The political turmoil in American presidential election reflects the limits of capitalist constitution and crisis of market democracy in United States of America. Both Mr Donald Trump and Mr Joe Biden represent different versions of American capitalism. The imperialist foreign policy and domestic security states are twin pillars of American governance system. These twin pillars are going to stay whoever wins this presidential election. It will neither benefit the American society nor conducive for the world. The American Constitution limits emancipatory political and economic alternatives to flourish. The American constitutional democracy was shaped by Anglo-American legal frameworks, which promotes propertied classes and corporates for the growth of capitalism with constitutional protection. The American political and economic dreams are shattered by the capitalism ingrained within American constitutional law and its practice.
The unfettered culture of individualism and consumerism emanating from the capitalist praxis did not help in the growth of individual freedom within American dream. It fortified the processes of capitalist accumulation within American constitutional and legal framework, which led to the freedom of legal contracts of private property. The industrial revolution in USA led to the further consolidation of capitalism by integrating American working classes within its culture of mass production; the foundation of American dream. The need-based American society was converted into a desire-based society in twentieth century to sustain, expand and globalise American capitalism. The economic dynamism of American capitalism gets its strength from the American political system sustained by its constitution. It has managed to emerge as the most successful and powerful system in the world.
American constitutional capitalism and its market democracy is showing all signs of its deteriorating democratic culture and marching towards authoritarianism led by political oligarchy of two-party system. The United States Supreme Court has enough judicial power granted by the American constitution which forces federal constitutions to serves its purpose of centralisation of power. The centralisation of power is central to capitalism and American presidential system is designed in concomitant with the requirements of capitalism.
From the pre-industrial, or agricultural period prior to mid 19th century and the corporate industrial period of late 19th century to corporate capitalist monopoly of 20th century and finance capital of 21st century, American capitalism in all its forms gets its full support from dominant forces of American politics. Therefore, concentration of economic power in USA is a product of political consolidation of powerful forces in American society. Senator Boies Penrose was a Republican Senator from Pennsylvania during late 19th century. He told big businesses directly by asking that “you send us to Congress; we pass the laws under which you make money and out of your profits you further contribute to our campaigns funds to send us back again to pass more laws to enable you to make more money”. This is the foundation and fate of many democracies in the world today. From Westphalian democracies to postcolonial democracies, the corporate led market forces are dominating the political forces.
The spirit of capitalist accumulation moves along with American democracy and complement each other. It is the rule of capitalist classes within the constitutional frameworks. The constitutional frameworks are adjusted as per the changing circumstances, needs and desires of the capitalist classes in America. The political regimes, constitutional laws, and economic structures are interwoven with each other and work together to uphold the class rule, which mass produces inequalities in all areas of American life. Therefore, the political freedom does not breed economic prosperity for majority of working-class Americans. There is a growing gap between political freedom and economic liberties within American society.
In this way, the constitutional capitalism in USA has established a lopsided society based on marginalisation, exploitation and inequalities. The economic alienation reduces American citizenship to a mere symbol of political freedom without material foundation for empowerment of citizenship rights and liberties of majority of Americans. The issues of unemployment, debt trap, hunger and homelessness are exposing the dubious American dream, which converted human lives into orderly objects within a market led society. Deaths and destitutions are posing a serious threat to American democracy and destroys many progressive, transformatory and positive aspects of American constitution.
The American experiments with constitutional capitalism have reached its dead-end. Socialisation of risk, marginalisation of individuals and their democratic rights, and privatisation of prosperity cannot be a model for governance in a liberal and constitutional democracy. The constitution cannot be selective upholding rights and ownership of corporates and landed elites in USA. The American capitalist classes get all forms of immunities of law with the help of different contractual clauses like; contract clause, equality clause, due process clause and commerce clause. These clauses enjoy absolute freedom. The ‘freedom of contract’ derives its ideological origin within Adam Smith’s doctrine of laissez faire. The so-called free democracy is imprisoned within a capitalist economic framework within the provisions of constitutional laws shaped by the capitalist classes in USA.
The self-inflicted crisis of American dream is inherent within capitalism as a political, economic, social and cultural system. The commodification of nature, human creativities and lives are primary source of profit making within capitalism. The commodification produces metabolic rift between interests of the capitalism and human necessities. These fundamental contradictions reflect in every step of human life in the name of efficiency and economy that serves the capitalist classes. Any search for alternatives needs to understand these social, political and economic dynamism of capital within America and beyond. Therefore, the struggle for alternatives within and outside America need to demand transformation of capitalist foundations of constitutional laws. The struggle for political, economic and cultural democracy and freedom based on shared peace and prosperity can be the only alternative for the present and future. Let’s start our struggles to save our present and fortify our future beyond boundaries as global citizens of this planet.
*Bhabani Shankar Nayak, Coventry University, UK