From The Activist.org: http://theactivist.org/blog/the-global-crisis-of-legitimacy
The world is not simply in the midst of a deep economic slump. This is but one aspect of the crisis of legitimacy that confronts almost all of the political and economic institutions that comprise the capitalist world system today. The ongoing revolt in the Arab world against political corruption and socioeconomic exclusion is unquestionably the most dramatic manifestation of this phenomenon, but the crisis of legitimacy is not confined to that region alone. The grievances that have fueled street protests and revolutionary movements from Morocco to Iran are shared in greater or lesser degrees by people all around the globe – the indignados of Puerta del Sol, the aganaktismenoi of Syntagma Square, students and public sector strikers in the U.K., and the hundreds of thousands of protesters who, for a brief time, turned Madison into a Midwestern version of Tahrir Square.
In her invaluable 2003 book Forces of Labor, Beverly Silver identifies what she calls the “fundamental contradiction of historical capitalism,” the tension between the system’s drive to attain maximum profitability and its need to maintain legitimacy in the eyes of those it oppresses and exploits. She writes:
One type of crisis can be resolved only by measures that eventually bring about the other type of crisis. This alternation creates a tendency for a periodic oscillation between historical phases characterized by a move toward the de-commodification of labor and the establishment of new social compacts and phases characterized by the re-commodification of labor and the breaking of old social compacts.
This passage captures at a somewhat abstract level the transition from the postwar Keynesian settlement between labor and capital to the neoliberal regime that governs the global political economy today. By reorganizing itself politically and smashing the power of the organized working class and its allied political parties in the 1970s, the capitalist class was able to restore profitability and consolidate its political power. But in doing so, it also sowed the seeds of the contemporary economic crisis and the crisis of legitimacy that the slump has triggered. Capital’s attack on the working class has recoiled upon itself. It lost sight of the fact that the system’s stability depends on the existence of a working class with a modicum of power in the workplace, in politics, and in the labor market. In bringing the working class to its present state of abjection, the system has placed barriers in the way of its own growth. And when growth slows to a crawl, the system’s claim to legitimacy is called into question.
Continue reading at: http://theactivist.org/blog/the-global-crisis-of-legitimacy