The deeper import of Riley and Brenner’s critique of the ‘Biden experiment’, then, is that the scope of electoral politics is circumscribed by the macro-economic environment, and by the social relations and political dynamics to which this gives rise. If this is a general insight, its specific application to the contemporary period—conveyed with polemical clarity in Riley’s Sidecar piece—is that the era of political capitalism precludes reformist agendas of a ‘classically social-democratic kind’. Demonstrating that a redux of the New Deal—‘premised on the social relations of a highly profitable manufacturing capitalism’footnote33—is ‘both unrealistic and insufficient’, as Riley explained in an interview with Jacobin radio, seems among the central motivations of ‘Seven Theses’. ‘In a period like this’, Brenner added in the same conversation, ‘there are just going to be strict political limits to what can be done in redistributive terms’.footnote34
If these are the political limits of low-growth economies, what of the prospects for stretching or transcending them? The twist of the knife implied by Riley and Brenner’s portrait of the era is that the new regime—pitting fiscal status-groups against one another to defend their share of a fixed or shrinking pie—atomizes and demobilizes the working class. Given that, as Brenner argued in 1985, ‘All else being equal, declines in profitability and the general outlook for business actually tend, in themselves, to increase the power of capital vis à vis labour’, the renewal of class-based movements with the social clout to mount an effective opposition to the system seems at once more essential and more remote than ever.footnote35 It’s as though Riley and Brenner are implying that ‘political capitalism’ produces a political system constitutionally incapable of alleviating the structural crisis of chronic stagnation—its parties unable ‘to construct hegemonic growth coalitions’, reduced to forming governments with slender, fragile majorities—and a class structure, segmented by education level among other forms of identitarian ‘closure’, that is ill-equipped to arrest or reverse stagnation’s regressive social consequences.
Secular stagnation, in other words, is presented as something that reconfigures politics, but which politics, so reconfigured—at both elite and mass levels—appears all but powerless to alter. In this regard, Karp’s alternative, more precise timeline of class dealignment is an expression of a telling difference, of emphasis if not of perspective. If the long downturn and the pivot to politicized plunder prepared the ground, what expedited the movement of the ‘have-nots’ away from the Democrats was the substantive transformation of the Party itself—into a ‘fundamentally technocratic’, ardently neoliberal party with ‘predominance atop America’s social, cultural and economic hierarchies’—which Karp argues toppled the rickety alignments on which it had formerly relied. Though Riley and Brenner note the way successive Democratic Administrations have been ‘strongly committed to neoliberalism’, the ideological makeover appears more adaptive than causal.footnote36 Whereas in their account, parties appear as opportunistic shape-shifters who ‘operate in’ and ‘accommodate’ and ‘adapt’ to the economic conditions, ideological mood and balance of class forces, Karp lays greater emphasis—and blame—on political decision-making, granting the political field as a whole more autonomy. Faced with certain ‘social and economic currents’, Karp wrote in Jacobin in 2021, centre-left parties chose to navigate them in a fateful way: ‘prioritizing global markets, cosmopolitan values and professional-class voters rather than unions, wages and blue-collar workers’. ‘The death of class politics is not an outcome these party leaders feared; it is a goal they have zealously pursued’: ‘Class dealignment is both a historical process and a political choice’.footnote37 If Riley and Brenner wished to dislodge idealist explanations of class dealignment, Karp would perhaps argue that their materialist alternative, for all its clarity and depth, is at risk of over-correcting: not only eliminating voters’ worldviews from us politics, but understating the autonomy of political actors, carrying the comfortless implication that the moribund economy has mechanically transformed America’s political landscape in ways that preclude its rejuvenation.
In diagnosing this stagnationary impasse, ‘Seven Theses’ raises several difficult political questions that it does not itself answer: what, as Riley asks in ‘Faultlines’, is a ‘socialism appropriate to the emerging regime of political capitalism’? How might transformative redistribution be achieved in an age of economic malaise and political predation? If rapid growth rates are a thing of the past—absent a cathartic liquidation of inefficient capital or the discovery of a new self-sustaining ‘growth engine’ of the kind manufacturing provided several decades ago—what does a realistic, humane and egalitarian politics look like in a permanently subdued or stationary economy? How might class-based solidarity be renewed and social power amassed in an environment of zero-sum fiscal conflict that tends to divide and demobilize workers?
These complex questions cannot be answered here, nor perhaps anywhere in abstraction. But theoretically speaking, it’s possible to speculate on a few possible cracks in the political-capitalist edifice which the left might exploit. One potential opening inheres in perhaps the most important feature of the current period: the divergence of the rate of return from the rate of accumulation. These are usually linked, as David Kotz has explained, since high profits both provide a stimulus to invest, and increase the resources available for doing so. But since the 2008 crisis, accumulation rates have remained weak even as profits have staged a recovery. This is the other side of the political-capitalist equation: just as profits are no longer driving accumulation, productive investment is no longer the ‘key determinant’ of the rate of return. This implies a brewing crisis of legitimacy, since the correlation between profits and accumulation was the cornerstone of the notion that ‘what’s good for General Motors is good for America’, as Brenner explained in 2017. In that hegemonic view:
It is in everyone’s interest, including the working class, to see first to the profits of the employers, because only if the latter can make a profit will they be willing to accumulate capital and, so long as capitalist property relations prevail, only if they accumulate capital (increase investment and employment) can working people increase their living standards.footnote38
But the delinking of ‘money making’ from ‘profitable production’, as Brenner put it in ‘Escalating Plunder’, not only delegitimizes the capitalist class, by attenuating the structural connection between their self-enrichment and general welfare, profit and use value. Might it not also disempower capitalist elites, as profits—siphoned off politically rather than earned competitively—become less socially salient? And isn’t the very dependence of capitalist profits on government measures a sign of structural weakness as well as temporary dominance? Cédric Durand wondered recently whether the reliance of finance on central bank stabilization might be weakening its hegemony.footnote39 Might not the dependence of profits on politics have a similar effect, recalibrating the balance of power between capital and the state?
In 1993, Brenner argued that as long as capitalist property relations endure, ‘the state cannot be autonomous’, not because it is ‘always directly controlled by capitalists’ but ‘because whoever controls the state is brutally limited in what they can do by the needs of capitalist profitability’—the precondition for high employment and state services yet ‘difficult to reconcile with reforms in the interest of working people’ over ‘any extended period’.footnote40 After the onset of the long downturn, Brenner continued, the state ‘unleashed powerful austerity drives designed to raise the rate of profit by cutting the welfare state and reducing the power of the unions’ and so ‘could not but reveal itself as supinely dependent upon capital’. The drift of Federal policy under political capitalism—escalating tax breaks, massive handouts to private enterprise and so on, not to mention ‘vertiginous levels of campaign expenditure and open corruption on a vast scale’—implies the us state is ever more subservient to, if not largely captured by, elite interests. But if the needs of capitalist profitability and the interests of working people have become glaringly untethered, isn’t it possible that, in principle at least, this could enlarge rather than further erode the state’s autonomy? The state’s ‘supine dependence’ upon capital proceeded from the fact that sustaining accumulation seemed necessary to raise living standards. Insofar as political capitalism implies a system in which capitalists have increasingly already played the capital strike card—abstaining from investment and pouring capital into a hypertrophied financial sector or into politics itself to obtain returns—doesn’t this diminish their political pertinence?
Political capitalism implies a cronyist fusion between capital and the state—in Catalyst in particular, Brenner barely distinguishes between economic and political elites, alluding to ‘capitalist classes and their governments’, and somewhat imprecisely conflating ‘the world’s economic and political rulers (the top 1 per cent by income or above)’.footnote41 Any loosening of the capitalist grip on the state would presumably depend on the balance of class forces and social power outside it. What are the prospects for a rebalancing in favour of labour? It is virtually an axiom of Riley and Brenner’s account that sluggish or crisis-ridden economies disadvantage workers. Yet if rapid growth defused class conflict—not so much facilitating redistribution as obviating the need for it—might there not be political potential in the heightened antagonisms a zero-sum environment implies? In a critical discussion of Benanav’s work on automation and the future of employment, Balakrishnan suggests as much: far from blocking the route to a ‘freer future’, ‘isn’t a zero-sum class struggle the most radical of all, posing the question of who rules?’ Under these conditions, Balakrishnan conjectures, might class be reconceived in a more ‘abstract’ form, with the salient social fissures drawn along new axes that ‘cut across cultural divides’, freeing ‘anti-capitalist struggles from the self-destructive dynamics of identitarian ideology’?footnote42
Toward the end of his Sidecar article admonishing the left for its ‘self-defeating’ nostalgia for the New Deal, Riley briskly outlines his alternative: ‘What the planet and humanity need is massive investment in low-return, low-productivity activities: care, education and environmental restoration.’footnote43 But this vision—which has affinities with ‘degrowth’ platforms that emphasize investment in labour-intensive and ecologically innocuous economic activities like care work—surely implies an epochal redistribution of power and something approaching democratic planning, which would depend on the renewal of class-based opposition suppressed by the forces of political capitalism. Rising labour productivity fuelled the growth that facilitated the simultaneous expansion of profits, wages and welfare states. Its decline will mean profits can only be sustained by eroding workers’ incomes, weakening demand and investment, and so aggravating stagnationary dynamics. Political capitalism, in other words, is precisely a regime that has emerged from weakened productivity growth; what would it take to create a systematically low-productivity economy that is more equal and rational, not to mention less ecologically destructive?
Riley’s alternative to industrial policy and Green New Deals thus encounters similarly vexing questions of power over the allocation of resources. One of the ironies of the definition of political capitalism is that ‘political’—fortified by intensifiers like ‘raw’, ‘openly and obviously’—accrues the negative associations that might have been reserved for ‘upward’: it risks implying that political interference in economic activity of any kind is regressive (or futile), rather than the specific telos and character of this interference under political capitalism. ‘Political engineering’, after all, is perhaps one way of describing economic planning, and ‘politically engineered redistribution’, of an egalitarian and deliberative variety, is one description of a socialist, or proto-socialist, demand. Riley’s vision of ‘massive investment in low-return, low-productivity activities’, meanwhile, implies the use of political power to determine the rate of return—only in this case not to artificially sustain it, but to forcibly suppress it, i.e., to overcome the systemic compulsion to maximize profit in order to reroute capital into socially necessary but less lucrative lines of production—building solar panels faster than price signals dictate or justify, for example.
The transformative aim of ‘class politics’, as Riley and Brenner define it, is to exert political control over how the social surplus produced by workers is invested—‘a thoroughgoing democratization of the investment process and its function’, in Benanav’s phrase; in other words, not the removal of political power from the process of accumulation and profit-making, but the greater dispersal of this power so that decisions about how to allocate capital and distribute income are made by political forces that are responsive to popular-democratic pressures, and oriented to fulfilling social needs without overtaxing the biosphere, or, for that matter, impinging on other countries’ ability to do the same. In this sense, the situation may resemble the one Wolfgang Streeck outlined over a decade ago:
More than ever, economic power seems today to have become political power, while citizens appear to be almost entirely stripped of their democratic defences and their capacity to impress upon the political economy interests and demands that are incommensurable with those of capital owners. In fact, looking back at the democratic-capitalist crisis sequence since the 1970s, there seems a real possibility of a new, if temporary, settlement of social conflict in advanced capitalism, this time entirely in favour of the propertied classes now firmly entrenched in their politically unassailable stronghold, the international financial industry.footnote44
The pressing question posed by ‘Seven Theses’ is thus the one Kenta Tsuda voiced in an appraisal of degrowth as a solution to ecological deterioration, though it could equally apply to the alarming resurgence of inter-imperial rivalries: ‘How will humanity change who wields political power, displacing the forces that veer towards civilizational destruction?’footnote45 If at issue is not the politicization of the economy per se, but the fusion of economic and political dominance, the answer to the problem of ‘political capitalism’ may be political, first of all.
1 Dylan Riley and Robert Brenner, ‘Seven Theses on American Politics’, nlr 138, Nov–Dec 2022; Matthew Karp, ‘Party and Class in American Politics’, nlr 139, Jan–Feb 2023; Tim Barker, ‘Some Questions about Political Capitalism’, nlr 140/141, Mar–June 2023; Aaron Benanav, ‘A Dissipating Glut’, nlr 140/141, Mar–June 2023; see also inter alia J. W. Mason, ‘Yes, Socialists Should Support Industrial Policy and a Green New Deal’, Jacobin, 6 April 2023 and Jamie Merchant, ‘The Economic Consequences of Neo-Keynesianism’, Brooklyn Rail, July/August 2023.
2 Perry Anderson, ‘Homeland’, nlr 81, May–June 2013, p. 31.
3 ‘Economic News Release: Employment Situation’, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 7 July 2023.
4 Robert Brenner, ‘Escalating Plunder’, nlr 123, May–June 2020; Dylan Riley, ‘Faultlines: Political Logics of the us Party System’, nlr 126, Nov–Dec 2020; Robert Brenner, ‘Introducing Catalyst ’, Catalyst, vol. 1, no. 1, spring 2017; Robert Brenner, ‘The Economics of Global Turbulence’, nlr i/229, May–June 1998.
5 The latter was the subject of Riley’s ‘Drowning in Deposits’, a provocative appendix to ‘Seven Theses’ published in Sidecar on 4 April 2023.
6 In the month before the midterms, Biden’s approval ratings were at 38 per cent, down from the mid-50s in the months after his inauguration. Clinton was polling at 41 per cent before the 1994 midterms in which the Republicans swept both chambers. Although inflation had crested in June 2022 at 9.1 per cent, in October it remained above 7 per cent, with food prices still rising by nearly 11 per cent. See Amina Dunn, ‘Biden’s Job Rating Is Similar to Trump’s But Lower Than That of Other Recent Presidents’, Pew Research Center, 20 October 2022; inflation rates, broken down by month, are tabulated at us Inflation Calculator, using the Consumer Price Index provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
7 Riley, ‘Faultlines’, p. 49.
8 Karp, ‘Party and Class in American Politics’, pp. 133–4.
9 One senses that Riley and Brenner object to identity-based explanations not only because they are descriptively inadequate, but because they are politically unhelpful, entrenching the very dynamics they purport to account for. ‘Idealist’ explanations, Riley explained in an interview on Jacobin radio, foster a ‘politics of moralism’ with each side denouncing the other as irrational or prejudiced—whether the xenophobia of benighted ‘have-nots’ or the hyper-wokeness of supercilious liberal elites. To show that contrasting political loyalties arise not from insuperable differences of culture or values fanatically held but from the ‘material interests’ inhering in each class fraction’s ‘objective situation’ might seem a prerequisite for renewing cross-class solidarity: ‘Dealignment? w/ Robert Brenner and Dylan Riley’, Jacobin Radio with Suzi Weissman, 15 February 2023.
10 Brenner, ‘Introducing Catalyst’.
11 Riley and Brenner, ‘Seven Theses’.
12 In seeking to dispel a ‘misconception: that the Democratic Party has been an electoral failure in recent years’, do Riley and Brenner overstate the strength of the Party’s non-class strategy of appealing to the ‘credentialled’? As a recent report for Jacobin points out, ‘in four of the five states Biden flipped in 2020’—Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona, crucial for keeping control of the Senate—‘the white non-college-educated electorate was larger than the white college-educated, black, and Hispanic electorates combined.’ In the House, too, over 86 per cent of ‘competitive districts are majority non-college-educated’: The Center for Working-Class Politics and YouGov, ‘Trump’s Kryptonite: How Progressives Can Win Back the Working Class’, Jacobin, June 2023.
13 Matthew Karp, ‘The Politics of a Second Gilded Age’, Jacobin, February 2021.
14 Karp does raise some crucial caveats too, however, noting, for example, the way increasing numbers of non-white workers are also drifting towards the Republicans, which at the very least complicates Riley and Brenner’s argument that ‘nativeness’ and whiteness are the gop’s principal means of ‘social closure’. Riley and Brenner register this trend in passing but do not adjust their schema in light of it. Some estimates point to a 33-point decline in Democrats’ advantage among non-white workers between 2012 and 2022: ‘Trump’s Kryptonite’.
15 The different timeline may partly be an effect of Riley and Brenner focusing not on immediate evidence of class dealignment—such as the contrasting political journeys of Hibbing and North Oaks—but on its more indirect impact on the nature of elections: the rotation of rule on the ‘narrowest of margins’.
16 Barker asks ‘why manufacturing profits should be especially important given that manufacturing currently accounts for only 11 per cent of value added in the us economy’. Nicholas Crafts, in a symposium about The Economic Global Turbulence, raised the same question: ‘it is really surprising to me that Brenner places so much emphasis on manufacturing profitability . . . Manufacturing is a small sector in today’s advanced economies and its profitability surely does not determine the rate of technological progress in services’: Nicholas Crafts, ‘Profits of Doom?’, nlr 54, Nov–Dec 2008, p. 60. One reason for manufacturing’s outsized and ongoing significance is its amenability to rapid productivity growth, which makes it what Benanav has termed a ‘major engine of overall growth’—perhaps an irreplaceable one.
17 The huge fiscal transfers during the pandemic, for example, not only further enriched the richest but also helped the poorest workers to cope with surging prices, as Cédric Durand has pointed out: ‘in spite of declining real wages, this facilitated a change in the dynamic of employment in favour of low-wage workers’: Cédric Durand, ‘The End of Financial Hegemony?’, nlr 138, Nov–Dec 2022. Except for claiming that Bidenomics, by fuelling inflation, has led to the Administration’s ‘deep unpopularity’, Riley and Brenner also do not consider the effects policies can have on the field of politics itself, however uncertain their macro-economic consequences—building or consolidating electoral alignments, altering the balance of class forces. Adam Tooze, for example, has described the ira, in its attempt ‘to build a new coalition of green capital, progressive environmentalism and organized labour’, as ‘real socio-political-economic engineering’: Adam Tooze, ‘The ira (& the Fed) Debate—Bringing Hegemony Back In’, Chartbook, 121, 17 June 2023.
18 Riley, ‘Drowning in Deposits’.
19 Mason, ‘Yes, Socialists Should Support Industrial Policy’.
20 Grey Anderson, ‘Strategies of Denial’, Sidecar, 15 June 2023.
21 Merchant, ‘The Economic Consequences of Neo-Keynesianism’.
22 In his analysis of the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, David Kotz defines a regime of accumulation as a set of institutions and ‘dominant ideas’ which promote capital accumulation by facilitating ‘a high rate of profit, growing total demand and long-run productive investments.’ Political capitalism, from this point of view, resembles more a protracted intensification of the ‘structural crisis’ of neoliberalism Kotz diagnoses than a new regime that has transcended it (‘the contradictions of each regime eventually bring about a structural crisis and a period of struggle over the restructuring of the political economy, leading to a new social structure of accumulation’): David Kotz, ‘End of the Neoliberal Era? Crisis and Restructuring in American Capitalism’, nlr 113, Sept–Oct 2018.
23 In Brenner’s Catalyst editorial, for example, the idea of ‘politically founded upward redistribution’, if not the term ‘political capitalism’ itself, crops up in a section headed ‘What is neoliberalism?’, and later Brenner writes that ‘In retrospect, the shift to neoliberalism has had two fundamental aspects—austerity on the one hand and politically driven direct upward redistribution on the other’: Brenner, ‘Introducing Catalyst’.
24 There is even some vacillation in ‘Seven Theses’—perhaps more verbal than substantive—about whether political capitalism constitutes a ‘new regime of accumulation’, or ‘a deep structural transformation in the regime of accumulation’, which might imply a mutation within the existing neoliberal one.
25 The mixed epistemological parentage of ‘political capitalism’ does not help. Branko Milanović uses it in Capitalism, Alone (2019) to refer to the Chinese economy under ccp command, while, as Barker notes, Gabriel Kolko defined it as belle époque ‘business control over politics’ in The Triumph of Conservatism (1963). Weber’s original coinage, describing corruption in Ancient Rome, muddies the water further.
26 Brenner, ‘Escalating Plunder’; emphasis added.
27 Thomas Meaney, ‘Fortunes of the Green New Deal’, nlr 138, Nov–Dec 2022.
28 ‘America’s Government Is Spending Lavishly to Revive Manufacturing’, Economist, 2 Feb 2023.
29 ‘News Release: Employment Projections—2021–2031’, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8 September 2022. See also Derek Brower, James Politi and Amanda Chu, ‘The New Era of Big Government: Biden Rewrites the Rules of Economic Policy’, Financial Times, 12 July 2023. On the job-creation potential of the original thrive agenda, a more ambitious precursor to the Build Back Better programme that included major investments in the care economy, aimed at supporting low-waged women and people of colour, see Robert Pollin, Shouvik Chakraborty and Jeanette Wicks-Lim, ‘Employment Impacts of Proposed us Economic Stimulus Programmes: Job Creation, Job Quality and Demographic Distribution Measures’, peri, UMass–Amherst, 4 March 2021.
30 Gopal Balakrishnan, ‘Speculations on the Stationary State’, nlr 59, Sept–Oct 2009, p. 6.
31 ‘America’s Government Is Spending Lavishly to Revive Manufacturing’, Economist.
32 Reviving American manufacturing competitiveness as the basis for a sturdier and more equitable kind of growth has been a key motif of Biden’s speeches. In September 2022, Biden told Detroit auto-makers that ‘we’re rebuilding an economy—a clean energy economy, and we’re doing it from the bottom up and the middle out. I’m so tired of trickle-down; I can’t stand it’. ‘My economic agenda has ignited a historic manufacturing boom here in America . . . American manufacturing is back.’ In December, at the site of the Taiwanese chip-maker tsmc’s planned plant in Arizona, Biden similarly spoke of ‘the broad story about the economy we’re building that works for everyone . . . one that grows from the bottom up and middle out, that positions Americans to win the economic competition of the 21st century’: ‘Remarks by President Biden on the Electric Vehicle Manufacturing Boom in America’, 14 September 2022 and ‘Remarks by President Biden on American Manufacturing and Creating Good-Paying Jobs’, 6 December 2022, both available at whitehouse.gov.
33 Riley, ‘Faultlines’.
34 ‘Dealignment? w/ Robert Brenner and Dylan Riley’, Jacobin Radio with Suzi Weissman.
35 Robert Brenner, ‘The Paradox of Social Democracy: The American Case’, in Mike Davis, Fred Pfeil and Mike Sprinker, eds, The Year Left: An American Socialist Yearbook, vol. 1, London 1985, p. 42.
36 In ‘Structure vs Conjuncture’, for example, Brenner argues that ‘the underlying reason for the Democrats’ precipitous retreat from a reform agenda’ after the collapse of profitability in the 1970s, ‘was that, with the economy gone sour, the corporations on a rampage, and the unions wilting under fire, they found themselves operating in a transformed socio-political environment’, later adding: ‘Just as the corporations and the Republicans had been obliged to adapt to a context defined by the liberalism of the Democrats’ New Deal–Great Society project and the residual power of the labour movement during the postwar boom era, so from the mid-70s the Democrats, in a period defined by economic stagnation and the ever-increasing power of business, would accommodate to the Republican-driven push to the right’: Robert Brenner, ‘Structure vs Conjuncture: The 2006 Elections and the Rightward Shift’, nlr 43, Jan–Feb 2007, pp. 43, 49.
37 Karp, ‘The Politics of a Second Gilded Age’.
38 In 2017, Brenner suggested this crisis of legitimacy ‘made for an enormous political opening’—‘Capitalism can no longer secure the positive adherence of working people to the system because it does not provide for their needs, and everyone knows that’—though he also foresaw capitalist states’ ramping up repression in the face of popular resistance, increasingly swapping hegemony for domination: Brenner, ‘Introducing Catalyst’.
39 ‘While states used to be terrified that market liquidity would dry up—a typical feature of crises from the 1990s on—the configuration is now reversed: the financial community is on a permanent public lifeline to ensure liquidity, smooth market clearing and provision of assets. This socialization of fictitious capital as the new normal is beginning to alter the balance of power between state and markets’: Cédric Durand, ‘The End of Financial Hegemony?’.
40 Robert Brenner, ‘The Problem of Reformism’, Against the Current, no. 43, March/April 1993. Wolfgang Streeck made a similar point in 2011, pointing to ‘an apparently irrepressible conflict between the two contradictory principles of allocation under democratic capitalism: social rights on the one hand and marginal productivity, as evaluated by the market, on the other’; ‘a lasting reconciliation between social and economic stability in capitalist democracies is a utopian project’: Wolfgang Streeck, ‘The Crises of Democratic Capitalism’, nlr 71, Sept–Oct 2011, p. 24.
41 Brenner ‘Introducing Catalyst’.
42 Balakrishnan sees cause for ‘some optimism’ in a new ‘Pikettyan’ conception of class as ‘a straightforwardly political category, even a fiscal one . . . with numerical designations of the rich—the top 1 or 10 per cent—and corresponding statistical conceptions of the working class or people.’ Among the advantages of this ‘more abstract’ conception of class struggle as being waged between the rich and the poor, Balakrishnan argues, is that it ‘does not depend upon strong footholds in the system of production’ or ‘older forms of industrial working-class organization and agency’. This might be particularly important in the era of political capitalism in which profits are increasingly acquired through political means rather than ‘profitable production’—a change which, one would assume, considerably weakens workers’ structural power, rooted in their ability to disrupt production and with it profits: Gopal Balakrishnan, ‘Swan Song of the Ultraleft’, Sublation, 30 May 2022.
43 Riley, ‘Drowning in Deposits’.
44 Streeck, ‘Crises of Democratic Capitalism’, p. 29.
45 Kenta Tsuda, ‘Naïve Questions on Degrowth’, nlr 128, Mar–Apr 2021, p. 130.