Saturday, 3 October 2009
National Bourgeoisies and Bildungburgertums
In traditional Marxist thinking, the National Bourgeoisie are the native merchants who supply local markets rather than the evil compradors who are involved in International Trade through a tie-up with big Multi-Nationals. The Marxists favoured an alliance with the National Bourgeoisie because they believed that they would be hostile to the (Western) Metropolitan Capitalist powers and harbour a desire to industrialize rapidly so as to cease their Nation's humiliating dependence on foreign imports.
The Bildungsburgertum- the 'educated middle class'- were sprung from the same origins as the National Bourgeoisie. Their big shtick was import substituition with reference to ideas, intellectual capital, rather than manufactured goods. Their usefulness, to the National Bourgeoisie was in building bridges to the masses- whom they proclaimed the living incarnation of not incorrigible ignorance (as appeared to be the case) but the apotheosis of truly transcendental knowledge- and their seducing the yokels with a romantic, emotionally highly coloured, chauvinistic, irredentist, nationalism whose great utility was that it valorised and increased opportunities for the peasants' favourite past-times- viz. gang-rape and arson (Murder being viewed more as an obligation than a recreation in traditional societies).
Taken together, the National Bourgeoisie and the Bildungsburgertum, have a unique capacity, even under conditions of stasis, even without exogenous shocks- to really fuck up their own countries big time- economically and politically- as well as contributing to regional instability and establishing a sort of permanent constituency for World War.
Why? Because the 'World Historic Mission' of both classes is based on mindless mendacity, a heartless lie.
Home produced sugar really isn't morally better than imported sugar- it's just sugar. Who produces the sugar should be decided by the principle of comparative advantage. That way, if the terms of trade are right (a condition the free working of the market might occasionally ensure) everybody has more sugar than they did before. This is called the gains from trade.
The National Bourgeoisie are in favour of home produced sugar because they want a closed market they can exploit. Now, it's no good saying, "Ah! Well if we have a National Planning Directorate to impose discipline then surely an import substitution strategy can be allocatively efficient in some long run (i.e. mythical) sense." Why? Because the rejoinder is- if you really have people who can enforce discipline and make plans fuck you need the Bourgeiosie for? Kick em to the curb.
The answer, I suppose would be- 'we need the Bourgeoisie for capital and management expertise and I dunno liberal democracy blah blah.'
Experience shows that isn't the case. The National Bourgeoisies take capital from goverments, mis-manage the industries they set up (taking advantage of their monopoly status in local markets) ignore any rules they don't like- and still end up worse off- in terms of rates of return- than they would have been under competitive discipline.
Import substitution under these conditions- i.e.with capital rationing, barriers to entry, etc- isn't incentive compatible. The leftists may speak of Agency Capture as the root of the problem but the truth is that any Bureaucratic regime is going to give rise to a class of fixers, a culture of fraud, from which, it is true, Ambanis might Phoenix like arise- but not as upholders of the haut bourgeois cultural values for which (truth be told) the Leftists alone have nostalgia.
When it comes to ideas, however, the dangers of import substitution are much graver, thus rendering- counter-intuitively- the National Bildungburgertums even more dangerous than their Bourgeois cousins. How so? Why?
Well, put it this way;- why use a foreign operating system which wasn't designed with your needs in mind- which has a lot of bloatware leading to slow startup- and which only works well half of the time when, instead,if you are any sort of patriot, you can purchase, for just a few dollars more, a 100 % domestically produced operating system- designed by organically farmed lesbian goats- which is guaranteed to totally shred your computer from a distance of 15 yards- especially seeing as you would have already had the good sense to swap your motherboard for a brick of weed and if that isn't a good enough reason for not bringing in your project on time, what is?
Put another way, the substitution of home-grown nonsense for foreign nonsense is dangerous. Why? Well by crediting the guy who first came up with an idea- even if he was a 'dead white male'- you gain the enormous advantage of being able to track back and see what mistakes he made. Why he was wrong. To reverse engineer intellectual capital may seem a way to fix bugs- it isn't. It's disabling History's firewall is all it is.
Though some people- like Kirshner in Argentina a few years ago- are mewing for a return of the National Bourgeoisie to save us from the horrors of neo-liberalism- what does that actually mean? No doubt, the Argentinian Moon is better than the American Moon but business is still just business, work is still just work, sugar is still just sugar and ultimately History still just History.
It has nothing to do with your adolescent sexual frustrations or childhood inferiority complexes- in other words precisely the stuff that fuels the Bildungsburgertum. In the same way that Art is what happens when the Artist, briefly, escapes his pathology, forgets his 'project'- why he has to be an Artist- who exactly is on his shit-list; so too is Development something which happens when you're not talking about it but cultivating your own garden. Indeed, and with equal truth, the same might be said for International Peace, International Prosperity and International something else which begins with P like I dunno mebbe under-Pants-reinforcing (an important problem according to the B.B.C's Jeremy Paxman).
In thinking about a big country like India we have to add a further twist- there is a State, an anti-State, an anti-anti-State and so on. Even community, every class interest, every mode of production- no matter how narrowly defined has a double, a shadow, a 'black' component. Indeed, the degree to which we belong to 'Civil Society' often depends on the degree to which we have a countervailing connection with its opposite. In these circumstances only the ignorant are savants, only the philistines are poets, and only the expats the true inheritors of the grand traditions of the Indian Bildungburgertum.
Order your copy now of my epic novel- 'War & Piss'- a study of the impact of the Napoleonic Wars on my chronic bed wetting in early Nineteenth Century Russia.