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The Business Run Society

category national | anti-capitalism | feature author Saturday July 02, 2011 22:14author by ArtistKnownasG Report this post to the editors

Reflections on the corporate takeover of society

Crises of capitalism

It has been said that we live in a business run society which is characterised by business parties masquerading as political parties and a 'political class' that implements policies which more often than not puts the interests of 'big business' ahead of the well being of the general populace. The unprecedented nature of bank bailouts in this country along with continued and debatable payments to bondholders with an apparent absence of serious public consultation let alone a referendum on matters with such wide-ranging and generational consequences seems to lend some credence to this characterisation of modern society.

"ill fares the land where wealth accumulates and men decay" ~ Oliver Goldsmith

Those who argue society functions in these terms would probably not view 'political contributions' or the appointment of former politicians to the corporate boardrooms across the banking sector for instance as mere coincidence or acts of altruism. While employers groups, lobbyists, and a currently much maligned group, economists, have been depicted as 'cheerleaders' of the prevailing economic orthodoxy, in essence, free market propagandists with concomitant messages of wealth creation and growth who celebrate the great entrepreneurial alchemists and 'exceptional' risk takers while trumpeting, according to themselves, the 'inherent fairness' and 'natural internal equilibrium' of the market system.

featured image
© Paula Geraghty

The 'citizens' in such a society have a role, that of the consumer-citizen and taxpayer. They purchase the range of products that were previously rights under the nascent Irish constitution but which have long since been commodified. These include education, health and housing, the latter in particular is often many times the average industrial wage and leads inevitably to the creation of vast numbers of 'indebted consumer-citizens' (it is generally accepted that the ready availability of credit masked the decline in salaries and rise in cost of living giving the illusion of prosperity). The consumer-citizen pays taxes (direct and indirect) which greatly assists the political class with the day-to-day running of the business society. Within the society as a whole, sports events are saturated with commercial sponsorship and advertising while those wearing the 'team kit' unwittingly become walking billboards. TV programmes are regularly interrupted by advertisements; cinema, radio and internet all follow suit. During 'bank holidays' the consumer-citizen is free to sit in public spaces that are increasingly arenas of brightly lit advertisements for multinational corporations who have amassed more power than nation-states while the 'market' has the power to decide the fate of so called 'rogue democracies' with the push of the 'invisible button'.

Within the business run society model, the business message is repeated by 'political CEOs' who have remarkably similar things to say to their beleaguered populations: 'austerity has to be implemented to reassure the markets' and 'there is no other way' (to cite but a few). In the midst of such pronouncements, the revolving door from politics to business to lobby groups often moves faster that the promised political and economic reform. In the business run society, the business or 'hard-nosed/no nonsense' message is backed by stock exchange reports (as if we are all nervously awaiting our annual dividends) along with further abstract indicators such as GDP, the Consumer Price Index, rise or fall of inflation, which tell us next to nothing about the social health of a society nor the quality and happiness in people's lives but instead are principally concerned with the health and well being of money; the life blood of the business run society.

In so called recessionary times, the passive, atomised, consumer-citizen is pushed reluctantly to centre stage because whether they like it or not they have to do the 'heavy lifting', 'feel the pain', 'take the medicine' after the 'excesses of the boom' during which 'they all partied' (a 'guilt' message which is rarely challenged by the corporate media). However for a brief moment, one has a sense, amidst the angst around declining wages and unemployment, of the emergence of citizens who are passionate about an economic and political system that operates in the interests of society as a whole and not just the fortunate few. The existence of such people is often reflected in public marches and debate, petitions and endless blogging by the often furious and marginalised.

The 'business politician', attune to such anger and resentment is accused, rightly or wrongly, of paying lip service to the consumer-citizen because the electorate has to be placated in the interests of re-election while simultaneously great effort is made to reassure the business community (those formerly known as the 'merchant princes' or 'captains and kings of industry' no less) that the corporation tax rate will stay low, State assistance is still available and despite everything, the country is 'still a great place to do business'. Once the political rhetoric fades, the burden placed on the consumer-citizen is readily apparent: those who are alleged to have sunk the State financially and ruined its international reputation do not face trial, heads of financial institutions walk away with multimillion euro bonuses while quite extraordinarily, banking monopolies or 'duopolies' emerge which further concentrates power and wealth. Conversely, social and health benefits are cut for the blind, the sick and unemployed, salaries reduced while threats of more 'pain' to come are repeated by Ministers on staggering salaries, paid for of course by the consumer-citizen. State media, which generally reflects the elite point of view, focuses on 'green shoots', 'falling unemployment', and 'economic corners turned' (more often into cul de sacs) while the working poor are berated for not being competitive enough while the unemployed are marginalised, excluded even, in the hope they will be forgotten and ultimately disappear from the daily discourse.

featured image
© Paula Geraghty
In the business run society, those who do not fully realise the societal context in which they live, work and consume naturally ask how things can be the way they are? How can politicians be so ‘stupid’ to give a blanket bank guarantee way beyond anything that was required? How can a Prime Minister be earning many times the average industrial income at a time of 'unprecedented national crisis'? How can bailed out banks layoff thousands and increase mortgage interest rates on already hard pressed consumer-citizens? How is it that the great bulk of the unemployed seem to be left largely to their own devices? People rightly ask: Where's my bailout? My stimulus package? But when seen through the prism of the business run society those questions of despair do not come as a surprise, they come to be expected.

The consumer-citizen also wonders what the future holds for them and their children. It is not that difficult to broadly predict what is to come using past actions as a guide; policies that benefit business will be implemented along with inadequate socio-economic measures spun as attempts to 'ease the social burden'. Multiple and obsequious visits to Wall Street by political leaders seem to highlight the lessons learnt or not learnt from an economic collapse that was caused in large part by bankers, financiers and their political acolytes as well as the extent to which the concept of a business run society may indeed be an accurate characterisation of the Western socio-economic model.

author by opus diablos - the regressive hypocrite partypublication date Fri Jul 15, 2011 13:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Most people would be happy enough, I'd imagine, to draw limits to their consumption if they thought it meant enough to go round for all.
Many would pay taxes if they thought it wasn't going to the wasters that manage the show.

If you class yourself among the wasters fair enough. I outgrew blind consumption some time back. I hope that is legible.

author by John Farrelly - Privatepublication date Fri Jul 15, 2011 12:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

To opus diablos - the regressive hypocrite party.
Its hard to understand your writing but I think you are blaming "them"?
Its "us" the collective consumer who buys, its us who want things, its us who buys them, its us that determines the situation. Naturally there are then providers!
We elect the politicians, we storm the shopping centers, we buy the shiny things; its us that keeps the show on the road.
A switch to simplicity and frugality would bring it all to a sudden stop, with no need for revolutions, dogma or struggle.
However I say again its not what the masses want is it?

author by opus diablos - the regressive hypocrite partypublication date Thu Jul 07, 2011 14:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If it aint a perfect example of the capitalist ignorance mimicing authority in its customary authoritarian certainty. And yet again failing.

Starters:
Your first businessmen probably swapped labour on a co-operative basis to optimise the returns of the hunt. The women probably said nothing, having been exchanging the fruits of their foraging while the more feral males squabbled their way to agreement. We had yet to go aquatic.

Nor did the traders dominate the social order to the current extent until recent times. Finance emerged slowly. Like most delusions, it is sustained by our credence; i.e. credit. Baseds on honest agreement, it constituted a viable means of exchange. Based on duplicity and sub-prime scams, it has proved a recipe for yet another iteration of escalating disaster.

But you're in the right direction with your '..old as Adam and Eve.' Stick with the mythology, a sense of history might cramp your next effort to climb above your station.

Meanwhile back at the situation, the fact that business is an extension of our animal competitiveness does hold water. What humanises us is our reciprocal recognition of interdependence and the fact that ultimately solidarity and symbiosis is healthier than mutual exploitation and parasitism. Business, or trading, on such a foundation is sustainable.

Evolution to full humanity wil require we shed(or at least learn, preferably through cultural adaptation, to control)elements of our underlying animal nature, which has outlived its survival advantages and threatens to eliminate us as a species, along with considerable slices of the biosphere.
We shouldn't have put them nuclear tips on our spears. Our consumer training makes it likely we wont want to waste them.

author by opus diablos - the regressive hypocrite partypublication date Thu Jul 07, 2011 13:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

not the least being '..our insistence on having wealth and influence..'

Most of us want enough, but the society is structured by ye invisible hand of them marketeers so we are atomised into individual consumers of all products and services as singular consumers with no(or minimised social context). Your collective 'our' covers a multitude of actors, with a shrewd pinnacle on the pyramid of insider 'players' manipulating the overworked and excluded majority for the enrichment of themselves and empooring of the rest of us who desire neither vast wealth nor major influence beyond rudimentary freedoms, from hunger, lack of shelter, ill health where possible etc.

Also, ' businessmen(note the sexist exclusion)and the business class' employ the creators of wealth(there's that shrewdness)rather than create it.
They dispossess the wealth creators by manipulation of the financial machinery of credit management, the legal system, religious indoctrination to deliberately stupify, and a whole set of methodologies evolved since before Pharaonic times. Business remains 'war by other methods'.

Also no matter how far they let you up their ladders, the ladders remain theirs to pull up into their offshore havens when democratic reform threatens.

If you pay a little attention you might also notice that(like thermodynamics and equal and opposite reactions) all that wealth they create is by subjugating and robbing the wealth of the planet for their localisation of liquidified assets into their obese personal and dynastic vaults, and that in the process they create more actual poverty(kept unseen mostly, or attributed to 'primitive non-market economics')than they do wealth.

Meantime their pre-indoctrinated(eductated in the 'realities of the market')propagandists regurgitate and exaggerate the quite real crimes and failures of attempted and often sabotaged alternatives while bowing before the infallibility of the 'free market'(the oxymorons are so ubiquitous nobody calls them to account.
Its called 'received wisdom'.
The markets and business have their place, they go carcingenic when the TOTALITARIANISM sets in, which is where we are now. Hence the emergence of many of the hitherto buried tendencies of other totalitarianisms.

author by John Farrelly - Privatepublication date Thu Jul 07, 2011 10:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The reason for this state of affairs is our insistence on having wealth and affluence.
Businessmen and the business class create this better than any others and then they sell it back to us, or we make it up the ladder and join them. So its natural that they rule.
If we reversed that and lived simply, if we decide to forgo our carpets, cars, foreign holidays, new net books, promotions etc and just ignore them they would eventually fail and fall. But that’s not what the masses want, is it?
http://thelessideal.blogspot.com/

author by W. Finnertypublication date Sun Jul 03, 2011 10:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There could not have been any bank bailouts without the help of our grossly corrupt legal profession, and consequently it seems to me that you are focusing attention on the wrong party: while allowing the real culprits of our present sickening demise -- our judiciary -- to get away with all of their wrongdoing completely unnoticed.

The biggest crimes of our legal profession (as far as I’m concerned) — and they are treasonous crimes — is that they have a) allowed our Constitution to be undermined in crucially important areas, such as Article 6.1 for example; and b) that despite all the extremely serious and growing set of problems their wrongdoing is causing for the People of the Republic of Ireland, there is STILL not the slightest sign (that I know of) of ANY of them doing ANYTHING whatsoever to remedy the gross violations of law in question: criminal violations of the “HIGHEST” law of the Republic of Ireland, that is.

Our entire legal profession, and particularly our judiciary — who have to subscribe to upholding our Constitution as a condition of becoming judges (please see the Article 34.5 of Bunreacht na hEireann excerpt below) — have long appeared to me as a total disgrace.

Article 34.5. of the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland:

1° Every person appointed a judge under this Constitution shall make and subscribe the following declaration:

“In the presence of Almighty God I, , do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will duly and faithfully and to the best of my knowledge and power execute the office of Chief Justice (or as the case may be) without fear or favour, affection or ill-will towards any man, and that I will uphold the Constitution and the laws. May God direct and sustain me.”

2° This declaration shall be made and subscribed by the Chief Justice in the presence of the President, and by each of the other judges of the Supreme Court, the judges of the High Court and the judges of every other Court in the presence of the Chief Justice or the senior available judge of the Supreme Court in open court.

3° The declaration shall be made and subscribed by every judge before entering upon his duties as such judge, and in any case not later than ten days after the date of his appointment or such later date as may be determined by the President.

4° Any judge who declines or neglects to make such declaration as aforesaid shall be deemed to have vacated his office.

Further information on these matters can be found at the following two www locations:

http://www.europeancourtofhumanrightswilliamfinnerty.co...l.htm

http://www.humanrightsireland.com/PrimeMinisterCowen/9M...l.htm

author by Tpublication date Fri May 27, 2011 15:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The above article makes a very good case for showing that society is now run completely by and for business and the interests of the people are of no concern.

The question then is how did such a comprehensive takeover come about and what chances are there of throwing it off our backs again.

I would put it down to a very successful propaganda campaign over the last 25+ years. The media in all countries in all its formats has steadily moved further and further to the right and much more up front about being pro-business. This view now saturates all society and is utterly dominant to the point that if you voice anything other than this view outside of the "Left" you are seen as fringe, not practical and possibly downright dangeriously radical. In the past decade the War on Terror narrative has been unconsciously woven into the fabric of thought in two main forms which I would see as 1) There are only a black and white viewpoints. No nuanced argument is accepted. -i.e. It is only austerity. We must bailout. There are no half measures. For 2) the "you are either with us or against us" argument is pretty much central although it is not actually said out straight but you find out quickly that being against the prevailing dogma means you are viewed upon with suspicion.

Again and again I find despite the crisis of the last 3 years when most people should have been jolted back to reality instead the reaction has been muted. It is true that people are worried and angry about what has happened but I would have expected far more deeper digging and questioning by more people of the status quo than what I do encounter.
Amongst the Left, where people tend to know other Left people there seems to be a perception that a change in an acceptance of the system has occured. I find that when you are talking about these things with people that once you probe their underlying assumptions and beliefs about the system that regrettably they remain unshaken.

I think there are some parallels here with the effectiveness of the prevailing view and the beliefs of extremist relgious groups. It has been suggested as a result of psychology insight that people continue to hold beliefs contrary to the reality and their interests as a form of denial because on one level they do recognise inconsistency between reality and their beliefs and causes "cognitive dissonance" ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance ) and in order to reduce the mental stress caused by it, they plunge deeper and strengthen their convictions.

So there is sort of a widespread psychosis. In fact trying to shake off the domiant viewpoint is probably harder than trying to shaken off religion because that is something that normally takes place once a week at mass. But the "economic religion" is broadcast at us in every news broadcast, newspaper, advert and business exchange. Imagine if every advert you saw was replaced with religious figures and icons and then you begin to see the extent of our immersion in this neo-liberal capitalist religion.

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