‘Reforming capitalism’ is essentially considered an oxymoron by the academic world that is flummoxed by the ability of capitalism to re-mould, reorient and revamp itself for sustenance without losing the cardinal jus of exploitation. Post Perestroika and Glasnost[1], which eventually led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, Capitalism in the American unipolar world has triumphed in establishing a symbiotic relationship between itself and global polity. Here the symbionts in global polity are the classes with the wherewithal to procure investment and sustain enterprise at the cost of reducing the lower classes to mere labour sinks. The ‘liberalization’ of civilizatrice achieved through the Great Transformation (Polanyi, Block, Stiglitz, 2001) is actually a reimagining of the modern state to suit and cater to the needs of capitalist ambition.

The Neoliberal vision as understood by the Washington Consensus is simply, in layman terms, a panacea for regressive and progressive economies alike to ‘privatize’ and ‘liberalize’. This is based on the supposition that development can only augur well when the impediments of state intervention are diluted, and resource allocation turns market driven. It has become the newest normal for policy makers and economists alike and has spread like wildfire given its endorsement by the largest countries in terms of GDP like the US and UK (before Brexit). Enthusiastic support of IMF-style Neo-liberalism in poor countries; free trade, deregulation, fiscal discipline and welfare reform at home and a willingness to “bail out” wealthy asset holders during the frequent global financial crises in the 1990s are testimonials to the normative power of the neoliberal agenda to push to the margins, the agency of the exploited. The ruling junta of global economic policy (the WTO, GATT, IMF, etc) has busily and aggressively constructed a new world economy on the pyramidical tenets of Neo-liberalism. The siphons and plumbing for flow of capital are well set, to facilitate ‘venture capitalists’ in ‘giving life to entrepreneurial wealth’.

The best example that exposes the fallacies of Neoliberal constructs in the Indian context at least is the insertion of a new term into public consciousness: Dalit Capitalism. The Dalits (81% rural-landless-marginal farmers) are historically mistreated and exploited ‘untouchable’ castes in India who have never accumulated capital so as to facilitate class enterprise. They have been calculatively exploited by the Brahmin-Baniya caucus for eons as free labour-sinks by employing of ‘divinity’ attested to Shrutis and Smritis like the Manusmriti which form the basis of the Hindu social order. Post the neoliberal regimentation of Structural Adjustment Policies in India, the economy has inclined to be market driven, and on the face promised catapulting of enterprise for all social classes.

The Dalits too rode this promissory wave, advertising a ‘low intensity spectacle’ as Gopal Guru calls it. He calls it so, asserting that the rise of a Dalit Millionaire doesn’t mean a structural upheaval of casteist India. It instead through the ideology of spectacle, forges a fake association between the Dalits and Capitalism that coerces them to become poster boys for the ‘liberating’ power of Capitalism. Suraj Yengde goes on to elaborate on how Neo-liberalism has failed Dalit enterprise by providing just a buffer or a mirage of Dalit millionaires and not facilitated the genesis of a Dalit middle class in itself. The Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) was formed by people like Milind Kamble in an attempt to engage with the belittling system, and derive benefits for the community from the exploitative structure itself. Aseem Prakash, but through his study of the spectacle of Dalit Capitalism very explicitly reiterates that the Dalits’ multilayered exclusion in an India unable to escape the Hindu sociological imagination persists nevertheless, as pervasive as ever. Social mandate governs economic functioning. The Neo-liberal tenets aren’t eager in deconstructing social inequality, thus proposing a myopic siphoning of capital-intensive developmental orgies.

Fuelling the opposition of Marxists in India and other commonwealth nations to globalization is dependency theory. Eco-romantics take (this opposition) to mean “an alternative to the market and the state”, that is, a socialist society based on subsistence production (Omvedt, 2005). Globalization aims at generating a market driven cosmopolitan economy which ‘provides for’, and ‘liberates’ the previously dormant economic agents. What is dangerous in such an assumption is the comfortable non-acknowledgement of the flagellation of crony capitalists that get a fresh set of labour sinks i.e, neo-colonialism. By heavily privatizing, vested interests proliferate and proletarians’ interests in unionization slowly wear out, owing to the contractualisation (ad-hocization) on labour worldwide. Thus the underprivileged are manipulated to become stooges of Neo-liberalism and turn advocates of the same. The structural pressure thus continues feeding on the poor to feed the rich in newer ways.

Providing a ‘historical’ narrative that neo-liberalism is borne out of real life, the hegemons reiterate their supremacy. But what is forgotten is that it was only after WWII that the USA (which had catalyzed its industrial supremacy by then) finally liberalized and championed free trade. The UK’s similar commitment to neo-liberalism also came after an English technocratic revolution. Such misreading of the history of Capitalism itself facilitates disastrous developmental policy. The Washington Consensus therefore inhibits poor countries from actually pursuing policies which the current hegemons themselves employed before opening up their economies. Such a ‘let-it-rip’ openness tends also to underplay the importance of social goals. Unprepared engagement with the global currents leaves the third-world countries especially, vulnerable to shocks- capital flight, interest rates, oil rate spikes and export demand reductions. Neo-liberalism shifts the allegiance of domestic policy makers to global capital markets, thus implicitly inhibiting their aptitude to pursue legitimate, indigenous policy goals that include social security, employment, of others. Therefore as I have thematically reiterated throughout this analysis, a reformed ethical capitalism is a façade. To structurally destabilize and expose global-capitalist interests is the only way forward, with the fight against neo-colonialism declared open. Alternate organic strands of inclusive and participatory socialist developmental paradigms have become a matter of life and death to the current unequal world. Capitalist ‘global responsibility’ is a disgrace to the socialist imagination of a global real-politik.

 cuba3

(Since its 1959 leftist revolution, Cuba has dispatched its “army of white coats” to disaster sites and disease outbreaks around the world in the name of solidarity. In the last decade, they have fought cholera in Haiti, Ebola in West Africa and now the COVID-19 pandemic across the world.)

References:

Guru, G. (2012). Rise of the ‘Dalit Millionaire’: A Low Intensity Spectacle. Economic and Political Weekly, 47 (50), 41-49.

Omvedt, G. (2005). Capitalism and Globalisation, Dalits and Adivasis. Economic and Political Weekly , 40 (47).

Polanyi, K., Block, F., & Stiglitz, J. E. (2001). The great transformation : the political and economic origins

 of our time. 2nd Beacon Paperback ed. Boston (Mass.): Beacon press.

Teltumbde, A. (2011). Dalit Capitalism and Pseudo Dalitism. Economic and Political Weekly, 46 (10), 10-11.

Yengde, S. (2019, July 25). Why neo-liberal capitalism failed Dalit enterprise. Retrieved November 12, 2020, from The Print: https://theprint.in/pageturner/excerpt/why-neoliberal-capitalism-failed-dalit-enterprise/266446/

[1] On 11 March 1985, at the age of 54, Mikhail Gorbachev, an apparatchik of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), was appointed General Secretary of the CPSU by the Central Committee. He aimed to carry out a root-and-branch reform of the Soviet system, the bureaucratic inertia of which constituted an obstacle to economic reconstruction (‘Perestroika’), and, at the same time, to liberalise the regime and introduce transparency (‘Glasnost’), i.e. a certain freedom of expression and information.

Arjun Ram Pursuing BA in Social Sciences (2018-2021 Batch) from the School of Rural Development, Tata Institute of Social Sciences. An evolving researcher with established interests in Political thought, trans-national integration and nurturing civil consciousness. A voluntary commentator on issues pertaining to social justice and equal opportunity.


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