Chapter 6: Regulation and the Mode of Consumption: A Critique
6.1 INTRODUCTION Regulation’s neat array of concepts and periods and its orderly correspondence between them and certain popular empirical beliefs make for a seductive mix. There is an implicit central argument that is fascinating and seems powerful. This is that the imposition of capitalist dominance not only on production but also on the reproduction of labour-power signifies a new and different epoch and gives capitalism another lease of life. Consequently, the functional linkage between production and consumption1 becomes imperative for the reproduction of the whole system. Equally implicit is the assumption that while Marx might have given the account of the first period, the new period requires new theoretical tools and even a fundamental revision of theory or a new theory, drawing inspiration from Marxism and from other traditions. This project seems impressive and promising. However, both its definitional premises and their corresponding empirical beliefs are highly erroneous. Regulation takes as its task the provision of that new theory, and it sets out to do this by drawing on a number of empirical perceptions derived from popular theories and their journalistic representations, such as those relating to the affluent mass consumption society and the wealthy and mass consuming worker. Such theories, in both economics and sociology, were flourishing before and during the first steps towards the Regulation Approach. They advanced, in praise or criticism, an image of a working class satiated with capitalist consumer goodies, abandoning its revolutionary role and incorporated into capitalism through Keynesian policies of demand management and...
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