- Capitalism and Alternatives -


Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on August 24, 1999 at 17:51:49:

In Reply to: it's got more in common with capitalism then than socialism. posted by Lark on August 24, 1999 at 14:16:26:

: Interesting I've heard the whole Somalia thing raised as "do you want socialism? Because this is what it is!" elsewhere but anyway I was interested in what you where saying about possessive individualism.

SDF: It's really difficult for me to imagine a situation of competing warlords, no government, and perpetual theft amidst the starvation of the masses as having anything to do with socialism.

: Take facism it is merely a system that extends competition to every aspect of human existance (as opposed to limiting it to the economy) and identifies competition as primarily to do with strength (well that's what it's about isnt it)like race, nation etc.

SDF: In his book "Fascism" (doubtless cribbed from Giovanni Gentile, but whatever), Benito Mussolini defines fascism as a system wherein the individual must "submit or be conquered" to all higher forms of social organization, the family, the church, the business, the town, the nation-state. So Fascism was a form of collectivism, as sure as Mussolini was a former member of the Italian Socialist Party.

Fascism, on the other hand, was a purer example of state capitalism than Stalinism. One recalls the deftness with which Hitler expanded his nation state/business into Poland, while Stalin was duped by the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

Marx once advertised socialism as the paradise of individual freedom (one recalls the CRITIQUE OF THE GOTHA PROGRAMME) but I think this vision faded away after Lenin employed the Myth of the Proletariat to engineer a coup in Russia, while discarding the rest of the Marxian vision. I still think Johann P. Arnason's THE FUTURE THAT FAILED provides the best description of these events.

Capitalism, on the other hand, becomes a form of collectivism as well -- the corporation, or in the case of Russian capitalism, the syndicate. The principles of 18th century British philosophies which undergird capitalism doubtless stress the "sovereign individual" because it was necessary at that time to reorganize the underclasses to support a new form of imperialism, one based upon financial entrepreneurs instead of lords. One thinks of what Stephanie Coontz argued in THE WAY WE NEVER WERE (pp. 52-53):

The precondition for "freeing" men from traditional obligations, hierarchies, and interdependencies to become individualistic economic and political actors was a magnification of women's moral obligations and personal dependencies, both in the family and beyond it. Social historian Philippe Aries argues that with the rise of Enlightenment philosophy and the manufacturing system, previously "diffuse" obligations and emotions were increasingly concentrated in the family. At the same time, women's work was more clearly demarcated from men's, and middle-class women in particular were increasingly excluded from former occupations. They were assigned to domesticity inside the home and voluntary religious or charity work outside it.

Self-reliance and independence worked for men because women took care of dependence and obligation. In other words, the liberal theory of human nature and political citizenship did not merely leave women out: It worked precisely because it was applied exclusively to half the population. Emotion and compassion could be disregarded in the political and economic realms only if women were assigned these traits in the personal and economic realm. Thus the use of the term individualistic to describe men's nature became acceptable only in the same time periods, social classes, and geographic areas that established the cult of domesticity for women. The cult of the Self-Made Man required the cult of the True Woman.

Thus the myth of autonomy has always required the "bracketing out" of the collective experience of production.

: I think it's got more in common with capitalism then than socialism.

SDF: The problem at hand is in creating a form of collectivism that will benefit everyone and not merely require a power struggle to decide who will benefit from the labor of whom.

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