I have dissected, step by step, the national income accounts of the United States, from the most general categories down to the net profits of the country’s largest corporations. I have shown that, from the viewpoint of the leading corporations, most of the redistributional processes – from the aggregate to the disaggregate – are close to being exhausted. By the end of the twentieth century, the largest U.S. corporations, approximated by the top 0.01%, have reached an unprecedented situation: their net profit share of national income hovers around record highs, and it seems that this share cannot be increased much further under the current political-economic regime.
This asymptotic situation, Bichler and I believe, explains why leading capitalists have been struck by systemic fear. Peering into the future, they realize that the only way to further increase their distributional power is to apply an even greater dose of violence. Yet, given the high level of force already being exerted, and given that the exertion of even greater force may bring about heightened resistance, capitalists are increasingly fearful of the backlash they are about to unleash. The closer they get to the asymptote, the bleaker the future they see.
It is of course true that no one knows exactly where the asymptote lies, at least not before it is reached. But the fact that, over the past decade, capitalists have been pricing down their assets while their profit share of income hovers around record highs suggests that, in their minds, the asymptote is nigh.
From the Israel-Canadian economist Jonathan Nitzan, whose book (with Shimshon Bichler) The Global Political Economy of Israel is quite interesting, with a radical new ecomomic model that should be applied to elsewhere in the region. Most of it is above my head, but a key concept in their work is differential capital accumulation — i.e. that capitalist actors compete not on absolute terms but in terms of how well they do compared to each other and the average. Fascinating stuff — for radicals and liberal democrat centrists alike, because of how it speaks to the current malaise in advanced capitalist societies, which while in many respects thriving fear that they are losing social gains made in the last century and standing on the edge of a precipice — beyond which are societies with extremely skewed distribution of both economic wealth and political power, like most of those in the Middle East.