Capitalism against Capitalism

Capitalism against Capitalism

The recent outbreak of corruption cases in Spain, motivated by the complic­ity of developers and govern­ment officials, has caused con­cern because of the direction taken by neo-liberal rules and practices of globalization. In a series of articles in the Madrid newspaper, El País, José Vidal Beneyto refers to several stud­ies that analyze this historical process. One of them is titled “Capitalism against Capitalism”.

In his book, Capitalismo contra capitalismo (1991), Mi­chel Albert argues that capital­ism has taken diverse forms: from original family capital­ism, to today`s dominant ver­sion of radical financial capi­talism. The two main historical tendencies have been the an­tagonistic forms of Rhenish and Anglo-Saxon capitalism. Albert makes a brilliant pre­sentation of the opposition of those two forms of capitalism, and simultaneously offers a fervent defense of the Rhen­ish European model versus the Anglo-American one.

The market`s social economy that constitutes the central axis of Rhenish capitalism points to the progress of society as in­separable from the creation of wealth and subjects the latter to social ethics and interna­tional law. Rhenish capital­ism is anchored in the Nordic community spirit that gener­ates a strong feeling of col­lective ownership. Its essential characteristics are long-term considerations in business expectations; a strong sense of solidarity translated into a developed system of social protection; a notion of inde­pendent monetary stability; the creation of large organiza­tions of workers and employers and the establishment of solid arbitration mechanisms to re­duce labor conflicts and avoid State intervention; a reinforced role of banks in economic life and the reduction of the role of the stock exchange in financ­ing enterprises.

This particular Rhenish capi­talist organization is the one that Max Weber relates in his well-known link between Prot­estantism and capitalism (The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism). Weber explains why more than 70% of employ­ers were Protestant and why German labor unions demand­ed more participation in com­pany affairs, thus contradicting the classic Marxist analysis of class struggle as the main field of political relations.

The other model, the An­glo-Saxon model, substitutes the values of responsibility and solidarity that characterize the Rhenish tradition. On one hand, it elevates the individual-shareholder to a position of power, consequently weakening all executive positions, while substituting banks for the stock exchange as the sole source of financing. Here, speculation dominates -displacing produc­tion- and highlights the demand for immediate results, thus enhanc­ing short term values.

The Rhenish model, accord­ing to Albert, served as a foun­dation for the European pattern of society until the coming of the neo-liberal impulse. The latter was promoted by Mrs. Thatcher, in England, and Reagan”s Republicans in the United States.

In his book Total Capital­ism, former president of Credit Lyonnais, Jean Peyrelevade, insists that the most recent Anglo-Saxon capitalism has instituted the dictatorship of shareholders, which represent only 4% of the world`s popu­lation. Elie Cohen in The New Age of Capitalism, Jean-Luc Greau in The Future of Capital­ism and Patrick Artus and Marie Paule Virard in Capitalism is in the Process of Self Destroying Itself agree that the enormous economic benefits of stock exchanges are not invested in useful social and economic projects, but continue to op­erate in the speculative circuit or are dedicated to sumptuous consumption. They regret that the deepening of inequalities, the persistence of massive unemployment, environmen­tal damages and the increase of financial scandals-Enron, Worldcom, Parmalat, Hedge Funds, etc.- are putting an end to whatever positive historical elements capitalism had.

Editorial`s Staff
Puerto Rico en el mundo

Author: Proyectos FPH
Published: January 22, 2008.

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