Presentation of results by the research association on November 13th, 2009

Panel 1: What happens after 'Rhenish Capitalism'?

The ‘old’ Fordist model of capitalism and its German version (‘Rhenish Capitalism’) used the increase in the productivity of labour as one of their central development resources. By linking this increase with the increase in wages it for the first time, enabled wide strata of the population to participate in consumption well beyond the level of mere reproduction and lead to a general improvement of living conditions. This is how in all developed industrial societies a type of ‘participatory capitalism’ (each specimen with its national characteristics) emerged.

Already in the 1970s, the limitations of this development model became obvious, finally making an appearance in the form of an economic crisis and a crisis of legitimacy. From soeb 2´s perspective, the reaching of limits regarding the use of natural resources, i.e. an insufficient resource efficiency has to be seen as the main course of the crisis. Right into the 1980s, this resource efficiency clearly lagged behind the rise in productivity.

Ressourceneffizienz

If resource efficiency rises slower than labour productivity negative economies of scale increase exponentially – with the consequence that the resources of economic development decrease while production hardly increases. Fordist regulation turned, however, a blind eye to this nexus.

Accordingly, the strategies to master the crisis did not tackle the problem of resource efficiency but rather tried to avoid change by adjustments aiming for stabilization and redistribution. On a national level one tried to solve income problems and growth deficits through – partly contradictory – strategies of redistribution. The productivity-oriented development of wages and the linkage between social transfers and productivity were suspended while the pressure on employees and the unemployed increased. International crisis management strategies can be described as a conversion to a competitive state with the calculated build-up and profitable use of location differences. By decoupling the proceeds of capital from those of finance capital and by subordinating economic development to financial capital the economic dynamics were set in motion that finally lead to the economic crisis induced by the financial markets.

The emergence of a new economic development regime, allowing for a social participation as broad as in Fordism, while opening up individualised chances of participation, still has economic growth as its precondition. This growth would have to be based on a steadily increasing and environmentally sound resource efficiency as the main source of economic development.

Lecture (German)
Rainer Land: Der Teilhabekapitalismus und sein Ende PDF