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The Extremist Society
by Tomasz Konicz
Monday Aug 20th, 2012 6:40 AM
"The barbaric core of capitalist socialization is on full display in the present system crisis. The propagandists of totalitarian economism come in the mask of democrats. Economic-profitability thinking is actually pushed to the extreme from the middle and imposed on the whole society. Our society has long been viewed as a business. Only what contributes to business success has a right to exist."
THE EXTREMIST SOCIETY

BY Tomasz Konicz

[This article published in the German-English cyber journal Telepolis 7/31/2012 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.heise.de/tp/druck/mb/artikel/37/37354/1.html.]

The barbaric core of capitalist socialization is on full display in the present system crisis. Crisis of Capitalism – Part 5

“I fear the return of fascists in the mask of democrats, not the return of fascists in the mask of fascists.”
Adorno

Part 4: Democracy in Crisis [1] (http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2012/08/417323.shtml)

Given his incessant slanders and vulgar remarks toward all possible minorities, hardly anyone suspects Thilo Sarrazin of a sensitive spiritual life. [2] The Berlin Tageszeitung newspaper on its satire page described Sarrazin as a kind of media whore. [3]

The man who describes Muslims as genetically inferior [4] and denigrates “southerners” promotes a declaration of neglect. The Taz-satire crosses “the limit of so-called defamatory criticism” [5] and has “nothing to do with an objective discussion.” [6]

The farce or burlesque casts light on the close connection between the multipliers of published opinion and populist-new right opinion-makers like Thilo Sarrazin. Obviously the media are using the former banker as he uses them. The mutual instrumentalization between the mass media and the media phenomena Sarrazin made the latter a multi-millionaire and gives skyrocketing circulations, viewer figures and sales to the latter. Sarrazin is a roaring business for media-corporations. Sarrazin’s sales success on the markets results from the fact that he strikes a certain nerve with the middle class of Germany. A demand in the still relatively solvent “middle” of society is served, a demand that increases with the crises.

Thilo Sarrazin, the former German Central Banker, “broke a taboo” against public articulation of resentment and made it his business model. Sarrazin says in public what “everyone thinks” secretly. Other figures from Germany’s functional elite like economics professor Hans-Werner Sinn [7] have a similar function in public discourse. [8] This “thinking” against minorities and human groups who in crisis times are stigmatized as burdens and unnecessary cost-factors for “economic location Germany” – whether Turks, the jobless or southern Europeans – is hatched in the middle of society and turns out a great commercial success.

EXTREMIST ECONOMISM

Breaching this taboo is like breaching a civilization that publically propagates human inequality. This postulated inferiority of certain groups of the population is legitimated with explicit economic arguments. In this ideology, the economic efficiency of a person determines his or her value. People are denied acknowledgment as soon as they fall out of the capitalist work society as Sarrazin formulated explicitly in 2010: [9]

“I need not acknowledge anyone who lives from the state, rejects this state, doesn’t rationally provide for the education of his children and constantly produces new head-scarf little girls.”

Since the notorious Sarrazin debate in the summer of 2010, a corresponding public discourse became popular that is marked by a totalitarian economism. Here all social areas and population sectors are tested for their economic commercialization. This productivity thinking running amok goes back to racism or social Darwinism in providing explanations for crisis phenomena – for the rise of a lower class in Germany or the debt crisis in southern Europe. Day by day the nation is seen as an “achievement community” that must take action against “unproductive” elements and “cost-factors”: from the refractory Greeks and lazy jobless to Arab immigrants.

In the course of the Sarrazin debate, rightwing extremism went through a certain “rationalization process” in the sense of capitalist profitability thinking. He could establish himself in public discourse in this economic ideology since he has a neoliberal mindset… Figures like Sarrazin or the notorious professor Hans-Werner Sinn deny the right to stay and implicitly the right to exist to certain groups of the population on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis. In this ideology, the person and the whole society – existence as such – wither into mere presuppositions of the capitalist exploitation logic. Everything and everyone must prove they are “useful.” A life beyond the idolatry of crisis-prone capital accumulation hardly seems conceivable any more. That life is demonized as parasitic and unnatural or perverse. A cold calculation is carried out over which social groups have an economic use and which are mere cost-factors. These elements – that existed in classical National Socialism – dominate in this extremism of the middle while fascist aesthetics and explicit National-Socialist vocabulary are hardly found.

The propagandists of totalitarian economism actually come in the masks of democrats who anxiously issue politically-correct “thought prohibitions” and speak “uncomfortable truths.” Half-truths and one-sidedly analyzed statistical material are “proven” with a scholarly claim. The postulated economic inferiority of the jobless, southern Europeans or Turks is ideologized into a kind of natural law – by the Sarrazinian “fog factor.” [10]

ECONOMIC PROFITABILITY THINING IS FORCED ON THE WHOLE SOCIETY BY THE MIDDLE

In the meantime, this thinking has long been hegemonial in public discourse. When Markus Soeder urges [11] making “an example” of Greece, he can know the majority of Germany’s population is on his side. FDP head Roesler who wants to provoke Greece’s exclusion from the EU [12] argued similarly. A whole country is “written off” by the German political caste, cleared for disintegration to complete Greece’s socio-economic collapse initiated by the austerity terror forced by Berlin and Brussels. This reflex of exclusion of whole economies will surely become rampant in the German public with regard to the other southern European EU states as soon as the crisis process advances in these countries.

The large majority of German citizens agree the Greeks on account of economic deficits are responsible themselves for their hopeless situation like Hartz IV recipients in Germany. A hardly noticed fact contributed to the success of this totalitarian economism triggered by the crisis dynamic. This ideology is an irrational exaggeration of the values, ideas and ideals that can be found in the constantly eroding “middle class” of capitalist society. Partly unable and partly unwilling to imagine an alternative to the permanent capitalism crisis, these middle classes can only seek a way out of crisis in the mer4cilessly intensified subordination of the whole society under the regime of sluggish capital accumulation.

Since the whole society is persistently subjected to the capitalist profitability criteria in extremist economism, the economic profitability-thinking is actually pushed to the extreme from the “middle” of society and imposed on the whole society. This crazy worldview is already proverbial in the talk of “Germany Inc.” Our society has long been viewed as a business. Only what contributes to “business success” has a right to exist. With Sarrazin, the capitalist ideology reaches its end, lets all pseudo-humanist veils fall and directly subjugates society to the terror of commodified value.

The wafer-thin varnish of all civilized achievements now scorned as “political correctness” that gives a democratic tinge to the capitalist profit-machine is unmasked again and again with every crisis-shock. The whole human community decays to an annoy8ing but necessary transitional stage of capital accumulation where a right to exist is only given every person if he or she contributes directly or indirectly to this irrational and ultimately destructive end-in-itself of capital exploitation. “You are nothing; the economic location is everything.” This ideology can be reduced to this slogan that openly articulates this barbaric core of capitalist socialization.

In his study “The Middle in Crisis” [13] [Die Mitte in der Krise], the social psychologist Oliver Decker summarized this crisis-conditioned change of extremist rightwing ideology:

“The constant orientation in economic goals – more exactly, demanding submission under its premises – strengthens an authoritarian cycle. This leads to identification with the economy. The renunciation demands flow into authoritarian aggression against the weaker.”

This authoritarian cycle fueled by submission under “economic premises” does not need fascist aesthetic as practiced by the boot-fascists of the NPD. However the economistic extremism of the middle presents even greater danger since it makes possible a creeping authoritarian transformation of Germany carried out by a constant reactionary shift of the whole political spectrum. No re-establishment of a rightwing party occurs in Germany since the whole party-spectrum successively drifts to the right. This insidious formation of an “extremist society” where everything is sacrificed on the altar of the crisis=plagued economy has the greatest potential danger for the remnants of middle class democracy and social emancipation. [14] In Germany, people have long been driven to death from starvation when they refuse the commands of the repressive poverty administration. [15] We have simply accustomed ourselves to these barbaric conditions. These conditions can hardly be seen as extremist and barbaric since they were accepted in a democratic form by parliamentary resolutions.

This extremist economism must be understood as a continuous ideological process that gains dynamism in reaction to the crisis of capitalism. This merciless ideology is permanently and ideologically intensified parallel to the intensifying crisis-dynamic. The more capitalism hits its inner limits, the more intensely the extremism of the middle spreads with its rigid and merciless demand for submission under the dictates of the collapsing economy. Thus Sarrazin is only a kind of “instant water heater” in a process of continuous ideological barbarization in Germany. Sarrazin is rightly compared with an “old whore” in the Taz-satire since his “breaches of taboos” were only slowly exhausted. The stirred public needs new stronger propaganda.

DEVALUATION OF THE ECONOMICALLY SUPERFLUOUS

This extremist economism represents a crisis-ideology that develops as a “reactionary reaction” of the frightened middle class to the crisis-dynamic. The ideological mechanism of personifying the causes of crises that hallucinates crisis-victims into causal agents of the crisis is critical. In many groups of the population threatened with descent, a kind of “bunker mentality” spreads in which one’s social position is asserted and crisis victims are made responsible for the crisis to legitimate the measures of marginalizing and punishing the crisis-losers by this personification of the causes of the crisis.

The unproductive cost-factors (like Greeks, jobless, the elderly and the sick) whose mere existence strains the national achievement-community should be cancelled. The exclusion of more and more “superfluous” parts of humanity from the work society resulting objectively from the crisis process has its ideological legitimation in the corresponding extremist discourses that ascribe a racist or culturalist inferiority to the jobless and inhabitants of the stricken countries.

In their core [“The Crisis Explained” (16)], the present dislocations in the crisis of the capitalist work society were triggered by the third industrial revolution in micro-electronics and information technologies. In the final analysis, capitalism simply became too productive for itself. This system hits an “inner limit” (Robert Kurz) of its development. Rationalization and automation spreading faster and faster lead to more and more goods produced in every shorter time by fewer and fewer workers.

The “superfluous” people falling out of capital exploitation because of this increasing crisis-dynamic are made responsible for the resulting disintegration phenomena. The mere existence of these people dependent on social transfers is declared the problem and cause of present crisis phenomena. These crisis-losers were simply “unwilling to perform.” That is the mantra of Professor Hans-Werner Sinn, Sarrazin and others.

Thus the total subordination of all social areas under the iron dictates of the crumbling economy provides the ideological legitimation of the advancing crisis process. The crisis appears as the result of the economic failure of individuals or groups. The groups falling out of the collapsing capitalist work society are stigmatized by means of personifying the causes of crises. The impoverishment and deprivation of rights of crisis-victims stamped as causal agents of crisis is legitimated – whether through the Hartz IV labor laws in Germany or the Troika-terror in Greece.

As argued, this totalitarian economism is an ideology in permanent intensification whose extremism intensifies with every crisis-shock. The pressure on the jobless in Germany will soon increase again because of the escalating system-crisis – and in such a situation only needs a media-campaign against “social parasites” to legitimate further cuts for the remains of the German social state. The open threat of destruction resonates with the smear campaign against everyone who will not “recognize” Sarrazin because they cannot or will not work any more. Here lies the implicit genocidal potential of this ideology that is forming: the economically “superfluous” of collapsing capitalism capsizing into barbarism should disappear – at least as cost-factors – because of an ice-cold profitability calculus.

The ecological limits of capital will be described in the next text.

LINKS
[1]
http://www.heise.de/tp/artikel/37/37269/1.html
[2]
http://www.spiegel.de/kultur/gesellschaft/wie-eine-hure-thilo-sarrazin-geht-gegen-taz-vor-a-840998.html
[3]
http://www.taz.de/1/archiv/digitaz/artikel/?ressort=wa&dig=2012%2F06%2F18%2Fa0104&cHash=8cf4221b39
[4]
http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/debatten/2.1763/das-buch/sarrazins-thesen-so-wird-deutschland-dumm-11029081.html
[5]
http://www.taz.de/1/archiv/digitaz/artikel/?ressort=wa&dig=2012%2F06%2F18%2Fa0104&cHash=8cf4221b39
[6]
http://www.bild.de/politik/2010/politik/verraet-ich-bin-mehrfacher-millionaer-15106538.bild.html
[7]
http://blog.handelsblatt.com/handelsblog/2012/07/02/nationalistisch-angehauchte-demagogie-von-hans-werner-sinn/
[8]
http://www.n-tv.de/wirtschaft/Wir-sollten-den-Euro-aufgeben-article4268506.html
[9]
http://www.rp-online.de/politik/deutschland/die-wahrheiten-des-thilo-sarrazin-1.2298037
[10]
http://www.maerkischeallgemeine.de/cms/beitrag/12331308/492531/Thilo-Sarrazin-ueber-sein-neues-Buch-Europa-braucht.html
[11]
http://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article108384921/Soeder-will-an-Griechenland-ein-Exempel-statuieren.html
[12]
http://www.tagesschau.de/wirtschaft/griechenland-roesler100.html
[13]
http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/do/07504-20120321.pdf
[14]
http://www.heise.de/tp/artikel/37/37269/1.html
[15]
http://www.stern.de/panorama/kommentar-der-hungertod-heisst-hartz-iv-587395.html
[16]
http://www.heise.de/tp/artikel/36/36123/1.html

IN A VICIOUS CIRCLE

“The world economy is interlinked”

By Tomasz Konicz

[This article published 7/10/2012 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.streifzuege.org/2012/im-teufelskreis.]

The crisis in Europe increasingly damages the world economy. The Euro-crisis leaves behind clear marks in non-European economies – with incalculable consequences.

“The world economy is interlinked.” This quotation from Kurt Tucholsky is completely conformed in the current crisis. The crisis in the eurozone gaining dynamic radiates on the world economy at the brink of an economic collapse. The OECD that described the eurozone as the “greatest risk factor for the world economy” recently issued urgent admonitions. The Bank for International Settlements (BIZ) sees enormous potential danger in the shattered European financial sector, in the conditions “after the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers.”

Economic Climate Cooling

Early economic indicators already point to a global economic cooling. The oil-price hit an all-time high in March 2012 despite a sinking demand that has already fallen 30 percent. The price of gold also rapidly went downhill. The weakened demand for raw materials is also clear in the price drop of the S & P GSCI Raw Material Index that shows the price development of 24 raw materials and sources of energy. That demand has fallen 20 percent. This dramatic drop in prices with sources of energy strikes raw material exporters like Russia very hard. Russia now sees itself confronted with an exploding budget deficit.

The Euro-crisis is transferred to other economic zones both through the economic weaknesses and Europe’s unstable financial sector. Imports in the important sales market fall on account of the recession in the eurozone. With around 18 percent of the world economic output, the European monetary zone represents the second most important economic region after the US. For China, Europe is the most important export market. The US only exports more to Canada than to the eurozone. US exports to Europe sank 4.8 percent in April 2012 compared to 2011. China had to accept an export-decline of 0.8 percent to the eurozone in the first five months of 2012.

The crisis of the European financial sector triggers fear of a “credit crunch” that started in the wake of the 2008 bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers investment bank. Eastern Europe is affected since Western Europe has a dominant position there. With an escalation of the Euro crisis, serious dislocations also threaten Latin America where around 60 percent of foreign credits come from European banks.

The hopes that the threshold countries would act as a future global economic locomotive are obviously not realized. One after another the growth forecasts of the up-and-coming economies are corrected downwards since they depend greatly on the economies in the centers of the capitalist world system. China’s government expects a growth of 7.5 percent in 2012 – the lowest forecast in eight years. In India, the economy has grown less than six percent. Brazil’s gross domestic product (GDP) will only climb 2.4 percent in 2012 according to the latest growth predictions.

THE EUROZONE IS ONLY ONE FOCAL POINT OF THE CRISIS

In an escalation of the European debt crisis, the threshold countries will also be dragged to the abyss according to a simulation model of the World Bank. If the 2013 GDP in Europe falls 8.5 percent, the eurozone will collapse. In the threshold countries, this could lead to a contraction of 4 percent on average.

The eurozone is only the current focal point of an aggregate capitalist debt crisis as the BIZ confirmed. The world economy has not come near “the model of a sustainable economy” five years after the outbreak of the crisis. The Institute is described as the “bank of central banks.” In a “vicious circle,” the debt reduction efforts of governments, private budgets, businesses and financial sectors led to gloomy economic prospects.

“THE MARKET RADICALS ONLY RECENTLY DISAPPEARED FROM THE TALK SHOWS”

Gunter Quaisser on Alternatives to Market Radicalism and Neoliberalism

[Gunter Quaisser, 1963, is an economist. Since 2006, he has collaborated in the Alternative Economic Policy study group and is a lecturer at the European Academy of Labor in Frankfurt. This interview published in: WISO-info 2/2012 is translated from the German on the Internet.]

WISO-Info: You are an economics collaborator of the Alternative Economic Policy study group that is known as the “Memorandum Group” or “Memo-group.” The group understands itself as a counter-pole to the dominant political-economic mainstream. When was the Memo-group founded and by whom?

Gunter Quaisser: The Alternative Economic Policy study group first presented a memorandum in the fall of 1975 – just after the passage of the 1st structural budget law that introduced social cuts in Germany. Reacting to that budget law was important. Since then, the Memorandum was and is a scholarly analysis of the current economic situation published every year. We critically investigate a whole series of political fields including social- and educational policy as well as economic policy. Since its founding, a huge number of experts have cooperated in the Memo-group. The Memorandum is a lasting community product.

WISO-Info: How would you describe your working method? To whom is it directed?

Gunter Quaisser: We meet at least three times a year to intensively discuss our themes. Around 40 economists and union officials come together to prepare the annual Memorandum, identify thematic focal points, write texts and develop common positions on current economic policy. We want to show politics that alternatives exist. TINA, “there is no alternative,” is not true for us! We want to recognize in the unions and show with our scholarly expertise that another economic policy is commanded and possible. The Memorandum always appears on May 1.

A Euro-memorandum has been published since 1995. Economists from all Europe meet annually to formulate a common alternative. The last conference was in Vienna and the next will be in Polish Poznan in September. The Euro-memorandum is published at the beginning of December in at least a half dozen languages.

WISO-Info: Let us focus on your current Memorandum. How do you judge the further course of the Euro-crisis? What are the focal points?

Gunter Quaisser: The measures applied to combat the Euro-crisis in the past were mostly ineffective and really harmful. The austerity policy forced on Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland is completely counter-productive. People cannot “save their way” out of the crisis. An expansive economic policy is absolutely necessary. One central cause of the crisis is the neoliberal economic policy pursued worldwide for over 30 years. This policy leads to redistribution from earned- to investment income. Since its founding, the Alternative Economic Policy study group has warned against this redistribution. In many countries, wage rates are falling and profit rates are rising. With slackening demand, past economic policy did not lead to increased investments in the real economy. Rather the financial markets were inflated again and again. This development was strengthened by a strong deregulation of the financial markets. From time to time, profits could be gained for the wealthy in the financial sector that were far greater than the real economic growth rates. All this has hardly changed after the crisis. As a result, the financial sector remains the epicenter of crisis-triggering developments. Radical reforms were avoided for a long while. Stabilizing the pre-crisis system through small repairs was attempted. This was not enough. Still there are ways out if the causes of the crisis are removed. In Memorandum 2012, we also show ways to reform the banking sector, describe our fiscal concept for more social and ecological sustainability and prove the necessity of a financially well-supplied educational system.

WISO-Info: Economics is still oriented in a very one-sided neo-classical way. Since the 1970s, neo-classical and market-radical approaches have experienced a Renaissance. These ways of thinking were and are very politically influential. What does this mean for your study group?

Gunter Quaisser: This makes us very worried. A rethinking in politics is blocked. The neo-classical theoreticians did not foresee the crisis and have no answer to the crisis. They act as though nothing happened and always urge more social cuts, a pushing back of the state, fewer regulations on labor markets, longer work hours and so on. The political-economic regulations are simply the same as before the crisis. What a catastrophe!

WISO-Info: How can it be that market-radical and neoliberal positions in the universities also attain dominance in politics and the media today?

Gunter Quaisser: Somebody once said: These positions “benefit the ruling class.” Our “elites” profit from them. With massive financial commitment, the “Initiative for a New Social Market Economy” – sponsored by employers – affects the media landscape. At the universities, alternatives to market-radical positions have nearly disappeared in the last 20 or 30 years. Whoever wants to get to the top must join the prevailing – neoliberal – stream. The occupational policy at the universities was completely one-sided. A Keynesian economic theory that emphasizes strengthening demand through higher wages and an expansive spending policy of the public budgets was simply denied technical competence. The universities are the ideal place for a “conflict of theories.” Theories could be developed there. The results of economic policy could be analyzed and judged. But this “test in reality” does not occur in the discipline. For example, the neo-classical credo declares: “The profits of today are the investments of tomorrow and the jobs of the day after tomorrow.” Some time ago a colleague asked in what classes at the big economic research institutes was that analyzed. The answer was astounding. None of these studies were known to the employer-friendly Institute of the German Economy. It wasn’t any better at the other institutes.

WISO-Info:” Wasn’t a rethinking expected after the disaster of the financial- and world economic crisis?

Gunter Quaisser: Yes. However the market-radicals only recently disappeared from the talk shows and still propagate the same demands as before.