"Today, capitalism is dominated by finance capital, abstract capital.... Subordinating productive capital to itself, finance capital makes the economy function on a short-term and unproductive basis. It is therefore fundamentally predatory and parasitic, increasing investment in circulation rather than production -- spending vast levels of resources on income property [sic], commodity, equity and bond speculation."To the fairly standard complaint about excessive speculation, Schulman adds the morally charged epithet "parasitic," and he goes on to say that the U.S., where only 15 percent of the labor force "is directly involved in actual production," acts as "a parasite in the world economy."
While I happen to agree that it would be better if a larger percentage of people in the U.S. made things as opposed to pushing paper (or -- dare I say it -- writing blogs!), I'm not sure I entirely buy the notion that the production of tangible goods is non-parasitic and all other economic activity is parasitic upon it. This is a quibble, however, since I do not of course want to speak up in favor of short-term speculation (who does?).
Writing in a democratic socialist publication, Schulman asserts, not surprisingly, that Reich in his book displays the timidity characteristic of New Deal liberals. Reich notes trends but fails to explain them (Schulman says), and "Reich fails to understand...that the American state....is very much a capitalist state...part of an international state system, subject to the world market, through which capital reigns."
Oh boy. Anyone up for a re-run of the Miliband-Poulantzas debate? Hmm, not right now, I'm not even typing this at my home computer.
Moving right along, we come to the very end of Schulman's review (a longer version of which is apparently going to appear in the journal New Political Science). Here there is this sentence: "...the fight for economic democracy is intrinsically tied to the fight for greater political democracy than capitalists and their political representatives will ever be willing to accept: to go beyond the freedoms of speech, assembly, association, movement, etc., and onto democratic control of the economy and real control of the state."
Now, I agree with Schulman on the need for "democratic control of the economy." (I wouldn't be a member of the organization that publishes Democratic Left if I didn't.) There's just one little problem: leftists have been calling for democratic control of the economy for decades, with distressingly little to show for it in terms of results. Am I blaming the left for all the malign world-historical events, from the breakdown of the Keynesian accommodation to the rise of neoliberalism, that have occurred in the last 30 years? Of course not. But I do think that, as someone who read Michael Harrington as a teenager and joined DSOC when I was in high school, I am entitled to be just a little bit weary when, roughly 35 years later, I read yet another series of clarion calls for "democratic control of the economy," having read quite a few such calls in the intervening years.
Democratic control of the economy. Democratic control of investment. Genuine political and economic democracy. Transcending capitalism.
Great. I'm all for it. But I'm not holding my breath.