- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Nice post.

Posted by: bill on November 05, 1999 at 16:22:24:

In Reply to: Possessive Individualism (better version) posted by Samuel Day Fassbinder on November 04, 1999 at 19:05:48:

Thanks Sam. Fine post which I think probes some of the capitalist culture's foundation.

<. What economic anthropology seems to show is that the concept of "the individual" is culturally tied to certain values typically held by some members of societies that believe in "individuals".>

Yes, and these values reflect the mode of production. The !Kung are similar to the Cree in this regard. One anthropologist asked tribal members what were examples of "doing bad things". There were very few. A couple of incest taboos, and "fighting". The culture is permeated with 'polite' conventions. When asked if "stealing" wasn't a bad thing, the response was a puzzled objection - "Oh no, we don't steal" - Stealing is literally beyond normal conception - it's like asking "Do you cut off the hand of a disobedient child?" - It never occurs to even think the thought.

:<"Self-ownership" is shown to be the marriage of the concept of "individual freedom," to the concept of possessive individualism, in other words to the philosophical idea that the world is a thing that is potentially to be owned by individual human beings>


Or - as Max Stirner put it:

"I secure my freedom with regard to the world in the degree that I make the world my own, 'gain it and take possession of it' for myself, by whatever might, be that of persuasion, of petition, of categorical demand, yes, even by hypocrisy, cheating, etc.; for the means that I use for it are determined by what I am. Property is what is mine."

There are several threads to the tangle that I have trouble tying together. Here are some.

One thread that runs through the whole tangle is the thread of power relationships. These include the patriarchal system and the control of management over a workforce. Both are being challenged - partly in the name of free agency. This is freedom from domination.

On the other hand, for those who have power, freedom must be defined in some other way. For them it is in terms of some essential, almost existential Principle. Because it is philosophically independent of the social realm, it is beyond politics, (all politics being social). The slight of hand comes with your #2 - Sovereign owners of things - which impart to those things qualities that seem to remove them from social challenge - while simultaneously serving as great instruments of power over the social sector.

On the other hand there is the whole matter of "Desire" as a motivating force. I think Deathy once got into this, but I'm not sure.

Some of these "eternal principles" are beginning to receive a lot of scrutiny lately. It may all be part of a growing resistance as more and more of our lives become "Taylorized". (Dialectics strikes again!)

Another interesting topic might be the uses and meanings of the word "moral relativism", which is sometimes used by the Left to describe the amorality of the Market, and by the Right as reaction to values that seem to threaten the comfort of establishment conformity.

(pardon the incoherence - just letting fly some thoughts)

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