When you compensate the banks without nationalization, I think that would be the opposite of socialism. One of the odd things at first about discussion of bailout plans was the lack of actual macro-economic suggestions: the plan in Congress is about giving money to the banks, left-wing critics have suggested giving money to home owners; individual solutions, nothing structural. But it can’t be that structural changes are unthinkable; indeed, they’re kind of obvious, given that, as far as I know, economics departments do still teach macro-economics. David Harvey:
Surely it cannot be lack of imagination. The academy, for example, is full of explorations of the imaginary. In physics the exploration of possible worlds is the norm rather than the exception. In the humanities a fascination with what is called “the imaginary” is everywhere apparent. And the media world that is now available to us has never before been so replete with fantasies and possibilities for collective communication about alternative worlds. Yet none of this seems to impinge upon the terrible trajectory that daily life assumes in the material world around us. (David Harvey, “Possible Urban Worlds,” Megacities, lecture 4, 58)
Some people are beginning to talk about structural changes, and yet, they still seem rather vague. Maybe that’s not entirely surprising; as Harvey points out in The Condition of Postmodernity, the specifics of Keynesianism depended on a particular economic arrangement (Fordist mass production) and political forms (including the role of large unions). Part of the reason, I think, why no-one is putting forward substantive proposals for structural changes to the economy is that it’s hard to figure out who the agents of this change would be. It’s not a surprise that liberals are stuck at making appeals to the supposed political will (or lack of it) of the Democrats, but, if not actually surprising, it is disappointing that left-wing activism remains almost entirely at a political level (even successes like Seattle). Is it time for a 21st-century economism? What would that even look like?
Or perhaps Lou Dobbs is right, and the current financial crisis is the result of a judeo-bolshevik conspiracy between ACORN and international bankers.