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.
Puerto Rico en el mundo
Author: Proyectos FPH
Published: January 22, 2008.
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