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New Left Review 30, November-December 2004

A dramatic shift in the distribution of property and income to the very richest layers of US society has been a notorious trend of the past quarter-century, reaching dizzying peaks in the Clinton years. But these Himalayan heights of wealth and power are now surrounded by lower ridges of enrichment, with the formation of a new upper salariat stabilizing the post-Keynesian social order.



Wealth, Class and Ownership in the USA

In many respects, the emergence of neoliberalism since the mid-1970s has enhanced the legibility of capitalist social relationships. [1] Elsewhere, we have interpreted the new social order that has emerged within the vector of neoliberalism as the reassertion of the power, income and wealth of the ruling classes, after a relative setback during the decades of the Keynesian compromise. The title of our Capital Resurgent. Roots of the Neoliberal Revolution, Cambridge, ma 2004, refers to this new capitalist hubris. New disciplines have been imposed on both workers and management. Capital incomes—dividends and interest—have dramatically increased. During the 1970s, nominal interest rates remained practically equal to inflation rates; Paul Volcker’s 1979 ‘coup’ imposed a massive hike in real interest rates, to the benefit of lenders. Larger flows of dividends began to be diverted to shareholders. The us stock market rose steadily, up to the bubble of the 1990s. The opening of commercial frontiers and the free movement of capital issued in a new stage in the globalization of the economy, accompanied by further disequilibria and imperial war. A comparison with the postwar decades suggests that, after twenty years of neoliberalism, incomes originating in the ownership and control of the means of production skyrocketed, and capitalist relations of production rule the world even more rigorously than before.

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Gerard Dumenil, Dominique Levy, ‘Neoliberal Income Trends’, NLR 30: £3

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