- Capitalism and Alternatives -

More essentialism

Posted by: Joel Jacobson ( none, USA ) on March 29, 1999 at 16:15:14:

In Reply to: Squares. posted by Red Deathy on March 24, 1999 at 15:26:03:

: : And humans develop new methods of production in order to further their currently held values and interests. It's a completely circular arguement: production affects values, and, in turn, values affect production. Foundationalist arguemtents, such as these, go mind-bogglingly nowhere. But to say, as did Marx, per my quotes that you minimally responded to, that the modes of production are the cause of societal institutions is simply without basis, and merely speculative.

: 1:Economic necessity existed prior to human consciousness.

Um, I expressly said that when I remarked that even plants and animals exhibit economics.

: 2:Economic necessity is usually stronger than consciousness- if a eprsons consciousness is at odds with the economic system chances are they can do little about it, individually.

"Economic necessity" is a value judgement made by particular individuals. Contrary to your misconception food is not an economic necessity, objectively. To Bill Gates, personally, another Mercedes is an economic necessity.

: 3:Any materialist view of consciousness must accept that environment determines consciousness, and if the productive base determines environemnt, then the latter also determines consciousness.

Yes, and concious and a hosto of other things determines environment. C'mon, for the umpteenth time these circular foundationalist claims lead absolutely nowhere. (see the Russian Revolution example).

: Of course consciousness affects teh base, but in general that is an effect of environemtn itself (but its not a closed mechanical necessarian model).

Values affect production, and production affects values. Such foundationalism descends into a nightmarish circular debate with absolutely no escape. No one can prove the primacy of either one, and any philosophy based upon such is purely speculative and non-analytical.

: A wee example if the rising bourgeoisie- they lived relatively idividual town lives, with their accounts books, and their trading, free from Feudal ties. Hence they came up with utilitarianism, the ethics of the acocunts book,

First, this, accounts book label, is a perjorative and idealized representation of utilitarianism. Second, utilitarianism what the unspoken practice of ancient tribalism. Eliminating "defective" children is surely the most utilitarian social action I can think of. Finally, Jeremy Betham is the father of utilitarianism and utilitarian-style arguements run all the way back to Plato. What you call "utilitarianism" was only formalized around 1775.

: and the first great privatisation of Capitalism, was that of Marriage, hereto-fore a means of maintaining fuedal power. History shows the changes in consciousness acconmpanying different classes- look at nineteenth century engalnd, there were clearly differenta attitudes and mores among the middle class than among the aristocracy and working classes.

yes, but it's impossible to establish any primacy here.

: : No. I don't even accept the word "capitalism" as a valid reference to anything. The term was popularized in 1903 by a propagandistic work of a Fabian entitled "Kapitlismus der [I forgot the rest]". When you say "capitalism" you are refering to a particular conception in your particular mind.

: OK, lets call it the Industrial market system shall we? When I say capitalism I am referring to something recognised by a lot of people, a society dominated by fiscal capital, rather than by fuedal ties, or religion or whatever.

No. I don't even accept the term "market system". Any reference to such is a pure idealistic contstruct of a particular mind, yours in this case. The institutions we see are unplanned, evolved entities that develop their own survival mechanisms as individuals maximize their utility. What exists is individuals with their own values and interests interacting with each other in order to further these values. yes, these values are developed as individuals socially interact with other individuals, but that doesn't take away the fact that our society is us and vice versa.

when you point to particular functions you consider "capitalist" this is the projection of you particular values and views upon the world we share.

: : It's particular happening? Yes. The nature and relevance? Probably not, as the claim that 'modes of production' produce their correlative social forms is simply an unproven statement. A statement which against which I can produce particular historical data. (EX: Protestantism developed in unindustrial Germany while Catholic Holland and Anglican England industrialized. This and other data simply falsifies the claim that the particular 'modes of production' produce correlative social institutions.

: Erm, Engalnd and Holland were Protestant during the Industrial Revolution, protestantism being the clarion call of the revolutinary bourgeoisie-

That's simply not true. Holland was largely Catholic, and Anglicanism is an offshoot of Catholicism formed, not for economic purposes but because a King had a spat with a Pope (another example against historical materialism). Luther was not a proponent of usury or any other such "capitalist" (your term) ideas even if this Protestantism later turned into and the accounting system was developed in Roman Catholic Italy. Just more evidence that historical materialism is simply a flawed and incorrect hypothesis.

: in germany it was the Town dewllers, the Burghers who invented protstantism, with its emphasis on personal conscience, its repudiation with the social features of catholicism (prayers for the dead), and later with its emphasis on the elect and predestinarianism, it became a justification for making money.

Yes, the religious movement did become a movement against the Church but, in this case, it was in the vein to change things and the Church was considered part of the old system. Again, causally, the two are unrelated. It was the idea to change things and find new ways of living that caused the change and not the means of production themselves. Said means began developing after Protestantism.

: All I was asking about the Industrial revolution, was that you recognised that it brought about an entirely different society than the one before it.

Because it didn't. Specific parts changed, but overall much remained the same. You have to analyze things methodologically indvidualistically. Any other method will bring skewed and essentialist results.

: : No. It's the birthplace of the factory. "Industrial Capitalism" is of particular significance to your mind.

: But the factory represents an entire social formation, peculiar to it, specifically investing money in production to make more money. Do you agree with that statement?

No, I don't. Merchants dating back thousands of years did the same thing (see my trading centers in Messopotamia comment). Marx's idea 'workers of the world unite' was of the greateest significance up to the Rsussina Revolution, and it had its influence upon econmic conditions. But witht he revolution, the situation became very difficult, simply, becasue, as Lenin himself admitted, there were no fruther constructive ideas. Then Lenin had some new ideas which may be briefly summerized: Socialism is the dictatorship of the proletariate, plus the widest introduction of the most modern electrical machinery.' It was this new idea that became the basis of a development which changed the whole economic and material background of much of thw world. In a fight against tremendous odds, uncounted material difficulties were overcome, uncounted material sacrifices were mde, in order to alter, or rather, to build up from nothing the conditions of production. And the driving power of this development was the enthusiasm for an idea, Marx's own ides. Instead, of conditions determining ideas, ideas determined conditions.

In order for Marx's theory of historical materialism and its socialist culmination to be true then it must first prove itself false. Not very philosophically tenable. Even more evidence against historical materialism.

: : It's occured for tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of years. It even occurs with plants and animals. Does this make them "capitalistic", in your thougt, of course.

: Not actually, no. But you therefore accept that them as think are divided, socially and economically, as them that act?

I've never questioned the fact, merely its relevance. If this division makes me as an individual better off then it's a good thing.

: : I would classify this as a law (according to you): a person's "social class" is determined by their relation to the means of production. Is this true or no? If you agree then I don't see how in the world this can't be a law (according to you) as it appears in the form A causes B (weird, that's undialectical).

: Yes, a relationship to the means of production does determine class.

Isn't that pretty much what I claimed you were saying?

What you're tring to do here is rely on presuppositions taht "social class" is a relevant source of social analysis and then quickly substituting your particular conception of "social class" as the definition of said "classes". Whenever you say "social class" you are making a token reference to "the relation to the means of production". You then transfer, the master signifier back to the token reference, which is a loaded reference, and voila you have your method of social analysis. I'll reiterate, step-by-step what you've done:

a) taken a commonly used term "social class" that contains certain important connotations relating to social analysis.
b) have applied your view of "the relationship to the means of production" as determinate to "social class".
c) brought back the reference to "social class" as a token reference to "the relation to the means of production"
d) taken the nominal and instrumental reference "social class" and twisted it into a meaning that supports your particular viewpoints and opinions.

All you've done is proclaim you particular conception of "social class" as the definition of "social class". I can never disprove this as it's merely your token reference as gleaned from your particular opinions. Okay, then "social class", using your definition, is largely irrelevant to social analysis. so, let's quite talking about irrelevant things, shall we?

: The relationship is dialectical since the produyctive base provides a master signifier affixing positions within the social system, providing Being and its negation.

"Master" is a definition of your particular mind. I completely understand your particular mind's particular conception of it but fail to see its relevance ot either myself or most others for any sort of "social class" referenced by your particular mind.

: : But only if they have a collusive monopsony on purchasing labor, which they don't. They continuously compete for labor, driving up the price for labor, and completely falsify your picture of the crawling little worker. Again, 'the relation to means of production' is simply incapable of providing a complete, and in many case any, anlaysis of social interaction. And if a hypotheses we hold cannot explain phenomena that arises then our hypotheses is incomplete and flawed. Thus, the claim taht history, and its abstractions, are defined by 'relation to means of production' is simply incomplete and produces a grossly flawed analysis of social evolution and interaction.

: No, because even when wages are driven up, this effects the whole lifestyle of the working classes, and effects the relationship between the workers and teh capitalists,

Yes, this is completely true. And why, in my opinion, workers such as myself are treated much better than workers 200 years ago. But you are still not advocating any sort of positive social course of action.

: however, as I noted elseplace, if wages rise too high, production falls,a nd unemployement ensues.

This is a common misconception most have of Marx. He particularly ridiculed the Malthusians who thought this very thing. High wages do cause unemployment if wages rise faster than worker productivity. But historically wages have pretty much kept in line with productivity. Where Marx's concpetion of "crises" comes from most modern economists, myself included, are quite mystified. Marx's economic analysis was right on par with the earliest marginalists (i.e. Menger and vBawerk) in its analysis of how prices manifest themselves. I can only think one thing:

Marx thought that cyclical expansions and contractions, which broaden, not deepen, would bring wide dissatisfaction with private property and other functions that socialists equate with "capitalism". He thought workers would band together and establish "socialism", thus, doing away with "exploitation" and the business cycle. Additionally, Marx's conception of the reasons for the crises remain dubious. Much of the business cycle can be traced directly to poor monetary policy on the part of central governments and politicians who gain directly from this monetary policy. Further, due to inconsistencies in the labor market (e.g. language barriers) and political machinations some sort of business cycle might be expected. But, "regular crises" just doesnt' seem to bear out, unless the term is utilized in a ridiculously loose sense. Frankly, Marx's prophecy regarding the coming of "socialism" just doesn't bear out from his hypothesis of historical materialism.

Again, in order for "socialism", as Marx construed it, to come about, then historical materialism must be false.

: Competition between capitalists does not invalidate the wage relation as a basis of class. Its simply your assertion.

You mean the basis of your particular mind's "social class". First, please clear up your language by getting rid of "social class" since that term is, in your vocabulary, a token reference to "the wage relation". But I never asserted that such competition did invalidate your particular conception of the wage relation (and don't say "social class" as it's redundant when paired with wage relation). Actually, I can't assert such, as this version of "social class" is a concept of your particuloar mind which can be neither proven or disproven; it is based upon your particular viewpoint, for which I can never present evidence against, or you for. All I'm saying is that 'the wage relation' is grossly unable to give a comprehensive social analysis. Deriving from this, if you want to keep on applying 'wage relation' as the basis of "social class" then said class is mostly irrelevant. Okay, then let's get off this "social class" (token reference: wage relation) stuff and get on to ideas about how we can change our world for the better.

: As an example, take this room- Me and SDF and otehrs have fdifferent views, and we compete against one another, the anracho-capitalists enter the equation,a nd we all turn and unite against them.

More evidence of the complete nominalism (anti-essentialism) of productive and relevant "social class"analysis. "Capitalism" is not a Hegelian essence (which cannot be proven anyway). No, references to "capitalism", by most, are completely token labels applied nominally to convey ideas to others. This particular word could cease to exist tomorrow and my ideas would remain unchanged. I do suspect taht you'd be in a quandry until you guys came up with a new term and developed it into a reference with the "loaded" connotations conveyed by "capitalism".

: : Okay. I'll say this about your "class" distinction:
: : 1) "social class" is based on the wage relation, in which case it's woefuly inadequte in analyzing social interaction.

: No, class is based on relations to the means of production, the fundamental charactieristic of the working class is the wage relation.

Which is waht I just said only without all the verbiage. I understand your particular conception; however, I'm looking for tools to analyze society and introduce social change, and your particular mind's definition of "social class" simply does not provide such a tool. We can go on refering to "social class" as determined by the "relation to the means of production". But, then, "social class" would be largely irrelevant for social analysis.

: From the wage relation springs other social interatctions built onto it (superiority of the rich, inferiority of the poor, the need to keep on the bosses good side, seniority, wage differentials, contempt for the unemplyed, etc.).

And this is simply deductive reasoning from faulty premeses (i.e. historical materialism). And your particluar references to "superiority of the rich, inferiority of the poor, the need to keep on the bosses good side, seniority, wage differentials, contempt for the unemplyed" are references your particular mind constructs to supports your "exploitation" theses. Any one of these social interactions can be construed differently than does your particular mind. I "keep on the bosses good side" because I like my boss (I've liked all my bosses) and want a work environment where I can have fun with people I genuinely enjoy working with. Additionally, I treat the people in my department with respect and defference for the same reason. Your value-imperialism is projecting your particular value system onto others, where it doesn't belong.

When you decry "keeping on the bosses good side" as evidence of somthing wrong you are foisting your particular opinions upon the rest of us.

: : 2) "social class" goes far beyond the wage relation and allows us to analyze social relationshipx.
: : Which is it? The first or sencond? The two are mutually exclusive; either "social class" transcends "the wage relation" or "social class" is of minimal relevance.

: \It does both actually, since many relations are uilt up around the wage relation-

And they're not. When capitalist A outbids capitalist B for labor the wage relation phenomenon described actually works in reverse to your hypothesis. When the tort system rewards ridiculous damages to people for minor grievances against businesses this is not analyzable from your "social classes". And, please, don't go on about the legal class (another nominal social class, really) existing for the organization of "the ruling class". The only foundation you have for this claim would be deduction from the hypotheses of historical materialism which is also simply a claim by Marx but without any evidence of primacy, and, about which I have shown ample evidence refuting. "The relation to the means of production" simply possesses no evidence as claim for the primacy of all social analysis.

: however I wouldn't analsys a husband wife relation in social class terms, thats a social relationship.

Good, we agree. But it doesn't change the essentialist notion of your particular "wage relation" conception.

: : No. Your claims are either:
: : 1) mostly irrelevant or
: : 2) wrong
: : If "social class" does follow from said 'wage relation' then "social class" is of minor relevance.

: Except that most people's livlihoods, and pretty much their whoel social status is depenadant upon their wage,

So, what. You still haven't proven that this means they have to do one thing or another. Wihtin any society we have to "work in order to eat". You have added the word "capitalist" in order to change the analysis but it remains pretty much the same: "working for capitalists in order to eat" is equivalent to "working in order to eat". If "working for capitalists" makes me better off than "working" then you have made absolutely no point about the relevance of "social class" or anything else.

What are you going to claim next? That food coerces you into having bowel movements. I mean B (bowel movements) do follow from A (eating food).

: and their relationship in work. For sociology it is fairly unimportant in that almost all of us recieve a wage, so for examning the vast majorty of relationships its not important, but overall in society it is crucial.

Not unless you show how it means something relevant. People every day go to work, put in their eight hours, and go home and forget about it until tomorrow. Tell them they're exploited and they'll laugh at you. Tell them they should give up half their current well-being in order to be "liberated" and they'll think you a dangerous nutcase. Again, your analysis is analytically true given your premises, but entirely irrelevant when applied common-sensically.

: : But, if it is of major relevance then it doesn't follow from 'the relation to the means of production'. Let's leave the nebulous "social class" out of this and get to the heart of the matter. Your claim is that history, and the individuals it constructs, are driven by their relation to the means of production. Per the example I gave above this is simply baseless. If I can show historical data taht contradict historical materialism then all the deductions you draw from this theory need another basis.

: Except that your example is flat out wrong.

No,,,,it,,,,,wasn't. And I gave several more, too, in this post. I can produce a wealth of such as several history books have been written with the purpose of discrediting historical materialism. History does not show one-to-one relationships between changes in the modes of production. Europe was christianized without such and Islam swept across the Middle-East in the same manner. Historical political movements in China moved across the landscape without any such changes in productive processes. And let's say there actually was a one-one relationship. You still couldn't prove primacy. Do you want me to go on?

: : Like what? Earlier we went through 20 or so posts with you denying that you were a neo-Platonic essentialist. Now I see a post where you are claiming that "capitalism" is an essence. Which is it?

: That, my dear was a wind up, and unlike plato's essences Hegelian essences don't exist.

It ends up being the same thing. Instead, of having to prove an essence exists you just have to say it's "becoming" or "a movement" and, voila, you don't have to prove anything. So, you've gone from Platonic essentialism to Hegelian essentialism. Big deal, it's still the same old essentialist, metaphysical mysticism.

BTW - this is what I was refering to with my "after Kant" comment, taht offended you on another post. Before Kant, philosophers tried all sorts of elaborate reasoning to prove metaphysical essences. After Kant, they didn't even bother to apply reason but simply created systems with the option that individuals could "take it or leave it". such was Hegel's and Marx's. Yours and Hegel's claims of essences, becoming, negation, and such are completely your metaphysical speculation. Pretty much like Liebnez, et al, sans the attempts at providing allegorical reasons. I can never disprove your assertions as they are entirely based upon you particular opinions; but, unfortunately, you obfuscate your opinions by referring to them as facts. This makes it quite hard to dialog and produce reasonable results.

: : Not really. For instance, your definition of "capitalism" is simply your definition of "capitalism". The word for me means next to nothing. And I'm not sure which objects you're referring to.

: I have shown you a thousand times how my terms relate to teh expenditure of money into production to create more money is teh defining feature of capitalism. you do accept that that happens, don't you?

You are trying to sneak in the M-C-M analysis which simply relates to your particluar value system and is not some objective analysis. Basically, the M-C-M analysis says taht the worker's don't get the full benefit of their labor and this just is simply a value judgement of yours, which I can neither confirm or deny. But, of which, I disagree. I am unable to refer to things like "surplus value" as they are not objects but, instead, relate to your particluar value judgements and your particular viewpoint. I fully accept that we can construe events to occur in the above manner which you describe, but then you take off on a completely different tangent and try to derive "exploitation" from this analysis. While analytically true, it is of minimal relevance to social analysis. So, let's stop talking about things of minimal relevance and, instead, advocate real policy decisions that will make a difference in today's real world. Shall we?

Additionally, "the means of production" refers to anything that adds to social value. This includes asset allocation, distribution, labor, ascertaining consumer's desires, etc. But I've covered all this in a post I'm making the same day as this one. When you say "means of production" you are falling into the same problem that the classical economists did. They limited their analysis to widgets in a make-believe world with social value already assumed. In reality, anything that adds to social value is a part of the process of producting that same social value.

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