Jerry Harris Global Capitalism and the Crisis of Democracy, Atlanta, GA: Clarity Press, 2016; 286 pp.: ISBN 0986085324, 16.62 [pounds sterling]
Jerry Harris has written a powerful book for our times. We live in a period of multiple crises: a neoliberal globalization that is undermining national economies and delegitimizing nation-states, the global displacement of millions by capitalism that has produced mass migrations worldwide, terrorist blowback from imperial wars, unstoppable capitalocentric climate change and an unresolved financial crisis that still looms over our heads. And on top of all this is the inability of the state to find a fix for any of these crises due to the crisis of democracy that Harris analyses in this sweeping study.
That crisis of democracy is not just due to political gridlock. It goes deeper. Political elites are no longer so much in the service of national capital. With globalization, they have become beholden to a transnational capitalist class (TCC) rooted in transnational corporations. Unlike the era of national capitalism where the system enjoyed hegemonic legitimacy due to political democracy and growing economic well-being, global capitalism is facing a worldwide crisis of legitimacy in the face of spreading austerity and the naked political power of the 1% (p. 98). That delegitimization of political elites is expressed in the current US electoral campaign, in the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, in the sweeping unpopularity of Mexico's president and in so many other countries that have been drawn into global capitalism. This is because, as Harris shows, 'the new transnational capitalist class has little use for democracy, the social contract, or any sense of national responsibility' (p. 19).
The hegemonic bloc that the ruling class had constructed around Keynesianism in the post-World War II (WWII) period has now dissolved as capital has leaped over national borders, in effect expelling the working class from its benefits. As Harris perceptively points out, 'neo-Keynesianism has been unable to mount an effective alternative, trapped by its own belief in a more "just" globalization' (p. 50). As social tensions mount, coercion tends to replace consent as the main form of control.
Neoliberal corporate globalization has transformed the working class worldwide into a precariat. Production has been restructured into global assembly lines. Investment has shifted away from production towards financial speculation. These...