South Korea's imperial links with Keynesian compromises and neo-liberal retrenchment: from Cold War miracles to advanced nation status
George Baca (Dong-A University )
Paper short abstract:
The South Korean welfare state highlights the imperial nature of the "Keynesian compromise" during the Cold War. Recent changes from state-based economic policies to financialization carries important continuities. Both "eras" contributed to the making of a world of competitive consumerism.
Paper long abstract:
Amid instability in the West, many anthropologists have found comfort in the mythic views of the welfare state. Amid the collective cries of the "crises of neoliberalism," social scientists tell heart-warming stories when Western Europe and the USA were committed to full employment, the well-being of its citizens, and social goods. In contrast to these conventional views, this paper examines the South Korean welfare state to depict the imperial nature of the "Keynesian compromise." I begin with a historical examination of Keynesian concepts of capital controls and macroeconomics, with a specific focus on ex-colonial countries. Keynes sought to retain colonial continuities to provide raw materials necessary for the economic growth that would follow full employment and effective demand. Central to the welfare state was the transformation of working-class politics into consumerist desires and commodity fetishism. Then I will connect these plays of imperial power to developmentalism in South Korea and the building of its unique form of welfare institutions. These ethnographic descriptions illustrate the continuities and changes represented by South Korean state's move from state-directed industrialization to the export of national capital and the proliferation of financialization. The contemporary forms of economic power continue the fetishism of developmentalism that was central to the rise of the welfare state following WWII. Global capitalism in both the Keynesian and neoliberal "eras" contributed to the making of a world Arif Dirlik calls a "horse race of development figures (i.e., GNPs and GDPs, etc.)" based on "competitive consumption."
Renegotiating the social contract: ethnographic explorations of the contemporary welfare state [Anthropology of economy]