The Winters of Our Discontent and the Social Production Economy
Review of Political Economy, 2021, vol. 33, issue 3, 394-413
The economic policy reaction to the Covid-19 crisis has been considered from different angles. Here I will remind only the positions by Draghi (looking at this historical conjuncture comparing it to ‘war times’), Tooze (seeing in it the definitive closure of the ‘political economy of inflation’ as well as ‘the first crisis of Anthropocene’), Kregel (proposing ‘central controls for social provisioning’ as the pertinent macroeconomic policy). The pandemic could inaugurate a game change in European economic policy; and even unlikely quarters suggested in the last year a retreat from neoliberalism as we knew it. However, the health crisis is not an exogenous shock: it is inherent in the capitalist social form of production and consumption. The pathological state of affairs that takes our breath away reveals the hidden reality of the society where we work and consume. Confronting the current and future virus outbreaks (as well as climate change) obliges us to go back to the founding themes of macroeconomics, which needs to consider not just the level of employment, but also what employment is for. In this logic, we are forced to radicalise the notion of the ‘socialisation of investment’ into that of a ‘social production economy’: the challenge in front of us is indeed about the ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘how much’ and ‘for whom’ to produce.
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