Archive for December, 2007

The poverty of neoliberalism

Canada’s Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty says there are to be no cuts in income taxes. However, there will be — and need to be — cuts in corporate taxes. The reason for this is that the heavy hand of government needs to stay out of the economy.

The putrid hypocrisy of neoliberalism should be evident here: it doesn’t even conform to neoclassical economic theory. Here, at the least, individuals (or households) are seen as — for all intents and purposes — equivalents to firms (or corporations). Thus, to make the economy truly competitive — and we know that the particularly ardent free market ideologues (e.g., Austrian/Chicago school) argue this — one must eliminate all taxes. I would say, if your excuse is economic competitiveness, you should at least look to cutting taxes proportionately. That’s probably not going to happen.

The populism previously present in the Conservative platform (personal tax cuts, a little bit) is dissipating, leaving us with little more than baldfaced brown-nosing of corporations — that is, “enabling” conditions for business competitiveness. Whatever that means.

Update: In the October mini-budget the Conservatives did schedule tax cuts in personal income — and they said this is good for the economy. It doesn’t save most people a lot of money: money that, in the aggregate, would probably be well-spent on something like, I don’t know, national childcare. The post above refers to their plans for the future.

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Four hours of research, writing and work. None of it for instrumental (read, coursework/degree-work) reasons.

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Ward Churchill & Marxism: Anti-Critique (Part 2)

Here is Part 2 of my response to Ward Churchill’s essay on Marxism. Part 1 is here.

Historical materialism

Churchill asserts that historical materialism is a way of looking at society not as a unified whole, but as a mass of contradictions. All of history is simply the course of contradictions in society reconciling themselves to production (i.e., the transformation of nature from one of its aspects into another). Churchill tells us that “‘Productive relations,’ in [the Marxist] schema, determine all and everything.” The “orthodox” Marxists, according to Albert and Hahnel, assert that Marxism downgrades the “importance of the creative aspect of the human consciousness” and that consciousness rests primarily on objective production relations.

There is some truth in some of these assertions, but Churchill does not provide a coherent account of historical (or, indeed, dialectical materialism) before he proceeds to criticize it — relying on quotations taken wildly out of context from Althusser and Baudrillard. For this reason I cannot proceed by addressing Churchill’s assertions in turn, but will provide a sketch of what historical materialism means. In doing this, I hope, we will take up Churchill’s criticisms and address them.

The main idea of historical materialism is that history — the course of development of human societies, including ideas and consciousness — is based on material realities. It is not the ideas in our heads that determine the conditions of our existence; so much as it is the conditions of our existence that largely contribute to the determination of the ideas in our heads. This is not to say that ideas do not have an effect on reality, but they do so when put into material action in whatever way. History is a chronology of changes: institutions, cultures, values and so on change over time. None of these are immutable, all of these are eminently historical — they exist, as they do, in particular times and spaces — and they are in constant flux.

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