Book Review - Notes on Guy Standing’s The Corruption of Capitalism: Why Rentiers Thrive and Work Does Not Pay.
Guy Standing’s (2017) The Corruption of Capitalism gets it wrong from the very beginning: the title suggests that the social ills emanating from capitalism should be ascribed not to capitalism working according to plan, but to something, somewhere along the way, having gone wrong with capitalism, in the movement from truly free markets to their disfigured progeny. It is never clear whether Standing wants to rid capitalism of its perversions, and thereby restore markets to their purified form, or whether this ethical-moral framing is a rhetorical strategy—a form of immanent critique – aimed at exposing the hypocrisies of those proselytizing the free market creed. At times, Standing sounds like a cross between Noam Chomsky and Milton Friedman. It is this schizoid movement from left to right and back again – a dialectical intertwining – that gives rise to what one might call Standing’s centrist libertarianism. He borrows from both right and left, ultimately serving up a strange ideological brew, advocating for the idea that markets should be made free, restoring the welfare state of postwar social democracy, freeing all manner of “commons” (from nature to intellectual property), enclosed within a universal basic income scheme. Common to all these proposals is the idea that capitalism can still be redeemed.
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