Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Since (Some of) You Asked…

My various recent posts gesturing at the relationship of capitalism and regulation have prompted a couple of people to ask whether I’m basically just talking about the concept of “organised capitalism”, “state capitalism” or similar. I’m not quite ready to write about this, but I’ll tuck a quick answer below the fold, as a sort of promissory note on a response for those who have been asking…

My quick answer is no – mainly because the “state/organised capitalism” concepts (1) suggest that pressures for standardisation and regularisation were a relatively late development, compared to the historical emergence of… er… unmodified capitalism, (2) are often still associated with an understanding of capitalism as primarily a mode of distribution, and (3) generally view regulation or the state primarily as means for picking up the pieces after market failure, fending off class conflict, or performing some similar “extrinsic” task, rather than as institutions or practices integral to capitalism as a social form.

What I’m after, really, is something more Weberian – something that captures the degree to which what is distinctive about capitalism is the unusual orientation to rational decision-making and future planning, which drives for a level of predictability difficult to procure without overaching governmental structures and regulations… In other words, I view overarching forms of regulation as quite integral to capitalism, rather than as in conflict with it, or as stop-gap measures to offset the worst of its side effects.

I’ll have to write more on this (obviously), but just thought I’d at least toss out this clarification, for what it’s worth…

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