The article that was reported on the World Socialist Web Site by Mike Head, who discusses how the Abbott Administration has restarted the class war within Australia by denouncing the apparent ‘unsustainability’ of Australia’s welfare safety nets. In response to the advice from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Treasurer Joe Hockey has called for a ‘Global Age of Responsibility’.
The aforementioned mantra was born from the impact of the 2008 economic crisis, wherein the IMF has reported growth was functioning below trends; rising unemployment worsening budget position was creating an uncertain outlook for the future. Hockey has responded by creating a national budget based off the IMF’s demands, setting out an ‘economic action strategy’. This economic-platform was built upon the idea of ending the perceived ‘entitlement culture’ and encourage all members of society to enter the workforce, regardless of age or disability. This consisted of increasing the pension age and that ‘age-related spending for public pensions and healthcare is often the largest item in governments budgets’, indicating the possibility of massive cuts in those programs (Head, 2014).
What this implies is the philosophy of individualism, decentralization, non-interventionism, private property, individual contracts, laissez-faire, free market, social mobility along with the idea of success being rewarded for hard work (Paul, 69-107). Furthermore, being the proven to be apparently the ‘best’ economics for humanity, it should be imposed globally from international institutions such as the IMF.
It is my contention that this newfound aggression towards welfare is nothing new, has the battle between these two ideologies has been echoing throughout the centuries.
The Meaning of Marxism –
Being a contributor towards the World Socialist Web Site, it is obvious that Mike Head is an advocate of Critical Theory, namely Marxism. In order to comprehend the article’s criticism of Joe Hockey, the ideology that Head adheres too must be understood.
The critical theory of Marxism arose during the 19th Century in reaction of Liberal thought, which gained prominence during the Industrial Revolution. In contrast to the Liberal view of the scientific-progression of industrialization bringing about a harmony of interests, Karl Marx believed that it saw the creation of much hardship upon the masses. The concerns which he foretold was a much deeper entrenched division of social classes, commodity fetishism, exploitation of labour by capital, the rise of monopolies, transactional corporations growing in power, uneven development and periods of booms and slumps, the transformation of social pursuits based on capital, alienation of products by workers and that capitalism is in fact not free-market but state-orientate (Sitlwell, 99).
In having established the fears and concerns of capitalism, the solutions according to Marxist writers, is the rejection of individualism and the embracement of collectivism. It also rejects statism and focuses on the significance of class (O’Brien, 18). The problems between the classes of workers and capitalists would not be resolved until the workers seize power (O’Brien, 17).
Contemporary Marxism –
With the demise of the Soviet Union and communism, Marxist states ceased to exist and the ideology was seen as discredited and the ‘End of History’ was declared with Capitalism proven to be the superior economic system (Fukuyama, 46).
However, it saw a re-emergence during the 1970’s in the form of the many factions of critical theory (Bruff, 355). It would seem that it was during the 2008 Global Financial Crisis that Marxism became truly re-established as a credible force within IPE. It would seem that its critical analysis of capitalism has at least to a certain extent, proven true. Although I do not subscribe to the Far-Left, it seems the fears and criticism of capitalism that Marx expressed during the 19th Centaury, seems to be proven true. Once again, the division of social class, exploitation, monopolies and transactional corporations growing in power, have all returned as an overt force.
This is represented in the class-perception of the ‘elitist’ Tressure, who holds view that the Australian people have become entitled and lethargic in regards to work, with pensions and healthcare being the largest sources of taxpayer money being spent on. The Marxist Head, suggests that Hockey – under the pretext of advocating rugged individualism – actually possesses contempt for those in need and supports a form of Social Darwinism. By stripping away safety nets, the people are now open to exploitation from employers and suffer sub-standard medical care due to being in a perceived unworthy caste. Furthermore, by increasing the retirement age, the people essentially must work until they drop. It is a form of neo-serfdom.
In conclusion, the criticisms of capitalism by Marxist ideology does seem to be proven, at least to a certain extent, vindicated. Fukuyama’s declaration of superiority has been proven untrue, with capitalism now facing the same contempt as communism once did. Although Head’s reporting is interesting and useful, I do not agree with Marxist solutions to the threat of crony capitalism that Hockey, along with the IMF, is threatening to impose onto Australian citizens.
Bruff, I. and Tepe, D. (2011) ‘What is Critical IPE?, Journal of International Relations and Development, 14, pp. 354-399.
Fukuyama, F (2006) The End of History and the Last Man, First Free Press, United States
O’Brien, R. and M. Williams (2013) Global Political Economy. 4th edition. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Chapters 1 and 2, pp.7-40.
Paul, R (2008) The Revolution: A Manifesto, Grand Central Publishing, United States
Sitlwell, F. (2011), ‘The Critique of Capitalism: Marxist Economics’, Political Economy: The Contest of Economic Ideas. 3rd Edition Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 93-144.
Szporluk, R (1988) Communism & Nationalism: Karl Marx versus Friedrich List, Oxford University Press, United States