A lot of peooke say that the left have lost their way. They say that the resurgence of elder statesman liberals in opposition like Anthony Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, Jonas Gahr-Støre, is just the last groans of a dinosaur religion.
However it ias not this Left that has lost its way. It goes back to the Blair and Clinton administrations who moved the Left to in effect the centre right, and in essence offered a neoconservative set of policies on many issues, trying in some areas to be as laisez faire and more than their far righ predecessors either side od the Atlantic.
In effect these soft right movements managed on the one hand to oversee a fairly amicable period of economic growth and an ongoing meritocratic change in society. However they also over saw the further shift of power to oligarchical, meta-democratic structures which serve the loose alliances of international capital more than governments and citizens. Also on the other hand they failed to really appeal to on the one hand, aspirant skilled workers, youth and the economically marginal in the way the left had done so for more than half a century.
Why did the left lose so much of its traditional base? The main reason we propose is simply that people failed to see how the Left's politics could benefit their lives. Also it can be argues that ordinary citizens did not understand the implications of the power shifts happening in the meta-structures of international politics. The simple making-ends-meet and small business economy was that which was sold to the public in the 1980s by the Thatcherite movment and press. People understood more about econonics on that scale and about personal responsibility. These are by no means at odds with most left wing democratic thinking, and in fact we are beginning to come full circle in how making-ends-meet for many workers will require politicisation.
The Neoconservative "new right" had suceeded in creating a post-liberal, some say post-democratic era . They had blamed the dire circumstances of the late 1970s malaise on the outgoing democratic and Labour governments and could pin the labels of negativity on unions and heavy handed fiacal control. In fact many of the root causes of hyperinflation and "stagflation" can be traced back to the Nixon and Heath governments who were unfortunate to endure the oil crisis.
So we have the 1980s concept of the self steering meritocracy which was a challenge to both old-school-tie /ivy league establishment and collective labour organisatuons. The Left have been painted as part of the old, the outdated, the spent force to which meritocracy is the solution - almost a mass existentialist revolution.
However the net result of 30 years of the far-right and the shift of the parliamentary lwft parties to right of centre, is that power and wealth have been inevitably accumulated in fewer in society. This is by the 'laws' both Adam Smith and Karl Marx described. We have returned, in the west, to a Rentier dominated economy- that is capital collects rent on living and consumption rather than production and value-adding activities.
Relative to the post war 25 years of growth in the Western economies, the neo-conaservative period has been typified by relatively low annual growth figures. This is coupled to fiscal policy which has kept inflation in most of the G7 to low single figures. These two macroeconomic factors are very much what capital needs in orser to accumulate wealth by rentier extraction rather than investing in production.
Manufacturing output in the west has only declined relative to cumulative growth in the economy. It is at a surpirsingly stable value in the UK and USA when adjusted from the end of the 'golden epoch' post war when it flattened. Investment has followed some primary production where economies of scale and often flat labour costs made them viable in the western deposits. Also it followed specific technologies and productivity automation. More than this though it not only followed defence and healthcare, capitalists constructed larger lobby organisations and deeper penetration into especially the Republican and Conservative parties each side of the Atlantic, but also the new, softer left.
It can be argued that growth in the western economies is still generated by primary and secondary elements of the economy, and that the tertiary service sector is not contributing because by nature it does not multiply value, it just moves value. The counter agrument is that industies like tourism change the balance of trade and import net value. Also that some areas considered service are actually a form of value adding on the global market- in particular stock and securities financial industries and service-engineering, be that soft-ware or mechanical servicing etc.
The net result of the value adding is gross domestic product (GDP) measured financially and often discussed in relation to balance of trade with other nations or between say the EU and R.o.W. When the net value of GDP no matter its volume, is financial and that is what constitutes economic growth or recession. In the global economy we experience the effects of growth in different ways as a nation. We most likely experience lower unemployment due to more demand in the economy. We may experience more spending power on say electronic items made in the far east as our pound, euro, krone or dollar increases in value. We may get wage rises despite being outside any union negotiating power, or we may well find it easier to move to a better paid job.
The meta-current, the stream above the seemingly low growth, low inflation in national economies and average hourly wage rates, is the Rentier economy. Here internatioinal capitalists can multiply their investments in housing and utilities based on another bottom up mechanism driving value of the basics of life - warmth, food, and a roof over your head- that mechanism being population growth. With only meagre growth in population and meagre growth in average take home pay there is a multiplying 'leverage' in both capital gains on real estate and investment in the flow of credit to consumers who need houses.
Coupled to the ongoing phenonmenon of metropolisation, more people moving to and being born in the big, financially successful cities, Rentier economics are a powerful attraction for capital, with far better return on investment than in manufacturing industry, and often at a lower percieved risk.....especially when the national governments bail out the flow of money to mortgages.
In 2006- 2008 Rentier capitalism became a victim of its own self belief and precipitated the worst global recession since the 1929 Wall Street crash. The crash and recession were bailed out not this time by a new deal to the population and the subsequent command economy of WWII but by huge funding to banks and large creditors. This was paid for by tax, government borrowing and diversion of public spending. Socialism was rolled out for the global elite creditors and best paid employees in the world.
Almost a decade post crash and the average weatern worker is no better off, with fairly stagant wages and even negative equity on their houses if they were unlucky on where and when they bought. Also we are taking far more time to buy, and in the metroplotan areas and high tech 'valleys' many skilled workers are simply priced out of the market. Many are left to live in hope that meritocratic principles will kick in and they will 'work hard and get on'. However the Rentier econony has not only the super global rich in its ranks, it also has the investment property owners who were the skilled workers of the post war ers, and the successful yuppies and entrepreneurs of the 1980s. They are highly politicised on local and national levels via the Republican and Conservatice parties because they are keen that the Rentier economy is not threatened by legislation.
Here we come back to the humble average worker. The believe in the meritocracy yet is now diluted by low economic growth and export of skilled jobs even in profitable firms like Nabisco. Furthermore, those with higher income can afford to buy their offspring into more favourable economic situations - better education, internships, networking & nepotism and the outright corrupt means of gaining contract levered positions for their graduate children.
Then we have a whole raft of further 'deregulation' via goverment policy and internet facilitated services like Uber, which will reduce earnings per hour for much lower paid work as people compete with simple, available resources like a driving license and a car via another Rentier system. "Rather one percent of one hundred people's labour than 100% of my own" transits from the value added economy to transfering more wealth from the circular sevice economy as labour access is facilitated and devalued.
The cards get stacked against average people and this leads to increasing inequity and dissolusionment. Were before there was dissolusionment with socialist principles and unionisation, which were movements themselves created by dissolusionment with capitalism and the eatablishment. There will be several more years of pain before most of us who sell our labour decide once more than we can achiece gains in our quality of life via organisation and politics.