Capitalism and the American Political Ideal

By Edward S. Greenberg | Go to book overview

ern Leviathan are unconvincing, even untenable. Each is devoid of a sensitivity to the complexities of historical change, to the necessary linkage of economy, society, and politics; each tends toward the pronouncement of fixed verities, unconnected to the particularities of American history, failing to recognize that change is the only constant in that story. None of the alternative theoretical approaches understands that the problems and possibilities generated by a dynamic capitalist market economy are the raw material of social processes and the essential building blocks of public policy, the set of decisions taken by political leaders which, taken as a whole, defines the shape of dominant policy regimes. Each has virtually nothing to say about the pre-eminent role played by big business in the creation of big government in the United States; each sees the country's giant corporations as operating outside the political process, or even as victims whose freedom of action is improperly violated by government.

What I have tried to do is sketch a picture that incorporates some of the more perceptive observations of these competing views but that is also sensitive to the richness, flux, and contradictions of historical change and to the interrelatedness of the economic, the social, and the political. I hope, in the process, to have demonstrated convincingly the continued usefulness of the Marxian perspective for understanding American capitalism and the role of government within it. It is only from such a perspective, in my view, that the ongoing reality of poverty, social-class inequality, corporate concentration, foreign interventions, and government bias toward property can be coherently understood. Furthermore, it is only from the Marxian perspective that the underlying unity of the relationship between property and government, notwithstanding the historical changes of capitalist society, remains comprehensible. It saves us in the end from the delusion that capitalism has transcended itself to become a new social form, free from the limitations of its predecessors.

-222-

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