What is a capitalist plutocracy
If one were to portray the closest employees of the US President as a club of rich, super-rich and mega-rich in a feature film, one would have to be accused of bias. But the reality seems like copied from a crude comic for the little critic of capitalism. Entourage and cabinet mix plutocracy and nepotism in a somewhat disreputable way. Powerful and monetary resources flow into one another in a confusing and unsavory way. The impression arises that finance capitalism, but also the old industrial capitalism (auto and coal and steel industry), have now made the executive of US democracy entirely at their service. This president was mainly elected by the economic center, a phenomenon that the sowi-online blog Poor, Rich and the Middle - What Happens to Democracy in America? discussed. Political and economic things are never that simple.
Now one should not be able to infer their politics directly from the large incomes and assets of politicians and consultants; that would be all too measly materialism. But there is already a problem behind it: What about the relationship between business and politics, or, for our circumstances, more precisely: with the topic of capitalism and democracy? And beyond that: What influence do the capitalist elites have on the democratic elites and on the politics of democracy? Are capitalism and democracy compatible at all?
Germany doesn't know capitalism?
Some may argue that we in Germany don't need to be interested in these questions, there is real democracy and a social market economy here, capitalism has been abolished since Ludwig Erhard. Democracy and market economy, so the common opinion of many since Adenauer and Erhard, are two sides of the same coin.
Both are obviously wrong. In reality, market economies get along quite well with managed democracies, autocracies, plutocracies and one-party regimes. The diagnosis “There is a market economy” only applies to part of economic reality. A significant part of economic output is not generated through markets, but in private households, private and public companies and networks. A large part of the economic activities is not coordinated via markets, but via group-internal product chains and supplier structures, social relationships and networks as well as hierarchy and arrangement as well as the exercise of power and violence.
Furthermore, the market economy and capitalism are by no means the same. The business ethicist Peter Ulrich discusses this briefly in “Capitalism? Yes, but please for everyone! ”. In her contribution “Capitalism or Market Criticism”, for example, the economic sociologist Andrea Maurer describes “market capitalism” as a central sociological research topic (in this., Ed., Handbuch der Wirtschaftssoziologie, Wiesbaden 2017, 571-591). From a historical perspective, too, one has to distinguish between market economy and capitalism, as the French historian Fernand Braudel has shown for the European economy from the 15th to the 18th century (Social History of the 15th-18th Centuries, 3 vols., Munich 1985 -1986).
Which capitalism, which democracy?
Capitalism and capitalism are not the same either. For example, the historian Jürgen Kocka and the political scientist Wolfgang Merkel differentiate between organized capitalism, whose social democratic variants they include the German form of the social market economy, from the neoliberal capitalism that prevails today, which emphasizes market mechanisms, capitalist self-regulation and partial dismantling of the welfare state (capitalism and Democracy: Capitalism is not democratic and democracy is not capitalist. In: Merkel, ed., Democracy and Crisis, Wiesbaden 2015, 307-337).
We find capitalism, market economy and welfare state in very different combinations and forms in real terms; empirically, all three are obviously not mutually exclusive. Their relationships and their consequences have long been the subject of social and historical research and discussion.
Is capitalism compatible with democracy?
This also applies to the relationship between capitalism and democracy. Are capitalism and democracy compatible? What is the significance of capitalism for democracy? The conference report “Quite the best enemies. The tension-filled relationship between democracy and capitalism ”by the Schader Foundation. In his lecture, the sociologist Wolfgang Streeck diagnosed a “decoupling of neoliberal capitalism from democracy”. For some, the antidote to global capitalism seems - of all things! - to be a step back to the nation state. For example, FAZ business journalist Rainer Hank relies on the nation state in his article “Democracy and Capitalism - Pretty Best Rivals”, because “no other institution is better able than the nation state to 'tame' global capitalism. It is doubtful whether governments, citizens, companies, banks and borrowers in Greece, Italy, Portugal or Iceland can agree so easily.
Jürgen Kocka also takes part in this debate with his lecture “Capitalism is not democratic and democracy is not capitalist - crises and opportunities” (2015, 1 hour 12 min, to be heard here).
On the one hand, Kocka emphasizes that free constitutional orders have always guaranteed the limited independence of business and politics in order to guarantee freedom. On the other hand, capitalism must be socially and democratically embedded. Capitalism and democracy are affine insofar as competition and election play an important role in both, and they can therefore support one another. Capitalism comes in very different varieties and is compatible with very different political systems.
Capitalism: ubiquitous outside, taboo in the curriculum
In economic realities and political debates, the topic of capitalism and democracy has been booming again since the so-called financial crisis (e.g. here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and in many places elsewhere. But in the curricula And in the curriculum-compliant teaching of the social science domain of our schools, capitalism does not appear. I have already criticized this in the sowi-online blog "The capitalist economy of society - and the silence of the school." The important and difficult relationship between capitalism and democracy becomes eloquent from the ministerial level of culture silent.
The fact is: in the curriculum and in the media, students are kept away from dealing with a central issue of the present (what teachers do in their practice is another matter). Therefore, the learners lack the basic social science basics to orientate themselves in business and politics today and tomorrow and to interfere effectively in the public debates.
Education policy, which cannot often enough demand more participation from young people, denies it the knowledge it needs to competently discuss a crucial question of the future. Presumably she shies away from the political and public confrontation with the lobby groups of the capitalist elite, which she expects if she were to make the controversies about current capitalism a compulsory subject in schools.
But anyone who pushes the complex of capitalism into the thematic taboo zone of schools, whose call for political participation remains hypocritical. Teachers who care about the future of learners and democracy have always not put up with it. They also teach what is on the agenda, not just what the curriculum is supposed to do. Your students can really learn something for life.
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