… The saying is that Mr. Obama inherited difficult circumstances when he came into office. But what he inherited was a particular stage in an historical trajectory—one of what are regularly recurring crises in the ascendance of global capitalism. Within this trajectory catastrophes such as that of 2009 are as much a part of political economy as the times of ‘prosperity.’ The view from the ‘inside’—from Washington and Wall Street, averages prosperity with catastrophe to come to an ‘average’ conclusion about the political-economic viability of this capitalism. Mr. Obama, or any other successful politician within the modern understanding of success, ‘embodies’ the hopes and aspirations of ‘average’ Americans in the same way that the average of catastrophe and prosperity reach them in their lives. Mr. Bush before him embodied the hopes and dreams of ‘long suffering’ war-mongering white, Christian Pentecostals and Mr. Obama has his liberal-progressive constituency, the average of the two which form different ‘sides’ of an outside—the ‘driven by.’ This isn’t to discount the difference, but rather to ask: who exactly is making bank on it? As circumscribed by those whose fortunes have been restored since Mr. Obama took office, the difference that matters remains between the embedded and the embodied, between those whose fortunes are foregone conclusions and those who wave as the motorcade passes.
The passions that surround Western political economy are reactive for a reason. Mr. Obama was assumed to represent antithesis because history called for it. The unmitigated disaster of the (baby) Bush years was evident to even the dullest of his supporters as the incontrovertible ‘proof’ of calamity– falling stock prices, was underway. But ‘change’ holds forth no promised direction. And more fundamentally, from what possible logic would true antithesis spring? Within the static anti-historicism of capitalism antithesis always and everywhere exists in the ‘driven by,’ in the ‘failure’ needed to demonstrate the truth determining power of ‘success’ through wealth and profits. Restoration of the fortunes of the already rich was restoration of this static antithesis, the only one visible to Mr. Obama’s classmates. The problem of re-thinking capitalism, not that anyone in the recent history has tried, is that within its logic no catastrophe is effective repudiation and outside of it either the whole project goes into the garbage heap or none of it does. A real catastrophe confronted the peoples of the West as Mr. Obama entered office. But the difference between having a billion dollars in the bank or ‘only’ five hundred million dollars was the problem that confronted the people who brought Mr. Obama into office. That problem calls for a different set of solutions than being cold, hungry and unemployed. And that is the problem Mr. Obama set about fixing.