Banking Enquiry – An Enquiry into what exactly?

August 2, 2015 at 9:23 am | Posted in Articles | Leave a comment

The current Banking Enquiry reveals well the intellectual limits of current thinking. It exposes once more the dominance of the hegemonic discourse of capitalism and neo-liberalism. How is this shown?

It doesn’t strike anyone that the economic and financial crisis was caused by the system itself. It functioned exactly as it was meant to do. After all, it was a free market, characterised by competition, with suppliers responding to demands, little regulation and plenty of capital available for ‘investment’. What could go wrong? According to the model, the logic of this should lead to optimum outcomes.

But it did not. Why not? This is where the search for answers becomes interesting. If the system cannot be wrong then there must be a failure elsewhere. The answer is morality. Thus, we have ‘greedy’ bankers, ‘corrupt’ politicians, and ‘lazy’ regulators. It all went wrong because of a whole series of moral failures. If our bankers were not ‘greedy’ and our politicians not ‘corrupt’, then the system would have functioned.

Therefore, we have the search for the moral villains who can be identified and castigated publicly in the stocks of enquiries such as this. Once we root them out, all will then be well again.

So much of our politics and media is rooted in this infantile and naïve analysis. It’s not moral failure that’s to blame – it’s the system. Indeed, the individuals and corporations behaved perfectly rationally in accordance with the logic of the system.

The system of profit-maximisation is the problem (the incessant need for capital to reproduce). Until this is confronted, crises and break-downs are inherent. Growing social inequality and ecological devastation are the inevitable consequences.

The Taoiseach’s recent appearance typified this intellectual vacuity. What was his analysis of the economic breakdown? Answer – Fianna Fail. What is troubling here is manifold. First, he could take no responsibility for the failures of all the political parties to correctly analyse and understand the system within which we organise our economy and society. Second, he genuinely seems not to understand the nature of the very system he is presiding over. And third, he reverts at this time of peril and human suffering to the puerile game of bashing the other party – ‘it’s not us, it’s them.’ The old game of politics designed to entertain and befuddle. And Fine Gael are surprised the latest opinion poll shows them 5% down?

The key to bringing about real and radical change is to understand our system. Capitalism is doing precisely what it’s designed to do. There can be no opposition to it if no-one can think outside its categories. This is exactly the finding the Banking Enquiry will not make. That Capitalism itself was the cause of the crash is simply beyond thinking.

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