No, I haven’t forgotten the globalisation series. I’m about to watch the next Yale lecture.
Meanwhile, as mentioned some time ago by Benjamin Solah, there is a new book around looking at all this from an intelligent Marxist perspective. See Book Review: Zombie Capitalism: Global Crisis and the Relevance of Marx by Chris Harman on BlogCritics.org.
… Many of us were taught economics from textbooks that talked about equilibrium which resulted when wages and prices balanced out; markets automatically cleared, attracting productive investment, leading to growth. The idea was simple: the markets would bring about whatever adjustments were necessary to draw the appropriate resources to the appropriate places. We were also told that capital is the source of wealth and that investors were its creators.
And yet throughout its history, capitalism has been dogged by wave after wave of crises. Unfortunately, the equilibrium model of economics hasn’t been able to explain this fundamental characteristic of capitalist systems. Ben Bernanke says that "understanding the Great Depression is the Holy Grail of macroeconomics." Edward C. Prescott, Nobel Laureate, says that it was a "pathological episode and it defies explanation by standard economics."
Of course, there have been many attempts to patch up the equilibrium model to try to explain such massive periodic crises, how markets which were supposed to "clear" somehow didn’t. But there has been another tradition in economics which has had no problem explaining the periodic crises: Marxist economics.
There are those of course who immediately identify anything Marxist as being a defence of the Russian communist system, its centralised command state structure, its massive exploitation of working people for accumulation of wealth, and the slavish devotion of communist parties around the world to the Russian centre.
Chris Harman, in his book Zombie Capitalism, has no truck with Stalinism nor the state capitalist system of Russia, and his analysis is as incisive in dealing with state capitalist economics of the eastern bloc and China, as he is in examining the Western economies…
Douglas Rae in the Yale lectures does question the equilibrium idea, pointing out that it is really Newtonian physics imported by analogy into the economic sphere. He tells a wonderful story about a conference of physicists and economists that apparently really did take place; the story rather favours physicists as real scientists.
GEORGE W. BUSH’S presidency exposed conservatism’s fissures, and here and there it widened them, but it did not cause them. Time had moved on; conservatives had not. Reaganism had rendered itself obsolete by cutting tax rates, whipping inflation, tripling the incarceration rate, and rebuilding American confidence and strength. Conservatives in the 2000s seemed bereft of answers to newer challenges–climate change, health care, non-state enemies–and often appeared uncomfortable discussing them.
We know what happens when movements or parties continue to stagger forward after running out of ideas: They become zombies. Zombie parties are a recurrent feature of electoral democracies. Unable to articulate any coherent or workable governing philosophy, they mindlessly jab at cultural hot buttons, mechanically repeat hardwired tropes ("cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes"), nurse tribal resentments, ostracize independent thinkers. Above all, they feel positively proud of their doggedness. You can’t talk them out of it. Think of the Republicans in the FDR years, the Democrats in the Reagan years, the British Labour Party in the Thatcher period, and the British Conservative Party in the Blair period. Think of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party for most of the past half-century, or France’s Socialists today. To get a new brain, zombie parties usually need to spend years out of power or wait until a new generation rises to leadership.