Monday, March 5, 2012

Structural Crisis Needs Structural Change

By István Mészáros 
Monthly Review
March 2012

New Lanark World Heritage Site
When stressing the need for a radical structural change it must be made clear right from the beginning that this is not a call for an unrealizable utopia.

On the contrary, the primary defining characteristic of modern utopian theories was precisely the projection that their intended improvement in the conditions of the workers’ lives could be achieved well within the existing structural framework of the criticized societies. Thus Robert Owen of New Lanark, for instance, who had an ultimately untenable business partnership with the utilitarian liberal philosopher Jeremy Bentham, attempted the general realization of his enlightened social and educational reforms in that spirit. He was asking for the impossible. As we also know, the high-sounding “utilitarian” moral principle of “the greatest good for the greatest number” came to nothing since its Benthamite advocacy.

The problem for us is that without a proper assessment of the nature of the economic and social crisis of our time—which by now cannot be denied by the defenders of the capitalist order even if they reject the need for a major change—the likelihood of success in this respect is negligible. The demise of the “Welfare State” even in the mere handful of the privileged countries where it has been once instituted offers a sobering lesson on this score.

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