image of clinton



Key figures:

Major texts: Critical:

Endogenous development, immaterial labour R. Reich (Secretary of Labour in Clinton's administration), Ronald Coase (Noble Prize), Paul Romer (professor of economics at Berkeley University) Capital and Affects. The Politics of the Language Economy by Christian Marazzi Christian Marazzi 'Il posto dei calzini', Bollati Boringheri 1999. The Work of Nations, by Robert Reich

Clintonomics is the name ascribed to a set of policies implemented during Clinton's presidency in the US. It is important for us because its main theory (expounded in The work of Nations) recognises the need to reconstruct the economy following a 12 year period of neoliberal policies. Robert Reich recognises the centrality of immaterial labour for the reconstruction of a political and social class that seemed to have fallen out of control by voting for Perrot. Immaterial labour is defined by Reich as the activity of the 'manipulation of symbols'. This he recognises as central for a state intervention that with Clinton takes the form of an economic and political engineering aimed at circumscribing the conflictual situation the US found itself in. Clintonomics puts industrial politics back on the agenda and recognises the inefficacy of deregulation for economic growth. Reich's theory puts forward the idea of 'externailities'. It starts from the assumption that interactions amongst economic agents do not necessarily have to go through the market.

Externalities (elements external to the market) can be of a positive or a negative kind. Positive externalities are things such as professional training and 'education'. Negative ones are for instance the effects on the environment. These externalities represent added costs or benefits that are not included in market transactions and are 'regulated' by the collectivity. It is here, in the regulation of externalities, that the State can find legitimation for its active intervention. Once the inefficacy of deregulation is recognised in economic terms, state intervention can be justified on the basis that the spontaneous equilibrium of the sum of individual initiatives is insufficient for an optimal collective equilibrium.

Paul Romer focuses on the gap between rich and poor and its consequence for economic growth. At the beginning of the 1990s the US experienced a major slow down of economic growth. Romer identifies 'inequality' of distribution of wages and education as its cause rather than effect. The State needs to intervene in order to regulate the level of productivity of its population. The idea of endogenous development hence summarises the clintonomics effort at a synergy of individual investment and a collective productivity managed by the state.

Marazzi provides an insightful analysis from a macro-economic point of view of the policy changes undertaken by the US government of the Clinton administration in reconfiguring its role as maximiser of capitalist productivity. He looks, amongst others, at the works of Robert Reich and Paul Romer. It is Reich in particular who points to the necessity of investing in immaterial labour in the new global order, not only for economic but primarly for political reasons:

'In the long run, the products of immaterial labour will be the crucial assets for each nation: scientific and technological research, training of the labour-force, development of management, communication, electronic financial networks. In the universe of intellectual labour we find: researchers, engineers, computer scientists, lawyers, some creative accountant, management consultants, financial advisors, publicists, the 'practicioners', editors and journalists, university professors. This 'rank' is destined to accelerate the process of decline of all activities of the taylorist kind, i.e. the repetitive and executive ones, that are easy to reproduce in countries with low-cost labour force; whilst services to people, even though still important in a society with a strong tertiary sector, cannot benefit from material subsidies, since they are not, according to Reich, value creating activities. The economist's resoning runs more or less like this: the globalisation of the economy does no longer allow one to refer ownership of capital to the national composition of the means of production. For instance, a Ford is the result of partial and combined activities that are dispersed around the globe and concerted within global webs, where what counts is efficiency and the productivity of communication. The car that results from this process of productin is a composite of parts produced in different nations, by means of a capital of multinational ownership. However, what is lost as a consequence of the de-nationalisation of capital ownership (i.e. the means of production, costant capital) is recuperated at the level of ownership of immaterial labour, of the control of knowledge production. The denationalisation of physical-material capital is counterbalanced by the nationalisation of knowledge, and the command on its organisation. 'Buy American' means from now on: 'Valorise american knowledge'. Nationality, according to Reich's reasoning, is recuperated through a strategic investment in activities that create more value, i.e. immaterial activities that characterise the post-fordist mode of production. The income generated by immaterial activity must be nationalised in order to deal with the unemployment of the unskilled American labour-force and reduce the disparity of income between skilled labourers and the working poors (competition with emerging countries) without inhibiting the comparative advantage of the US with respect to the rest of the world. American pride ought to function as solidaristic glue: when compared with competitive countries, the greater wealth generated by greater productivity and skill of immaterial labour provides the fiscal means to temper the deterioration of the life conditions of unqualified and defeated American people.' (C. Marazzi, Il posto dei calzini. La svolta linguistica dell'economia e I suoi effetti sulla politica. Bollati Boringhieri, Torino 1999. p 90-91).

Read essay:
Money in the World Crisis: The new basis of capitalist power By Christian Marazzi
Anatomy of Clintonomics By Robert Pollin published in the New Left Review
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Money in the World Crisis: The new basis of capitalist power By Christian Marazzi

Anatomy of Clintonomics. By Robert Pollin published on the New Left Review


Investing in People "Good for Us as a Nation", by Robert Reich

Reich's columns

Credit and the economy, a lecture for the Brecht Forum by Robert Guttman

If you can stomach the jargon, this is an interview on business and education


07/06/2007 2:27 AM