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Zombies Economic Discourse: Monster Alan Greenspan vs. Zombie Karl Marx

April 5, 2012

Meg Fowler of ABC News has published, April 4, 2012: “Vampire, Zombie Economics Enliven Political Discourse” and her analysis is directly on point with this ZombieLaw blog. Fowler’s analysis supports my developing arguments that Zombies have become a type of political identity and form of political consciousness.

Fowler begins by discussing recent “scaremongering” political advertisements from the 2012 US President election that depict a “post-apocalyptic” milieu (See Santorum’s “Obamaville“) but Fowler quickly moves on to discussing Marxist theory, reminding readers:

In his 19th century work “Capital: Critique of Political Economy (1867),” Karl Marx compared capital to a vampire who sucks the life out of workers.

“Capital is dead labor that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks,” the manuscript reads.

obama resuscitates zombie marx

This will be familiar for ZombieLaw readers who recall my post: “zombie was bested by its vampire controller, GM/GMAC” … “but capitalism is not offensive” – About a Federal Court case involving the financing of auto purchases and the bankruptcy of a dealership.

Marx wrote at a time of industrial revolution and Fowler reminds that Marx was writing the fears of technology replacing workers. The “mechanical capital”, “a mechanical monster” of “demon power”. The same types of metaphors are at work at our time of digital revolution. See similar metaphors in the previous ZombieLaw post Anonymous Zombie: “Cybernetic Zombie that lives on in Cyberspace” about how the legion of minds on the internet are like a zombie force. Recall also that the first zombie movie, “White Zombie”, starring Bela Lugosi, refers to zombies working night-shifts turning the sugar mill wheel like robot drones, in Haiti around the time of US colonialism and forced labor laws, see ZombieLaw post: “The White Zombie is American Law and Corporate Control (FDR revisited)”

Fowler goes on to explain that the zombie idea has been recently applied to “more specific areas of finance and the economy: zombie capitalism, zombie banks, even a zombie Federal Reserve chairman.”

The zombie Alan Greenspan is a “Weekend at Bernies” reference attributed by Fowler to Senator McCain, and the phrase “zombie capitalism” to a 2009 book about Marx that likens the market itself to zombies. (Recall another previous ZombieLaw post: “unprotectable idea of zombies in a mall”) Zombies are about technology changes but also consumerism and about the controls on production of goods for daily life.

Fowler also addresses John Quiggin’s 2010 book, “Zombie Economics”, about old undead economic theories that just won’t go away. More of Quiggin’s theories can be found in his article: “Five Zombie Economic Ideas That Refuse to Die”

The phrase “voodoo economics” is attributed to George H.W. Bush who used it as a disparaging remark about trickle-down, supply-side, Reaganomics (during the 1980 Republican primary before he joined the ticket as VP). Fowler explains:

“voodoo economics” entails tax cuts, especially for the rich, intended to stimulate investment and spending to spur growth. The less flattering term seems to imply that supply-side economics is really all policy hocus-pocus with questionable effects on the economy.

The word “voodoo”, like “zombi”, is an word of Haitian origin and the two words a highly related. ZombieLaw readers will also recall the post: Eschaton coins “zombietipandronnie” making a similar connection between zombies and Reaganomics.

zombie reagan

Fowler concludes with “crony capitalism” and “vulture capitalism”, both phrases recently lobbed at Mitt Romney by Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, respectively. And finally, mentions Austrian economic theories of taxation as highway robbery. An underlying unresolved economic question of Fowler’s article is whether Romney’s policy proposals are merely zombie economic ideas or if Obama’s support for the auto industry has created a sort of zombie-Detroit that would have been better under Romney’s idea of “managed bankruptcy”.

Fowler’s article is directly on point for what I have been working on here at ZombieLaw. Zombies have arisen as a political identity because it is a time of industrial technology changes (what Marx would call changes in the means of production). These changes further alienate workers from the products of their labor making them feel and act like zombies, a sort of dissociated identity of post-modern industrial working lives. Fowler is correct that vampires and zombie “enliven political discourse”. This is not new, Thomas Jefferson spoke of the “dead hand of the past”. Zombies, and monsters generally, are a vibrant metaphor set for political consciousness and legal definition.

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