- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Culture and Nature, part zillion

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on July 08, 1999 at 10:42:54:

In Reply to: eating posted by Gee on July 07, 1999 at 11:17:40:

: : I can see "human nature" invoked as regards things such as eating -- since all human cultures involve some interaction with food, it's logical to assume that it's "human nature" to eat once in a while. But "comparative advantage"? No way.

: If humans eating is natural, the standard being their life, then would you accept that where one person / group currently holds an advantage over another they would seek to hold it where the condition for loing that advantage is in losing the current level of food they have.

SDF: Only according to some cultural mandate for "comparative advantage," not according to any chimera of "human nature". Let's go over the reason why eating is natural. If an organism doesn't eat, eventually it dies. However, society, being a product of cultural conditioning, can buck this trend, and perform unnatural acts of wilful starvation; witness for instance populations that agree to be "starved out" by other populations, as has occurred throughout human history (for instance, castle sieges -- in the Middle Ages in Europe, one of the primary methods of conquering castles, given that they were so difficult to conquer by force, was to starve their inhabitants until they were too physically weak to defend the castles -- it's amazing these people didn't just surrender rather than submit to hunger), or hunger strikes (used to dramatize political causes), or religious fasts. Culture has made it possible for human beings to value political goals more than they value food, albeit not for long. All cultures have had eating as part of the repertoire of cultural ritual, simply because the cultures that have survived (or that have been revived for any period of time) are composed of human beings who eat. It bears no relevance to cultural design, which can (as the above examples show) go the other way.

"Comparative advantage," on the other hand, is a cultural goal, with no direct relationship to the physical maintenance of the human body. It therefore has no logical relevance to any argument about "human nature."

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