Claude Serfati: Some Proposals for the Debate

From a theoretical perspective, the analysis has to start from capitalism as a socio-economic system pushed forward by an unrelentless quest for valorization of capital. Capital is based on socio-economic relations, it is not reducible to its material representation – it is not a thing (e.g. a machine). For almost two centuries, capitalism has been able, through huge periods of economic and social disasters (classical” overaccumulation crisis, world and regional wars, overuse of natural resources, etc.), to overcome its large internal contradictions.

As capitalist dynamics has for a long time been a world-driven one, its institutional configuration – in particular the interaction between economic and geopolitical drivers – has been evolving since one century. The thriving of what is called “financialisation” results from drivers which are both structural – the capitalist compulsion to make money with money – and institutional – the political organization of the capitalist class and sweeping reforms introduced in the 1980s. As a large part of the commodity circulating on financial markets is largely fictitious, it should not be understood as a simple ‘wealth paper’. Fictitious capital is based on a socio-economic relation giving power to its owners to extract value and appropriate existing wealth.

Against this analytical background, it is obvious that the domination of finance capital (including its fictitious component) is not an outcome of the victory of the “markets” against states, but results from a concerted effort by ruling class to domesticate the working class, reduce its cost of reproduction, which goes through massive cuts in social needs-oriented public spending, and increase in work precariousness (the so-called flexibility of labor) etc. In the neo-liberal novlangue, it is called ‘structural reforms’.

The European policy is called suicidal’ and accused of blindness to disaster’ by a growing number of economists and other social scientists. Still, historical record shows that the demands for ‘reasonable and civilized conduct’ have hardly been heard by ruling classes, as regards their strategy and attitude to natural resources, peace between nations, or respect of minimum standards of life (on this last point : even when the latter was increasing in core countries, it was and still is accompanied by primitive accumulation in peripheric countries and even some areas of developed countries, reflecting the uneven and combined process that characterizes the capitalist dynamics).

It is to be feared that, absent mighty massive and coordinated mobilization at the European level, the spiral of self-cumulative depressive policy will continue, as it benefits to very mighty powerful social class and groups, and notwithstanding the fate of large segments of populations, as evidenced in the case of Greece, unfortunately joined by other European countries. From a practical perspective, this requires a convergence between the political, trade-unions and NGOs movements on the one hand, and the self-organisation by workers and other segments of the population on the other, who refuse to be trapped into devastating austerity policies carried out by European institutions and governments.

Some references

1) finance capital driven globalisation and :

– militarism

– “Militarismus: der bewaffnete Arm der Globalisierung” dans Christian Zeller (Editeur.), Die globale Enteignungsökon, Verlag Westfälisches Dampfboot, Münster, 2004

– “Defence a Public Global Good or American competitive advantage?” dans L. Assassi, D. Wigan, and K. van der Pijl, Global Regulation. Managing Crises and Transformation, Palgrave, 2004

– “Kriegsökonomien und Natürliche Ressourcen : Dans Andere Gesicht of Globalisierung“,Schweizerisches Jahrbuch für Entwicklungspolitik, Graduate Institute of Developement Studies, 2008

– environment

– (With F. Chesnais), Die physischen Bedingungen der gesellschaftlichen Reproduktion. C. Zeller (Hg.): Die globale Enteignungsökonomie. Münster, Westfälisches Dampfboot

2) interelations between Finance capital and production :

– at the world level

 “The current financial meltdown: a crisis of finance capital-driven globalization, International Conference “Whither Financialised Capitalism?” , November 7, 2009, SOAS, University of London,

– at the tnc level

 – “Financial dimensions of transnational corporations, global value chain and technological innovation”, Journal of Innovation Economics, n°2, 2008

– Transnational Corporation as Financial groups », Work organisation labour and globalization, volume 5, n°1, 2011, pp. 10-39


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