“Capitalism emerges considerably strengthened by this pandemic”

By Antoine Reverchon

Posted today at 01:34

The economist Robert Boyer, analyst of the divergent historical developments of capitalism – he prefers to use this term in the plural – publishes, on 1er October published by La Découverte, a landmark work, Capitalisms put to the test of the pandemic (200 pages, € 19), where he delivers his diagnosis of the shock that is shaking the world economy today, and of its possible futures.

To qualify the crisis we are going through, economists oscillate between “unprecedented crisis”, “most serious recession since 1929”, or even “third crisis of the century” – after those of the subprimes of 2008 and the euro in 2010. What do you think ?

We cannot apply words inherited from previous crises to a new reality. More than a mistake, it is a mistake because it indicates that we hope to apply known remedies, which will therefore be ineffective.

The term “recession” applies when an economic cycle, having reached a certain stage, turns around for endogenous reasons – which implies that the next stage will be mechanically the recovery, also for endogenous reasons, with a return to the previous state. However, this is not a recession, but a decision taken by political authorities to suspend all economic activity that is not essential to the fight against the pandemic and to daily life.

The persistence of an economic vocabulary to denote a political reality is astonishing. There has been talk of “supporting” activity, when it is more of a freezing of the economy. The “stimulus” plan is in fact a program to compensate companies for the losses suffered, carried out thanks to the explosion of budgetary expenditure and the relaxation of the constraint of their refinancing by the central banks. It is “palliative care” that will only make sense if epidemiologists, doctors and biologists find the solution to the health crisis – but it does not depend on models or economic policies.

“A third of the production capacity suddenly turned out to have no ‘indispensable’ social utility”

This sudden and assumed stop of production causes such changes – especially since it will last a long time – economic, but also – what economists neglect – institutional, political, sociological, psychological, so that it is impossible that everything “resumes” as before. A third of the production capacity suddenly turned out to have no “indispensable” social utility. Certain sectors are upset by a structural change in consumption patterns (tourism, transport, aeronautics, advertising, the cultural industry, etc.), and by the breakdown of subcontracting networks and the disappearance of different firms. points in the value chain.

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