Democracy is in crisis, from the streets of Ferguson to the struggle in Greece. Throughout the world millions suffer under neoliberalism and austerity but are unable to force their governments to address their needs. Fundamentally, democracy is about the relationships between the state, markets and civil society. Attempts to artificially repress the functions of any of these institutions result in political, social and economic problems that lead to irresolvable contradictions and eventual failure. This book undertakes the examination of capitalist democracy, globalization, and the emergence of a transnational capitalist class needed to develop a strategy for implementing democracy beyond its current impasse.
Early capitalism contained the contradiction between property rights and popular democracy. The American and French revolutions saw an alliance between the capitalist class, farmers, craft workers and laborers. Democracy was a class compromise, based on the political balance between the masses and the new ruling elite.
This tension has set in motion the continual conflict over democratic rights. As the transnational capitalist class coalesced into a hegemonic bloc, their project was to re-engineer the national state to serve global markets and suppress democratic input from civil society. Mainstream media, and many on the left, still portray the world system in terms of nationally contained economic units, with corporate champions flying flags with patriotic colors. But a serious look at the data clearly shows that TNCs are deeply committed to global production, financially connected to other global players, and base their corporate strategy on world-wide accumulation. Such patterns hold true for every major industry. This is the structural manufacturing basis of global capitalism.
What may be truly different in this era is a historic reversal of human rights and democracy. This has led to a growing social crisis that cannot be resolved by global capitalism.
Socialism emerged as the alternative to capitalism, promising economic equality and social justice. But the Soviet system centralized power into the state, suppressing both civil society and the market. This created fundamental economic and social contradictions. Eventually the failure of an internal transformation led to collapse. As for anarchism, its theory ignores the role of the state and rejects the market, creating a limited ideology of social change that fails to create a viable alternative.
A successor system must recognize the relationships between the state, markets and civil society, seeking to balance naturally occurring contradictions through the practice and renewal of democratic institutions. Conflicts are not an indication of a dysfunctional society, but of a vibrant, adaptable and open society.
The key is recognizing horizontal democracy as the structure for resolving conflicts. Worker ownership and cooperatives may be the first step in constructing such a society, alongside sustainable economics, protagonistic democracy and governmental public financing.
WILLIAM I. ROBINSON –
“This wide-ranging book makes a critical contribution to understanding the times in which we live and possible solutions to the increasingly acute crisis of global capitalism. Harris critiques with great perspicacity the ideology and destructive practices of hegemonic neo-liberalism as well as the failure of 20th century socialism to provide a viable alternative and the limitations of anarchism. All three ideologies
are found wanting in the quest for human liberation. In this new globalized information age our emancipatory potential, he suggests, lies in freeing democracy from the constraints of capitalism through a more balanced relationship between the state, market and civil society. Harris’ ideas should be widely studied and debated.”
WILLIAM I. ROBINSON, University of California at Santa Barbara.
author of Global Capitalism and the Crisis of Humanity
LESLIE SKLAIR –
“There is a vast literature on the contradictions and evils of global capitalism, but relatively little on progressive non-capitalist alternatives. In this stimulating book, Harris poses the all-important question: Can the power of democracy overcome the power of global capitalism? It sounds like a simple question, but Harris, who is one of the originators of transnational capitalist class analysis, unpacks its multiple
complexities by re-examining the relationships between state, market, and civil society. This book will spark productive controversy among theorists and activists, precisely what is required if we are to find progressive non-capitalist alternatives.”
LESLIE SKLAIR, London School of Economics & author of The Transnational Capitalist
DAVID SCHWEICKART –
“This is an excellent book, packed with meticulously-documented facts, indicating the disastrous direction that global capitalism, dominated by a new transnational capitalist class, is taking us. But, Harris argues, “another world is possible”–a genuinely democratic, economically viable, ecologically sustainable world. Highly recommended!”
DAVID SCHWEICKART, Loyola University and author of Beyond Capitalism
MAREK HRUBEC –
“Jerry Harris is a preeminent scholar on global studies, particularly on global capitalism and transnational class theory.”
MAREK HRUBEC, Director, Center of Global Studies, Academy of Sciences, Prague
Harry Targ –
“Global Capitalism and the Crisis of Democracy is a seminal work which addresses the major questions raised by the vast critical literature on neoliberal globalization. It addresses markets, the state, civil society, the transforming working class, the environment, and the draconian reversal of the historic drive to create real
democracy. It accumulates a dense collection of data on financial speculation, investment, and trade to demonstrate the growing network of cross-national ties that bind a new transnational capitalist class.
This volume should be read and used in classrooms and study groups to stimulate a conversation about the new era of neoliberal globalization and the prospects for building twenty-first century socialism.”
Harry Targ, Portside
World Review –
“The book focuses on democracy’s backsliding tendencies in the current system of global capitalism. It insightfully demonstrates that major global changes were spawned by the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and the advent of new information technologies. The new technologies and political trends have paved the way for the establishment of a new system of global production, transportation, trade, communication, financial speculation and manipulative repressive practices that erode the avenues open to ordinary citizens. Subsequent redefinition of capitalism in a transnational and global framework installed a new era and new schisms that we are still coming to terms with… The book is worth a thorough read.”
World Review of Political Economy, Spring issue, 2017.
Bill Fletcher –
“Most of the book is devoted to helping the reader better grasp what Harris argues is the historical transition—underway—from capitalism centered around the nation-state to global capitalism. This work is successful, enlightening and engrossing … an exceptionally thorough and thought-provoking work”
Bill Fletcher, In These Times
Cliff DuRand –
“Jerry Harris has written a powerful book for our times. We live in a period of multiple crises. A neoliberal globalisation that is undermining national economies and delegitimising nation states; the global displacement of millions by capitalism that has produced mass migrations worldwide; terrorist blowback from imperial wars; unstoppable capitalocenic climate change; an unresolved financial crisis that still looms over our heads. And over it all, the inability of the state to find a fix for any of this due to the crisis of democracy that Harris analyses in this sweeping study.”
Cliff DuRand, Race and Class
Ronald W. Cox –
“To fully explain the crises of contemporary capitalism, we need more than structural approaches, we need an application of structural factors with instrumental factors. With that in mind, the work of Jerry Harris is of central importance.”
Ronald W. Cox, Race, Class and Corporate Power