- Capitalism and Alternatives -
Utopia of Social Labor prob. needs another inducement
Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on September 27, 1999 at 15:46:37:
In Reply to: Work posted by Barry Stoller on September 27, 1999 at 01:25:27:
: A fertile field for agitation in relatively developed, affluent nations, I believe, is alienation. Indeed, I believe that our 'you can have it all' culture is even hospitable to such an approach.
SDF: Though I sympathize greatly with those who suffer greater job alienation than mine, I don't see that revolutionary mobilization will be created by tweaking the "you can have it all" culture, nor any other form of motivation that uses class envy. After all, as Craig Calhoun pointed out in The Question of Class Struggle, the old motivation for revolutionary mobilization relied upon the fact that the capitalism of the early 19th century (re: E.P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class) was inimical to the interests of the oppressed, that reformism didn't offer the possibility then that it did later:
From Marx's day to the present, the conditions of revolutionary mobilization have been continuously eroded in the advanced capitalist countries. This does not in itself mean that workers have increased their share of capitalist wealth or lost the "objective interests" they may once had in a different form of society. It need not even mean that techniques of ideological cooptation or police repression have improved or their use intensified. What it does mean is that the social strength of worker's communities, their links to each other, and their dependence on a traditional way of life incompatible with modern capitalism have been greatly reduced...
Workers have almost never had nothing to lose but their chains, and in any case the degree of their immiseration hardly predicts their radicalism. On the contrary, the question is what workers have had to defend. Some defenses need to be radical, even revolutionary, because workers (or peasants, or "the people") cannot both save what they value and adjust to capitalist, colonial, or imperialist conditions. Other defenses can be reformist, because there is no fundamental and immediate contradiction between what workers want and what elites need, only a quantitative competition. (Calhoun, p. 239)
So I don't see job boredom offering an incentive to agitate. Much more likely, in my view, is the possibility that capitalism will collapse its own resource base in an economically nasty way, and this will put a swift end to the sort of reformism that demands higher wages within a system that still withholds power over society from its constituent members. If it does anything for anyone, the doomsday argument about environmental disaster shows the extent to which people have forfeited the power to manage their own personal life-situations to impersonal economic and political forces, and that this leaves global society as a whole looking like a car without a driver.