- Capitalism and Alternatives -

An Attempt

Posted by: Ian on February 03, 19100 at 11:02:34:

In Reply to: How do realism,capitalism and democracy relate? posted by Mike Cook on February 02, 19100 at 11:51:26:

: I have to write a five page essay on that subject but it has to be related to the following works: N.Machiavelli-the discourses, I.Kant-political writings, T.Hobbes-The leviathan, M.Friedman-capitalism and freedom, M.Weber-From modernism to postmodernism, A.Giddens-beyond left and right.
: I am having trouble finding a common relation between the topics in the previous readings. Any help as well as a suggestion for a good thesis would be appreciated. I just need a push in the right direction to get the juices flowing. I am a first year political science student.

All this in five pages? That's a whole library shelf!

I don't know what you mean by 'realism'--is this the 'realism' as the opposite of 'idealism' in the following from my father: "Capitalism is the way of the world! Get real! Quit being so idealistic!"

Then there's 'realism' in art but I can't believe you mean to talk about that.

As far as democracy and capitalism, IMO they stand in contradiction to one another, even though they're intricately related historically. (For those of you whipping out your Oxford dictionaries I'm aware of the Greek origins of the word 'democracy')

In the broadest terms, when early capitalists' began struggle against the monarchy landed aristocracy, they had to use the rhetoric of universal equality. (Can you imagine if the Declaration of Independence began with "When in the course of Human Events . . .all property owners are created equal"?)

Then having succeeded in wresting power from the monarchy, the capitalists had to draw up agreements which guaranteed their rights to property and and set forth some rules for cooperation--The Constitution. But, being a minority, they had to win support from the merchant class who would then act as a buffer between the ruling class and the masses. Thus, the U.S. has some democratic distortions, namely the Bill of Rights (which, even though it is the first part of the Constitution was actually added on later--that's why the Bill of Rights comprises the first ten amendments.)

It's worth noting that there was never a time when these rights were respected. A few years into the U.S.'s great nation was founded-- after the glorious "freedom of speech"--Congress passed the Alien Sedition Act which trampled on that very hallowed right. This act was overturned, illustrating that democratic distortions in capitalist societies can impel those in power to follow their own rules--SOMETIMES. But we should always remember that these laws, like all laws, don't exist on some abstract plane of Natural and Good, but will always mean what people in power choose for them to mean. Anybody who doubts what I'm saying is welcome to try being in actual need of these rights.

So, I believe that democracy is the image that capitalism creates for itself to sustain its legitimacy. Personally, I know very few people who truly believe that America's freedoms exist anywhere but on paper and in the mouths of the talking heads on teevee. There are guys, though, who seem to think that the Bill of Rights begins and ends with the right to keep and bear arms. What's clear to me, though, is that true democracy cannot exist alongside with capitalism.

In fact, how they've sustained it this long is another amazing story.

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