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“the restoration and reconstitution of class power”

Monday, February 16, 2009

As I was reading the “Introduction to the 2006 Verso Edition” of The Limits to Capital: New and Fully Updated Edition by David Harvey I thought I would share this nice passage with you all as it has to do with why globalization (the expansion of capital) has taken hold and what it has done:

The political shift – the restoration and reconstitution of class power – is of such significance that it bears some more detailed commentary.  Class power is, in in itself, evasive because it is a social relation that eludes direct measurement.  But one visible and necessary (though by no means sufficient) condition for its exercise is the accumulation of income and wealth in a few hands.  The existence of such accumulations and concentrations was being widely noted in UN reports by the mid-1990s.  The net worth of the 358 richest people in the world was to be ‘equal to the combined income of the poorest 45 per cent of the world’s population – 2. 3 billion people.’  The world’s 200 richest people ‘more than doubled their net worth in the four years to 1998, to more than $1 trillion,’ so that ‘the assets of the world’s top three billions were more than the combined GNP of all least developed countries and their 600 million people.’  These trends have accelerated, albeit unevenly.  The share of the national income taken by the top 1 per cent of income earners in the US more than doubled between 1980 and 2000 while that of the top 0.1 per cent more than tripled.  ‘The income of the 99th percentile rose 87 percent’ between 1972 and 2001 while that of ‘the 99.9th percentile rose 497 percent.’  In 1985 the combined wealth of the Forbes 400 richest people in the US ‘was $238 billion’ with ‘an average net worth of $600 million,’ adjusted for inflation.  By 2005, their average net worth was $2.8 billion and their collective assets amounted to $1.13 trillion – ‘more than the gross domestic product of Canada.’  Much of this shift has been due to rapidly rising rates of executive compensation.  ‘In 1980 the average chief executive made about $1.6 million a year in today’s dollars’ but by 2004 this had risen to $7.6 million.  The tax policies of the Bush administration scandalously increase these disparities.  Most of the benefits of tax cuts go to the top 1 per cent of income earners and the most recent tax bill delivers tax relief of approximately ‘$20 to those at the center of the income distribution‘ while ‘the top tenth of 1 percent, whose average income is $5.3 million, would save an average of $82,415. (xi-xii)

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