‘The owl of Minerva spreads its wings at dusk.’ Or so Hegel believed. In plain English: you only find out what’s going on when it’s about to stop. Thus Michal Kalecki and Tadeusz Kowalik wrote their influen- tial ‘Observations on the “Crucial Reform”’ between September 1969 and January 1970.2 It was published in 1971, just as the fundamental reforms that the capitalist system had undergone in the immediate post-war years were about to unravel, and the Golden Age that they had helped to generate was coming to an end. Kalecki and Kowalik were in very good company. Almost no-one predicted the rise of neoliberalism (Howard and King, 2008). To take one particularly striking example, this is the final sentence of Michel Aglietta’s A Theory of Capitalist Regulation, published in French in 1976 and in English three years later, in the year that Margaret Thatcher came to power in the United Kingdom: ‘The coming massive socialisation of the conditions of life will destroy free enterprise as the pillar of liberal ideology’ (Aglietta, 1979: p. 385). The owl of Minerva seems to have taken a long time on its way to France.
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- Whatever Happened to the ‘Crucial Reform’?
John E. King
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