Recovering from the Recovery: Law and Contemporary Processes of Accumulation by Dispossession
Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development, vol. 26, No. 1, 2011
21 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2012
Date Written: June 1, 2012
All economic events have distributive consequences. The structure and impact of those consequences are determined both by the event and by the economic instruments deployed to intervene in the event. Such instruments may be set in motion ostensibly to maintain, correct, or amplify the event. The instruments deployed correspond to the theoretical perspectives of the economists and economic policy makers mobilized to analyze and interpret the event. The theoretical perspectives utilized will determine the data viewed as relevant and the goals viewed as desirable, which in turn express the values of those theoretical perspectives The financial market breaks which have come to be known as the Great Recession, have generated and will continue to generate substantial changes in the distribution this society’s assets, resources and opportunities. Although the current administration portrayed itself as the proponent of the change that the American people desired, it has used, for the most part, the same policy instruments deployed by neoclassical economics and neoconservative politics, the results of which are both predictable and disturbing. It is likely that Obama’s "neoconservative-lite" will be responsible for the largest redistribution of assets, resources and opportunities from the lower and middle classes to the wealthy in recent history. This paper will examine the empirical data demonstrating the role of the Obama administration’s economic and financial policies in expanding poverty, shrinking the middle class and enriching wealthy individuals and enterprises. From -- the highly stratified “bailout,” to credit card reform, to the health insurance reform proposals [as opposed to heath care reform], to changes at all levels of the educational system, to continued assault on the working class and the labor movement, to financial sector reform, -- the current administration’s policies are resulting in greater inequality, significant to dramatic class reconfiguration, diminished class mobility, increased political apathy and the transfer of the benefit of the wealth and earning potential of the working and middle classes to the wealthy -- the goals of the neoconservative political project.
The paper argues that the present economic and political approach to the crisis is consistent with the processes associated with accumulation by dispossession, an economic process recognized in the Marxian tradition as redistribution accomplished by force. Combining insights from institutional economic theory, the paper argues that the legal interventions constructed to ameliorate the impact of the Great Recession have instead provided another process by which accumulation by dispossession can occur.
Keywords: Economic recovery, institutional economics, Marxian economics, recession, unemployment, financial crises, capital, labor, accumulation, dispossession, corporations, business profits
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