Producerism, sometimes referred to as "producer radicalism," refers to a syncretic ideology of populist
economic nationalismwhich holds that the productive forces of society - the ordinary worker, the small businessman, and the entrepreneur, are being held back by parasitical elements at both the top and bottom of the social structure.
Producerism sees society's strength being "drained from both ends"--from the top by the machinations of globalized
financial capitaland the large, politically connected corporations which together conspire to restrict free enterprise, avoid taxes and destroy the fortunes of the honest businessman, and from the bottom by members of the underclass and illegal immigrants whose reliance on welfare and government benefits drains the exchequer. Consequently, nativist rhetoric is central to modern Producerism (Kazin, Berlet & Lyons). Illegal immigrants are viewed as a threat to the prosperity of the middle class, a drain on social services, and as a vanguard of globalization that threatens to destroy national identities and soverignty. Some advocates of producerism go further, taking a similar position on legal immigration.
United States, Producerists are distrustful of both major political parties. The Republican Party is rejected for its support of corrupt Big Businessand the Democratic Party for its advocacy of the unproductive lazy waiting for their entitlement handouts (Kazin, Stock, Berlet & Lyons).
Reform Party of the United States of Americaoften uses producerist rhetoric. Populist producerism (and nativist policies) are also seen in the rhetoric of Le Pen in France, Haider in Austria, and similar dissident politicians across Europe (Betz & Immerfall, Betz).
Producerism is sympathetic to the idea that labor is an end in itself, inherently ennobling, and thus should be protected at least to some extent from the chaotic forces of consumer choice and market competition. In some
Commonwealth of Nationscountries, this position is used as an abstract definition of Producerism, which is then held as the opposite of an abstract consumerism, the position that the free choice of the consumer should dictate the economic activity of a society. In other parts of the world, especially the United States, such a clear-cut definition is not feasible.
Past and present
Some hold that American Producerism has its roots in the populist politics of
Andrew Jacksonand in the tariffs and protections of Henry Clay's American System, even though these two figures were political rivals. Others look even further back in history, to the farmers' rebellions of the post-colonial period and the Presidency of Jefferson, who has been described as originating or at least adopting the rhetoric of producerism while enacting policies antithetical towards it, namely unregulated trade and the expansion of slavery.
Early Producerism, if it can be called such, was
abolitionistnot so much on moral grounds but because slaves depressed the wages of free working men. Thus its sentiment was not to grant blacks rights and citizenship but, rather, to return them to Africa or otherwise grant them an independent nation in the tropics. The racism that some see as inherent in Producerist ideology perhaps has its genesis here—-in the perception of not only the Plantation Economy but the "Negro" himself as a threat to the prosperity of the independent white worker or small businessman. In the 1840s and 1850s, this economic, as opposed to ethical, abolitionism found expression in the nativist Know-Nothing Party, which has been cited as the ancestor of modern Producerism.
While such theories remain speculative, most historians would agree that by the time of the
Gilded Ageand the Presidential candidacy of William Jennings Bryan, Producerist currents are clearly visible in American society. Bryan's synthesis of leftist economic programs with religious fundamentalismhas had a lasting, perhaps defining, influence on the ideology. Also in that era, the National Labor Reform Partyand its successor, the Greenback-Labor Party, have been described as part of a Producerist tendency.
Despite its long historical legacy, the idea of Producerism as a defined political position outside of the common left-right axis only began to attract serious interest in the 1980s, when the dual concerns of foreign competition and domestic decay began to radicalize culturally conventional Americans, attracting the interest (and concern) of academia, which then sought out the roots of the phenomenon in 19th-century Populism or even 18th-century rural unrest.
Even today, there are very few politicians and commentators who would define themselves as Producerist or anti-Producerist, and among those in the general public who would be sympathetic to a Producerist program or political party, only a vanishingly small percentage are even aware of the term. This low level of ideological consciousness results, at least in part, from the fact that almost by definition Producerism lacks advocates at the elite level, and in consequence has not been able to summon the intellectual forces necessary to codify and propagate its tenets. Furthermore, Producerism has no primordial icon, no
Marxor Adam Smithto rally around and give the movement a solid identity, although American political dissident, Lyndon LaRouche, has for decades been a vocal champion of his own brand of Producerism, perhaps seeking that iconic role for himself.
Therefore, it is difficult to say exactly what Producerism is beyond the broad themes of nationalism,
protectionism, opposition to the welfare state, and immigration. Some historians use the term as a synonym for the right wing or rural elements of a form of populism peculiar to late 19th-century America, and as a result do not consider any modern or non-American movements as Producerist. Others, however, define Producerism as a thoroughly recent position that arose in numerous Western countries in reaction to the combined stresses of the liberal Big Government trend that followed the Second World Warand the globalizationof recent decades, while recognizing that it drew on earlier sentiments.
Producerism in relation to other ideologies
Producerism at its core is a conservative, traditionalist and nationalist critique of free-market capitalism--a form of middle-class militancy feeding off a "dual-edged resentment" against both rich and poor. However, various other forces across the political spectrum share smiliarities with Producerism, and have at times used its rhetoric to further their ends.
Marxisttheory, as in Producerism, a productive working classis portrayed as engaged in a class strugglewith the ruling classabove and possibly the lumpenproletariatbelow. Also, like Marxism-Leninism, Producerism implicitly subscribes to the labor theory of value. Stalin's "socialism in one country" moved communism in a nationalistic direction and thus increased its ideological similarities with Producerism. Marxism-Leninism explains anti-Semitism, where Jews are used as a symbol of parasitic capitalism, and similar racial and cultural theories as ideologically misguided class struggle.
There is another crucial ideological difference between the two systems: Producerists believe that it is the middle class, not the
proletariat, which generates the surplus valuethat is then expropriated by parasitic elements (executive class). Also, while Marx viewed capital as a monolithic interest, Producerists distinguish between what they see as productive domestic industrial capitalthat serves the national interest and speculative, idle financial capitalwhich they claim holds no patriotic loyalties and is, therefore, international in nature.(Laclau, Postone) However, Lenin made the distinction between financial and industrial capital, forming a basis for his conception of imperialism. [ [http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/imp-hsc/ch07.htm Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism] ] As Producerism is a movement by and for the middle class, Marxism would consider it a revolt of the petite bourgeoisie.
Fascism and Nazism
There are points of contact between Producerism and
fascismas well: Producerism is closely associated with highly nationalistic populist right-wing movements championing the traditional values of the "common man" against a morally corrupt and traitorous elite. This had led in some instances to the adoption of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and forms of white racial nationalism. [Payne, 52-53; Postone, Ferkiss, Fritzsche 1990, 1998 ]
Historically, the Nazi economist
Gottfried Federdistinguished between productive "industrial capital" and parasitic, usually Jewish, "financial capital," [Shirer] and the French Fascist leader Georges Valoisproposed a state in which only the producers of manufactured goods would have a vote. Hitlerhimself gave rhetorical support to Producerism in an interview where he stated "We demand the fulfilment [sic] of the just claims of the productive classes by the state" and "In my scheme of the German state, there will be no room for the alien, no use for the wastrel, for the usurer or speculator, or anyone incapable of productive work." [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/greatinterviews/story/0,,2155682,00.html 'No room for the alien, no use for the wastrel' | Great interviews of the 20th century | Guardian Unlimited ] ]
The ultimate compatibility of Producerism with any totalitarian system is open to debate. The indistinct definition of the term has caused some confusion. As a framing narrative, Producerism has been utilized by a wide variety of populist movements, including some with Fascist or Marxist-Leninist tendencies. However, under the etiology of
Christopher Lasch, Producerism has as a core value the glorification of the autonomous "rugged individual", the archtypical free-spirited American of the frontier, and thus, while socially conservative, it is fundamentaly hostile to statist movements.
Libertariandenunciations of the "welfare/warfare state" in which welfare recipients and the military-industrial complexare seen as the twin recipients of big government benefits at the expense of the taxpayer are similar to those made by Producerists. However, it must be noted that, as nationalists, Producerists are more supportive in general of military spending than are Libertarians, and the Producerist skepticism of free trade at all costs is antithetical to the vast majority of Libertarians.
Religion and social issues
Although primarily economic in emphasis, Producerism has a perspective on social issues as well, namely that the traditional values of the middle class are the only true national values, and these are to be defended, on the one hand, against the corruption of decadent inherited wealth and, on the other, from the dangerous apathy and sloth it sees as being the inevitable consequence of dependency on the
welfare state. Therefore, Producerists tend to be patriotic but at the same time intensely distrustful of the State, which they believe to be under the control of forces hostile to the nation. [Canovan, Stock, Kazin]
Some have pointed out a similarity between Producerism and certain Christian
End Timesnarratives that prophesise betrayal by trusted political and religious leaders, with many citizens drifting into laziness and sin. The Producerist emphasis on the inherent value of hard work is of course directly related to the Protestant work ethic, outlined by Weber. In the United States and in Europe it is often sympathetic towards conservative or Fundamentalist/Primitive Christianity, seen as a defender against both the moral degeneracy of the poor and the rapaciousness of unbridled capitalism. Producerism, however, is not tied to a specific religious worldview, and its emphasis on economics, labor, and class resentments embues it with a materialism not entirely compatible with a purely religious outlook. [Kazin, Berlet & Lyons]
Unions and business
Producerists will tend to support skilled-craft
trade unions, as organizations of "ordinary men" creating goods beneficial to society, but oppose left-wing, revolutionary unions or those that claim to speak for the lower ranks of society in general. National, industrial corporations, that is, those that produce tangible goods in domestic facilities, are looked upon favorably, while international, globalized companies that engage in outsourcing, "sending jobs abroad" or those that earn their profits from the abstract financial world are treated with hostility in Producerist circles. This disposition is sometimes referred to as "business nationalism." High tariffs and protectionistpolicies are regarded as not only beneficial to workers, but essential to the long-term survival of the domestic economy to counter the predatory practices of currency manipulation and illegal trade practices.
The domestic innovators and patriotic industrialists such as
Henry Ford, Lee Iacoccaand Sam Walton(whose Wal-Mart imports moved over 1.5 million jobs that might otherwise be in America to China between 1989 and 2003, a year after Walton's death. [Scott, Robert E. " [http://www.epinet.org/workingpapers/epi_wp270.pdf U.S.-China Trade, 1989-2003: Impact on jobs and industries, nationally and state-by-state] ." " Economic Policy Institute." January, 2005. Retrieved on August 29, 2006.] ) are the heroes in this view of the business world, while the cost-cutting CEOs and unaccountable financiers are the villains.
Historically, the Producerist attitudes towards corporation adopted to the changing concerns of the middle class. In
William Jennings Bryan's time the big corporations like railroads and mining interests were strongly disliked because they were an economic threat to the Producerist-minded small businessmen. Today, by contrast, the middle class tends to be corporate employees and so views corporations more favorably. Nationalist concerns about the decay of the national productive infrastructure due to outsourcing is also a fairly recent phenomenon in America, driven primarily by competition from Japan and China.
Disputing the "Producerist" label
While it does exist as a widespread if rarely commented-upon political position, it must be noted that often "Producerism" is an epithet used by Left-wing groups to disparage rival forms of economic dissent.
Figures who have been called Producerist or associated with Producerism, although they may not use the term to describe themselves, include
Ross Perot, Pat Buchananand more recently political commentator Lou Dobbs. Some have associated Producerism with the wider phenomenon of the Radical Middle, but such comparisons remain controversial. In general, it can be said that the average Producerist tends more towards nationalismand anti-globalizationthan does the typical member of the Radical Middle.
Perhaps a more salient distinction is this: The Radical Middle is of the opinion that "government doesn't work" and must be overhauled, that is, government is well-intentioned but dysfunctional. Producerism believes government as currently constituted is ill-intentioned but quite functional - actively advancing the interests of international capital and the servile underclass it manipulates for the votes it needs to stay in power.
William Jennings Bryan
One New Zealand Party
Reform Party of the United States of America
On Producerism and conspiracism and middle being squeezed, (Canovan 1981, 54-55; Kazin 1995, 35-36, 52-54, 143-144; Stock 1996, 15-86; Berlet and Lyons 2000, 4-6). On Producerist white supremacy and the attack on Blacks after The Civil War (Kantrowitz 2000, 4-6, 109-114, 153).
*Berlet, C., and M. N. Lyons. 2000. Right-wing populism in America: Too close for comfort. New York: Guilford Press.
*Betz, H-G. 1994. Radical Right-wing Populism in Western Europe.
*Betz, H-G., and S. Immerfall, (eds.). 1998. The New Politics of the Right.
*Canovan, M. 1981. Populism. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
*Ferkiss, V. C. 1957. Populist influences on American fascism. Western Political Quarterly 10 (2): 350–373.
*Fritzsche, Peter. 1990. Rehearsals for Fascism: Populism and Political Mobilization in Weimar Germany. New York: Oxford University Press.
*Fritzsche, Peter. 1998. Germans into Nazis. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
*Kantrowitz, S. 2000. Ben Tillman & the Reconstruction of White Supremacy. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina.
*Kazin, M. 1995. The populist persuasion: An American history. New York: Basic Books.
*Laclau, E. 1977. Politics and ideology in Marxist theory: Capitalism, fascism, populism. London: NLB / Atlantic Highlands Humanities Press.
*Lasch, Christopher. 1991. The True and Only Heaven: Progress and its Critics. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
*Payne, S. G. 1995. A History of Fascism, 1914-45. Madison, Wisc.: University of Wisconsin Press.
*Postone, M. 1986. Anti-Semitism and National Socialism. In Germans & Jews since the Holocaust: The changing situation in West Germany, ed. A. Rabinbach and J. Zipes, 302–14. New York: Homes & Meier.
*Shirer, William L. 1960. Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. New York: Simon and Schuster.
*Stock, C. M. 1996. Rural radicals: Righteous rage in the American grain. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press.
In the Media
* [http://www.slate.com/id/2153271/ Say Hello to the New Economic Nationalists (Slate.com)]
* [http://www.prospect.org/print/V13/16/judis-j.html Why Democrats Must Be Populists] "
American Prospect" article with a positive view of Producerism.
* [http://producerism.org/about.html Producerism.Org] Neatly divides society into Producers and the "Looters" (elite) and "Moochers" (underclass) who exploit them.
* [http://unenumerated.blogspot.com/2006/03/why-are-wages-flat-and-inequality.html Producerist explanation of rising inequality (government in league with big business to create more regulations)]
* [http://www.publiceye.org/tooclose/producerism.html The Producerist Narrative in Repressive Right Wing Populism]
* [http://www.zmag.org/ZMagSite/Nov2004/berlet1104.html Hard Right Styles, Frames & Narratives] Includes a short section on Producerism under "Populism."
* [http://andrewcoyne.com/Essays/Magazines/Idler/PRIVILEGE%20-%20Idler.rtfd/TXT.html The Party of Privilege: The NDP Consensus and the Attack on the Poor] A critique accusing a Canadian political party of being Producerist.
*Journeymen for Jesus: Evangelical Artisans Confront Capitalism in Jacksonian Baltimore (ISBN 0-271-01773-2) Book proposing a Jacksonian and evangelical origin for Producerism
* [http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=74-0066620481-0 Every Man a Speculator: A History of Wall Street in American Life] Book that includes section on Producerist hostility towards financial capital.
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