The dude is dead

Mike Meyer on 2017-09-11

I really appreciate a fairly mainstream article that works itself up to calling capitalism necrotic. For some reason I doubt whether the people who react to discussions on the failure of capitalism with versions of William Gibson’s “semiotic ghosts” have any idea what necrotic means or semiotic for that matter. Ghosts is understandable but ghosts mean dead so immediate rage and the jumbling together of multiple semiotic ghosts in a spray of spit. Let’s just say I’m familiar with the reaction.

To be helpful let’s just say that these effete terms mean signalling death and and the disease of tissues that causes it. Capitalism is brain dead but the carcass is animated by the scavengers that moved in to feed over the last forty years or so. If you think of it that way it makes sense as the “market” is booming (another semiotic ghost) as the scavengers swell up from gorging on planetary resources. This, of course, is a sign of death rather than life and represents semiotic confusion. Dealing with semiotic confusion is where I spend lots of time.

Communism is definitely dead but propped up in an office chair to be endlessly denounced as the only alternative to capitalism. The classic straw man. I think it is interesting that the People’s Republic of China is not much used, now, to illustrate the horrors of communism even though it is still a communist country in name. Perhaps there is some discomfort in describing the entity rapidly replacing the US as the lead state on the planet with wealth also soon to surpass the US as something that is dead. Frightening maybe, but definitely not dead and definitely a categorical problem. The fact that it is not really communist at all, now, but something like an authoritarian socialist state just confuses things even more.

That leaves the problem of socialism that really sends the spit flying among the dogmatic. I certainly appreciate the careful tiptoeing around this in hopes, I’m sure, of opening a small channel of communication to those folks who have been instrumental in keeping this country religiously pointed at a mythic past. And I use the term ‘religiously’ with full intent. Myths of a feather flock together. For the dogmatic the more absurd the myth the better.

But we are definitely going post-socialist. It is a bit of a problem that the most successful nation states of the late twentieth and twenty-first century have been, to a greater or lesser extent, democratic socialist. The peak of the American century was also democratic socialist fully supported by the Republican Party of its day. And the John Birch Society had nothing to do with it. Other than to groom Ronnie Reagan to convince the middle class to cutoff its own hand that fed it and gave it power.

The reality is that we are now in a different paradigm and paradigm shifts are not a conscious change. It results from the effective failure of the old paradigm and a generational and intellectual quest for answers to new problems that the old paradigm cannot even describe. As pointed out the problems we face are not problems that the acquisition of capital assets can solve and the ownership of those capital assets is irrelevant. That neatly takes out both capitalism and socialism. In fact it is the focus on capital assets and endless growth, as described here, that are the cause of the problems we face. But the need to solve these problems is not an intellectual need as it is much more practical than that. We must stop the destruction before it is unstoppable. And dogma of any kind is no help at all.

Thank you for actually saying this.