METAMORPHOSIS IN POLITICAL ECONOMY: A NEW COMBINATION OF THREE DISPARATE IDEAS.

Author:Hanappi, Hardy
Position:Report
 
FREE EXCERPT

Introduction

The contemporary global political economy is characterized by an accelerating increase of tensions in the majority of the dimensions of political economy. These increases quite generally are the result of growing inequalities of life circumstances as they are observed by an ever-larger part of the world's population. To some limited extent, the dramatic increase of observed inequalities stems from the increase in technical possibilities of observation, i.e. from the spread of the internet and its users. But apart from that, there also are numerous socio-economic and physical processes, which drive the elements of political economy into contradictory directions. In the first section of this paper the status quo of the current situation will be sketched by a list of the most essential inequalities; as they are experienced as well as they are physically present. The concept of inequality implicitly includes the notion of measurability and as an immediate consequence the concept of equality (compare Hegel, 1831, book 1, part 3). Both states, inequality and equality, are only useful concepts in the context of some assumed dynamic forces, which either could stabilize disturbed equilibrium, or could amplify disequilibrium. Since both types of forces are usually present, it is the net impact that counts. In Hanappi and Scholz-Wackerle (2017) we have provided a framework that allows to consider the history of political economy as a sequence of more stable regimes (where the net impact points to equilibrium) interrupted by revolutions (where the net impact of amplifying disequilibria necessitates a fundamental structural change). The crux, of course, is to understand how these stages are linked, how relative stability breeds revolutions and how the chaos of revolution then condensates into a new era of relative stability.

The second section therefore sets out to identify the drivers in these two transitory processes. For upcoming revolutions, the most lucid analysis goes back to Karl Marx and his class analysis. Despite the evident fact that almost 200 years of new experiences have been added since his attempt to describe class dynamics, it still seems to make sense to think in terms of classes probably newly defined global classes--as the central elements of dynamic analysis. The alternative, namely to start with human individuals and their minds, (1) is less and less adequate as these minds are more and more streamlined --not just by local cultural constraints but also by the globally stratified electronic media sphere.

To find out how the condensation process in the course of a revolution works is even more challenging, and much less investigated. Nevertheless, as has been studied in other areas of evolutionary theory, there are new methods emerging that can help to do so. In particular, simulation techniques and network theory are promising tools to study the emergence of sets of new combinations. Given a relatively small finite number of feasible solutions might allow steering in the dark with a somewhat improved map of scenarios.

The shift in methods to be applied then is the focus of section three. Looking back at the contradictions expounded in section one and the countervailing forces at work explained in section two reveals that any formal representation of this type of inconsistencies, exploding structures, of vanishing old and emerging new entities, that these typical elements can best be adequately mirrored by methods that also include a contradictory feature. Using the jargon of linguistics, this contradiction can be expressed as the opposition between a static syntax and the dynamics of semantics. Any textual formalization, from everyday language to mathematics and algorithmic languages, has to have a static rule set for its application, which is needed by all entities sharing this language to enable communication. If this works, then the communicators can be considered as a larger social entity. This rule set is the syntax of the language. On the other hand, there is a world outside the world of languages, and languages are just a particular set of tools of entities living in this other world. Contrary to their static constancy encapsulated in their syntax, the semantic dimension of languages is permanently challenged to adapt to this outside world. Therefore, a language simultaneously carries a static potential, i.e. its syntactic consistency, and its opposite, i.e. its preliminary character pointing to continuing change and reoccurring inconsistencies.

Note that these twofold, contradictory potentials are also present in the description of energy provided by theoretical physics: energy of a position in space and kinetic energy. The full implications of the contradictory character of this description have only become visible with the discoveries of quantum theory--see Susskind and Friedman (2014). They lead to a (in applications highly successful) formalism, which misses almost all semantics, even appears to be counterintuitive. The concluding section of the paper provides some rough and ready new combinations of the three bundles of ideas in the previous sections, and on this basis sheds some light on the set of possible future shapes that a political economy after its metamorphosis might take on.

  1. Disequilibrium

    The concept of disequilibrium presupposes that their does exist a quantitatively measurable property, a quality ascribed to the two objects that are compared, which is the same quality in the different objects though the quantitative extent is different. For any static evaluation of disequilibrium in a system of political economy it thus first is necessary to determine adequate qualities, i.e. properties that are thought to be essential for the respective society.

    Traditionally, one property characterizing the human species globally is the number of human individuals. In that respect this species is just another group of mammals, the property addresses only a primitive biological aspect: the higher the number of individuals the better. (2) Since humans differ from other mammals primarily with respect to their capability to build sophistically enhanced internal models in their individual brains, it is necessary to incorporate this special trait by appropriate additional properties to be considered. With their mental apparatus humans can store past experiences and can form expectations about the future, and they can develop and maintain internal mental models which connect experiences with expectations. What is even more important is that human individuals can share these cognitive ingredients with the help of communication using languages. Knowledge does not die if a single individual dies, and newborn individuals do not have to start at zero with their experiences. An immediate property that would mirror this human trait thus would be the global state of knowledge, the quantitative amount of available science. (3) Progress itself often is identified with the growth of human knowledge.

    The self-amplifying force of human knowledge already is something that has to be described with the language of political economy--indeed it constitutes the core of this science. To escape from the necessities of the animal kingdom the human species exploits growth processes of plants and animals. Since the agricultural revolution some 100,000 years ago human society takes away some output of nature as harvest and stirs up its future growth process systematically. To be able to do so it has to use its technical knowledge, which in turn can be enhanced if successful application of new techniques frees some specialists from doing stupid agricultural work. The upward spiral of this process becomes visible. But another implicit element has to be considered too: The more complicated process of agricultural exploitation needs a more systematic organization of the human tribe, of the individuals engaged in labor time spent specifically at certain times of the year and at certain places. Societies with small groups of "masters of organization" thrive, and these elites usually use their knowledge power (4) to extend the exploitation process from the "exploitation of nature by man to the exploitation of man by man" (Marx). So very early on progress of society had an additional twist, namely the property that internal exploitation of mankind coincided with overall progress of the species. But as a matter of fact growth trajectories of progress of (technical) knowledge and exploitation did not run in parallel. Ruling classes typically lost their ability to contribute to progress in overall knowledge --organizationally and technologically--and compensated their growing incompetence by exaggerating exploitation of man by man. History became a history of class struggles. It is important to note that the degenerating process of ruling classes is not just some kind of moral deficiency of a saturated elite. First of all, it is the very success of their dominant advances, which changes the environment in which they act. And then, since their success makes them insist on their hegemony, their behavior becomes inadequate to the changed landscape they produced.

    It is difficult to measure the tide of class struggle. The starting point could be a look at time budgets. All progress in the end should materialize in less time spent for the primary metabolism of the species. The average individual should experience less working time per day. Note that the averaging of time periods worked expresses the primate of the species over the experiences of the individual member. The averaging processes has its own problems, in particular it hides the assumption that labor is unspecified and the time it needs is directly comparable. (5) To compute the average labor time that is necessary to produce a unit of a certain commodity or service, a full-fledged algorithmic model of the respective production process would be...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP