CPB::II. Para una crítica del poder burocrático::Text en
II. For a critique of bureaucratic power
In this section I care about stating a set of theses on the great social changes in the second half of the twentieth century. Stating, enumerating, emphasizing, most often controversially, to file with it a defined position for discussion. I'm more interested in proposing than in proving or documenting. I expect the whole to give a coherent vision in broad strokes, that can be discussed, that can be supported by making up proper fundamentals, rather than the details, the empirical accuracies, the data points. A framework from which to proceed with specific investigations, rather than the result of research already done and finished. A framework to draft guidelines for political action rather than a treatise on Sociology. Ideas to advance, rather than stopping at mere ideas.
My methodological prior conviction is that an incomplete but suggestive set of ideas can contribute more effectively to discussion than a set of conclusions presented as proven. An imperfect theory that suggests is preferable to a theory that stops while searching perfection before opening itself to possible discussions. A risk, in short, that can only be justified if it is certain that it contains the suggestive ideas meant, or if it is true that from here the discussions we seek can follow.
The three main, difficult to separate, aspects I care to developed are: (a) criticism of the reality of societies that were called socialist; (b) an estimate of the direction of the overall development of late, technologically advanced capitalism; (c) the postulate, as an explanatory framework for such reviews, of the emergence of a class power of new type, bureaucratic rule.
In each of these series of theses I'm already working on the theoretical framework which I have called both an orthodox Marxism, as well as a Marxism of a new kind, depending on the controversy in which you may want to include this attempt. But only in Section III below, I will make an explicit statement of the principles that could be considered its foundations. When putting things in this order, what matters to me is to first present arguments that lend more direct and politically to the discussion, and only secondarily to, far more scholarly, discuss the foundations from which they follow.
Obviously, this option seeks to always put politics, which is the true goal of all this text, before academic discussion.
The two main theses that run through all these estimates are: (a) that socialist societies and capitalist societies of the twentieth century are, despite their visible political differences, regimes of structurally the same type, two political variants of the same industrial society; (b) that by virtue of their essential structural congruence both drift, on different political paths, towards one and the same society of new type, the bureaucratic society.
The most important result of these theses is that, to understand the development of contemporary society in its deepest dimensions, it is necessary to go beyond the consciousness of its own actors, from a perspective that not only account for its situation, but also for the relationship between this empirical consciousness and the deep situation from which it is constituted.
In the case of Marxism these theses are particularly sensitive because they imply something that the Marxist vanguards of the twentieth century could hardly accept: the possibility of an alienated revolutionary consciousness, ie, a historic initiative whose self-consciousness doesn't correspond to the actual historical significance of its action. And this is precisely what I postulate on Marxist revolutionary consciousness that led the processes of forced industrialization that that were called socialism.
But on the other hand, this thesis of the essential congruence between these systems, formally distinct from a political point of view, implies that the emergence of bureaucratic power is not only, nor even mainly, represented by the political evolution of the Soviet dictatorship. Unlike classic Trotskyist criticism, I want to argue that the Soviet bureaucracy before, and now the Russian, are neither the model, nor even the best example of bureaucratic power.
This means that I want to criticize bureaucratic power not only as a way to save Marxism from the many criticisms that have been made against real socialism, but above all, as a way to address the situation of the technologically advanced industrial world. What interests me is not primarily to defend that the Soviets were bureaucrats, sure they were, but that advanced capitalism, under its own internal logic, has become a bureaucratic society.
Regarding the Soviet experience I basically care, from a political point of view, to defend two ideas. One is that it was a class society in which an antagonistic conflict was established - and not simply a "non-adversarial" conflict, as was claimed by the official ideology - that could only be solved in a revolutionary way. The other is that the fall of those political systems can not be considered neither a revolution in the Marxist sense, not a triumph of capitalism, but as the change from a national bureaucratic low-tech logic to another transnational and high-tech one.
The general approach, by the way, as I've already stated, is that the concern for the possible future is more relevant than the endless, and by now somewhat masochistic, settling of scores with the guilty past.
Yet it is still absolutely necessary to say something about Stalinism, because, as Marxists, we have fallen into the liberal trap of accepting as demonstrated that any possible Marxism will lead to a totalitarian regime.
Although at this stage it is obvious, it is still necessary to reiterate that the essence of Stalinism can not be a man, or a doctrine, or a management system - the system of "command and control" - or a set of political or ideological errors. It can not be interpreted as Stalin's craziness or a deviation by the party hierarchy at that time. An explanation can no longer be sustained that moves within the framework of wills and consciences, in the context of personal responsibilities, albeit legitimate from a legal point of view, which are not rigorous to invoke as historical explanations. The analysis focused on these factors are all pre Marxist, although they may describe the situation faithfully. For Marxism, Stalinism must be explained materially, that is, from the social relations that made it possible and effective. A logic to which Stalinism was a mistake is certainly strange. That would mean that reality may be wrong, while the theory remains intact, despite being distorted in practice by the rudeness of unskilled political actors. Even if they wanted to present it as a mistake it would be interesting what explanations we would give about why the error was possible, more than the fact that it was.
I maintain that the essence of Stalinism is to be the conscience and the political practice of a forced industrialization process run by a bureaucratic revolutionary vanguard. Political totalitarianism, especially directed against the utopian voluntarism of the old Bolsheviks, was related to the attempt of obtaining the necessary social discipline for a forced industrialization. The corresponding ideological totalitarianism was related to the effort to modernize the consciousness of a people of peasants.
In most of the countries that turned to socialism, which came from backward and dependent societies, the logic of the industrial revolution was imposed with extraordinary violence. The equivalent of 300 years of misery under capitalism dropped its weight, by the imposition of revolutionary voluntarism, on a couple of generations. Actually, the violence involving a forced industrial revolution has a physical component of extermination, destruction of means of production, general misery, like those experienced during the forced collectivization of the countryside in the USSR between 1929 and 1932. However, a process this kind is only possible in the context of also an enormous political and ideological violence. In the history of capitalism, the violence than with some malignant elegance is called "primitive accumulation of capital", is never highlighted enough, which is nothing but the brutal extermination of the pre Hispanic population in America, the European working class misery of the 18th and 19th centuries, the political violence of the wars in which the global crisis of capital is expressed. The distance, in space or in time, the current abundance, which allows to look at the past with good will, or simple bad theoretical faith, do contribute efficiently to hide the deep dramas that ALL industrialization process involves in consciousness and everyday life of ordinary people. In building socialism that violence was called Stalinism.
This was how it was possible to carry huge human contingents from the semi-feudal backwardness to modernity. Political violence exerted, as shown in historical reconstruction, mostly against the ruling party itself, sought and managed to separate the Bolshevik avant-garde from council utopianism which preached the immediate construction of democracy and communist freedoms, to concentrate on immediate and eminently pragmatic tasks of developing the productive forces and defending against external threats. The massive purges in the USSR in the 30s and massive censorship in the 50s have in this content an extraordinary similarity with the long and tiring struggles a pragmatic bureaucracy of Deng Tsiao Ping style held in China against Maoist councilism, and are repeated with different variants, for the same reasons, in most of the countries that lived socialism.
The extreme violence of Stalinist industrialization process is simply analogous to the extreme violence of the processes of industrialization in general, in England, in France, in Japan, but compressing explicitly and rationally in fifty years what the bourgeoisie did at random in three hundred years . The revolutionary subject of this process was a bureaucratic vanguard, not the whole people, who suffered rather as an object, a pushed actor, victim and beneficiary at a time.
Considered historically, and more closely, the main of these processes, the USSR, we must recognize that the "forced" character of industrialization was due to a structural necessity. The Russian society of 1917 shows all the signs of what in Latin America we have learned to recognize as dependency. The Russian situation shows these signs not only in the structure of domestic production, technological backwardness, by the way in which it is inserted in the global market, the importance of foreign capital and small producers. Dependency is also expressed in the lack of a general ethics of productivity, lack of adequate cultural levels for the large modern production, in the grand scheme of small privileges that characterize daily life of a subsidiary society, in the of crowd local claims that hinder the rationality of the whole.
We must recognize that the policies of the NEP failed due to internal problems, not only by the diversion of will. Small producers opposed the rationality of the central plan. Agricultural producers opposed the privilege of industrialization, the primacy of the city over the countryside. It was extremely difficult to simultaneously regulate city growth, new consumption patterns, industrialization of the field. Local pressure groups reacted very differently to the initiatives of centralization.
We must also recognize that the totalization of political and cultural life began in 1918, not 1930; with Lenin, not Stalin. Totalization directly affected not right wing, already defeated in the civil war, and who, moreover, never had had a really extensive development in a society that began to have an active political life only about 12 years before the revolution. It affected, rather, the the left. It affected Socialist-Revolutionaries and Anarchists, first, the left Bolsheviks then and finally, the bulk of the Bolshevik Party itself.
In the early years, Proletkult, today decried by some and by others, had a consistent and ambitious program to create a new culture, creating the "new man", a revolutionary break with the past. The "workers' opposition" within the Bolshevik Party defended a program of effective democratization of economic, political and cultural management. Against these trends, against their lack of realism, pragmatism of the great builders of the actual revolution was imposed: Lenin, Bukharin, Stalin. It is against that utopianism, and on the basis of actual failure of the policies of the NEP, the entire party leadership who really was in charge of the production began the shift towards a forced march, economically, and towards totalization in the political area. In this turn, industrialization made sense to seek the material basis without which any revolutionary dream was impossible.
Forced collectivization was seen as a way of ensuring the effectiveness that cultural base and local interests made difficult. Centralization was seen as a way to ensure the rational growth of the whole. Political totalization had the meaning of ensuring a "trusted" leadership for every aspect of the process. The totalitarian imposition of dialectical materialism through education, media, party life, had the significance of bringing the peasant consciousness to the logic of modernity. Dialectical materialism was the means by which scientific rationality was implanted in the course of a few generations in about a third of the world population: a cultural revolution unparalleled in human history.
Stalinism triumphed. It won the civil war, industrialized the country, won the Second World War, rebuilt and increased industrialization, transformed the USSR, in a few decades, into a world power. This was a dramatic, like everyone, but consistent development path. It operated on the ideological nationalism (which soon replaced the classic themes of the revolutionary culture of the Bolsheviks), it operated on dialectical materialism as scientistic and modernizing ideology, on democratic centralism as a mechanism of internal legitimation of power, on the identification State and Party and on the totalization of political, cultural, economic and civil life. It operated on forced and extreme economic centralization: AND TRIUMPHED. Any criticism of Stalinism should take care of this double truth: its success and rootedness in the structural needs of the construction of socialism.
Although it may seem politically preferable, it is not a good theoretical criterion to judge Stalinism from the frame of an ideal that it would not have met. This kind of criticism can and should be applied as an engine of political will towards the future, but does not contribute to understanding of the past. Instead of facilitating the study of reality, it fills of our frustrations, and forces us to look for personal responsibilities at whom to download our critical spirit, our desire to rectify, forgetting the structural processes that could enable our better understanding, to transform more efficiently. In Stalinism there is no betrayed essence, that's just socialism as it really existed, the only one that humanity has been able to build.
If we consider the general line of reasoning of Marx, capitalism, by truly universalizing production and leading to an extreme degree of contradiction between exploiters and exploited, potentially becomes the last class society in human history. Marx diagnosed that under capitalism the complete articulation of the global market will be achieved, total interdependence, in abundance, among the producers, with which the contradiction between those who exercise work and those who dominate and usufruct of it will become unbearable. It is from this entire articulation, and from this wealth that Marx considered possible the revolution that will bring communism.
Today these conditions that Marx's original analysis puts for communism are extremely relevant. The point is that those are just NOT the conditions that have formed the context of the construction of socialism. It is this difference which, against the idea of Marx himself that socialism is a simple prior stage of growth of the productive forces, you may start thinking about the true nature of the societies that have been built in his name. It is perfectly conceivable that the "prehistory" of humanity will know a couple of more laps before getting finished with the class contradictions. This is a fact to be verified in reality. The simple revolutionary will is not enough to guarantee it.
Therefore it is necessary to go back to get in touch with reality, to distinguish between socialism and socialization.
Socialism is a concept full of values: equality, justice, government of the people, workers' vanguard. Socialization is the objective process, independent of revolutionary will, by which the Industrial Society becomes the Bureaucratic Society, either via the internal development of advanced capitalism, or by the way of alienation of the Bolshevik will.
Real socialism was always a class society: the bureaucracy dominated and profited from the social division of labor. Social ownership, democratic centralism, dialectical materialism are legitimizing and homogenizing (and concealing) expressions (not causes) of that domination, at the legal, political and ideological levels.
Today there are no socialist societies, there never were. There is, however, socialization and bureaucratic power. This can only be called alienation: we thought we could inaugurate the times of construction of freedom; what we achieved, instead, it to effectively build a new form of domination. It has been efficiently and brutally achieved what bourgeois society achieved in an even more brutal but diffuse way.
Stalinism was a completely successful way of development in its own logic. This success is very visible up to the mid-60s but in the 60s and 70s in the capitalist countries a big jump forward occurs in the technical basis of capital, that the socialist countries are unable to reproduce. It is concerning that leap that socialism enters in crisis, which, incidentally, is exacerbated by the cumulative internal costs.
The crisis of real socialism obeys and follows the same features as the great capitalist crisis. It is necessary, however, to distinguish between "cyclical crises" and "historic crisis". The cyclical crises described by Marx are only fulfilled within an ideal industrial capitalism, which was approached by capitalist society in the nineteenth century. State protection before, and afterwards state regulation, could compensate them, and create a viable social management in general. Historical crises have to do with the processes of global turnover in the technical basis of capital, and its mechanism has to do with the relationship between the economic dynamics of capital and the political and ideological forms in which it is institutionalized. They do not occur in the "economic base", like the former, but in the whole social formation. They are, in the sense of the Preface of 1859, structural revolutions.
The fall of real socialism was a historic crisis, a revolution in the latter sense. And that is what shows how socialized societies and capitalist societies always obeyed a common global logic.
There is a deep philosophical reason to call these crises "historic" ones. It is the fact that in them the character of the bourgeoisie as a historical subject appears. That is, the ways and substantive reasons why they occur are not the expression of natural laws of any kind, are not a natural expression of the human condition. The laws governing these revolutions are historical laws in the sense that they express a mode of human subjectivity, which is an expression of a peculiar way of producing life. In reality and the form of its revolutions the bourgeoisie appears as a historical subject, regardless of the fact that alienation make it appear as an object of certain natural laws.
This is important because the mechanism of the contradiction between the development of productive forces and social relations of production, described by Marx in 1859, can be relativized historically. It is characteristic of the forms of human labor that exist in modern society. In traditional societies the "blind" and spontaneous development of the productive forces slowly and painfully "dragged" the shape of social relations. In the bureaucratic society we attended the first explicit attempts in human history to "drag" the development of productive forces from a conscious impulse in the forms of social relationship. In classical modern capitalist society, however, we attended the "blind" spontaneous contradiction between consciousness already won for the productive forces and the spontaneity of social relations, which are still seen as dominated by nature.
In the naturalistic "savagery" of bourgeois freedom, and in the totalitarian "terror" of bureaucratic regulation, two historical subjects do express their characteristics, which are but those of their respective modes of self production. The flashy and loud catastrophism of bourgeois economic development, and the stifling bureaucratic effectiveness of developmentalism are also two modes of this difference.
"Real socialism", a bureaucratic attempt linked to forms of industrialization overcome today, has fallen under the onslaught of bourgeois dynamism. The irony of these times, however, is that this revolutionary leap the old bourgeois style is internally marked by defeat by bureaucratic regulation of a new type. To put it simply and clearly: not only the Russians have been defeated by the Americans, the Americans also have been defeated by the Japanese.
We should add, however, that these national identifications are increasingly extemporaneous. The increasing globalization of regulation, and its long historical roots, force us to rather talk of a Soviet-style industrialization, which was defeated inside and outside of the Soviet Union, an issue that can be seen in the long crisis of British industry, or mass bankruptcy of traditional industries in the USA. Instead, it is increasingly clear that one can speak of a Japanese style of industrialization, which now prevails inside and outside Japan, as seen in the high-tech industries in USA, or in Germany or also in the forms of peripheral, dependent and parasitic industrialization, which has appeared among the new Third World economic "tigers".
When trying to make an assessment of the prospects of socialism, as they have actually were, or of the possible socialist policies that attempt to rescue them in one way or another, it is important to reconsider the meaning of their apparent triumphs. The twentieth century, beginning liberal and supposed to end liberal, is, in fact, the century of socialism. It is increasingly obvious that Stalinist statism and Keynesian statism have much more in common than their differences in political style might indicate. On either side, the common factor is to be found, in an orthodox Marxist way, among the ways in which they dominated the social division of labor. The common ground of both systems is but bureaucratic power, in its industrialization moment.
From a political point of view, the differences between Marxist socialism and social democratic socialism are not decisive either. Under the formula of social property, or under the various forms of social limitation of property, what is at stake is a common goal, to challenge the discretion of bourgeois property. The existence of a common ground of both policies is evident in the ease with which, in this scheme, a path of peaceful transition to socialism is conceivable, that starts from the social democratic premises, to have them progressively radicalized until achieving a hegemony of social interest over private interests. The differences between purely democratic initiatives and armed initiatives, dictated more by bourgeois resistance, or the relative backwardness of the social situation it was facing were, considering the distance, less important compared with that common vision. There is no genuine Leninist who would not accept doing on the social democratic path what he promised to do with weapons, if the conditions seemed favorable. The opportunistic combination between both ways formed a central part of Leninist policy throughout the century.
Faced with this profoundly common policy, the aesthetic-political avant-gardes always suspected of the contained principle of totalization. But they never achieved to truly articulate a policy, they were reduced again and again, as had hitherto been the romanticisms, from which they come, the heroic, testimonial, but unproductive sacrifice, or purely testimonial, merely aesthetic alienation, of fully reeducatable individual marginalization. This alienation, however, with its permanent suspicion of a radical beyond, that breaks the continuum of industrializing homogeneity, is the one that has best preserved communist spirit and will, which is now to be reinvented.
But today the productive basis of these alternatives has been radically altered by the technological ability to produce and master the differences. In a system that no longer needs to standardize in order to master, both the utopia of consummate homogeneity and the obstinacy of the simple difference lose meaning. On the one hand, a more human face to the rule is possible, under more sophisticated forms of alienation, from which the egalitarian ideals of socialisms appear as totalitarian. On the other hand, a vast administration of differences becomes possible, to which testimonial ruptures that are starred in the context of aesthetic-political experience, or even those from political violence or fragmenting aesthetics, are always on the edge of being but parts of the entertainment industry.
As the bourgeois power is not inconsistent with strong state economies, which, in fact, it always supported, so too, the bureaucratic power is not inconsistent with the existence and permanent reproduction of difference. That capitalism is pure private property, and that bureaucracy is pure official inertia, are two false and harmful ideologisms, preventing capture of the real complexities of real processes.
Bureaucratic power has not only promoted and led the revolution of new forms of production worldwide, but it feel fully comfortable in them, either by keeping the Socialists ideologisms, or bursting with new neoliberal ideologisms. It is not, once again, in the discourse of the actors of a historical process themselves where you can find deep coherence and truth. Both neoliberalism, which speaks of private initiative, development of the individual, reducing the power of the state, as well as the new liberalizing, Keynesian socialisms, do speak on behalf of a common power, whose differences have more to do with the local folklore in which the new forms of production unfold, than with the content of its historical action.
In the context of the bureaucratic power of new type, the old socialist perspectives are not only manageable but become fully functional. The discourse of equity, being met or not, the speach of sustainable development, regardless of being fulfilled, or that of the social responsibility of the company, the importance of educational training to join the world of work, being or not fulfilled, are all perfectly functional to the power of a more or less paternalistic administration that has the technological capacity to carry out an interactive domination, where there may be a situation of interdependence with the dominated, whenever a power differential is maintained over the powers that allows to manage them.
It is not enough to reform the socialist, democratic or military, Keynesian or Stalinist perspectives, to go beyond this new domination. Just like the incipient working class opposition, in the French Revolution, in the bourgeois democratic revolutions of 1848, did nothing but enable the emerging political rule of the bourgeoisie, today the integration of new workers to the socialist policies will only enable the emergence of bureaucratic power. Just like the revolutionary spirit of the artisans of 1848, who helped to promote the domination just of the power which completely swept them away, today the integration of the working classes of the old type into socialist policies will only promote the type of domination that precisely is sweeping them from the world.
3. Advanced capitalism
As necessary as a reevaluation of socialism is a review of the profound significance of the great changes over the last thirty years in the capitalist camp. It is necessara to get away from the ideologisms planted by the immediate political interests of both liberals and renewed socialists, on one hand, and the broad spectrum of thought of defeat on the other.
What is relevant here is to attempt a long range estimate of the background processes, rather than dwell on the political or economic phenomena in a recurrent attitude of singing victories or mourning defeats at the pace of everyday politics. Collecting the facts is important, but it is even more to see the meaning in them, in the light of a theory that gives them sense, instead of projecting carelessly, from short-term indications.
The general characteristics of these movements have been often indicated: transfer of heavy industry, and even electronics, to the periphery; displacement of scientific and technological capabilities to the center; large scale rationalization of energy use and emergence of powerful new means of data processing; revolution in assembly techniques from increased automation and robotics; quantitative and qualitative changes in the level of technical training and at the workplace, which implies a displacement of the classical type of worker from most dynamic sectors of the economy.
These profound changes make many of the criticisms directed against the industrialization that prevailed in the second half of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century lost its relevance, especially when they were led, rightly, although with fairly poor political will, against socialist development processes. Overall, what happens to such criticism is, first, that it focuses on real socialism, particularly on Stalinist industrialization, for features that are common to all processes where industrialization was made on the same technological base, posing as criticisms of socialism what in fact are criticisms to a whole model of industrialization, beyond its political appearances. But, secondly, these criticisms refuse to see the deep continuity meant by the continuation of domination and exploitation, often presenting the overcoming of the hardest features of classical industrialization as assurances that the new society is about to achieve human freedom, without dwelling on the ways in which diversity, interactivity, the requalification of large parts of the workforce, the revolution in communications, may be means of new forms of totalization.
The industrialization that today may be called classical or of mean technological development is exemplarily expressed in the Fordist assembly lines, which produce large quantities of uniform products, with relatively low quality standards, and integration of unskilled mechanical human labor. This industrial system tends to homogenization, and at the political level requires homogenization to master. The idea of normality, the ideal of equal access to equal consumption or, on a philosophical level, what has been criticized as reductionism to sameness, are inherent to this system. A vertical, authoritarian, regulatory, centralized domination is, for this system, a necessity that comes from the production structure itself.
Control, disciplining, normality and repression are here corresponding figures, which do require and involve each other. This homogenizing and authoritarian egalitarianism, which was criticized by the artistic avant-garde of the twenties with respect to capitalism, has become the recurring caricature of life in socialist countries, against which both new liberals and the renewed left rebel.
The new technologies of the administration, however, make a new, now interactive, type of control perfectly possible, while maintaining, or even greatly increasing centralization through control of information. Interestingly, central planning is now more possible than ever before. It is not true that new techniques entail a "democratization" of management. Interactive control requires operational and intellectual capabilities of those controlled to run. It implies an interdependence, or a turn to horizontality in the chains of management and command that, much to confuse the technological optimists, merely introduces a new mode of domination, substantially more advanced than the classic one, that can credibly present its liberating appearance only because it is still assessed in the light of technologies that have already passed.
Neither the processes of requalification of working skills, nor the processes horizontal interactivity of control, do mean by themselves a substantial progress towards democratization of production management. Not only does the problem of democratic governance mean more a political than a technical option, but also in the technological nature itself of new media is the hallmark of their origin, they were created to convey a system of domination. Technically democratization is possible, but in reality what happens is exactly the opposite: never before the monopoly of information and global management capacity has meant a bigger centralization of economic management.
At the bottom, profound changes in the way the work itself have occurred, which have also been often characterized. Among the specific features of this highly technological work, the following may be listed:
- the segmentation and modularization of the Fordist assembly line, and its relocation at national or international level, in a style of unbundling and overall modularization of production processes;
- the massive use of information technologies in the implementation and control of production processes, the most important expression of which being the introduction of computational interfaces between the worker and the machine running the direct labor, interfaces that enable the implementation of huge amounts of work from simple physical actions and "soft" electronic commands;
- The enormous increase in the intensity of work in each module of production, coordinated in system of supply and demands competitive between modules, reducing the empty work time globally to zero, although locally this or that module may be momentarily at rest, or not being required;
- overall replacement of the production line by a parallel local and networked production system, in which the finished product can be obtained by many ways, or working circuits, ensuring their availability and quality, redundantly and through competition between modules;
- the transfer of quality control from the finished product to each of the modules that produce its parts, allowing a revolutionary way of increasing the quality and reliability of the final product;
- the modularization of the products themselves (the personal computer is the outstanding example), allowing an already flexible productive network to offer very different finished products, to also offer them as artifacts for composition, thus revolutionarily diversifying consumption possibilities, and the satisfaction of particular needs of each consumer. An issue that significantly strengthens an organization of production from demand, as opposed to the classic production, organized from the offer;
- the intensive use of new forms of energy and energy saving, as well as highly specialized materials, "built" on an ad hoc basis for most complex production processes. High-speed maglev trains, electronic chips, and high-temperature superconductors are the most notable examples;
- the general convergence of scientific research and technological development, and its spread to the productive modules of most technological importance, with the subsequent requalification of the workforce in strategic productive areas. In this regard, it should be noted that neither the dissemination of research and development, nor requalification, are general processes. They are not and need not be. In a locally disaggregated, parallel production network, much of the work is simply repetitive and extensive, and a new Taylorism is properly fit for it, with more attention to subjective variables than the original. All dreams of a general requalification, and "conscious" workers doing research and development with their work, are in practice only reduced to the segments of integrators of modular parts, who so assume a strategic character and are, accordingly, of course, especially controlled through particular material and ideological stimuli.
These changes have meant a revolutionary increase in the massiveness of everyday consumer goods, their quality standards, their availability for huge segments of the world population. They have involved a revolutionary change in the forms of circulation of goods, in the variety, illusory or not, of their form and content, in the attention, now diversified, given to the potential consumer, group by group, interest by interest, even to the individual level. They have primarily involved a revolutionary change in the consciousness of the workers integrated into the modern system of production regarding the possible worlds that may give a meaning to their lives and future.
Everyday political calculations are never based only on present poverty or malaise, its opinions are always guided, in a very important measure, by the possible futures and their relative risks. The highly technological production is characterized by its enormous capacity to produce and manipulate expectations. Like no other ideological system in the history of mankind, it is not only capable of producing strong impressions of current welfare, supported by important objective progress, but it is also able to provide and manage better futures, future of welfare and pleasure on hand, impressive promises of power and consumption of imminent implementation. Never mind that this speculation on future is fictional, or this welfare is incomplete, and dramatically sectored, the relevant aspect, in political terms, is the real, efficient, operative impact in everyday consciousness not only of those consuming, but even of those who do not consume.
There are three real paradigms of this new distributed work that may go unnoticed if one insists on maintaining the illusion of a capitalist enterprise, with an individual owner, as the central model of the current economic management. One is the system of social communication, another is the network of networks, the Internet, another is the work of the scientific community, taken globally as a whole. In all three cases, with different nuances, we have new models on which it is necessary to begin to imagine what could be a world in which bureaucratic power has imposed its hegemony over the private owner.
These are systems without unique owners. Systems which, although they may have local owners, and competition and property continue to fulfill management functions within them, do have an overall logic that completely transcends the determination from private property. When speaking of monopoly of news reporting in the system of social communication, for example, it is no longer sufficient to demonstrate the monopolistic structure of media ownership, though it may largely be real. It is also necessary to explain why, despite having several poles among owners, the general pattern remains the same, even in its diversification. To explain such an effect of coordination that is present even in the network, where the ownership structure is far from being monopolistic, it would be necessary to resort to the hypothesis of a general conspiracy against the oppressed, which is usually present in the simplest of left arguments, but unfortunately that is unlikely.
That there is no sole owners is also related to the fact that decision-making centers are multiple, and the property is less important to them than expert judgment or local interest. In such systems there isn't a locatable center, which does not mean, however, that there is no center at all. You need to think, rather, of a center function, which operates in a distributed manner, and that is a power of second order, which provides coordination for the local and parallel action of many cores operating in network. A common logic, which operates in a distributed manner, in which influence does not spread, as in conventional systems, but is regenerated at each location according to the interaction between the center function, which provides the common aspects, and the local circumstances conveying them.
This unequal interaction between a center that operates in a distributed fashion and the local conditions makes that these networks can produce diversity. That they collect and resignify diversity, linking it to the common spirit without homogenizing it, or generating local diversity, local normalities, which do not require a classic, unique normality to legitimize and operate. An operation of diversity, however, where it is hardly relevant to the common life, whether this diversity is real and substantive, or only an appearance, a matter of form, given the enormous technological capacity to produce and manage objects and experiences for its symbolic value, rather than their classically objective content.
These are systems in which the social function exceeds profit, or where profit develops as a derived, parasitic effect, a gear that would work perfectly without it, simply funded by direct consumers in direct exchanges on the same network. Its existence indeed implies enormous capital movements, while the relevant aspect, however, is that profit is neither the origin of these movements, nor their main social function. The case of Internet is, of course, at this level, the clearest. But what I postulate is that this is a profound logic that has to do with the emergence of a mode of domination where private owners become just one part of a larger domination, of a new type.
Of course neither the media, nor Internet nor the global scientific community obey, in any sense, the logic of national borders. It is very important that this even be perceived as legitimate and logical, except for the sectors in which the consciousness of classical autonomy remains more strongly, particularly in the national bourgeoisies on the defensive, which resist being crushed by transnational capital. The logic of these systems seems to be regulated from a market that is no longer a local market. Here there is, however, a possible new illusion: it is not the market in the classical sense which acts as a regulator. In each of these cases, and in current economic management in general, the figure of the market is highly tautological. The bureaucrats, from companies or not, form the market currents through the system of social communication, and then auto legitimize holding that their decisions are regulated by the market that they themselves preformatted.
Both the market, such as well as democracy, do result, in highly technological production systems, rather legitimation systems of management and regulation. They legitimize what has already been produced from a new power, from the global power that operates in a distributed manner in each of the local powers, from what I have called bureaucratic power.
No one doubts that this means that we are witnessing a new phase of development of modern society. Classical logic of capitalism itself has been transformed inwardly, it has been led, in the process of complete articulation of the global market, to change its essence. Considering these technological changes back to its roots, and reevaluate the conflict between the two major political blocs of the twentieth century, it is also substantially redefined. Today we can see that the coexistence, bound by nuclear parity, had also transformed the nature of socialism, at least for the old utopias of the old Bolsheviks. Both advanced capitalism as well as real socialism today are not what they appeared to be, for both classical Keynesian consciousness and for Marxist Leninist consciousness. Watching it from the logic of an emerging bureaucratic power enables to profoundly reassess the whole history of capitalism.
But even considering things according to the way of looking of classical Marxism, one can see in the history of capitalism a cyclical trend in which each new phase is accompanied by a major reorganization of its technological base, of international division of labor, of their productive infrastructure. Where in each new phase it also means a huge accumulation process, which implies an increase in global plunder. The violence of the accumulation and accommodation to the new order, which has meant increasingly dramatic consequences for the ancient and peripheral ways of life, is followed instead by powerful expansion processes, products of the new production logic, accompanied by relatively long periods of social and political stability.
We are witnessing such processes today. It can be said that between 1880 and 1929 we lived the forming phase of imperialism, whose logic includes and explains the two world wars. From 1930-1970 we are in the expansion phase and complete articulation of the structural logic that includes and explains the great political stability of capitalist Europe after the Second World War. The 80s and 90s have meant, however, a new phase of reorganization, for the first time truly global, in advanced capitalism. In parallel, a corresponding global political realignment has occurred. A deep crisis, not of a political model, as might be the Soviet socialism, but a whole way of industrialization, linked to the arms race, the ideological confrontation, the waste of natural resources, the production of infrastructure and heavy machinery.
The change in the productive orientation and the associated technological revolution, already announced with the production for mass consumption in the USA, in the 60s and 70s, and which could not be achieved in the Soviet orbit, eventually lead to sink both real socialism and the traditional American industry, for the benefit of Japan and the European Community or, rather, of the transnationalized economy without substantial geographic base. The political collapse of socialism, and the massive use of financial speculation in the American area, should be seen rather as a consequence of this background of productive rearrangement, and not as causes.
A global shift in which the classic figure of monopolar US imperialism has blurred into close coordination of economic policies by USA, Japan and the European Community, and where the new forms of industrialization, and its associated modes of social stratification have produced broad areas of consumption and development throughout the world and, conversely, important enclaves of marginalization in countries that had been considered harmoniously developed. First world enclaves scattered throughout the third world, third world areas in the first world. The difference between development and dependency is no longer clearly geographic. What has also changed the sharpness of the notion of dependency. One-way dependency has become the unequal interdependence which allows both the existence of local negotiators powers and maintaining a net flow of goods from exploited areas of the world into the exploiting cores. The myth of a multipolar world does nothing but cover up the common spirit of global regulatory power, which is imposed on all local power without needing to annihilate, even requiring it as a conveyor.
But this scenario also allows to counter two neoliberal myths, conflicting each other in a way, one of them being the radical reduction of the state role in the economy, and another telling of a general rebirth of democracy after the fall of almost all Soviet style dictatorships, with the notable exception of China, which promises to be too good a business partner as to pose serious objections on such trivial issues.
At the global level, we are witnessing a process of trans-nationalization and growing state control of the capitalist economy. On the one hand, the large transnational companies have reached a very high level of coordination among themselves and with states; they have developed their power over the power of the majority of nation states; they have extended the logic of the market all over the world in a more real and effective way than ever. On the other hand, despite the easy ideologisms of left or right neoliberals, the state has come to occupy a key role in the overall management. Now you can not say, as until 1929, that the great capitalist enterprise "use" the State on their behalf. At a time when states are the main buying powers, when, through the maintenance of huge bureaucracies, armies and subsidies, they form much of the purchasing power, when they handle credit and cash, you can not tell they are simply at someones service. Perhaps it would be more rigorous say that there has been a profound identification between companies and States in a system whose characteristics it is better to study as a qualitatively new phenomenon.
This means that it simply is not true that nation states have seen their economic importance reduced. What has happened is that private property has been displaced by global management as a central mechanism to coordinate the division of labor, both nationally and internationally. The state has sold its properties but increased more than ever its ability to intervene and regulate.
The massive state intervention in the regulation of the economy, made possible by new technical means of management and control, shows that statism itself is not only not a defect but, just the opposite, it is the only force that could rationalize production and exchange in the industrial era, producing large productive revolutions (as in the Stalin era, or in Japan), or produce big economic rearrangements (as in Chile, or Reagan's USA).
This massive intervention shows that the general bureaucratization of the economy, far from being a characteristic of the socialist countries, is a central and essential tendency of industrial society. As agricultural production could only survive under capitalism by partnering with capital and integrating their styles, today capitalist production is only viable in partnership and under the style of bureaucratic power.
At the same time, however, on the other hand, global economic governance, which operates in fact both from large organizations such as the IMF, the World Bank or the Group of Seven, as well as from the effective operation of large transnational conglomerates, has radically reduced the autonomy and, in many ways, the sovereignty of nation states, a process of progressive desubstantialization, which leads them to become little more than conveyors, managers and even guarantors of the interests and policies of globalization.
The big clue is that boasted about is the resurgence of nationalism. What is muted, although it is almost impossible to ignore its enormous impact, are the many multistate integration processes on economic, and even political and legal levels, of which notably the most advanced is the European Community.
It is stressed to the smallest detail how the countries defeated and being colonized are divide and have their weakening enhanced by wars, and it is silenced that the victorious countries are in active processes of integration and regulation that enhance their power. Even the smallest details of local differences are emphasized, taking the reality of a "country" as the unit of analysis, while the reality of the effective global is muted, or reserved for demagogic rhetoric, which for the first time becomes real and effective worldwide.
Of course the process going on does not imply the disappearance of nation states into larger entities, as happened with the German and Italian unifications, around 1870. This difference is extremely significant, and operates as a symbol of many others. Whereas for a technological foundation that needed to homogenize in order to master a state, a territory, a language, a culture were needed, for the current base of high technology, which is able to dominate in diversity and through it, the multitude of national states isn't a problem. There had never been so many countries in the world, and the world had never been so united as today. What is important for the global power is the construction of transnational entities operating as power over these various local powers. Multiple entities, with different degrees of intervention, animated by a common spirit, which is constituted as diversity.
Disappearance of the national states is not the same than desubstantiation. It is the substance of autonomy, sovereignty, free will, what is lost, not the formalities of such possible freedoms. Just like the absolute monarchies were desubstantialized by bourgeois power, to the extent that in many places it wasn't even necessary to eliminate them, so national states continue to exist in a sphere of competence that still gives meaning: local administrators of global regulation. As it was said of the kings: States governing but which, in essence, do not rule.
A similar process of essential loss of substantiality occurs to democracy. The rebirth of democracy, its generalization and general appreciation, do absolutely not imply that people have increased their real and effective participation in determining the processes that affect them. If the dictatorship was not only the extreme form but the recurring mode of politics in the era of low-tech industrialization, democracy as procedure is most suitable to convey and legitimize a domination that operates in and on the diverse.
A typically classic struggle, that opposed democracy to dictatorship, has been followed by confusion about what to do in a context where democracy is little more than a legitimizing resource for a dictatorship that is guessed deeper in all social spaces.
However, for this loss of substantiality of democracy to occur, there must have also been important changes in the consciousness of the workers, who in fact operate as its massive substrate.
The characteristics of this new way of modern production have produced qualitative changes in the consciousness of the workers, in the nature and boundaries of marginality, in the role of the arms production and financial speculation. The most politically significant feature about this is its need of plenty, very high consumption patterns, and its ability to totalize society, achieved on this basis.
The changes in the type of work being done in the most dynamic sectors of the economy involve protected, relatively comfortable working environments, able to offer very high living standards. The worker in the classical sense is shifted to the periphery. Those neglected by the system are not the directly exploited any more but, rather, those who have not been integrated, those who remain on the margins of employment and consumption.
But this marginality, as has been said above, is not geographically delimited any more. The violent rearrangement of the central economies has created an almost permanent marginalization in the developed center. The powerful expansion of production worldwide has created, on the other hand, areas of local abundance in the periphery, directly connected to the production and consumption styles of the center. Now we deal with imperialism not as an outside. The full opening of markets has led to an update of imperialism in each of the countries in a real way. Accordingly, there is a process of disappearance of truly national bourgeoisie, ie, a complete articulation of the transnational capitalist market. In the third world there also appear enclaves of inner development in all poor countries. The latter is dramatically important for politics in countries like Chile, where it is precisely this group integrated into modern production which, in fact, makes policies, managing to mobilize the rest of the population, living in postponement and misery, for their interests and aspirations.
Marginality can not be thought, however, by its status, as a possible revolutionary subject. Certainly it is a "revolutionist" subject, capable of triggering processes of radical political change. But we must remember that for Marx the essential characteristic of the revolutionary subject does not have a necessary connection with its poverty, but with its relationship with the productive forces, with the most dynamic sectors of production. And this progressive relegation, which confirms the impotence of the poorest sectors of the population to carry out global changes in society, must be considered a central political fact. Especially for classical Marxist consciousness.
As for the role that the surviving arms industry and financial speculation meet in this new phase, I think it preferable to consider them as typical of the accumulation stage. In fact the most developed capitalism, such as socialism, do not require production of arms or speculation but to restore profits temporarily affected by the crisis of rearticulation. It may be perfectly expected that in a context of general pacification of world politics, the production systems will be progressively redefined according to massive consumption, to lifting of living standards.
This opens the possibility of a new society, the most productive, the most powerful, the best managed in the history of humanity, which can be, and indeed is, a society of abundance. But the essential point is not this. The really essential fact, which must be thought of, is that this is a society that does not require poverty to be functional. Even the other way round, it compulsively requires to produce more and consume more. This is the fact to which I want to draw attention in the text. Its enormous power, its cultural superiority, can be demonstrated in its ability to totalize employment, consumption, communication, ability to manage time, to provide welfare and alienation, to manage lives and consciousness in and by abundance. The disruption caused by this power in the critical consciousness, as diagnosed by Marcuse, must be seriously thought of.
The last fifteen years of the twentieth century have been full of dramatic political events, which the social communication system has been commissioned to magnify in the public consciousness. Enormous hopes and deep feelings of defeat have contaminated very strongly our ability to examine the structural processes operating in the shadow of such exaltation. The new millennium, however, starts with a healthy sense of bitter disappointment. Many of the hopes for democracy have been reduced in the course of events to their real dimension. Defeats, unless we stubbornly cling to political masochism, can be already seen in different colors.
Among these processes, undoubtedly the most immediate impact has been caused in the left of our continent by the hope of Perestroika and the fall of socialism that followed and, more closely, the return to democracy after the military dictatorships 70s. Both processes can be seen, after a decade or more, in an essentially different way from the euphoria that occurred in the epidermis of the analysis.
Despite the messianism with which it was greeted, despite the hopes which were woven around it, it is now clear that perestroika was not a clash between the bureaucracy and the people but between two sections of the bureaucracy, one linked to the heavy industry, to ideologism, to the arms race, and another linked to advanced technology, scientific ideology and new management techniques. Not only Yeltsin, also the new "communist" do prove it.
Today it is too obvious that the fall of socialism was not a victory for democracy, but a triumph, within progressive bureaucracy, of the liberal sector over the nationalists, weakly linked to the socialist utopia. It is obvious even that when speaking of a "triumph of the liberal sector" we are not referring to the massive loss of these peoples by their own leaders and their own alienated hopes. We are talking about the massive assault by Western powers on their accumulated wealth, their skilled workforce, their natural resources. The emphasis on formal democratic opening merely do hide the magnitude of the defeat. They merely present for our false and good consciousness what is but the beginning of a massive colonial plunder.
Neither the fall of dictatorships in Latin America has been a triumph of democracy, nor of popular struggles, but the imposition of a framework that makes market economy fluid, and that may be closed again if not viable. Here again the emphasis on democratic formalities, stopping at the pride of earned precariousness, conceals the magnitude of what has been lost. Of course, all hope of an autonomous, self-sustaining development. Of course any hope of balanced development, with solidarity and justice. The economic success that is parasitically obtained from accepting a dependent place on the world market, merely sustains oblivion and indifference to the plight of the millions of those marginalized from illusory prosperity.
Generally speaking, democracy is in decline around the world. High abstention rates (USA, Poland, Colombia), the vitiation of mechanisms of representation, the existence of powers without any public control (such as armies, or central banks), the lack of effective diversity in political proposals, the highest ability to manipulate public opinion, especially of the marginalized sectors, just show it.
In all this there has been both Bolshevik as well as bourgeois alienation.
Some believed (and believe) that liberalism's freed them from state control and made creative individual initiative take off. The others believed (and still believe) that their industrialization, promoted and dominated by bureaucracy, involved the government by the people and for the people.
The new bureaucrats of the capitalist camp, with their arrogant and bold new right, do not believe in the goodness of competition or the actual value of the free enterprise; they perfectly distinguish illusion from reality and use the liberal illusion to promote regulation and bureaucratic harmony.
The new bureaucrats of the socialist camp do not believe in the goodness of social property, or the real value of government by the people and for the people; they knew how to distinguish illusion from reality and use the democratic illusion to promote the new distribution of power.
They, conceptually, do not suffer the alienation they are living. The real and current alienated are the old bourgeois and the old bureaucrats. It is they who continue opposing capitalism and socialism as if these abstract entities were still real.
The New Right and the Perestroika deeply broke, in the late 80s, the classical alignments of social confrontation.
The problem expressed in Perestroika was not between the bureaucracy and the people: it was between old style bureaucrats, linked to industrial development, and the new bureaucrats, trying to take on the essential leap occurred in the technical basis of modern capital during the 60s and 70s.
The problem of liberalism of the New Right is not between supporters and opponents of state intervention: it is between forms of regulation associated with an outdated phase and the forms of regulation seeking ways to express the new dynamic of capital arising from technological leap.
The old style bureaucrats and old style capitalists, as well as their associated bureaucracies, grew under the logic of confrontation and crisis, of poverty and ideological deployment. Theodore Roosevelt and Stalin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Gorbachev: harsh confrontation or dynamic confrontation, but the enemies were clear. The new bureaucrats and the new capitalists are operating on the basis of economic, political and ideological convergence on the basis of regulation, increased consumption levels and illusory deideologization. From confrontation to peace, from anarchy to harmony, from poverty to consumption, from ideologism to scientific examination, from hostility to progress: the bureaucratic society may well be very attractive to those who accept being colonized with advantages.
We are living in a new era, the world has changed sign, fundamental things have happened that shake human history. None of these changes, at the material level, is obvious, however. One of the demonic features of the new domination is its ability to camouflage. It is no longer just about a new class that revolutionizes the world spontaneously, almost without knowing, like the bourgeoisie in its heroic age. The issue is worse. It is an old, surreptitious rule, which has consistently been in the shadow of bourgeois irrationality, that shadow that is modern reason, and that after several centuries amending the excesses of a teen style culture living in an imperfect, opaque, irrational, market, has slowly become aware of its power and begins to exercise it consciously.
Unlike the naive Hegelian or Marxist optimism, the idea that I have is that selfconsciousness does not have to lead to freedom: it may indeed lead to absolute control, a domination that only the most blatant cynicism can call freedom.
The real character of the new era is not the rise of democracy, nor the revolutionary possibilities of the technique or wealth, or the revalued private initiative, or the rediscovered value of "difference". Its actual character is rather anesthetic totalitarianism, the consummate manipulation, pleasant alienation, universal cynicism, blinding light, the abundance that stifles consciousness, progressive dumbing, rampant demagoguery, selling of ideals to the highest bidder, or their disqualification under "realistic" excuses.
The new, Russian and Polish, "communist" with their nationalist myths and crypto liberal formulas are but the deeper truth of what was called socialism. The bureaucratic society that was before ideological, can now be "civilized", going back to "normalcy", join the progress. In the case of Russian dramatic choice between the looting led by Yeltsin and the "honor" claimed by the nationalist opposition, merely demonstrates how far socialism always was, and how far we have been, throughout the twentieth century, from the Bolshevik dream.
Russian defending private property, the United Nations supporting the invasion of Iraq, US protecting Chinese Communists, the Germans interested in Europe, Europe declared part of the Third World, democratic presidents paying the debts incurred by dictators, socialists preferring reconciliation to justice, Hindus sending food to Russians, Russians investing in the USA, USA allowing to be colonized by Japan: a realistic time, a miserable time.
4. Bureaucratic power
a. A new power, a new class society
We are already living in the era of full articulation of the global market. The highly technological social domination has spread to every corner of the planet. But it is not the capitalist mode of production which has come to make real this worldwide domination. The full articulation of domination has only been achieved at the time of bureaucratic rule, ie, at the time of transnationalized and regulated capital. Today.
Industrial society does exist since men discovered that they are the producers of the productive forces and, exercising this self-consciousness, carry forward the task of its conscious development. It is this conscious development which can be called industrial revolution and, as a concept, this is the development at the base of what we call revolution in general. There isn't an industrial revolution (nor two or three). The industrial society lives in permanent revolution.
The bourgeoisie is the first revolutionary class in human history. The revolution is part of its logic as a class. But to constantly revolutionize the way of producing life is not an exclusive, nor natural, nor magic privilege of private owners of the means of production. It is rather the set of capabilities that characterize a whole era of human history, the capitalist class starts with, only to progressively lose it.
The functions of private owners and of technological innovators effectively converged for the first two or three centuries of development of the bourgeoisie, an later they agreed with it as a result of reducing the innovation task to wage labor. But both the complexity of production management, as well as the complexity of technological development itself, make the bourgeoisie gradually lose the discretion, by legal virtue of property, on the key moments of the production chain.
The increasing socialization of social production, which had already been noted by Marx, and which is expressed as progressive interdependence of all producers, has a deeper dimension: it has altered the forms of control of the division of labor and, through this, the forms of access of various social sectors to the social product. This in turn implies a reordering of class relations in which there is no longer a single way of usufruct, the one expressed in wage labor and its contract, which dominates and destroys the others, and instead there appears another form, initially expressed in the powers of technological management and innovation, which starts to be competitive with the simple form of wage labor.
What I contend is that the result of this process is that socialization reaches the characteristics of a mode of production, incubated within the capitalist mode of production, and by virtue of its own logic of increasing complexity. I argue that we must see the dynamic between capitalism and socialization as the swing that constitutes that set of social relations of production we generically call industrial society. "Real socialism" may be considered, in the light of this historical perspective, rather as a political and ideological epiphenomenon of a dynamic that transcends it: the slow formation, within capitalism, of the social form that contradicts and overcomes it.
When we consider this major historical oscillation, from which the current confrontation of hegemonies within the block of ruling classes arises, we see that capitalism has based its dominance on the development of technology, it has expressed it in private property and individualistic ideology, it has operated on the basis of private initiative and competition, has lived amid the anarchy of production and cyclical crisis, has alternately staked liberalism and state protection by the changes that occurred in jumps in the technical basis of capital.
The bourgeoisie sought its legitimacy in the ideology of private property. The bureaucracy as the ruling class, does not require it: can usufruct of the social product, and prolong the alienation and the dumbing of human labor, on the basis of the, also ideological, figure of social property.
Socialized society bases its dominance in controlling the most advanced technical development, information and communications. It has expressed this control under the ideological figures of responsibility and social ownership of capital. It operates based on techified initiative and general regulation, it is able to control and manipulate the market and to regulate the crisis, it is continuously moving towards increased regulation and totalization of life. Capitalism, by its revolutionary class, could be called the Bourgeois Society. Socialized society, by its revolutionary class, may be called Bureaucratic Society.
The relationship between capitalism and socialization is an internal relationship in the sense that the dynamics of bourgeois society leads to bureaucratic society, with or without the intervention of the revolutionary will. Capitalist society, and those who called themselves socialists converge, both to the general socialization and bureaucratic rule.
Today we know that the capitalist market never was and, perhaps, I could never be a perfect market, regulated exclusively through free competition. On the one hand the basic productive infrastructure has always transcended the economic capacity and interest of the capitalists. Issues such as road networks, the first height navigation systems, large irrigation works, the modern giant energy sources, or mass education of the workforce and, in general, the promotion of each new series of means of production that are necessary to take on great leaps in technical basis of capital, have been delivered, and indeed necessarily, by the States.
On the other hand the market itself has required a permanent and growing state intervention. Issues such as the protection of social peace, so necessary in times of capital accumulation, when the labor market becomes a mere fiction within the real, visible, and PROTECTED dictatorship of capital, certainly go beyond the economic and police related capacity of the bourgeois as such. Tariff protections and generally the organized promotion of national capitalism. The regulation of competition, the protection of the property of techniques, the regulation of the contract and, in general, of the relations between capital and labor. Modern regulation, finally, of cyclical crisis through the manipulation of money, of interest and exchange rates, prices and jobs, of purchasing power and of growth rates. The history of capitalism, in short, is inseparable from the history of increasing state intervention in the economy. In this history, the stage where the state is a direct owner of the means of production is contingent and, in some respects, cyclical. The state may perfectly privatize its assets. It is not the ownership which gives it power, nor is the property the source of capitalist power.
The bureaucratic control of States, continuously growing since the nineteenth century, reached its doctrinal explicitation in Keynesian policies and its culmination in the era of transnationalized capital. If Fordism was its undercover precursor, Ohnism is the shape of its new efficiency.
The same dominant groups circulating fluidly and permanently among the directions of transnationals, states, armies and academic life at the highest levels. They are present in the fictional diversity of politics and communications. The convergence between the industrial, technological and financial great capital and the interests of States becomes complete: transnationals use States, States use transnationals. States and transnational capital are progressively just two sides of the same coin, an issue that is reinforced even more deeply and effectively by the gradual increase in the power of interstate coordination agencies, such as the IMF, the European Community, the World Bank or economic and political conferences of major developed countries.
The bureaucracy doesn't required, until today, political power to exercise its class rule. It can be implicitly exercised through various forms of pacts with the industrial and financial bourgeoisie. This was their particular way of exercising it until today, it may well remain so for a long while.
There is nothing in the logic of bureaucracy, nor in that of any ruling class, that pushes them to political power. The ruling classes came to political power pushed outwardly. Their power does not depend on it. It can be developed from there, ideally articulated, but it is not part of its own logic or, in particular, a class is ruling class not because of the political power it has, but on the contrary, a class can have this power if it is a ruling class.
The increasing irrationality of the former ruling classes requires the new ones to explicitly take over political power even though they already have the material power. The old dominant classes are not irrational themselves, they become progressively unreasonable to the extent that the new domination logic grows and prevails. Once having lost material power, political power becomes their last stronghold, trying from there to get a share of the social product turns progressively difficult: "Then an epoch of social revolution begins".
Generally speaking, this irrationality can be solved. Only its extreme form requires a violent revolution. Neither Germany nor England had violent revolutions. Neither the USA, nor Italy, or Sweden, or Holland, or Japan, nor Australia. The violent, armed, explicit, political revolution is the exception, not the rule. The ruling classes do know, in general, how to transfer their power in a reasonable way, ie with the brutal violence of reason, especially because they can not help it. From slave holders to feudal lords, from lords to bourgeois, from bourgeois to bureaucrats: the material process always has something inexorably.
Bureaucracy should not generally need to make explicit, armed, political revolutions. In the USA, for example, turning over the rule of the bourgeoisie to the rule of the bureaucracy is and will be as "rational" and "peaceful" as was turning from feudal control over to bourgeois rule in England.
In other cases, the bureaucracy prevails and will prevail through violent upheavals, which may not appear as revolutions. This is the case of the Latin American dictatorships of the 70s and their "democratic" extensions of the 80s. This is also true of the apparent "return to capitalism" in Eastern Europe. Replacement of classical forms of bureaucratic control by new forms appears as "capitalist counterrevolution", a mirage analogous to the "medieval" restoration of monarchy in the post-Napoleonic France.
We now know that when, from the 13th century onwards, there was discussion of religion in Europe, they were actually discussing new and very new problems with old words and symbols.
The bureaucratic rule will for a very long time appeal to the, now apparent, illusory, dichotomies between private initiative and state regulation, or to the dilemma between democracy and dictatorship, or to the tension between individual freedom and social interest, or between private property and public property, or to the difference between rescuing the particular or being subjected to homogenization. At a time when each of the first terms of these dichotomies is simply a dummy or has been drowned by the second in structurally new ways, these dichotomies lose their meaning as such.
Private initiative has feasibility and sense only under the rule of increasing regulation. Rigged democracies with towering abstention, with rotation of identical parties are, in practice, dictatorships. Personal and, on another level, local or national autonomy and freedom, lose all sense to manipulation of primary socialization or to the network of uneven economic interdependence. Social ownership is a sophistry concealing the property directly managed by the bureaucracy which, however, is not required to exercise its dominion but in extreme situations: everything could be "privatized" without shaking the bureaucratic power as a whole. The rescue of the local or the particular, of "difference", is ridiculous in a situation where there are sufficient technical resources to handle diversity and make it, in this way, illusory.
Bureaucratic rule is exercised in two basic levels: immediate production management and global economic management. For centuries the bourgeoisie achieved through the mastery of technique, which it constantly revolutionized, to determine and profit from the social division of labor. This mastery of technique was expressed in the legal, political and ideological figure of private property, and the corresponding form of wage labor.
The increasing complexity of production management, both technically and administratively, both in volume and intensity, has increasingly alienated the owners from direct and effective control of the means of production. Bureaucratic control appears here as an objective need from the development of the productive forces: the technician, the scientist, the administrator, the counselor, the expert, the manager. An entire social layer slowly turning from dominated to dominant. In an inorganic, uneven manner, without effective self-consciousness. A process that is not unlike the rise of the bourgeoisie within feudal logic in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
The two spaces of objective power of the bureaucracy are on the level of production management and global management. But the bureaucratic society is reproduced beyond its areas of origin or power. There is more bureaucracy than the technocrats of the companies or the state. The dynamics of capitalism, with its continuous and revolutionary increases in productivity, has gradually reduced the social work force directly engaged in the production of goods for consumption on one hand, and tried to regulate overproduction crisis by means of increasing consumption levels on the other. This has led to the need, which is increasingly structural, of building up a purchase capacity, which is "artificial" in the sense that it no longer derives only from interaction between the productive work, salary compensation and the consequent consumption, but follows directly and explicitly to the need to sell the produced goods. The arms industry, the giant social security systems, the huge investments in research and development, can be considered in this perspective.
But on the other hand, from a social point of view, this has led to a revolutionary increase in the proportion of workforce engaged in what may goodly be called "services", to which must be added another huge contingent being distracted from direct production of goods through various subsidy schemes of their economic place in society. Huge state bureaucracies, massive armies, giant masses of students, huge masses of retirees, subsidized unemployed, or even underemployed, through intricate systems of indirect subsidy, actually operating without conscious policies to support them.
Beyond power and dominion, society is bureaucratized under this third source of bureaucracy as a class. In feudal times every entrepreneur could be a "gentleman" to some extent, from the king to the page. In bourgeois society, everyone could be "bourgeois" to some extent, from Rockefeller to selling newspapers or cardboard gatherers (micro entrepreneur!). Similarly, in bureaucratic society, everybody can be a bureaucrat, from the President of the World Bank to the inspector of a night high school. Large and small, efficient and inefficient, powerful and insignificant, great or generally mediocre bureaucrats, with the power to alter the lives of many or few, replaceable by computers or not replaceable at all.
Three sources for bureaucracy: the technician, the global manager, the endemic bureaucrat. All aspects of modern society are filled with the hallmarks of bureaucratical management.
Pettiness, formalism, professional jealousy, defense of small guarantees, the stupidity of what works just because it has to work, chronic inefficiency at work and concealed lying in the production reports, negligence and misrepresentation, are flooding the academic, scientific, government, military, civilian life.
But rarely catastrophically. The nature of the system is such that things always should work in general: many could lose their jobs if this did not happen. The issue is not general and disastrous unemployment but rather slow, inorganic, irrational way, busting occasionally here and there: a nuclear plant that melts down, a last model war plane being demolished in his first bout, a space telescope that does not work. Large but brief scandals, so everything works, can be covered quickly.
And along with this, the little drama of everyday negligence and inefficiency: the computer that charges more money, the streets flooded with the rains, processes delayed, a traffic light does not work. And along with this, the general parasitism of false postgraduate studies that only serve to fill CVs, soldiers who never go to war (except against their own people), or just go and loose them, officials justifying the work of others justify them in turn, help programs of development assistance lost in thousands of private pockets.
Despite what it seems, I'm not trying to show bureaucratic society as particularly worse than other class societies. I could list the inhuman brutalities that the bourgeoisie has called free enterprise, or permanent humiliation of manorial systems, or the absolute despotism of the slave holder monarch. But that is not the point. The question is, rather, to indicate how bureaucratic society has miseries that are specific and naturally derived from the way it holds and reproduces its domination.
Whether a class society is better or worse than another is not a subjective matter, it can not be, since even the social forms we find most abhorrent have been able to create ideologies that make them understandable and acceptable to its members. It is only from the possibility of a different reality that the experienced reality becomes intolerable. To put it another way: only from "beyond".
The bourgeoisie created the specter of a dark, despotic and irrational medieval society. Regardless of the fact that the bourgeoisie has attributed much of their own monstrosities of the past (the typical example is the Inquisition), there are good reasons to be suspicious of that picture. (And without therefore saving or exculpating the feudal era). The feudal period is dark regarding bourgeois culture and not with respect to itself. It is irrational as compared to the new logic that modern production opens. It is despotic for the bourgeois, or the serf as seen by the bourgeois, but not so much for the serf who looks at himself.
The same problem occurs when comparing the merits of bourgeois society with those of bureaucratic society, except in one respect: the bureaucratic as well as the medieval society, is totalitarian in its claim to universal harmony. Bourgeois society, by contrast, shamelessly displays its contradictory and catastrophic character.
If we do this proviso, that is critical for subjective consideration, we can understand the criticism of bourgeois savagery by bureaucratic protectionism. This is practically very relevant, since there we have a real critique, from one social formation to another, that is, the critique of the bourgeois that can be done not from principles or from utopias, but from the particular situation that has been established, voluntarily or not.
This is relevant because we can then compare the reality of bureaucratic rule with the criticisms it has made, and with our utopias, that is, we can ask ourselves if what they say they are overcoming is what they really overcome and how, if what they say to accomplish is actually achieved, and how. And, also, on the other hand, whether our own utopias really break with the repressive continuum or are merely populist extensions of the criticism that bureaucratic rule makes the bourgeoisie, in the course of their class conflict.
Perhaps this point can be better understood if we consider the historical analogy that represents the position of the labor movement regarding the bourgeois utopia. In practice the workers' movement merely appropriating the bourgeois utopia, that is, it is not asking but what the bourgeoisie itself states it seeks, and what the irrationality, the spontaneity of its practice prevents it. By doing it this way, the labor movement merely join the logic of bourgeois rule: all claims could, in the limit, be met under the same repressive continuum, to the extent that it is rationalized, that it is required to comply with its own logic. The workers demand more consumption, for the bourgeoisie increased consumption levels only confirm its own logic. This not only explains the gradual assimilation of the labor movement to the established system, its gradual assimilation to reformist and parliamentarians policies, but also explains its natural alliance with the bureaucratic power. Just like the bourgeoisie once armed the peasants against the landowners, just as it organized them under its own utopias, actually chasing their own interests, the bureaucracy now, know it or not, is in favor of the interests of the labor movement, aligns it under its ideals of rationality, order and progress.
In what bureaucratic society criticizes of bourgeois society it is possible to discern the real utopia, ie the utopia that effectively moves it, rather than what is declared in its discourse. From there we can confront the operative utopia, that is, the actual discourse and life itself, the actual operation. And we can confront, also, on the other hand, our own real utopia, our way of proceeding, the order and direction of our concrete demands, in order to check whether we are actually in the direction of the end of the class struggle or are simply adding water to the mill of bureaucratic domination, which even without our help can win, let us have assured, its own war.
These confrontations may be a good starting point for a critique of the new power and, above all, for a critique of the unconsciousness with which our voluntarism confronts it.
The bureaucratic society is, however, the most powerful and subtle in history. Its comprehensive and abstract rationality is its power. It not only has armies of soldiers, also has armies of journalists, armies of psychologists, armies of publicists, giving it an iron support at the deepest level of everyday life. The totalitarianism of scientific reason, the overwhelming power of hedonism and bodily flattery, the monstrous absurdity of the domination and the dumbing down of all by all, do reach their peak in it.
The power of the bureaucratic society reaches its most proper and effective expression in its technological capacity to handle diversity, to generate illusory diversity, to maintain an interactive centralization of control, which considers local differences between the various sectors that it manages and dominates. Unlike classical domination in industrial society, the domination exerted through homogenization, through leveling of differences, through increasing standardization of products, behaviors, aspirations, bureaucratic society is able to dominate in, and through diversity. Through it, it disintegrates social actors into pure individuals, helplessly facing the power of global administration, or in standardized classes of subjects, functional to the patterns of domination.
Facing this power, the opposition's criticism repeats its classical alienation: it cannot leave the utopian horizon of the society it seeks to destroy. When capitalism could offer homogenizing, the popular movement called precisely for equality, even access to consumption, mass products, materials claims. Now, as the advanced industrial societies have acquired sufficient technological capacity to handle diversity, a supposedly radical critique asks precisely for recognition of the local, of difference. While criticism disintegrates in the local, power remains being one. One that can handle the breakup.
The sad spectacle of alienation of the various segments of the popular movement throughout the twentieth century should serve as a profound lesson. The sequence is repeated: popular front, revolutionary attempt, political consensus; liberal feminism, radical feminism, feminism of otherness; modernizing theology, theology of liberation, theology of reconciliation; critical theory, revolutionary theory, communicative rationality; liberal environmentalism, radical environmentalism, pragmatic environmentalism. Reconciliation, otherness, consensus, communicative rationality, pragmatism, these are today some of the names of manipulated disintegration, of the new scene of the alienation of critical thinking.
The power of the bureaucracy (like no other) does not proceed from politics but from the place it has as a class in the division of labor. Politics, in its modern sense, as an exercise of citizenship, or in any other, is a articulating space of a power that already exists, (or wants to be). From this articulation, which otherwise is not the only possible, the ruling classes consolidate and formally exert the power that they have built from the material basis of social relations. The space of modern politics is a result, not the origin, of modern social relations. Does the bureaucracy need this power to build its hegemony? No. Does it need it to consolidate, ie, to legitimize its rule and its formal exercise? Yes.
Ultimately, the old distinction that I'm using is the Gramscian difference between hegemony and government. Gramsci was the first to propose that a ruling class can be hegemonic without having taken over the government of society. In the construction of modern hegemonies in general the battle for political space has been the last to be made explicit and to be decided. Except, of course, in the revolutionary will, whose character and novelty consists precisely in proposing to reverse this process. But one thing is that the revolutionary will has wanted to consciously build the social, from political space, and another thing is that this indeed has been the case. I argue that this will has been permanently overwhelmed by the force of effectiveness, and from not seeing this ineffectiveness of political struggle much of its alienation derives.
Specifically I argue that bureaucratic power has built its hegemony behind bourgeois politics, undermining it slowly, and indeed has begun to completely empty it of content. There are multiple processes that support this hypothesis. The first is the general decline of the mechanisms of representation. The "disenchantment" of democracy, which is nothing but the experience of its ineffectiveness. The increased patronage, and self-perpetuation mechanisms of political elites. The increasing manipulation of the fiction of representation. The conflict of experts versus citizen in all relevant public decisions. But beyond that, the second is the process of decline of citizenship itself. Progressive limits to individual freedom. Disintegration and manipulation of the autonomy of consciousness. The decline of the experience of personal autonomy.
Like any modern domination, the bureaucratic dictatorship may be exercised in the form of a dictatorship or in the form of a democracy. Experience shows that this second option is more effective to consolidate the rule, to invest it with the legitimacy that makes it operational. The base of this efficiency in the classical ideal of modernity is that there is a social consensus to support it. In the case of bureaucracy that consensus is not necessarily real. Its legitimacy can be articulated from its technological capacity to produce social consensus fictitiously, through political demobilization in fact, through a strong fiction of social dialogue, which covers manipulation, the unequal interdependence among political actors. The current "consensus" on economic policy in Chile is a good example of something that may become general. The "consensus" that manages to build on the subject of terrorism, or regarding the chronic inefficiency of socialism, are other examples. "Consensus" that have a profound political impact, but are basically not built, nor supported in the space of politics.
b. Minimal questions and objections
One might ask, in this regard, can politicians oppose bureaucracy? I think this question is wrong in its foundation. Politicians are part of the bureaucracy. Politics has always been within the game of legitimization of power. When citizens are able to do politics themselves, organized or not, they appear just as subversive.
The question: "Can citizens oppose the bureaucracy?" must be answered in two very different planes. First an empirical question: Are there citizens? Second a question of will: even if they don't, they should exist. It is only from this second premise that the first may be real. In the bureaucratic society, the potential revolutionary subject must be built. It does not naturally exist, nor appear spontaneously. Actually, if we think this matter in depth, never a revolutionary subject may be naturally or less spontaneously occurring.
Is bureaucratic power established without any resistance? To respond seriously, I think it is necessary to ask generally how a global way of life is replacing another. When the analysis stops at the surface of politics it is reasoned as if the subjects of resistance would exist as constituted, autonomous and aware subjects. My opinion is that this only occurs in a very late, almost terminal stage in the consolidation of a new power.
Lifestyles are generally established unnoticed by the consciousness of individuals, even of their own actors. It is only in the cycle of its culmination, when the hegemony seeks to become government, that "politics" of its own appears. The bourgeoisie developed its hegemony for at least four hundred years before finding in modern democracy the political form of its own, and before discovering, in industrial workers, the subject of a possible resistance.
Before the advent of politics in the proper sense what is often called "resistance" it is but the dramatic story of fragmentation, loss of consciousness, madness and crime, social sectors overwhelmed by the new efficiency. Sometimes conscious, sometimes violent, always poorly organized, this "resistance" is nothing but the life of the death of what passed.
Usually found in the left critique, especially in the field of history, there is a curious medievalist nostalgia about this. Again and again, in exquisite detail, the history of the countless episodes of defeat has been narrated. The communities in the English countryside or the medieval towns, the sixteenth-century America, the permanent defeat of dependent communities. This past of solidarity and struggle is considered educational, and invariably awaits its resurrection, or its reproduction by analogy. Nostalgia assigns the character of "politics" to the chronicle of defeat. Against, once again, common sense, I think this is a bad nostalgia and a bad concept of politics. The only useful nostalgia is nostalgia for the future. The nostalgia that is dedicated to the past is beautiful, but its aestheticism does not reach beauty, which can only be given by the actual fighting, and its breath will only lead the will to the hidden message of resignation.
For a non-messianic perspective, which doesn't draw its strength from a heroic past that must return, another concept of resistance is needed. We must recognize that we genuinely can only speak of resistance when it arises from consciousness, that is, when to resist and to seek a new world do agree. Or again, when the political component of the resistance has imposed itself on the existential component.
Having put things this way, I think bureaucratic power has been imposed almost without resistance. The general tendency of capitalist economy to financial speculation, and to high-tech capital management shows little resistance from the bourgeoisie. As the feudal landowning aristocracy could extend its leadership overwhelmed by bourgeois hegemony through political pacts of mutual support, so today the bureaucratic-bourgeois pact prolongs the capitalist government, and illusion of government.
Of course we could retell the infinite fragmentary chronicles of resistance to the new global industrialization, with their patterns of integration and marginalization, and their invariable defeats. I suggest that rather than seeking in each of these fragmentary spaces the messianic community of our dreams, we should seriously explore the conditions under which the will can build a revolutionary subject.
On this issue at least I can say this: if anyone can make the revolution these are the workers. Specifically, materially, those who are in a position to dominate the social division of labor. It is necessary to distinguish between revolution and revolutionism. The town can only be taken from within. From marginalization you can start a revolution (increasingly less), but not do it.
A question, a little more distressing, is whether bureaucratic power has internal contradictions that may lead to its end. Here again the problem is the depth to which we address the question.
In a fundamental sense, like everything, of course it has contradictions, and through them will come to an end. Whether a social formation is overcome, however, doesn't necessarily mean it to become what we want it to be. The case of capitalism is the most obvious. I maintain that the overcoming of capitalism leads in fact to a new class society. This has not, nor had it, to be that way. The historical necessity is not deterministic. But it is a fact. The question then is not whether bureaucratic society will be overcome (it will be), but whether we will be able to make it the society we want.
In this regard it is worth remembering what kind of situations are understood as contradictions of capitalism. On the one hand, those of structural kind: the downward trend in the rate of profit, the tendency toward monopolistic concentration of capital, the tendency to cyclical crises of overproduction, all of them associated with each other. On the other hand those of political, and even ethical kind: the absolute and relative impoverishment, the contradiction between the interests of production and the needs of consumption, the fetishization of goods and capital.
Today it is obvious, and can be considered an empirical result, that none of these contradictions led, or will lead, from capitalism to communist society; although, of course, these are mechanisms that operate in the progressive construction of bureaucratic hegemony. It is equally obvious that it is only from these contradictions that revolutionary will could be brought into play.
There, about this, a classic distinction in the Leninist tradition, between objective and subjective conditions of revolutionary consciousness. I suggest that it is preferable to change the terms of this distinction, in order to emphasize the power of the effectiveness on consciousness. It is best to distinguish between structural conditions and the existential conditions of the will. Certainly all conditions are objective (also the subjective ones). What I want to emphasize is that it is the will that turns a consciousness into revolutionary consciousness.
What I call structural conditions of the will are the contradictions that a system has and under which it cannot reach its concept, being forced to substitute formations, and in a position to be overcome. In the case of capitalism, state intervention in the regulation of the conflict between capital and labor is clearly a substitutive formation where the alleged transparency and efficiency of market regulation is just not working. In this case the structural contradiction which operates is the tendency to imbalance resulting from a high degree of production planning, faced the ignorance and anarchy of the market.
A structural critique of bureaucratic power would require finding such contradictions, those that internally jeopardize its feasibility. I would suggest at least the following. The bureaucratic utopia requires thorough knowledge of social actions, its causes and possible consequences. Only then the ideal of the general regulation could reach its concept. This knowledge is, however, strongly affected by the effective contingency. This makes the bureaucracy's need to streamline by force its performance around alternative explanations and legitimization through which to reconcile the difference between knowledge and reality. But this frame of substitute knowledge, whose function is to give (ideological) coherence to the action, just turns against the aspiration to dominate reality from which it was created. Bureaucratic management is wrapped in this way in a spiral of illusions and self-deceptions that make it vulnerable and prone to crisis.
It is important, however, to clarify two issues. First, this trend of "cyclical crisis of over-information" is unable, by itself, just as the other classic crisis, to bring down the system. But they make it vulnerable, especially to those who can control democratically the destruction of surplus information and distinguish it from reality.
Secondly, when I speak of effective contingency, I do not mean some uncontrollable chance, or some mystical freedom. In particular because in bureaucratic society the illusion of freedom and autonomy is heavily manipulated, and produces, and will continue to produce, all kinds of reformist illusions. I simply mean that the bureaucratic society is installed on a chaotic real historical terrain, which it will need to "civilize" at the cost of great efforts to obtain the information clarity it requires, a field that also produces, by itself, effects of over-information and information alienation. It is useful to remember the distortion involved for the articulation of the capitalist market by its actual installation in a historic world full of differences and uneven spots. Or, to put it briefly, remember that the capitalist market has never been transparent, and the liberal free circulation has only existed as a model on paper.
But although the structural conditions are the foundation, only the existential conditions are which may move the will.
What I call existential conditions of the will are those arising from the concrete life situation that affects individuals, or small groups of social subjectivity. In capitalism, the essential condition is poverty, and the many consequences of postponement. And among the bourgeois, the lack of sense, and the lack of truly human recognition. I suggest that in the bureaucratic society, among the integrated, the main condition that may precipitate the revolutionary will is the general mediocrity of life. And among the marginalized, experience of permanent deception of the manipulated diversity.
As in bourgeois society there is a contradiction between enrichment and impoverishment, in a bureaucratic society, which works with high consumption patterns and radical marginalization, there is a contradiction between the utopian content that consumption promises and the overall experience of frustration, which is radical among the marginalized, cunning among the integrated, and manipulated in both cases.
Just as in bourgeois society philanthropy offered a space to clean sins to some degree through interested kindness, in bureaucratic society violence and waste, promoted and managed by the entertainment industry, are offering a space to vent general frustration. Just as philanthropy is an interested goodness, in the case of postmodern society it is a mediocre violence, that does not change the world, that does not destroy at a large scale, which allows a microscopic, instant, but efficient fiction of omnipotence and autonomy, an empty violence.
I hold that in this kind of problems we must seek a new theory of alienation, to expand and complete the classical theory of Marx, and to serve as a basis for a possible policy. I think that in this theory the role of the fetishization of subjectivity should be as central as so far has been the idea of commodity fetishism.
Will bureaucratic domination inexorably engender the new revolutionary subject? No. Nor capitalism did. One thing is to have the structural and existential conditions for the establishment of a revolutionary subject, another very different is that these conditions are to meet consciousness. A revolutionary subject is not given, it is done. It can only arise from an effort of will and consciousness. An effort on what?: of our own production, which appears to us as "the given" only because we do not dominate it.
It may be useful, in this sense, to specify what is meant by revolutionary. It is a known statement from Marx that "the bourgeoisie is a highly revolutionary class". The essence of the idea of revolution is not that there is a radical change (must have), or that there is political violence (there could not be any), but that what is affected by this radical change is the way to socially produce life. And this is, properly, which must be called "violence", irrespective of having "taken the Winter Palace" or not.
In addition to the distinction between revolutionary spirit and revolution it is necessary to distinguish between structural revolution (in the world of production) and political revolution. In Gramscian terms the difference is between what happens at the level of the construction of hegemony, and what happens at the level of government.
The social revolutionist escalation is capable of changing governments, but does not alter the hegemonic relations in their essentials, that is, it does not change the world of social production, however much it may serve to initiate this change. A clear example of this is the relationship between the Revolution 1910 - 1920 and the consolidation of dependent capitalism in Mexico.
A structural revolution (in itself) is one that basically affects the mode of production, setting off from there changes in the legal and political sphere. It is clearly the case of capitalism, or of the Gramscian step from hegemony to government. In my opinion this is also the case of the Stalinist revolution between 1928 and 1938.
A political revolution (in and of itself) should trigger both processes, political and structural, from the exercise of the conscious will. This was the (failed) dream of the Bolshevik Revolution between 1917 and 1927. And this is, I think, the concept of communist revolution that Marx thought of.
Whether or not the breakthrough of bureaucratic hegemony is violent? Is the era of modern revolutions finished?
The constitution of bureaucratic hegemony, as before the bourgeois hegemony is, and will remain, extremely violent, even in physical form. Another thing is that this violence is expressed or not as political violence. The radical changes in England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are a sign of bourgeois development, those occurred in Japan since 1868 are an example of this in the case of bureaucracy.
In this sense, I think an important part of the Marxist tradition has lived, and still lives, around the mirage of the French and Russian revolutions. A "storming of the Bastille" or a "taking of the Winter Palace" is expected, almost messianically. The exact dates and precise locations are adored: July 26, the Plaza of the Revolution, etc.
Even feeling great respect and affection for these sacred mythologies, the truth is that reality is much more prosaic. And most moving, deep, dense, full of content. The only effectively successful Russian Revolution was Stalin's, not Lenin's. The truth of the French Revolution are not the Jacobins, nor terror, but the consolidation of capitalism. England did not need more than one head of a King, and Japan but a dynastic change, for their political processes to be adapted to the profound revolution made from the world of work. The United States did not need more than the progressive dumbing down of citizens to move from capitalist hegemony to bureaucratic rule.
Has the era of modern revolutions finished? No. What should end is the illusion that a coup against the government is already a revolution. What should happen is the revolutionary will taking over the structural revolution and turning it into a political revolution.
Another question is whether bureaucracy, in building its hegemony, appeals to the interest of all mankind in the form of an emancipatory ideal. I think it does. I think the environmental cynicism of large corporations is more representative of the new kind of bureaucratic ideology than the opportunistic nihilism of postmodern philosophers. The latter only serves to sweep the ideals of modernity, the former, however, serves to build. Maturana and Flores are more useful than Derrida and Boudrillard.
What you need to understand, however, is that this emancipatory ideal of new type, this project of "completing the project of Enlightenment", does not operate under the key classical reductionism and homogenization, but under the emblems of diversity and discursive pluralism. This is extremely important because if you want to criticize this rationalization of the new domination the important thing is not to seek again a reducing principle, or a leveling ethos but on the contrary, to find just the keys from which it is possible to hold such power in diversity.
This is a point where the Leftist postmodern critique is fundamentally wrong. They still are trying to criticize the postmodern power as if it were a modern, merely illustrated power. It is at this point that I think ideas like repressive tolerance, manipulation of diversity, unequal interdependence, informative alienation, may be more useful than the eternal deconstruction of a reason that does not want to appear as One (although it is), and that boasts of its diversity.
From where is diversity manipulated if not from the state? The problem here, related to the previous one, is the function of politics in the legitimation of bureaucracy. I have argued that class domination does not originate in politics and can develop without it. Does this mean that politics is destined to disappear? What I think is that this whole problem must be historicized. Do modern politics tend to disappear? Yes. Will politics disappear? No.
It is true, firstly, that the State has played an important role in the development of bureaucratic hegemony. And it has done so precisely to the extent that it has also been the center of bourgeois politics. But in a society capable of handling diversity that does not need to remain so. I think the Liberal style policy will continue existing for a while, but will gradually lose its content and power. Or, to put it more harshly, it will be increasingly becoming a part of the entertainment industry.
When we then ask ourselves from where manipulation occurs, we must seek the answer more in transnational corporations and supra national global regulatory agencies, than in formal politics. Politicians do rule less and less. The legitimacy of power happens less and less through them, except for a decorative function, as in the "great western democracies".
Thar these are the facts does not mean, of course, they are desirable. Far from a minimalist or instrumentalist conception of politics, what I propose it is just the opposite, to recover the virtues of liberal political utopia ... and go beyond them, in the direction of humanization and self-awareness.
However, on the other hand, the question itself must be analyzed. From where does manipulation occur? I think there is something basically wrong with this question. Perhaps, to understand why, another analogous question could be stated: From where does the bourgeoisie attend the market? This seems a strange question. But that's the analogous question. The problem is that we are accustomed to think that there are bureaucrats in only one place, in the State. Instead we do easily know that there are bourgeois in many places, say, in each industry or each bank. However this is a bad habit for two basic reasons. First, because it confuses the function with the place. Second because the most relevant of bureaucratic hegemony is not necessarily in the State, although that may be one historically real case.
Of course there are places where regulation is exercised, which, from a value-based point of view, I call manipulation. As I stated above, particularly in large transnational corporations. But the essential thing is not that. What is relevant is that the quintessential bureaucratic role is regulation.
Maybe one final aspect of this problem should be explained. Is it from the nation states that manipulation occurs? Each time less and less. I think the reality of nation states is in decline, as liberal democracy and individual autonomy. Nationalism, which seems to be booming, is nothing more than a nostalgia for the past, concealing actual globalization processes. The Soviet Union and Yugoslavia are divided ... to be colonized. The European Community and NAFTA are integrated ... to improve the internal colonization. Separating or joining, globalization is the actual content.
Is the State an epiphenomenon of the activity of bureaucrats? No. The state is one more task within this activity. But even if it was only an epiphenomenon, I do not see why this had to be regarded as an objection. What if it were actually that?, would reality be wrong? Would this be a case of political reductionism? Of modern politics yes, of bureaucratic "politics" no.
So does the theory of bureaucratic power derive from a linear image of modern development? No. The metaphor of linear development, from the center to the periphery, was already outdated in the course of discussions on theories of dependency. Modernity is, from the beginning, beyond the contingencies of its expansion, a global phenomenon. There aren't more developed and less developed countries. Some countries have developed their development in line with, and because there are countries that have developed their underdevelopment. The theory of bureaucratic power is a global theory constructed to account for a global historical moment. The difference between development and marginalization is no longer geographic, it crosses every country, every city, every activity worldwide.
Already Weber would have quoted as defining characteristic of modern capitalism the application of theoretical knowledge to production techniques, does this mean a denial of theories basing their validity in the newness of this fact? Although the possible "novelty" of this fact doesn't really interest me, I care indicate the following difference with Weber. While he says that the application of theoretical knowledge to the production techniques is characteristic of modernity, what I maintain is that the characteristic of postmodernism is rather the legitimation of production techniques through theoretical "knowledge".
At this point, the epistemological reflection on the relationship between knowledge and power, the political debate on bureaucratic power meet. From the first, and again against common sense, I think it's possible to get the general idea that knowledge is but the discourse of power. Let me be more explicit: it is not because we know something of the reality that we get to have power, it is because we have power that we say that we know something. The discourse called knowledge articulates power, it doesn't cause it, nor does it make it possible. From the second, political reflection, I think it is possible to argue that this general relationship is historically real and effective, explicit and observable only under bureaucratic rule.
Also, finally, general criticisms of the kind of class analysis that is the basis of such theorizing like this have been made. The class analysis which posits the bureaucratic power as a new power would be (a) a simple analogy; (b) abstract; (c) inoperative; (d) reductionist.
Importantly, despite the mental habits caught from the prevailing intellectual fashions, that these four criticisms are independent of each other, they do not have to imply each other and don't have any evidentiary force, however impressive they may seem.
Of course a hypothesis which is built by (simple or complex) analogy doesn't tell us nothing about its truth, convenience, or possible appropriateness. Even when an analogy is built on a wrong referent, the result is not necessarily wrong, because the points that are made analogous, which were inadequate to the former situation, do not need to be so for the second.
Similarly, hardly the word "abstract" can itself be a criticism, unless expressly used as an adjective (in which case it neither is). The General Theory of Relativity, or the neoclassical economic theories are highly abstract, and no one would point out that that is their failing. Of course the degree of abstraction tells us nothing about their operability, as shown by the precise experiments that are deducted from relativity, or the well defined economic policies that follow from the neoclassical theories. There is no logical connection between abstraction and operability. Unless one understands by abstraction simply to refuse to develop the potential consequences of an abstract theory.
Not even a theory to be "inoperative" can be a really serious objection to its truth, appropriateness or convenience. Unless, of course, you define the nature of truth through the operation, an epistemology that has been suspected for quite some time. Perhaps the objection is simpler, perhaps only we are asked, in general, that the consequences of the theory that may be put into practice and change the reality in some way. But if it is that, just nobody can say that the theory of classes is "inoperative", even in its reductionist version. That from it there have been obtained "operations" that we do not like, or that we consider failures, does not mean they have not been operational.
And reductionism, finally, doesn't need not be, by itself, a defect, unless you specify which harmful effects are those that do drawback. The truth is that it would be very difficult to find, and even develop, a non-reductionist scientific theory, unless, indeed, one understands by such the simple chaotic enumeration of factors, without hierarchy, which would, of course, be very little operational.
The theory of bureaucratic power that I propose it is built by analogy, but not from class reductionism, and even though it must be confronted with the practice, it would not necessarily be "operational", and even if it was abstract (I say yes it is) or reductive (I say it is not), that does not tell us whether it is more or less useful, or true, or convenient.
All these questions do lead to the theoretical problem of which formulation of Marxism we are using as a basis to make the diagnostic thesis listed here credible. Or, to further emphasize this point, what plausible formulation of Marxism makes the policy implied in these responses credible.
To this issue of foundation I dedicate the next chapter, then going back to the possible controversies that this position entails.