Thursday, 12 January 2017
The state AND capitalism? With Trump the state IS capitalism.
When I first started reading about capitalism and the state, I was struck by the way in which the articles all pointed out how the state (parliament, the justice system, administration) operated ultimately in service to business. That was its job. In the immediate post-war period the Labour Government tried to establish another way of talking about the state as having an independent 'social' function - health, education, transport, social services, welfare. Thatcherism was a clear effort to roll that back (her government called all that health, education, and local government stuff, 'socialism') and since 2010, this 'work' is being completed. Again the charge that this is the state working on behalf of business sticks, I would say. However, all this assumes that there is some kind of fire-break between the state and business ie people in government are not supposed to be actually running businesses which would benefit directly from acts of parliament. The way round that obstacle is for MPs to work the revolving door hopping between work for the state and work for companies that benefit directly from what the government has just legislated.
With Trump, all this has been torn up. Trump and Trump's family are major business people. There is no firebreak. It cannot be possible over a period of 4 or 8 years for acts of government to NOT affect the Trump cohort's business interests. The state and business are fusing.
I suspect that over the next four years, we will hear all kinds of apologies and wriggles about all this. In other words, all the old nostrums about constitutional government will be thrown out the window. In the US there'll be a battle over this, where even quite right wing people will worry about this. There is an incredibly strong strand of legalism over there. Here, we will see all kinds of pathetic grovelling about such crap as 'bringing his business expertise to the White House'.
When people talk about 'populism' they mostly concentrate on the rhetoric. But actually, one feature of populism is for the head of state to put him or herself above parliament to talk directly to the people. (The Perons were a good example of this.) Trump will try to save his skin over and over again through his tweets and TV appearances. Really, helping him in that will be the fact that most people in the US really rate 'business'. So, if you're a 'successful businessman' that means you are in some sense a 'good' person. Trump will benefit enormously from that.