- Capitalism and Alternatives -

I'm 'coming around' to the conclusion that I'm talking to a brick wall

Posted by: Stoller on November 30, 1999 at 10:39:57:

In Reply to: Exactly! You're coming around. posted by Stuart Gort on November 29, 1999 at 12:25:02:

: "Dominant mode of production" and "class struggle" are the jargon of the intellectual Marxist, Barry. Try answering the question in plain English so my little brain can process it.

Once upon a time the dominant mode of production was the handicraft mode (artisan); which was displaced by the manufacture mode (division of labor in one workplace); which, in turn, was displaced by today's dominant mode of production---the factory mode: industrialized, rationalized, automated production.

The social relations between people have changed with each mode of production. More or less: the handicraft mode of production was characterized by feudal relations (lord, serf); the manufacture mode of production was characterized by mercantile relations (master, apprentice); and today's factory mode of production is characterized by capitalist relations (boss, employee).

Class struggle refers to each set of relations as they have changed along with the mode of production that characterizes each era. For example, the bourgeoisie (using the muscle-power of the proletariat and the peasant, to be sure) overthrew the feudal lords in the 'advanced countries' around the 1800s and made dominant their mode of production, capitalism. Marxist theory posits that, one day, the proletariat will overthrow the capitalists in order to establish yet another dominant mode of production, socialism.

The mode of production prevalent, again according to Marxist theory, contains the necessary prerequisites for the next. Indeed, 'socialism calls for a conscious mass advance to greater productivity of labor compared to capitalism, and on the basis achieved by capitalism' (Lenin). Socialism requires the industrialization, rationalization, and automation of capitalism---only what will change will be the social relations. Boss and employee will give way to a classless society where all people are workers with a piece of the action.

Furthermore, the mode of relation often finds that the social relations attached to it are constricting the progress of the mode of production. Capitalists often prevent the fruits of R & D to emerge because they hoard technology until their fixed capital is used up. Capitalists put potential investment (which would produce more consumer goods at cheaper prices) into personal consumption (or other fields yielding higher rates of profit) instead. And so on... Thus, social relations become a fetter upon the dominant mode of production's potential growth (and usefulness for the majority of people).

Dialectical materialism in a nutshell...

: So, if rights are a simple human construct, state why the general underlying morality of collectivism, which venerates economic equality, is superior to a morality which venerates freedom. I believe the historical implementation of these concepts has shown them to be, in practice, mutually exclusive of each other.

Freedom is a matter of perspective.

The proletariat's freedom (economic equality) will perforce abridge the capitalist's freedom (economic inequality). Once the capitalist class is gone, however, the freedom that remains in society will be equitable TO ALL under the new social(ist) relations.

: Stock can be purchased and owned by anyone at all.

And 'anyone' can win the lottery as well. Only we KNOW that the idea of the lottery is that only one person wins while everyone else loses (supplying the winnings).

: I encountered no law, social moiré, or any external pressure that blocked my way in my travels.

Again, your individual story. And, again, my stubborn statistical break-down:

71% of households own no shares at all or hold less than $2,000 worth in any form, including mutual funds, 401(k)s, and traditional pensions.(1)

: The only possibility of creating real economic equality is to disregard the natural variance in human aspiration and expression of ability.

OK, we're actually staying on topic.

You insist that 'anyone' can get a piece of the means of production. You insist that only 'human nature' prevents some people from doing so. This would be FAR MORE CONVINCING if, say, education was equally accessible to all members of the population. But it's not: only 23% of the population can afford education (2), which is just as well because only 25% of the jobs in the country require any skill above a high school level (3)!

Now if you want to counter this by saying that 'anyone' can get a piece of the means of production WITHOUT higher education, then you are ignoring government data that unequivocally shows that those without higher education have average incomes of UNDER $20,000 annually.(4) And those folks don't have a piece of nothin'.

Now, let us take this debate a bit further.

You asseverate that the American way of life enables 'anyone' to have success. This would infer that the mode of production is INDEED prepared for socialism because the capitalist mode of production has a high enough productivity to create abundance for everybody. Right?---you do insist that 'anyone' meaning theoretically everyone can make a lot of money and have control of their own life?

Thus, the dialectic is prepared. (And so we see the key to peasant socialism's invariable failure...)

All that needs to happen is that the social relations within the mode of production (the 'profit' system that places mansions, aged wines and trophy wives on one pole while lack of nutrition and health care is placed on the other) are ALTERED.

Stu: Why is my labor not my own if I invest it and hire employees?

Barry: We've done this song and dance over and over before, Stuart. You also OWN the labor of 'your' employees.

: You may be singing and dancing, Barry but I'm actually working pretty hard.

Ahem?!? Are you working harder than me when you're writing these posts?

How do you know what I do (and how hard I do it) when I'm doing OTHER things?

: My employees own all of their labor until they sell it to me. We agreed what they would exchange it for when they hired on.

Has it EVER occurred to you what an 'incredible coincidence' it is that there are ALWAYS employees hanging around 'agreeable' to sell their labor-power to you, Stuart?

Now, get your mind off your anecdotes for a second and think about those statistical percentages I've been cutting and pasting for you for the last several months!

: I know something of human nature, Barry.


You've got a one-on-one relationship with human nature, I bet. Just like the Pope has a special 'in' with God, I suppose...


1. Business Week, 1 September 1997, p. 67.
2. Statistical Abstract of the United States 1996, table 243, p. 160.
3. Business Week, op. cit.
4. Statistical Abstract of the United States 1999, table 748, p. 473.

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