American Dreams

Keynesian Fordism as Global Social Compact

Last Saturday October 15 we held the third session of the autonomous seminar THREE CRISES: 30s – 70s – Today, with presentations by Brian Holmes, Jerome Gand and Heather Marie. After which we all made signs and went out to Occupy!

My text begins with the disjunct between market-oriented production and social reproduction that led to the Great Depression. It then explores how the US economy was finally stabilized through the total mobilization of WWII.

Three sections follow the development of the new hegemonic order inside the country and then throughout the non-communist world of the postwar period (roughly, 1945-73). The first deals with the organization of production; the second, with the shaping of a global monetary and military order; and the third, with the notion of “effective demand” and the feedback loops of consumer society. The point is to reveal the deep structures of integration and neutralization that put an end to the progressive social transformations of the 1930s, and established the United States as a liberal empire.

A final section, entitled “Hegemony and Dreamwork,” briefly suggests how a rebellious painter associated with the social realist schools of the political left, Jackson Pollock, could ultimately become an icon of cosmopolitan abstractionism – with a little help from a New York art critic and the CIA.

The seminar texts, readings and recordings can all be found at the Mess Hall site linked above. Because this text is long and intricate, I decided to make it available here as an illustrated pdf rather than a web page. Here it is:

American Dreams: Keynesian Fordism as Global Social Compact


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