‘keynesianism, monetarism, and the crisis of the state’ by simon clarke reading group

The Commune is organising a reading group on ‘Keynesianism, monetarism, and the crisis of the state’ by Simon Clarke 

The communist critique challenges the capitalist separation of economics from politics, the market from the state and reveals that both the capitalist state and the power of the boss rest on the same class relation. While many Marxists are wrong to think that the state can be seized by the working class or can be used in service of the class struggle, equally many anarchists are wrong to think that the state is not a location of class struggle or that class struggle happens outside the state. The state is a product of capitalist class relations and as such is an area of class contestation.

On a trivial basis this seems obvious. We all opposed the cuts to the EMA and the increase in university fees. We are all struggling against the public sector cuts. We know this is important and we know that it is class struggle. But what is its political content? It is not the task of communists to simply fight to defend the welfare state, so how do we develop a political practice that points beyond the current struggle?

We in ‘the commune’ have tried to address this by returning to the debates that happened within the Conference of Socialist Economists (CSE) in the 1970s and 80s. (See for example the two articles by Oleg Resin ‘no escape from theory: remarks on the movement against cuts’ and ‘bristol anti-cuts: in and for the state?’) The CSE debates occurred in the 1970s and 80s during a previous wave of struggles over the welfare state. From the expansion of the welfare state in the late 60s in response to working class organisation to its subsequent withdrawal in the late 70s and 80s, the CSE theorised the states role in capitalist reproduction.

One major work that arose from the CSE during the 1980s was Simon Clarke’s almost forgotten ‘Keynesianism, Monetarism and the Crisis of the State’. Starting from the capitalist state’s emergence, this work follows its historical development and relation to money through the 19th and 20th century up to the 1980s. By drawing out the historical class nature of this relation Clarke is able to present a unique analysis of monetarism avoiding the pitfalls of economism and voluntarism.

‘Keynesianism, Monetarism and the Crisis of the State’ can be roughly divided into two sections. Following an introduction that places it within the debates regarding Monetarism in the literature, the first half of the book is taken up by a theoretically consideration of relation between money and the state. This theoretical discussion is rooted historically with reference to the emergence of the liberal state in Britain. The second half of the book considers the historical development of the class relation going from the mid 19th century up to the 1980s.

Continuing our previous engagement with the work of the CSE, some members of ‘the commune’ is organizing an online reading group of this work. We will read chapters 1-5 between now and Friday May 6th and we will read chapters 6-12 over the following weeks.

The book is available online here and the reading group is happening on libcom here.