Where to, capitalism?

Warning: the following is a rant.

Today’s Globe and Mail includes an opinion piece by Thomas Homer Dixon titled “Global Capitalism Teeters on the Brink:
We’ve moved from a world of risk to a world of uncertainty.” As the title declares, his point is that the subprime mortgage crisis, which led to the fall of Bear Stears, the US’s fifth largest investment bank, which in turn triggered the neoliberal nightmare of the US Federal reserve intervening on the no-longer-self-regulating free market, illustrates the impending doom of global capitalism. While I agree that “the crisis is the product of systemic problems in the world’s economy,” I’m not sure that this particular crisis signals our passage from a “world of risk to a world of uncertainty.” I hate to nitpick and resort to the easiest postcolonial critique of asking “Who’s we?”, but I’m afraid that when talking about the “world economy” and “global capitalism,” one owes it to one’s readers to be more specific. Even if they represent a crucial part of the world economy, workers in sweat shops in the periphery cannot be said to move now from risk to uncertainty. Many more examples from the participants in “global capitalism” can be found. Again, “we” is the historically empowered and self-sufficient Western, middle class subject. End of cheap critique.

What I take issue with more in Homer-Dixon’s piece is the need to foretell, the motivations for which I don’t understand: when one is a brilliant scholar who has just been head-hunted and set atop of a new institute with much pomp, why does one need to take prove one is clairvoyant? Moreover, Dr. Homer-Dixon probably knows that capitalism has been teetering on the brink since its emergence, because that’s where it thrives. It is by crises that it renews itself, and finds other resources to fuel its development. I guess I would just have preferred to read an edifying piece exposing the conceptual bankruptcy of neoliberalism and using this crisis as an example of how the free market ideologues can justify running for help to the government when the boo-boo is getting out of hand. And maybe a lead to a larger discussion of the founding myth of neoliberalism. But maybe I’m just too simple that way – after all, I’m told we all want to read our own interests in everything we see, to justify our petty narcissistic selves.

End of rant.


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