- Capitalism and Alternatives -

'Ontology' of the streets under capitalism

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on June 27, 1999 at 22:24:16:

In Reply to: Shall we? posted by Red Deathy on June 27, 1999 at 14:00:44:

: : SDF: Uh, , actually, RD, being born is not really your own effort. It's what your mother does to you -- she pushes you out of the womb.

: No, but the 'rich' part is a result of doing, both the famillies doing, and eventually the individuals own doing.

SDF: But the ideology of "sovereign individualism" counts only the action of the individual, not of any larger unit. Remember, RD, we're arguing to an atomist. So, back to my example, being born is an action performed by mothers, they push you out and you're born, and you're born "rich" or "poor," depending upon the private-sector scenario you're born into. My argument is that, if you're born "destitute," you should have the right to a public-sector scenario for your upbringing. Or rather, I would rather live in a world with such a public sector than in Gee's pseudo-utopia of privatization.

: Being black, or talented, or fast, is never a result, per se, of doing. ANother way- richness is socialisation, blackness is biology. the difference I was pointing to.

SDF: Yes. You are arguing Gee's non sequitur. The real issue is the right to appropriate socialization, not the "right" to talent.

: :The matter at hand is that, since Gee thinks the born-rich deserve their privileges

: I don't think he posits 'deserve', he seems to be implying that 'it just happens', like being black, being talented, its just a force of nature, hence why I poitnted out his misconcenption.

SDF: I had presumed, since Gee proclaimed himself a "utopian dreamer" (when I brought it up in a thread about Habermas), that in his utopia people would rise to the top of their potential. Since he hasn't done anything in his "utopian dream" to allow the underclasses to escape their slums besides assume that the "forces of nature" put them there, I had presumed he thought them "deserving" of their slums with this nasty "tough luck" argument of his. After all, a utopia is a world one dreams up, and utopian dreaming (at least in Paulo Freire's or Peter McLaren's concept of it) is the concept of a better world to be used conceptually to highlight the shortcomings in our own world. OK, I give up. I take it back. Gee doesn't think the poor are "deserving" of their slums. Gee isn't a utopian dreamer, either, though he'll have to take that back himself.

: : he appears to be blaming the born-poor for what they are.

: Or rather, absolving the rich for the poors poverty. Since being poor is like being born white. just happens.

SDF: Well, it really does happen for those born into poverty, but that's to absolve those who are born. The rest of us, who buy into capitalism, remain guilty as charged.

: : This ontology thing segues well into my question about Paul Willis' LEARNING TO LABOUR. Have you read it? What did you think about it? It's a matter of what counts as BECOMING working-class.

: Not read it I'm afriad, (Nor the book you mention in teh above post), i'll look them up, sound interesting (bit out of my field- any recomendations on texts for the ideological structure of teh X-Files gladly recieved ;))

SDF: I had this debate with the folks in my old department, the one I got my Ph. D from. The ideological structure of the X-Files? Ideological structure for whom? English people? Academic ones, working class ones, male ones, female ones, black ones, white ones, Tories, socialists? Look, where I come from, most folks watch TV for the buzz of the alpha waves in their brains, to relax, to stay out of the trouble that accompanies life outside their tiny apartments. If you really want to study the ideological structure of the X-Files, you're going to have to go STUDY THE AUDIENCE WATCHING THE X-FILES. Go watch people watching television, do an ethnographic study on their lives, see what effect their viewing of the X-Files has on their everyday existences.

If you discover that (in the end) you are bored by watching people watching TV, then perhaps you'd learn more doing an ethnography of everyday life, exploring TV as a contribution to the education of the UK's people. You might consider, in this regard, Henry Giroux's book FUGITIVE CULTURES.

If you do this, you'll stand more or less where I stand in relation to critical social theory, although I've gone further into education than the mere expropriation of its social contents for the sake of an understanding of TV.

Perhaps this explains something of why I gave up on such studies while in an academic department specifically suited for them, and did a Ph.D dissertation in a school system instead of staying where I was. (At financial risk to myself, as I realized later -- if I'd chosen to be a TV critic I might be expecting a tenure-track job next September, whereas no such thing is happening for me now.) I didn't study Habermas, Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse, Lyotard, Benhabib, Sloterdijk, Benjamin, Fraser, Honneth, Foucault, Derrida, Gadamer, Wittgenstein, Marx, Bourdieu etc. just to specialize in analyses of capitalist product that ignored a thorough understanding of the audiences of such product. So I might end up as an elementary-school teacher? That's life under capitalism.

: : SDF: RD I'm only interrupting here because your reply appears to be a non sequitur, otherwise I'd let you and Gee babble for all eternity. The question to ask is, "what in hell is a chosen obligation?"

: 1:I think Gee was meaning that folks chose to have babies, hence they assume the burden voluntarilly.

SDF: I don't think that's how it works in real life, of course, as you say below. Folks choose to fuck, having babies comes nine months later, the incredible price tag comes after that.

Some folks, having been raised in fundamentalist Christian neighborhoods (remember my challenge to you here, now think of Kansas or Oklahoma or North Carolina or Georgia), experiment with sex as soon as the gonads come of age, then they discover that they can't support a baby on a wage earned through child labor. I was once a substitute teacher in a program for teenage mothers -- they would all sit around and discuss their Caesarian sections. The question thus becomes one of whether teen mothers can afford life-saving (yet also quite dangerous) Caesarian sections on the "free market," whether the costs of such operations should be socialized (I voted for this option), or whether death during childbirth (the common solution until this century) is what such mothers "deserve." I've already explained why I don't think charity is going to do the trick.

Many folks, living in the slums of Baltimore or Los Angeles or Philadelphia, have babies, then Daddy splits (being a black male w/ no high school diploma, thus almost no job prospects outside of dishwashing or drug-dealing), leaving baby with Mommy. The more time Mommy has to spend at minimum-wage "workfare" job, the less time Mommy has to take care of baby. This is in fact the dilemma of the procapitalist ideologues who enacted the 1996 "welfare bill," especially in Wisconsin, where draconian enforcement of such bill has dramatically increased the poverty rate and the load on already-overloaded charities. So what's the solution? Shall we declare baby a "sovereign individual" capable of taking care of him/herself, since Mommy doesn't have money to afford day care? See, this is what's happening in a lot of households, and I get to teach baby when he/she grows up a few years. Thank goodness for taxes, they pay for folks like me.

My good friends (who shall remain anonymous because I haven't asked them permission to reveal their names) who spent the Vietnam War era protesting the war and getting stoned, should now be coming to the realization that, under capitalism, their days of debt will be endless, because they will now be stuck with their child's educational bills at a four-year college, and college ain't free here like it is in other countries, nor is it cheap.

Me? I (almost certainly) won't have babies until capitalism is dead and gone.

: 2:My point was sometimes babies come when we have no choice in the matter.
: 3:Overall, I agree with your point.

SDF: Yup.

Follow Ups:

  • Short Reply. Red Deathy Socialist Party UK June 28 1999 (3)
    • amused Gee si June 29 1999 (2)
      • bemused. Red Deathy Socialist Party Uk June 29 1999 (1)

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