London Stock Exchange
Last week I visited the London Stock Exchange in Paternoster Square, not far from Saint Paul’s Cathedral (sadly I did not get out in time to attend the Evensong). The trading floor (at the old site near the Bank of England) has been abolished for two decades, so now at this site there are only a couple of television studios, a few conference rooms, and some office space. The main tasks of the company now is to operate the stock exchange (which is totally computerized) and to regulate it. The computer servers would be too vulnerable to be kept on this site. So at Paternoster Square, as far as I could tell, only the consulting and public relations functions are left. Nonetheless, the presentation given to our group from the Chartered Management Institute was interesting. Of course, since now the Exchange itself is listed on its own Main Market, one could ask the question Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?; but I refrained from so doing.
The reception room had all British broadsheets except for one: the Guardian. So they might have missed this article by Robert Brenner: That hissing? It’s the sound of bubblenomics deflating. On the train to London, I was reading his book The Economics of Global Turbulence (ISBN 978-1-85984-730-5) which uses the Marxian idea of capital accumulation and concentration to teach what still puzzles the International Monetary Fund: Why does capital flow uphill, when it is the ‘trickle down’ effect we expect? Even the Wall Street Journal said of the book: ‘Here, at last – something good out of the left.’
On the dot-com and the financialization bubbles, the book had these to say: ‘Between 1980 and 1990, FIRE [finance, insurance and real estate] made use of some 35 per cent of the net stock of office, computing, and accounting equipment employed by the total economy; by contrast, manufacturing’s share was around 25 per cent. Ironically, then – but all too understandably in view of the fortunes made there – the most technologically advanced dynamic of US industries during the 1980s and 1990s probably contributed less than any other to raising US living standards by means of its own immediate output.’ (page 215; this echoed Andrew Basden’s critique of information technology) ‘Since the victories of Reaganism–Thatcherism at the end of the 1970s, capital has greatly deepened its domination, especially in the US. … Finance has been unshackled, to create even more baroque means to squeeze money from money.’ (page 239)
BBC‘s (left-of-centre) business correspondent Peter Day is in awe of the Toyota Production System, also known as lean manufacturing. But on page 205 of Brenner’s book, there is a scathing review, with the footnote: ‘For a path-breaking account of the Japanese-style labour process and team production, see M. Parker and J. Slaughter, Choosing Sides. Union and the Team Concept, A Labor Notes Book, Boston 1988, especially ch. 3. See also J. P. Womack, D. T. Jones, and D. Roos, The Machine That Changed the World, New York 1990, especially chs 3 and 4. These two studies, despite their very different attitudes toward team or lean production, offer very similar, mutually corroborating accounts of just what it entails, heaping scorn on those who wishfully believe that the new system is bringing about the rise of some sort of skilled, autonomous neo-artisanate.’
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