- Capitalism and Alternatives -

The Tribe

Posted by: Nikhil Jaikumar ( EFZ, Massachusetts, USA ) on April 05, 1999 at 17:03:07:

In Reply to: The Myth of the Commons and Other Tragedies posted by Joel Jacobson on March 30, 1999 at 12:20:13:

: But, they are comparing apples and oranges. While we might, indeed, refer to property in bygone centuries and millenia as "commons" we are simply imposing our particular vantage upon history. Yes, compared to current conventions, where single individuals or small groups own property, the past might look from our particular viewpoint as "commons". What that idealized view simply ignores is that, while one person did not own property, regardless of the label we use, one hundred specific people (or whatever the size of the particular tribe) still owned any property we might examine. And so, given the particular "commons" references made by the self-titled "socialists" here simply bear no relation to anything in history. Specific people have always owned property; yes, the numbers and structures have changed, but there has never been any such idea of universal ownership.

No, some anarcho-syndicalists advocate small local units whioch are no larger than the ancient tribal units., Anyway, better communications and technology today allow for larger communes to be built.

:Such tribal units, additionally, jealously guarded their property with spears, swords, and bow and arrows and contstantly engaged in conflict with each other.

Evidence please? Most wars over territory, resources etc. flared up in the wake of the introduction of agriculture, which not coincidentally was also when hierarchy and slave society were invented.

: Whatever you want to call your future dream of "common ownership" is irrelevant. This dream bears no relation to any situation in the history of mankind and any claims of such is not only idealist, in my opinion it is intellectually dishonest, given the evidence.

No, common ownership has been the system for most of human history, if anything it's the modern individualist sysem that is unnatural.

: Which brings us to the idea of "compromise". An idea that Deathy has proclaimed is the answer to the "crises" of the human race; "crises", of course being a value judgement origninating in the particular opinions of Deathy, himself. Since, no one in this particular debate seems to know what a dictionary is, I'll have to do the legwork:

: Compromise:
: 1. settlement of differences by arbitration or consent reached by mutual concessions (mutual promise to abide by an arbiter's decision).

: and from that, Mutual:
: directed by each othter towards the other; having same feelings toward one another; characterized by intimacy.

: Okay, now we've found a huge flaw in this sort of "democratic" mutualism. How can I have intimately-held settlements involving all members of the human race, simultaneiously?
I can't. It's not a matter of wanting the best for the human race and my fellow human beings but, rather, not even possessing the ability for such. Two things come to mind: centralized planning ala USSR (which you have already rejected); dividing the human race into smaller democratic units with the individuals in each unit collectively owning their particluar allotment. Make no mistake, the second option is not the placid panacea that we might think. There is no possible way to impartially and completely distribute such properties in an equal manner. Indeed, the very process of doing this will lend itself to the politics of the sort found in the Institutional Revolutionary Party (I love that name) of Mexico.

: Congradulations, Deathy, you've just recreated ancient tribalism. Where do you want to go next? And, make no mistake, ancient tribalism was not this idealized panacea some, especially Rousseau, have pictured them as.

You have no evidence for this. In most tribal societies slavery does not exist, hierarchy and feudalism are rare and are much less severe than in more "advanced" agricultural societies, and generally the levels of inequality, crime, etc. are low.

See Colin Turnbull's discussion of the Pygmies, he claims that they have no crime, hierarchy, inequality, or social conflict, nor any system of law or coercion. The whole system is run on a voluntry basis, property does not exist.

:They were horrid and nasty, by our standards, where the sole purpose of the individual was of a utilitarian survival and propagation of the group.

No, it's not that individuals are coerced to join the group, but that they identify their own values and goals with those of the group. The Pygmies possess no method of coercion, so unless the whole system is voluntary, it could not be maintained.

: (A utilitarianism which was alleviated by the advent of generalized sets of rules and customs that allowed individual to separate themselves form the tribe and its customs.)

Shared values and intentions rather than coercive "rules".

: Babies with small "defects" or even bearing a superficial mark considered "unlucky" were cast out to die.

And today we just abort them instead....

: If a person was considered to have broken some tribal taboo, no matter how minor, their life was often considered forfeit.

What are you referring to, or are you just recycling old travelers' tales from the "Dark Continent"? Every society has rules that if you break them you get punished. The society that Gee idealizes, Victorian England, used to hang people for pickpocketing. How is any society's "taboos" more primitive than that? By the way, I'll repeat: the Pygmies and the San in Africa have no concept of coercion or punishment. Prison, the death penalty, etc. are utterly unknown.

: Property and the means of production were communal precisely because there was solidarity and a cohesive concrete set of rules and customs taht defined the in-group. This same solidarity was undermined and eventually destroyed by the generalization of rules and customs across a broad scope of people and geography.

No, societies continued to be tribal, ewxcept that agriculture became the mainstay and a caste system slowly began to develop, destroying equality and social cohesion. "Generalized ;laws' did not come till much later.

: But at the same time such break down of communalism ended the reppressive and grotesque practices of the ancient tribe.

I beg to differ. Newly repressive and grotesque practices (divine right of kings, slavery, monopoly of women, strict sexual roles, foot-binding, death-penalty-for-pickpockets, a standing army) all developed after society began to become hierarchical.

: Generalization of custom and acknowledgement of individual spheres of influence, such as personal property, provided those with massive different value systems and beliefs to interact without resorting to violence and force.

No, what about the Crusades, the World Wars, the fuedal wars in Europe, and thousands of other conflicts. The invention of private property did not decrease wars, in fact by producing artificial scarcities it forced peopler to go to war for control over water, cows, trade routes, minerals, etc. Hierarchical societyies are generally more violent and warlike than communal ones. The European wars were over control of gold mines in South America and things like that, the Masai-Kikuyu wars over cattle "ownership", etc. Rwanda/Burundi is the site of the bloodiest conflicts in Africa, precisely because it's historicalkly been one of the most stratified societies, with a rigid caste system. Individualistic societies tend to be more violent, just look at the blood-feuds in Arabia or Afghanistan, the incessant wars in early-capitalist Europe, the American West, etc.

: Regardless of any intellectual machinations we only compromise with those whom we are capable of compromising with (duh). And these are people with whom we have personal knowledge and share values and social interaction. Such people can only comprise a minute fraction of the human race. I cannot compromise with someone when I do not know what they want.

No, as RD says, we all interact with each other right now through the interntional market and governmental bodies, even though we don't know each other. The state will mediate between you and I and will encourage mer to produce to meet your needs even though I don't know what you need.

: There is no possible way to do this; it is not a matter of desire to do so but ability. The only possible way to do this is to divide, arbitrarily, society into small tribal units and give them specific lots. But all you've done is re-invent ancient tribalism and you still have private ownership as those outside these units expressly do not have ownership of property within the tribe

No, you can have tribes interacting mutually, you can have each of them own equalk property, or they can share property. Also, you can have socialism on a large scale.

: In summary, you have only three possibilities:

: a) a world of hierarchical tribalism with its communal form of private property (the true and, in my opinion, awful manifestation of anarchism and mutualism).

"communal private property" is an oxymoron. If property is communal it ceases to be private. It's like saying "voluntary slavery". Private property means that

: b) a world where there is absolutely no way of interacting with our fellow human beings as we can only compromise with those whom we have intimate knowledge of (i.e. pure chaos, which is not anarchy).

: c) Stalinist Sovietism in all its radiant glory (ha ha ha).

State socialism need not be violent nor repressive, just as capitalism need not be. Capitalism is Switzerland as well as Indonesia, similarly socialism (Ok, Red, "state capitalism") must take into account Kerala as well as the Soviet Union. If the small communal model really doesn't work, we can always fall back on the state-socialist model, which has been demostrated in numerous cases to achieve the goals it sets out. (Democracy, equality, and social / economic progress).

: The very term "commons" is a verbal sleight-of-hand that says one thing and then very smoothly slips the phrase over to an entirely and completely unrelated situation. No, Deathy, et al, if you wish to have universal common ownership then you'll have to demonstrate how such can be had across the myriad of cultures containing individuals who do not know each other and haven't the faintesst conception how the other lives, thinks, or feels (i.e. you'll have to become a wizard of immense powers over us all).

No, if the ever-holy global market (May God bless her grave, may she live forever, may she smile upon us sinners) can mediate the desires and intewntions of people, so can the government.

: Finally, you'll have to confront taht in the end all values are governed by opinion and cannot be derived from mere observation of facts.

No, all values are governed to an extent by opinion, but some are more in touch with reality than others because they do not contradict the observable. Saying "homosexuality is evil" is not a defensible value because there is no basis for saying it and it does not further society in any way. The arguments from reliugion, nature, etc are all self-contradixtory, hence this value is value-less. "Opinion" is a meaningless term, none of us if we are at all rational holds "opinions" devopid of factual basis, opinions rest squarely on a basis of fact.

: Your advocation of the changes you describe are impositions of your particular mind's value systems upon the rest of us. What's sad is that I'm quite certain as individuals you all really do care about people.

These value systems do not spring from nowhere, they come from an assessment of the state of the world.

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