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Month: February, 2019

Industrial Relations, Trade Unions and Social Conflict in German Capitalism

German metal workers union IG Metall protest in Mannheim

by Ulrich Brinkmann and Oliver Nachtwey, 2013

Times have been changing. German capitalism, the former “sick man of Europe” in the late 1990s recovered from the financial crisis after 2008 very well. Indeed, the German labour market performed better than most of its European counterparts and during spring 2012 it reached the lowest level of unemployment since German reunification. The German press as well as significant parts of the leading political discourse are bursting with pride about a new German “labour market wonder”. During the first months in 2012 there have been a lot of debates on the specific macroeconomic configuration of the European monetary union with Germany as the current high-performer regarding labour market and export performance. Certainly: the fact that – though highly productive – the German export industry does not face a monetary revaluation plays an important role (Cesarotto/Stirati 2010; Lehndorff 2012). It profits from the common currency and the implications of the restraints for national monetary responses to exchange, credit and trust crises. But – and this is essential to the argument provided in this text – there is an underlying mechanism that complementarily supports this configuration from the industrial relations level.

Germany is the main exception in Europe in terms of social conflict, too. Since 2010, Europe has experienced a wave of mass-, and even general strikes: France, Greece and Portugal were centres of social conflict. Germany, however, remained calm, despite a sharp economic downturn and in spite of a cuts program by the government. Yet there were different historical experiences, too: In post-war Germany big and occasionally spectacular strike movements repeatedly took place – i.e. in 1956/57 for continued payment of wages in case of illness (sick pay), the unauthorized strikes 1969 et seq. or the major strike in 1984 for the 35-hours-week. But still, compared to international standards Germany is considered a “low-strike country” (Dribbusch 2007).

This article focuses the main developments of the German industrial relations, that contributed to the recent developments of the German economy in general, and the labour market in particular. We are starting with further factors that should be taken into consideration when debating the low level of social conflict in Germany. In general, German capital has gained new strength while trade unions have been forced onto the defensive since the 1990s. Furthermore, the changing forms of corporatist integration and the reconstruction of the German production and employment model have played a significant role in weakening trade union power resources. [READ PDF]

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Bolsonaro’s Brazil

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by Perry Anderson (Feb 2019)

I: Lula/Dilma

The teratology of the contemporary political imagination – plentiful enough: Trump, Le Pen, Salvini, Orbán, Kaczyński, ogres galore – has acquired a new monster. Rising above the ruck, the president-elect of Brazil has extolled his country’s most notorious torturer; declared that its military dictatorship should have shot thirty thousand opponents; told a congresswoman she was too ugly to merit raping; announced he would rather a son killed in a car accident than gay; declared open season on the Amazon rainforest; not least, on the day after his election, promised followers to rid the land of red riff-raff. Yet for Sérgio Moro, his incoming justice minister saluted worldwide as an epitome of judicial independence and integrity, Jair Bolsonaro is a ‘moderate’.

To all appearances, the verdict of the polls last October was unambiguous: after governing the country for 14 years, the Workers’ Party (PT) has been comprehensively repudiated and its survival may now be in doubt. Lula, the most popular ruler in Brazilian history, has been incarcerated by Moro and awaits further jail sentences. His successor, evicted from office midway through her second term, is a virtual outcast, reduced to a humiliating fourth place in a local Senate race. How has this reversal come about? To what extent was it contingent or at some point a foregone conclusion? What explains the radicalism of the upshot? By comparison with the scale of the upheaval through which Brazil has lived in the last five years, and the gravity of its possible outcome, the histrionics over Brexit in this country and the conniptions over Trump in America are close to much ado about nothing.

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Authority and the Family (Horkheimer, 1936)

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by Max Horkheimer (1936)

THE history of mankind has been divided into periods in very varying ways. The manner in which periodization has been carried out has not depended exclusively on the object, any more than other concept formations have; the current state of knowledge and the concerns of the knower have also played a part. Today the division into antiquity, Middle Ages, and modern times is still widely used. It originated in literary studies and was applied in the seventeenth century to history generally. It expresses the conviction, formed in the Renaissance and consolidated in the Enlightenment, that the time between the fall of the Roman Empire and the fifteenth century was a dark era for mankind, a sort of hibernation of culture, and was to be understood only as a period of transition. In contemporary scholarship this particular periodization is considered highly unsatisfactory. One reason is that the “Middle Ages” were in fact a time of important progress even from a purely pragmatic viewpoint, since they saw decisive advances in civilization and produced revolutionary technical inventions. A further reason is that the usual criteria for making the fifteenth century a dividing point are partly indefensible, partly applicable in a meaningful way only to limited areas of world history.  [READ PDF]

Rackets

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by Gerhard Scheit, translated by Lars Fischer

(Sage Handbook for Frankfurt School Critical Theory, 2018)

The term racket first turned up in the context of Critical Theory toward the end of the 1930s and instantly attained considerable conceptual significance. In his notes and drafts for Dialectic of Enlightenment, Horkheimer identified the racket as the ‘elementary form of domination’. The term originated in the language of American legal scholars and criminologists. As Otto Kirchheimer noted, it commonly referred to ‘monopolistic practices which are carried through by physical force, violence in trade disputes, or similar objectionable means’. More recently, it was principally Wolfgang Pohrt who drew attention to the relevant texts and the significance of the concept for Critical Theory. He also pointed to the term’s variegated connotations that evidently prompted its use to designate specific political and societal tendencies and the implosion of society as a whole. ‘Rackets’, Pohrt explained, ‘are not just bands of blackmailers but also self-help groups and charitable associations’ . [READ PDF]

Market Social Democracy: The Transformation of the SPD up to 2007

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Vote share for the SPD across Germany in the 2017 federal election

by Oliver Nachtwey (2013)

The article analyses the changes within German social democracy up to the passing of the SPD’s new party programme in 2007. It argues that social democracy has transformed itself from Keynesian into ‘market social democracy’. The comparison takes place by means of a policy analysis in the fields of labour and social, as well as financial, policies. Furthermore, the policy comparison facilitates an analysis of the rationality of the political economy on which these policies are based. It demonstrates that market social democracy represents a reconfiguration of the relationship between the market, the state and the individual, one that renews the social realm with elements of economic liberalism. This process is also reflected in the new party programme, which now includes basic assumptions of German ordoliberalism. [READ PDF]

Capitalism: Concept, Idea, Image

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Capitalism: Concept, Idea, Image – Aspects of Marx’s Capital Today

Edited by Peter Osborne, Éric Alliez and Eric-John Russell

Contributors: Éric Alliez, Étienne Balibar, Tithi Bhattacharya, Boris Buden, Sara. R. Farris, John Kraniauskas, Elena Louisa Lange, Maurizio Lazzarato, Antonio Negri, Peter Osborne, Eric-John Russell, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Keston Sutherland

Drawn from a conference held to mark the 150th anniversary of the first volume of Karl Marx’s Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, these essays from a range of internationally established contributors offer readers a snapshot of debates about the book’s current relevance across a variety of fields and contexts. The volume approaches Marx’s Capital as an exemplary text in the continuation of the tradition of post-Kantian European Philosophy through transdisciplinary practices of critique and concept construction. The essays are grouped into four sections: Value-Form, Ontology & Politics; Capitalism, Feminism and Social Reproduction; Freedom, Democracy and War; The Poetics of Capital/Capital. Each section is accompanied by an image from the 2008 film by Alexander Kluge, News From Ideological Antiquity: Marx – Eisenstein – Capital.

This book is available as a free ebook at the link below. The book will also be available as a paperback from Amazon in February 2019.

DOWNLOAD BOOK HERE

Introduction

Capitalism: concept, idea, image

Peter Osborne 3

Value-form, Ontology & Politics

1 Form analysis and critique: Marx’s social labour theory of value

Elena Louisa Lange 21

2 Towards a new critique of political economy: from generalized surplus value to total subsumption

Étienne Balibar 36

3 From the commodity to the spectacle: Debord’s Marx

Eric-John Russell 58

4 Marxian ontology, today

AntonioNegri 88

Capitalism, Feminism & Social Reproduction

5 From the production of value to the valuing of reproduction

Tithi Bhattacharya 105

6 Social reproduction and racialized surplus populations

Sara R. Farris 121

Freedom, Democracy & War

7 It’s getting darker around the central sun of freedom: Capital, translation and the re-feudalization of capitalism

Boris Buden 135

8 Capital’s destinerrance as event and task

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak 164

9 Subjectivation and war: Marx and Foucault

Éric Alliez & MaurizioLazzarato 184

Poetics of Capital/Capital

10 The poetics of Capital

Keston Sutherland 203

11 The reflux of money: outlaw accumulation and territorialization in Breaking Bad

John Kraniauskas 219