What components does capitalism need in order to survive?

Capitalism: no game!

"This form of economy will survive everything," writes Franziska Augstein in the SZ. A comment

SZ author Franziska Augstein worried about capitalism in the economic section of the SZ on October 9, 2020, because it was "... in crisis. Its supporters are also concerned." Reason enough to give the all-clear: "That is not necessary. This form of economy will survive anything." Does that mean the destruction of their own livelihoods as a result of the climate catastrophe and the destruction of their ecological systems? Hardly, because it should also be able to adapt to it (to: "everything") and thus benefit from it.

One prerequisite for the success of this project, however, has to be considered: "It (the economic system) should (...) be reformed." Why capitalism should be reformed, if it will "survive everything" anyway, remains Augstein's secret, which she will not reveal in the course of her article. However, she does give some indications, and one should be betrayed right at the beginning, because it says something about the admiration that Ms. Augstein has for capitalism. Quoting the "social historian Jürgen Kocka", she says:

Capitalism is possible under all possible forms of government, "in democratic as well as authoritarian and dictatorial systems of rule".

Franziska Augstein

If an economic system can be certified to survive under all possible forms of rule, then that is of course a first-class quality mark, in the face of which all criticism simply has to fade. What do we care about the collateral damage that capitalism causes, up to and including the threat of failure, when rulers of all stripes know how to use it so successfully? To oppose a rule, given their ability to successfully make use of the servitude of their subjects, would be absurd, as it were, because it is precisely the success of "this economic form" that prompts its admirers to remain loyal to it through Dick & Dünn . No matter how this success may come about.

So that we really understand why capitalism cannot go under, Franziska Augstein explains to us what capitalism is. The answer to this can be found in Jürgen Kocka, already quoted at the beginning:

... that capital is "central" in capitalism, "and associated with it, economic behavior with a certain temporal structure: one uses the resources of the present for investments in the expectation of greater advantages in the future (...) change, growth and expansion are inscribed in this form of economic activity, but in irregular rhythms, in ups and downs, interrupted by crises. "

Franziska Augstein

We learn: Capital plays a central (!) Role in capitalism, and this indisputable state of affairs coincides with an economic (!) Behavior of the capitalists who want to make more money from their advanced money, but what they do, provided everything is in their favor expires, can only succeed in a staggered manner, ie in the future ("temporal structure"). For reasons that do not seem to be worth explaining, this happens under constantly changing and revolutionary conditions, runs in a crisis-ridden process that can destroy the desired success again.

"Capitalism is capable of surviving like a basement louse"

Success and failure, creation and destruction of values ​​are part of capitalism, but apparently no reason to question the whole meaning and purpose:

Much has been discussed in recent years about a possible end to the capitalist system. This is nonsense. Capitalism is viable like a cellar louse, an insect that biologists say would be left alive after a global nuclear war.

Franziska Augsein

In her comparison with the cellar rogue, Ms. Augstein reflects in a strange way the appearance that capital has a life of its own independent of the citizens: the will of the people involved in the capital relationship does not play a role here, they could not do anything else than themselves To submit to the conditions of capitalist production, no matter under what conditions and with whatever consequences. The fact that those involved, as beneficiaries on the one hand, and injured parties on the other, are rewarded with quite different results, does not matter to them at all.

For this point of view, capitalism is not a relationship between people that is accessible to change, but rather an objective force of nature against which there is no herb. For Ms. Augstein, this no longer poses the question of the constraints that compel citizens to allow themselves to be exploited by capital, let alone the reasons why the citizens do not (or no longer) want to recognize their exploitation as such.

But that does not mean that they are not interested in the conditions for success of the capitalist system. In spite of all the criticism of its results, its success is beyond question for them. Therefore, she first explains why all previous damage reports have not harmed capitalism. She finds what she is looking for in the father of all criticism of capitalism and shows him a fundamental error:

Karl Marx based his criticism of capitalism on Hegel and his idea of ​​dialectics. Put simply, it is like this: A thing is continued until it, precisely because it works, gives birth to the contradictions inherent in it and brings them to work. Then everything tips over and is re-sorted. Marx believed that capitalism would be replaced and lead to rule by all for all. This assumption was wrong: capitalism renews itself and within itself.

Franziska Augstein

When capitalism renews itself "in and of itself", it does exactly what Augstein, "to put it simply", describes in Hegel's dialectic: the internal contradictions escalate and force a rearrangement and change in the organic composition of capital that a new round of the profit carousel may begin. However, Marx understands that a communist society would emerge from a crisis situation only as a possibility and not as a necessity, which would only have to take place in one way and no other. Because the state of wage dependency does not automatically result in class consciousness, but most likely the willingness to want to serve the cause of the company in return for a "fair wage". This includes the general respect for other people's property, as prescribed today and in this country in the Basic Law, and this contrary to all one's own lifelong experience of never being able to enjoy realizable property oneself.

Fetish character of the goods

In order for capitalism to be able to renew itself again and again, it needs the approval of its variable capital, the wage workers. As long as he has their acceptance or at least toleration, it can continue in his sense, but only as long as he has it, and this is also his greatest weakness. Marx's analysis of capital suggests that the working class would do well to use their position in their own emancipation interests. The fact that no automatism of the termination of allegiance can be derived from this is due to the obstacles to knowledge which Marx describes in various places in the course of the development of his theory of value, including in the sixth section of Capital on wages:

On the surface of bourgeois society, the laborer's wages appear as the price of labor, a certain amount of money paid for a certain amount of labor. (...) All work appears as paid work. (...) With wage labor (...) even the overtime or unpaid work appears to be paid. (...) ... (because) the money relation (hides) the free work of the wage laborer.

Karl Marx, Das Kapital, Vol. 1, p. 557 and p. 562

What is exchanged is not wages for work, but wages for labor, which includes their use beyond the necessary working time, which serves to reimburse their production costs. The extra work done in vain is hidden in wages.

All legal conceptions of the worker as well as the capitalist, all the mystifications of the capitalist mode of production, all its illusions of freedom, all the apologetic flaws of vulgar economics are based on this manifestation, which makes the real relationship invisible and precisely shows its opposite.

Karl Marx, Das Kapital, Vol. 1, p. 562

Helping to overcome this wrong "legal conception" would be the task of the left.

A "rule of all for all", as Ms. Augstein describes her idea of ​​a classless society (freedom of rule seems to be a foreign word to her), is therefore not a result that would necessarily have to arise from a capitalism misunderstood as a "thing", because wage labor is Although part of the capital ratio, it also consists of numerically far superior individuals who are endowed with a free will, that is, not a "thing" that would only function in the sense of their entrepreneurial users and users, namely in a functional manner. However, if it does so today, there is no guarantee that it will stay that way forever.

Although capital continually produces things - use values ​​- it can only do so because it is not itself a "thing", as Augstein assumes with her Hegelian analogy, but a relationship based on objectified (or also: reified) relationships between people: entrepreneur and Wage workers. Marx addresses this connection in Chapter 4 of his commodity analysis, in which he describes the fetish character of the commodity:

The mystery of the commodity form consists (...) in the fact that it reflects back to people the social character of their own labor as the objective characters of the labor products themselves, as social natural properties of these things, hence also the social relationship of the producers to total labor as something that exists outside of them Relation of objects. (...) It is (...) the specific social relationship of people themselves which here assumes the phantasmagoric form of a relationship between things for them.

Karl Marx, Das Kapital, Vol. 1, p. 86

The contradictions inherent in capitalism cannot be understood without the conflicting interests of the actors involved, whose expedient actions lead to the development of precisely these contradictions by pursuing their respective deals and calculations of benefits. Capitalism that is thought of as a "thing" does not always "flourish" and, as it were, out of itself, it is its beneficiaries who - following their interests - work off the constant and self-generated constraints and thereby produce the known consequences.

The renewal efforts of capital, forced by competition and crises, are aimed at restoring its profitability again and again under constantly changing conditions and placing it on a new material and organizational basis: The prerequisites for profitability are adjusted so that profit continues to be generated and as increased as possible can be.

What appears to be an incessantly occurring miracle of production and productivity is nothing more than the effort to do justice to the constant compulsion to always generate profit in the same way: Capital is a continuously revolutionizing system of profit-seeking standstill, represented by that which has been declared as having no alternative and the same compulsion to exploit. He is the god of capital, he must not be doubted, he should be obeyed forever (Augstein expresses her admiration for it as follows: "Capitalism is capable of surviving like a wood louse, an insect that, according to biologists, would remain alive after a global nuclear war "). When it comes to capitalist profitability, the hymn of praise for the adaptability of capitalism falls silent, because nothing should change in profit tailoring, it is an iron and imperative: standstill as progress into nothing (after: Götz Eisenberg)!

Capitalism as a game

If capitalism is successful for Franziska Augstein under "democratic as well as authoritarian and dictatorial systems of rule", which of course can only speak for him, she also likes the analogy of a Mr. Werner Plumpe - an economic historian - who means: "With Capitalism can be described as the set of rules of a certain game that is not fixed once and for all, but changes in the course of time according to the respective technical possibilities, normative ideas and institutional constraints, can change in any case, maybe even has to change. "

Capitalism should therefore be thought of as a game, the rules of which should be changeable and adaptable to changing conditions. In the game there are winners and losers, sometimes it can hit one or the other, both roles are interchangeable. With regard to competing companies, the winner-loser ratio may apply. A relationship that is not about pleasure but about existences, to be subsumed under the term game, is, however, quite far from reality. When companies end up on the losing side and perish as a result, the wage workers are the main victims, because they previously had no opportunity to accumulate (usable) wealth and, if necessary, to put it aside.

The wealth of an entrepreneur grows and grows as long as he is successful, while the wages are regularly added to the cost of living and at best migrate to a savings account as a deduction from everyday consumption. When it comes to emerging as a winner from a competitive situation, the term “set of rules” can actually only mean the methods by means of which a maximum of profit can be made with the lowest possible cost. If you want to see this as a "game", the question arises as to where the pleasure should be. No person dependent on wage labor who has to bow to the directives of his "employer" in order to be fobbed off after maximum performance with the lowest possible pay will want to misunderstand this service as a "game".

The good and the bad capitalist

But of course Ms. Augstein doesn't only have praise for capitalism. In return, she tells us how it has to go if it is to be acceptable:

You take a risk, you invest, you may have many sleepless nights while building a company, you exploit the workers; if everything goes smoothly, one can get rich and can sit in the front bench in the church on Sunday with a clear conscience. All of this is part of capitalism.

Franziska Augstein

The purest entrepreneurial idyll: The exploitation of the workers is okay, the resulting "good conscience" even receives its Christian credentials, but one gladly accepts many sleepless nights and bravely takes the self-chosen risk.

However, the fact that a company can be saved from bankruptcy by the state and taxpayers after a proven inability of its own management (...) has nothing to do with the conventional basic understanding of capitalism.

Franziska Augstein

This means that a company that is permanently losing out in the competition with its peers will disappear from the market, because this is the only way to achieve capitalist progress. What this means for the workers concerned is not up for debate here, nor does it seem worth mentioning.

It is also necessary "that the relocation of jobs to countries where starvation wages are paid must be reconsidered by the companies in the affluent countries". So starvation wages at home - also called low wages in modern times - are okay? But Frau Augstein becomes even stricter:

It is unacceptable that the financial world, which is uncoupled from the production of visible, tangible goods, increasingly determines economic activity. Listed companies face the intolerable risk that betting on the fall in the value of their shares can be lucrative. It is not at all tolerable that unsuccessful managers can run a company against the wall and are also rewarded splendidly for it. The latter, by the way, runs counter to the self-image of seasoned capitalists of all centuries.

Franziska Augstein

Seasoned capitalists are allowed to exploit and speculate with stocks with a clear conscience, also go decently bankrupt, but profit from their own mismanagement at the expense of the taxpayer? That doesn't work at all, that is against Christian morality! Unless they managed to get their sheep into the dry without much public fuss before the company's demise, which should be the rule. Then you can also wind up your own bankruptcy without incurring the anger of a well-meaning, critical public.

"The European criticism of capitalism: it paid off in the end!"

In the end, however, Ms. Augstein also has a word of praise for the critics of capitalism. She credits them with the fact that, particularly in Europe, they have made a strong effort to enforce welfare state standards, which has benefited its acceptance: "The European criticism of capitalism: It paid off in the end! " For European capitalism, of course, for who else? Because today it is evident that "many European countries did better than the Americans with the establishment of the welfare state after 1945". That is the calculating praise from the mouths of two American economists (Anna Case and August Deaton, the latter a Nobel laureate in economics).

How capitalism will continue in the face of the existential destruction it has caused globally is still in the hands of that predominantly subordinate, wage-dependent class that has forgotten how to develop an emancipatory interest that goes beyond its dependent existence. A left would have to work off their willingness to submit to the demands of capital if they were interested in such a turnaround.

Because the majority of them do not seem to have any interest in increasing the willingness of wage workers or workers to adapt. To thematize and question the working class so that they could become aware of their situation as a mere instrument of entrepreneurial interest in enrichment, Ms. Augstein can fall on the idea that capital and thus the wage laborers belonging to it are to some extent natural, i.e. forever and eternally established "thing", which there is nothing to shake.

A business journalist trusts her appearance and thinks she is on the right track. A no less disoriented left seems to be right. One thing fits the other in this bleak scenario. (Richard Winterstein)

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