Thursday, August 25, 2011

Told you so

Why society is falling apart

At present, society is in deadlock. The capitalist class have no perspective to offer society other than even more of that which is causing the problems. And for its part the working class has been unable to implement its own historic solution to the contradictions of capitalist society – socialism. The result of this situation on the political field is a form of political stalemate, and on the social level the descent of capitalism not just into the type of political decadence already discussed, but a very real social decadence too. Society does indeed seem to be rotting on its feet, and nobody has been able to do anything to stop it.

This putrefying of capitalism's social basis and codes has taken on a number of forms, all of which are symptomatic of a society which is, to paraphrase, "ill at ease with itself". Here are some of the most obvious manifestations of capitalism's social decadence:

• the ongoing break-up of community relationships and the atomisation of the individual. This has been particularly characterised by the development of a competitive "every man for himself" type culture as the dominant one in society, and by the appearance and consolidation of seemingly unbridgeable generation gaps.

• the massive explosions of crime and drug taking, phenomena which were once peripheral or isolated in pockets, but which are now generalised throughout the market economy. Even in 'tranquil' Britain the official crime rate has more than doubled in the last 15 years alone, and drug culture and youth culture are now virtually synonymous.

• the increases in violence and social disorder, spurred on by the horror and violence infecting the media (especially for children), and the re-appearance-generally for the first time since capitalism's turbulent infancy-of mass rioting on a regular basis. The worst of these riots, such as in Los Angeles, have turned major cities at the heart of capitalism into uncontrollable war zones.

• the continuing, if not increasing political vacuity of the capitalist class which has been mirrored in the rise of a nihilistic "no future" culture among large sections of young dispossessed workers who see no progress and no hope beyond their pint glass or next 'hit'.

• the massive corruption of capitalism's political apparatus, which is particularly evident in Britain with the succession of 'sleaze' scandals, but which is in fact a feature of the modem nation state virtually across the globe, from the US to France to Japan (let alone in Africa or Latin America).

• the revival of religious fundamentalism, creationism and the spread of mystical and millenarian sects, this being based on a loss of confidence in science and human progress together with a general rejection of rational thought and problem solving.

• and lastly, though certainly not least, heightened nationalism, racism and inter-ethnic violence, engendered and encouraged by the rampant competition eating away at the social fabric of society.

It is in these ways that capitalism is undermining the principles and continued existence of collective life. Social decadence has eventually followed on from political decadence and all the signs are that it will continue and probably deepen, for there are few if any forces or tendencies within capitalism operating in the opposite direction. Filling the prisons is no long-term solution on many grounds, not least of which is cost, and no government following this line has yet really succeeded in reversing the process which the market has started. None of the TV evangelising by Tony Blair or political appeals to "family values" are likely to succeed either as the very continued existence of capitalism and the forces it has unleashed make that near impossible. Appealing to some sort of higher morality or set of values within the context of the market is clutching at straws, a long way from a considered and practical response to the problem. If the social decadence infecting society is to be overturned it has to be tackled at source – and that means the abolition of the market and the poisonous relationships which spring from it.

DAP, Socialist Standard, May 1997

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