- Capitalism and Alternatives -

On choices and limitations

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on July 09, 1999 at 12:31:25:

In Reply to: You don't want it to start. posted by Flynn on July 08, 1999 at 10:49:49:

: You mean that it sucks that in order to pursue a career, you have to convince people that you might be good at it? What a burden. It sure would be nice to never have to study, practice or work to gain a skill set.

SDF: The point is that the "choice of a career" under capitalism is not at all like the selective purchase of goods at a department store. And it's much less of a choice than merely acquiring a set of skills -- one must acquire those particular skills that fetch enough money to solve one's "overhead problems." And even that isn't determined by how skilled one is, but rather by the flows of money. So, reflecting further, it's more of a "choice" of adaptations to the system than it is a "choice of a career" per se.

: : SDF: Our choices are LIMITED by the above determinations.

: Which means we still have choice.

SDF: The Nazis once gave the Jews a choice. "Either give us the names of 100 of your Jewish friends or we'll shoot you now." The point is, that merely calling something a choice doesn't justify anything about "choice" in itself. Choices only make sense inside an overall social framework. Homeless people choose every day either to beg for food or to wait all day for soup kitchens to open. What can we say about the quality of those choices?

: Our choices are LIMITED by reality. Do you seek an escape from that?

SDF: Advocates of work for social change cannot all be defined as escapists.

: : SDF: I'm sure it would also be worse to die on a medieval torture rack or freeze to death in the depths of Siberia or suffer from malaria in a Cambodian jungle or to be forced to work in a Chinese sweatshop. So what? I was making a point about choice -- bringing up alternatives nobody wants is just more advertising for the "choice" we are required to accept.

: No one's ever said that markets respond instantaneously.

SDF: I'm an infidel, more preaching to me is not going to bring conversion. And the discussion of customization is an aside to the point I made here that all consumerism is a choice of one, and only one, set of social outcomes.

: : SDF: If I had wanted to say as much, I would have said it in those terms. My argument is that capitalism, not life, presents the illusion of a choice.

: If choice under capitalism is only an illusion, what *does* offer choice?

SDF: ACTION gives us choice. Dialogue also gives us choice, too, as a proto-form of action, as communicative action (re Habermas). Capitalism usurps those choices for the sake of building a system, whether you like that system or not.

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