What is decomposition?

Decomposition of the global economic, political, and social system surrounds us and affects all of social life, from international to personal relations. Understanding decomposition and its scope is the first step to being able start overcoming it here and now.

Decomposition is what we call the simultaneous destruction of the two main institutions of current society: the state and the market. Neoliberalism is associated almost exclusively with the erosion of the welfare state, but in economies with overscaled businesses and highly concentrated capital, deregulation can’t be done on principle without hopelessly hurting the market. In fact, while the neoliberal state is a state that is fleeing from its responsibility for social cohesion, the neoliberal market is a market with a phobia of the concept of competition that describes liberal economic models: financial deregulation goes hand in hand with laws made to suit new sectors that are attractive to investment, and social cuts serve to pay direct economic rents to big businesses. Without any sense of irony, agreements between oligopolists are called free competition, and barriers to entry are called equality of opportunities. For the immense majority of people, the State is becoming a weaker and weaker guarantee, without the market being presented at any time as an alternative or refuge. The market that current generations know has never been anything but an alien, adverse, and inaccessible space. And with a concentrated market and a self-marginalized and captured state, which has become a big factory of economic rents for overscaled capital, the result could only be an exponential increase in inequality.

Decomposition goes far beyond the direct consequences of the State’s abandonment of the tools of social cohesion. It is the form that life takes under a captured State–from “crony capitalism” to copyright and from corruption to the “tax on the sun”–and a market concentrated on global oligopolies and local rent-seeking monopolies–from the recentralization of the Internet to “Big Pharma” and from telcos to electric companies.

But decomposition is not something characteristic of certain countries or policies, although certain policies can accelerate it and each country experiences it to different degrees and in different ways. Decomposition is a global historical stage, because all societies are woven together through a single world market.

In the most affected places on the periphery, where the State was more fragile and the market was never developed inclusively, decomposition became obvious when social sectors expelled from the market and abandoned by the State started to reconnect in more and more places by new organizations: gangs, “commandos,” and drug organizations in the Americas, and para-States in Asia and Africa. These organizations are the decomposed expression of a market defined by networks, traffickers, and global capital, but affirm their kinship and their desire to provide continuity with the State through the monopoly on violence and the development of primitive but systematic social services.

While the two characteristic institutions of capitalism–the State and the market–have been both agents and victims of decomposition, the third great social institution, community, has not escaped, either. In fact, it is most likely the space that has been made the most mundane and painful over the last 30 years. The destruction of the fabric of social relationships and community bonds has not been so great since the “great transformation,” the great wave of commodification that installed industrial capitalism in the eighteenth century.

This dimension of decomposition is doubtlessly the most dangerous because it directly affects the possibilities of overcoming decomposition itself. As we see in the following graphic, while in the ’70s, more than 60% of US citizens of working age believed that could trust “most people,” in 2012, the number of people who said so barely exceeded 20% of those surveyed.

This erosion of the interpersonal basis of human relations translates to a culture of pessimism, of “every man for himself,” of the gloom before the catastrophe, of anguish, of the glorification of individualism and isolation that express the impossibility of thinking that the socioeconomic system can offer any desirable future for the human race.

And the truth is that’s right. The current system does not offer a desirable future. It’s hard to think that we can overcome the decomposition of the system without overcoming the system. So, we need to be able to see in the present beyond what is dominant today to go beyond defensive reactions and build here and now, step by step, the foundations of a new world.

Original post and this translation are in the public domain

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