- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Let's try again

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on July 05, 1999 at 13:24:39:

In Reply to: romanticism about 'pre capitalism' posted by Gee on July 02, 1999 at 13:58:09:

: : SDF: Zebras don't have "interests," people don't "naturally" compete, they compete because it's been made into a great game by capitalist society.

: The 'people are infinitely malleable products of society' fallacy which you rely so heavily upon.

SDF: No, Gee, if you wish to show that something is a fallacy, you have to show that it's UNTRUE. In this case, you would have to show that people WEREN'T malleable products of society. As I have demonstrated before, social forms (as shown by the anthropological record) are so incredibly diverse that we just can't pick one of them as indicative of "human nature". Therefore, I reason, "human nature" has no bearing upon the ultimate form of any society or of the behavior of the individuals within it. What counts, I reason, is social conditioning, i.e. socialization. If we were socialized as an Ik, for instance (a tribe living along the Kenya-Uganda border that apparently has been dissolved, but was documented in Colin Turnbull's THE MOUNTAIN PEOPLE as having existed), we were abandoned by our parents at an early age and quickly learned to become antisocial. If we are socialized as Congo Pygmies (as documented in Turnbull's THE FOREST PEOPLE), on the other hand, we are socialized into communal life and learn to work and live in groups. And that's the way it works -- "human nature" doesn't force human societies into either form, but allows for the possibility of both forms.

What's more, humans can master this process, and choose the forms of their own conditioning, designing their own societies.

Have you any counter-evidence? Can you explain the evidence I've presented according to a different explanation? Why are the Yanomami so violent, yet the Semai so peaceful? If you can't do any of the two above things, then what is your objection to my explanation?

: your adoration of 'pre-capitalist' societies as sharing and co operative is romanticism.

SDF: No, it's an observation about the limitations of "human nature" explanations as regards human behavior. Conditioning and socialization are so powerful that even if we assumed beforehand that it was "human nature" to gain a "comparative advantage" over other human beings, it would be useless as an explanation of human behavior or of the possibilities for human society, so much so that we might also assume that it was "human nature" for human beings to cooperate for the good of the group (which would certainly explain the demonstrated success educators have had with co-operative learning methods), and we would find THAT assumption equally useless as a limitation of the possibilities for human society.

So it just makes no sense to argue "society can never be X because of human nature," because humans will surprise us.

Get it?

So what's your problem with that?

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