Monday, January 10, 2005

Let's Democratize the Economy and Overturn Hierarchy

Vice knows she's ugly, so puts on her Mask --Poor Richard

Doug Henwood:
And while this book has been rather unfriendly to New Economy dogma, it's still worth examining its utopian bits. Arising in the midst of what looked like a period of unrestrained capitalist triumphalism, New Economy discourse expressed hopes for something rather different from our predominant economic reality. In a time of massive wealth polarization, it talked about the dream of democratization of ownership. In a time of mass overwork, it dreamt of meaningful, enjoyable work, self-management, and flattened hierarchies. In what seemed like a profoundly conservative time, it appropriated language of the revolution (the image of Lenin was even used to advertise a cable-TV company). Amidst a vast speedup of the social factory's assembly line, it evoked fantasies of abundance. And amidst aggressive attempts to privatize information, tighten up intellectual property restrictions, and put a meter on almost everything but the air, it stoked hopes for global linkages. "Information wants to be free," the saying goes, but not as long as AOL Time Warner has its say.

But why did The System's publicists need the utopian story? If all challenges to capitalism were dead, why did we hear so much about democratization and the overturning of hierarchy? Evidently the message has appeal, even in apparently conservative times.

Fine. If a little hierarchy-overturning economic democratization is such a good thing, then why not more? As Jack Kemp once said in a very different context, if you're going to go for it, you should really go for it.

Doug Henwood, After the New Economy, The New Press, New York, 2003, pp.229-230