Postnational Chain Reaction

Robert Kurz

In capitalism, it is not people who are socialized, but dead things: money and commodities. Therefore, the perception of the world is reduced to a point; to the single individual, the single company, the single state. The consciousness of time is just as atomized. What counts is always only topicality. Everything else is yesterday’s snow or the Flood that follows. We don’t think in terms of epochs, but in terms of the time horizon of the “daily news.” It is true that we somehow know that there are complex global connections, especially economic ones. But the more there is talk of “networking,” the more isolated the facts appear. Globalization is all well and good, but isn’t it a topic of the day before yesterday?

Ever since the states put together their rescue packages, people everywhere want to put on their national glasses again. The fact that the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers (was there something?) triggered a chain reaction that for a moment revealed the worldwide network of bad loans is seen as an excess of some paternalistic financial markets. Under the protective umbrella of the government and within the four walls at home, people like to believe that they are in a world of loud patriotic economies. In reality, the same transnational flows of goods and money, the same global imbalances and deficit cycles as before are now subsidized by government loans instead of commercial financial bubbles. And the state money itself is anything but national.

Because capitalism is considered indestructible anyway, and the new quality of globalization tends to be suppressed, the only question that seems to arise is that of up-and-comers among corporations and national winners and losers. Will China replace the U.S. as the economic and political world power? This “grand narrative” of the media is completely blind to reality, because we no longer live in a century of independent national empires. The Chinese export surpluses vis-à-vis the U.S., which are increasing again from month to month, are financed by the money glut of the U.S. Federal Reserve. Conversely, the Chinese feed their state-enforced domestic growth from astronomical foreign exchange reserves, primarily in dollars. The interdependence is so great that any stumble by one brings down the other. Neither individually nor jointly do they control their contradictory interdependence.

In Europe, people pretend that the debt crises of Greece and the other wobblers are homegrown problems that can be dealt with by national austerity efforts. In fact, the deficits in the EU are the flip side of Germany’s export surpluses. If the German economy had to focus on the national domestic market, it would collapse immediately. So far, the draconian austerity measures in Southern and Eastern Europe, and for that matter in Great Britain, have largely only been proclaimed. If they are fully realized, we can expect a European recession with global repercussions. And if Greece goes bankrupt, just when it is saving itself to death, people will wonder where Greek government securities are stashed everywhere. It’s not much different than the Lehman certificates, and it applies to bad government debt everywhere. Capital in all its forms is international.

Originally published in Neuen Deutschland on 06/27/2011

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