republicans don’t want to take any chances. They fear that if too many “Democrats” are permitted to vote, they may be their denied policy outcome of the Gilead Republicanazi Fascistrumpanon Republic of their dreams.

    They may be wrong to be concerned, but they do appear to be concerned. And they are acting on their concerns.

  25. CH

    In a similar vein is Wolfgang Streeck’s “How Will Capitalism End.” It’s well worth a reading and a review. Streeck argues that today’s era of low growth and anemic profits has lead to an increasing reliance on states to secure profits by means of privatization, financialization, central bank money (QE), rentierism, asset-stripping, and so forth.

    This has led (since 2008) to a sort of “post-Capitalist” order. Streeck calls the period we’re living in an “interregnum” where Capitalism is no longer viable but nothing has come along to effectively replace it. He foresees a long, slow period of decline,

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén