I just learned, thanks to a tip by the omnivorous Douglas Pressman of Prague and an article by Bruce Campbell, that, back in 1945, Friedrich Hayek’s wildly naive apology for capitalism, The Road to Serfdom, was made into a comic book promoted by no less a (then as now and evermore) state-dependent corporate capitalist enterprise than General Motors.
Hayek, having only an ultra-abstract textbook understanding of private enterprise, never stopped to wonder about the things his theory elided that were happening right under his nose. Not least among these was, of course, the continuing consolidation of corporate marketing,which is the art and science of applying the principles of scientific management to ordinary people’s off-the-job lives.
As I argue in The Consumer Trap book, the progress and success of this overclass endeavor would make Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini purple with jealousy, if they were around to see it today. Among its many effects is what I call a market totalitarian society, where people are free to do whatever they want, so long as it’s shopping for and using capitalist products (politicians now distinctly included).
Hayek, of course, could not imagine such things would happen, as his view of private business was so deeply naive. His supposed master work is far less critical and realistic even than Adam Smith, who, in a radically different context with a very different purpose, had written a far subtler, more open-ended, and altogether better defense of business ascendance 168 years before Hayek’s book became the favored intellectual cover for American capitalism.
Even though Hayek framed socialism as a question of class analysis — he equated all possible forms of socialism and even welfare states with feudal servitude — he remained utterly denialist that capitalism is itself a form of class domination, albeit one operating as much through the power relations of “the free market” as through state power. Hence, here is the hugely ironic — and hilariously embarrassing to Hayek and Hayekians — cartoon from his GM-pushed comic book on the topic of “recreation” planning by the overclass:
“Once started, planners can’t stop.” Precisely, Freidrich, precisely! It’s called the marketing race, a.k.a. the primary form of big business competition. It is quite literally built into corporate capitalism, and can only stop upon the death of that system or the planet on which it operates, whichever comes first.
Can you say “idiot savant”?