- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Here we go 'roun the mulberry bush

Posted by: Joel Jacobson ( none, USA ) on March 30, 1999 at 12:19:44:

In Reply to: And again... posted by Red Deathy on March 25, 1999 at 11:10:44:

: : No. "Capitalism" doesn't exist at all, either as a particular pheonmenon or an essential things-in-themselves, which we can never know anyway. It is simply a label you have given, based upon your particular value judgements, to something you see wrong.

: No, its an identification, through means of difference, of a certain selection of social practices, clearly identifiable.

Sure, it's identifiable under your particular mind's method of classification. But, most of what I see has roots dating back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. I'd estimate taht your "socialism" would eliminate 99.9% of all cultural norms, mores, etc. What you call "capitalism" is founded upon layers upon unanalyzable layers (that's why we have post-structuralism) of social customs and traditions. Plato, indeed, had it right when he realized taht to create his "just" society he'd have to exile anyone who'd assimilated any of the current culture into their lives (he estimated this to be ten or older). No, what we have by "capitalism" is merely a handy reference to an untold myriad of customs and traditions; we also call this society.

: :If a free market economist, such as Milton Friedman, makes a reference to "capitalism" they simply are refering to a broad category of instances where there is an acceptance of discrete property, exchange currency (private or public), and a mixture of various factors.

: Which is exactly the same use as I put it to, except I define the various practises differently.

You use it to claim there is a particular system called "capitalism", and taht this "system" has it's "opposite", its "negation", in "socialism". Again, capitalism, to me, is a nominal reference to a myriad of ideas, customs, social practices, etc. running from "the rule of law" to "private property". Your focus on the particluar written laws of a time (legal positvism) do not even begin to lend an comprehensive and useful social analysis. We can abolish the IMF which is a particular and concrete orgainization taht has been built and planned; such orgainizations are particulars that can be isolated and their effects on society measured, not by some arithmetical yardstick, but by our values as directed by our opinions. We cannot abolish "capitalism" as it is nothing more than a nominal and vague reference used to associate between a vast range of both recent and ancient social customs.

: :The term "capitalism" as you use it is from a propagandistic 1903 work entitled "Kapitalismus der [I forgot the rest]" and simply refers to an idealist construct of your particular mind and based upon your particular value judgements and opinions.

: No, it is based in my mind, with my signifiers, upon specific social practises, and as a description for a type of society where said practises predominate as the means of social production and reproduction., as opposed to otehr observable insctances of social interaction.

Well, sort of. But I've heard the USSR (which was an attempt to "rationally" plan society) compared to the USA and these two possessed massive structural differences. We are unable to simply provide a formulaic checklist and then place "social systems" into carefully regimented categories. This method could never tell us why two kingdoms could have vastly different welfares among their populace and, yet, the same written political structure.

Such social classifications are helpful if they may be used as instruments in showing us particular courses of action. Otherwise, such classifications, while they may be made based upon some formula particular to an individual or school of thought, are completely useless. And, in my opinion useless classification systems are also irrelevant systems.

: :Milton Friedman and I do not need the terms "capitalism" or "socialism" at all as they do not lend any relevance to how we order our lives, beliefs and actions.

: Then why does he use them? Basically, what you are trying to do, if I may impute a motive to your actions as you do mine, is eface any differences in social modes, and present one, the current one, as the only, eternal optimal system, a singular Being without an Other, without alternatives.

Here's the key. There is no "system of Being", and there is no "system of Becoming". Only people, individuals like you and me, possess being. Yes, we indeed are creatures of our society. But, this is an observation containing no real instrumental relevance in providing us with ways to seek and choose possible courses of action. If society has a "Being" I defy you to show me this entity as I've never seen it.

And Milton and I use "capitalism" in a purely nominal reference; this is why I laugh when I hear people referring to today's Russia as "free-market" when it contains absolutely no characteristics which either of us would place into the vast range considered "capitalistic" (Russia has no property rights). So, is Russia "socialist"? Not according to you. Is it "capitalist"? Well, if we use your essentialist "capitalism" and compare it to "capitalist" USA then we get results that are completely ridiculous; this is why the doctrine of Opposites is so deceptive and analytically unfulfilling. Supposedly, the US and Russia, if historical materialism were true, should possess identical institutions and structures of tradition and cultures. Yes, Marx did think humans possessed free will, but he still maintained taht particular productive capacities maindated corresponding formal institutions. This clearly throws a wrench into the works.

: :You, however, must have these terms as they represent specific ideals for you pertaining to some future, but one of which you can neither bring about or even give a semblance of events of how this might be brought about.

: I believe I can bring about socialism, and know how to- I'm doing it now.

Mmmm, while you're doing it people in Asia and elsewhere are suffering because of things like the IMF. Meanwhile, people in the USA's LP and Republican Liberty Caucus are making a concerted effort to end the World Bank and the IMF. But, still "no compromise" you say, so the asians must wait until you can bring about some "system" which no one has ever seen, and for which you cannot produce any positive social model (sorry, but , in my opinion, "abolishing money and the nation-state" and "compromise" are no more than naive platitudes) to be freed from the IMF.

: : "Capitalism", for you, is a whipping boy when no reasonable courses of action present themselves. "Capitalism", for me, is merely a convenient reference (one without which I would still completely retain my ideas), one covering any combination of a multitude of factors. For instance, ancient trading centers in Messopotamia were capitalistic.

: I'd call them mercantilist, there is a difference. And yes, 'capitalistic' behaviour can be found centiuries back, but ours is the only society where it is the dominant mode of production- we don't have fuedal tenures, we don't have slave production, we don't (by in large) raid, nor gain land and booty through warfare. But to have a society called 'Capitalist' we'd have to have the deployement of capital, that is social resources ploughed into production for profit.

Profit is the universalization of value. History is dominated by the many cow-towing to the values of the few. This is another area where historical materialism blinds the eyes of its adherants. No one wants money for money's sake, but rather what money can bring: power, pleasure, distinguishment, reputation, etc. And each one of these can have both good and bad effects, depending upon the bearer. Profit and liquidity (which are completely value-neutral) allows us to live in harmony on a daily basis with those whom we possess nothing in common or even with those who we otherwise might virulently disagee. Money, profit, and commodification of exchange are the only universal, value-free glue taht allows the Christian and the Bhuddist, the neo-Nazi and the Black Panther, the religious tranditionalist and the homosexual, to live together, socially, by maintaining a cordial, but distant relationship to each otehr.

Your "socialism" requires taht we not only compromise with those whom we do not even know but, even, those with whose values we possess anatagonistic disagreement. The number of people each one of us can truly compromise with, in the world, is a fraction so infimatesimle [sp?] as to be virtually non-existant. The industrial "revolution" taht you rely on for introducing "capitalism" into society really changed society very little in relation to the complete and massive body we call "western culture".

Our ideas are fundamentally different:

a) I have no idea what is best for the future of humanity. So, I agree to live in peace with my neighbor and approach, undogmatically, others in society with my ideas and, in turn, listen to theirs. In short, I want to advance the interest of human beings without, myself, knowing "the best" course of action.

b) You classify society into "systems" that only analyze certain surface elements solely revolving around "the means of production". You want to advance the interest of human beings, too, but if, and only if, this future involves waht you conceive of as "socialism".

You are apriori convinced that "socialism" is the best without even having any conception or knowledge of how it might work. I fully admit to no such ability and can only work within my limited knowledge and spheres of society particular to me (family, neighborhood, etc).

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