A great complementation to Burnham’s book is a long forgotten text of radical marxist thinker Bruno Ricci, which was published in 1939 and which both challenged Burnham, and outraged Stalin and the popular front - ‘The bureaucratization of the world’. It is looking at an elitist managerial class in the highly bueraucratized planned economy of the stalinist state capitalism of the Sovietunion in the 30’s and argues that the marxist model of social development became frozen in a stage of ‘bureaucratic collectivism’ and has even been creating a new class of managers - something I consider to have been proven right given the state and development of the soviet economy in the post-stalinist era and particularly in the eighties before leading to thew Wallstreet backed Yeltsin-style kleptocracy.

On a different note: Why someone, who obviously has familiarized himself with socialist ideas, would regurgitate the typical liberal bourgeois claptrap through disparaging wording like ….’ the elite thought control exercised by the Communist Party of China’… to characterize a society of a transitory marxist-lenisist framework of Socialism (with chinese characters) is beyond me and doing the otherwise excellent post a disservice.

Last but not least capitalism has been failing to generate steady growth for its middle class and creeping along to produce ever shortening crises of booms and slumps - probably now entering its final stage of devestating rent seeking neoliberalism and tech-feudaqlism, which - quoting Rosa Luxemburg - will either end in barbarism or socialism


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Feb 11·edited Feb 12

«a society of a transitory marxist-lenisist framework of Socialism (with chinese characters)»

I also think that was the intention, but it is not going to happen, because the CCP made a colossal mistake: currently virtually all party members, and I would guess all party and government officials, are heavily invested in property. The property market has become the most important PRC institution, not the party, not business, not capitalists, not the state, etc., because the personal fortunes of the governing class depend mostly on the property market. If Secretary Xi decided to "rectify" that, then the CCP would probably expel him.

And once the central institution of a country is the property market that means that property becomes the largest source of profits and the country enters decline, because property is wholly unproductive and entirely redistributive. The UK and some other countries today and in the past have gone down that path, and it is by now quite likely that the PRC will do the same. The PRC will become "Greater Hong-Kong".

Boris Johnson: «I think the vast majority will want to put their pots into the market with the greatest yield over the past 40 years – and that is property»

Chief Economist of the BoE: «Haldane believes that property is a better bet for retirement planning than a pension. “It ought to be pension but it’s almost certainly property,” he said. “As long as we continue not to build anything like as many houses in this country as we need to ... we will see what we’ve had for the better part of a generation, which is house prices relentlessly heading north.”»

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Everyone always says they're living in the last stage of capitalism and then the damn system keeps surviving.

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Why is there a fascination with the final stage of capitalism? Imperialism was supposed to be the final stage before socialism, but things didn't play out that way.

Whatever's happening now also isn't the final stage before socialism.

If I had to guess I'd say that the world is revolving between feudalism and capitalism. And that neither is a final stage before socialism.

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

Imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism due to the limitations of ressources, now in its modern day guise of financialization - differing from the days of Lenin in the degree of mobility of capital, i.e. seemingly unlimited. Proponents of the hyped end of history after the fall of the Sovietunion - advocating unchangeble forever rule of capitalism - found their unfounded narrative turning out to be wishful liberal thinking, while imperialism through globalization and the accompanying financialization climbed unprecedented heights. There are no no clear cut phases in economic and political cycles, but capitalism is clearly hitting walls on several fronts - ecologically and in terms of economic and social inequalities - more severe and faster consecutive crises to purify a fundamentally broken system are speaking a clear language. We are right in the middle of late stage capitalism’s imperialism holding the economic development of the global south hostage and deindustrializing developed western societies.

We are witnessing a reshuffling of the predominant imperialistic world order, politically and economically towards industrialization. That was the development path Europe that not just Marx saw as the road that naturally would lead to Socialism - take China as an example as the continuation of the rise of the Sovietunion from a backwards peasant country to the second biggest economy in the world in a span of just 50 years. It is in fact a historical stage of development growing out of property and profit driven commercialized societies, yet it is not a straight path. Although industrialization also has ecological limits, a socialist planed economy is the way out of the dilemma, contrary to a capitalst economy, centrally planned by greed and profit driven Wallstreet and banks, who think in financial quarters, current values of future cash flows and asset price inflation.

Since natural ressources are limited while greed and neoliberal demand are spiraling out of control, it is the capitalist endgame. The anomaly of capitalism and particularly its neoliberal mode is that it sees the finite commons - the atmosphere, water, nature, the planet - the ecology as a whole as infinite ressources, and its inherent laws of capital accumulation and market based competition demand limitless exploitation, while it regards theoretically unlimited ressources of knowledge like patents, intellectual property rights or machine based algorithms - capable of being copied infinite number of times without a loss, as finite and demands monopoly rights for profit over it, while it is pure predatory economic rent, by creating artificial scarcity of limitless resources. Hunger exists although there is enough food produced in the world - there is just too many people who can not pay for it. Vaccines can not be distributed for low profit returns. Monopoly rights, war, sanctions, trade protection and artificially created scarcity of commodities are the main ingredients of Imperialism. We are seeing more of that than ever before. Imperialism’s basic mechanisms haver not changed since the days of Lenin but altered its forms of appereance. Speaking of a capitalist future is warming over the fairy tale of the end of history. There is no future for humanity but a resasonable mode of production and a fair sharing and distribution of resources, products and knowledge. That is abhorrent to capitalism and inherently means whatever form of socialism or communism.

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Exactly. There is no future for humanity if it continues like this. So there will be some wars, diseases and famine. Which will trim down the number of humans enough to make the whole game viable again.

Or great again, which some people might prefer. :-)

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Burnham and Shumpeter described well the euthanasia of capitalism that was under way with Keynesianism in Europe and US. If Keynes said that a balance was to be found between "economic efficiency, social justice, and freedom", Freedom was always the read-headed stepchild of the utilitarian and populist agenda.

Hayek's made a remarkable pivot to freedom, and further authors like Orwell, Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman influenced people that matter. Here is a review of the other major book of Burnham, addressing the question of elites and freedom: https://polsci.substack.com/p/the-machiavellians-defenders-of-freedom

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«John Kenneth Galbraith’s “The new industrial state” could be seen as an extension or elaboration of Burnham’s original thesis. Raymond Aron at the same time also wrote about the industrial societies where the type of ownership (state or private) was less important, and managers run the system [...] Technocracy, in the language of the 1960s, would rule. [...] The managerial society, according to Burnham, can exist only when the ownership of most means of productions is vested in the state »

So our blogger has made a strong case that Burnham's argument was about *state* managerialism, but Galbraith made an argument about *private* managerialism, not *state* managerialism, and that argument is still important:

«[...] The American dominant class is imbued by a strong capitalist spirit, it defends its property, and controls the government.»

Many USA businesses are listed on stock exchanges and their ownership is diffused and passive, so they are controlled by a narrow managerial class. This managerial class is indeed “imbued by a strong capitalist spirit, it defends its property” but *their own capital* (which is their position in the business, not their investment in it) and *their personal property*, not that of their anonymous shareholders. Many writers have noticed that is not so different from state capitalism. This said there are still large chunks of USA businesses that are privately owned by a small and active shareholder base, therefore what “controls the government” is a mix of managerial class and owner class lobbies, the "oligarchs".

Our blogger argument that Burnham's definition was limited strictly to state capitalism seems right to me, but my guess is that he seems to agree with that, which seems a mistake to me. Even that bearded guy from Trier had noticed that in his time "shareholder capitalism" would lead in many cases to a separation of ownership and control, and he is quoted thus in this interesting article which I found accidentally:


“A sort of industrial kings have been created, whose power stands in inverse ratio to their responsibility – they being responsible only to the amount of their shares, while disposing of the whole capital of the society – forming a more or less permanent body, while the mass of shareholders is undergoing a constant process of decomposition and renewal, and enabled, by the very disposal of the joint influence and wealth of the society, to bribe its single rebellious members. Beneath this oligarchic Board of Directors is placed a bureaucratic body of the practical managers and agents of the society ... It is the immortal merit of Fourier to have predicted this form of modern industry, under the name of Industrial Feudalism.”

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«Many USA businesses are listed on stock exchanges and their ownership is diffused and passive, so they are controlled by a narrow managerial class. [...] "shareholder capitalism"»

Often I reckon that "capitalism" is a term used too fuzzily, and my understanding of a better use of the term is:

* "Capitalism" strictly speaking is the mode of production in which workers do not own singularly the means of production. Whoever owns them, has political power, exploits or gets exploited, etc.

* Most "capitalism" initially used to be "private" capitalism, in which one or a very few individuals owned privately the means of production in a firm.

* Then that changed into "company" capitalism, in which a corporation of individuals would own the means of production.

* The that changed into "socialized" capitalism, in which generic owners like investment funds would become the shareholders of those corporations.

The marxian thesis if I remember well was that "socialized" capitalism, by making ownership of the means of production diffuse among people unrelated to each business, would then more easily lead to "social capitalism" also known as "socialism" where ownership of the means of production would pass to the state as if it were the "investment fund" of all workers, and then later there would become "communal capitalism" also known as "communism" as abundance of capital would allow the means of production to be communally available as if commons as its ownership would cease to matter (the means of production would cease to be scarce "economic goods") and the state would consequently "wither".

What actually happened in large part is that capitalism became increasingly "managerial" and "financialized" as the point of effective ownership (control) of many of the means of production passed first to industrial executives and then to finance executives.

Which is nothing new, it is one of the two aspects of the ancient "sharecropper problem" that is is of the "agent-principal conflict" where inevitably most agents try to replace their principals to become principals themselves, by crook or hook.

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Excellent and thoughtful review as always. My experience so far has been that anyone who uses such an ill-defined buzzword as "wokeism" as if it encompasses a singular ideological project is not someone to be taken seriously. Whatever reactionaries mean by the term, they can and should say explicitly rather than hiding behind vagaries.

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Inasmuch as I appreciate the sentiment here, the same "ill-definition" afflicts countless uses of "liberalism", "democracy" and "socialism".

Which puts the "woke" label into good company and calls for "wokeism" to be treated with at least as much seriousness.

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Are you saying that "wokeism" is an ideological movement on par with liberalism, democracy, and socialism? There may be arguments over those other terms, but i would argue that any serious person would define those terms when using them, or refer to a common definition. Unless you define wokeism here, I would lump you into the group I just mentioned.

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I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["wokeism"], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.

Generally speaking, those who pretend that "wokeism" is nothing more than a reactionary "buzzword" are either "woke" themselves or fellow-travelers. So that's the group I would lump you into.

From the perspective of an old new leftist, "woke" is most definitely a rising ideological star that seems likely to win its way into the hearts of the PMC and stay there long after liberalism, socialism and democracy have been flushed down the toilet of history.

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Thank you for an interesting synopsis of Burnham’s main work.

It may be worth mentioning that before reaching the conclusion that industrial societies were evolving toward managerialism, Burrnham was a Marxist of Trotskyist persuasion. By the time he wrote The Managerial Revolution, he had however rejected not only the praxis of Marxism but its gnoseology and economic theory:

I reject, as you know, the "philosophy of Marxism," dialectical materialism. …

The general Marxian theory of "universal history", to the extent that it has any empirical content, seems to me disproved by modern historical and anthropological investigation.

Marxian economics seems to me for the most part either false or obsolete or meaningless in application to contemporary economic phenomena. Those aspects of Marxian economics which retain validity do not seem to me to justify the theoretical structure of the economics.

Although his political predictions proved shortly spectacularly wrong and even the more successful idea of convergence between the socialist system of the Soviet Union and the capitalist system of the US was put to rest by the collapse of the Soviet system and the globalisation of capitalism, the focus on the working of (great) organisations relative to that of markets is shared not only by the later (today dated) works of Galbraith but also the still relevant of Herbert Simon.

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It is always those reactionary defenders of market capitalism who have never read a single line of Capital, who lash out the strongest against Marx. The way capitalism has turned out says something completely different. But since your polemics are merely stating empty stereotypes of vulgar mainstream economic views where anything ‘seems to you’ disproved, wrong, false, obsolete, meaningless etc. you do not even pass as a bourgeois critic of Marxism or Socialism

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