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Thread: capital by karl marx.

  1. #16
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    zhaos mate seems quite erudite. it would be nice if he turned up here. zhao invited him but i guess he considered it to be beneath him which is fair enough. oliver craner says he has read capital.

  2. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Tea View Post
    The big differences with technological societies is the overall far greater population density and the fact that it's much more efficient to hunt things with guns than with spears or bows.

    Not that technology is synonymous with capitalism but the technologies that we see as forming the basis of modern world since the industrial revolution have generally sprung from capitalist societies.
    can people please read the things i've quoted, in particular what SOS has said, before responding, please? Because he addressed all of these issues, and lays a clear understanding of Marx as ALL FOR the Capitalist revolution as it broke from feudal structures (19th Century), yet detailing its inherent problems which would cause its eventual collapse (now), and suggesting a future communist society which does not abandon, but builds ON TOP OF the achievements of Capitalism.

    which has a lot to do with this new book by Jameson:

    Marx himself was always quite excited about new discoveries -- things like chemical fertilizers (which don't seem so good today, but led to a green revolution in their time), undersea cable, and other discoveries of the day. It is very clear that he thought of socialism as more advanced technologically and in every other way. Raymond Williams wrote about how people think that socialism is a nostalgic return to a simpler society. Williams challenged that saying socialism won't be simpler, it will be much more complicated.

    There is a tendency among the Left today -- and I mean all varieties of the Left -- of being reduced to protecting things. It is a kind of conservatism; saving all the things that capitalism destroys which range from nature to communities, cities, culture and so on. The Left is placed in a very self-defeating nostalgic position, just trying to slow down the movement of history. There is a line by Walter Benjamin that epitomizes that -- though I don't know how he thought of that himself -- revolutions are "pulling the emergency cord," stopping the onrush of the train. I don't think Marx thought about it like that at all. It seems to me that Marx thought that productivity would increase by getting rid of capitalism. On the level of organization, technology and production, Marx did not want a return to handicraft labour, but to go on into all kinds of complex forms of automation and computerization [as it would emerge].

    The historical accident of something like socialism or communism taking place in a place what was essentially a third world country, Russia, an underdeveloped country, that has made us think of socialism in a way that was not Marx's way of imagining it. The socialist movement has to itself be inspired by this other type of vision.
    Last edited by zhao; 28-02-2012 at 07:09 AM.

  3. #18
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    @zhao - a couple points for in response to SOS (+ yes I did read through everything posted). i can't see the debate on your facebook so if you could add these I would appreciate it. I am curious to see SOS's answers.

    I'm certainly not as well versed in basic economic texts (or Marx generally) so I'm not going to argue on those grounds. however, I take issue w/what s/he calls "really-existing alternatives", about which I know a bit.

    I happen to have taken an interest in Kerala b/c I went to school with a lot of people from there. its economy is hugely dependent - more than a fifth of its gdp - on remittances from emigrants working mostly in the Persian Gulf (i.e. oil) or to a lesser extent the States. another big chunk comes from tourism. Kerala's "alternative" is actually heavily reliant on capitalism.

    Mondragon - to be a real alternative worker cooperatives would have to be implemented on a much, much larger scale than the 80k-odd people it employs. which has never been successfully accomplished anywhere, so far as I know. (the Spanish anarchists on the eve of the Civil War came closest + even that was not very close at all)

    the Diggers, workers' councils (the soviets, Hungary 56, Paris 68, etc), the CNT-FAI and all other "historical examples too numerous to mention" have one thing in common - they all failed, if you define success as a viable, lasting alternative (tho in the 1st place none of them existed on a scale large enough to be a real threat anyway). capitalism's greatest ability is its ability to perpetuate itself. every challenge is/will be crushed, neutered or recuperated or etc. will only end with the exhaustion of the finite resources it runs on (which is already happening, bit by agonizing bit). I challenge SOS - or anyone - to provide any compelling reason to think otherwise.

  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Tea View Post
    it's important to avoid noble-savage-type fantasies about indigenous people living in perfect harmony with Mother Nature. This may be the case for some pre-technological societies but certainly not for others
    again, hunter-gatherers had a much longer run than it appears industrial civilization will (barring miraculous technological salvation). you can argue about original affluence or whatever, but the real measure of success is survival. that ain't no noble savage fantasy. as far as situations like New Zealand can you, or anyone, name any that didn't take place on an island (i.e. Easter, etc) ? absolutely there plenty of examples of pre-technological societies failing but you're specifically talking about failure as a result of environmental degradation (edit: I'm aware of, for example, the hunting to extinction of megafauna, but it's completely absurd to compare things like that to the exponentially higher rate at which resources are consumed now. we're talking tens of millennia vs. a few hundred years)
    [standard disclaimer that there's no primitivist call here for return to h-g]

    I think - tho I might be wrong - by "counterfactual" vimothy means example of a large scale functional system besides (+ possibly why it is better than) capitalism
    Last edited by padraig (u.s.); 28-02-2012 at 10:42 AM.

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    one other thing loosely related to the topic:

    The Subversion of Politics by George Katsiaficas is a good book (+ one of the only ones I know of) about the anti-movement of the Autonomen - a recent example of autonomous resistance to capitalism and forerunners of the modern protest style of black bloc etc - its successes + failures. this should particularly interest you Zhao since the Autonomen were German (similar non-movements existed in Italy i.e Autonomia, and Holland - there is another great book about the Dutch squatting scene called Cracking the Movement) and it must still resonate now, especially in Berlin (Kreuzberg was one of their strongholds I believe; the Hafenstrasse in Hamburg was another) even with the sharp decline from its 80s peak.

    also, inspired by this thread I've finally gotten around to starting Capital.

  6. #21
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    well one thing i was hoping for was other people to start reading at the same time as me so im pleased to hear that padraig.

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    Quote Originally Posted by luka View Post
    and it sounds as if tea has been reading flannery
    http://www.abebooks.co.uk/9781876334...1876334215/plp
    No - I've just heard about various extinctions that humans caused in pre-modern times - but that book does look quite interesting.
    Doin' the Lambeth Warp New: DISSENSUS - THE NOVEL - PM me your email address and I'll add you

  8. #23
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    http://newleftreview.org/?page=article&view=2914

    thought this was interesting re the crises of capitalism.

    "Motivation: just as many Soviet workers rightly hated to work under their inefficient bureaucratic state capitalist regime, most of us in liberal capitalist societies hate to go to work at places usually under the control of a corporation that is run on essentially totalitarian principle -- I don't see how this speaks well to the motivational nature of capitalism. Plus there's a strange ideological assumption here -- that motivation toward economic development/efficiency should be an unquestionable good above all others. What if you want to live your life according to a different mode of motivation, such as the spiritual discipline of a monk or the creative expression of an artist or the moral economy of a peasant? One of capitalism's major defects is that it destroys all these various forms of human motivation under the servile dictum of "work or die". A pretty impoverished, to say nothing of repressive, form of motivation if you ask me."

    I really liked this part of your FB discussion, Zhao. Unfettered capitalism is a system masquerading as a purely economic one whereas it is intensely political (it's not a game that started from a tabula rasa/amnesty upon resources), and it also has nothing to say on what it is to be human, or what is valuable about humanity/existence. Taken on its own, it is a system for robots, not humans. Although obviously it can be used as just one part of a more enlightened and holistic system.

    Not even to go into the point that everyone intervenes in the market, just that right-wingers do so solely for their own benefit.

    or the psychological consequences of capitalism.
    Last edited by baboon2004; 28-02-2012 at 10:50 AM.

  9. #24

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    What I mean is, capitalism is "not the best system for X"--compared to what?

    There is an implicit counterfactual conditional buried in this claim. Why not make it explicit? Then, if it is defensible, defend it.

    EDIT: Or don't, of course--it was just a passing thought whilst reading the comments zhao posted.
    Last edited by vimothy; 28-02-2012 at 12:59 PM.

  10. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by zhao View Post
    no, really. i'm not going to pretend to be anything but the novice that i am. so here is SOS again:

    most of non-capitalist human history until the advent of capitalism in the sixteen and seventeenth century appeared to be doing just fine, critical as some of us may be about this or that aspect of various systems that existed at the time, from seigneurial feudalism to nomadic hunter-and-gather society. In fact, given the exponentially algorithmic technological development of industrial and consumerist capitalism, tremendous wastes have been generated, as anybody who has given even a superficial glance at the global ecological crisis today know all too well -- and this "waste" is not at the microeconomic level of transactional imbalance in supply/demand within a miniscule economic sector but at the catastrophically colossal level of the world threatening all species, which surely ranks as the worst example of resource management in history. By the way, it might also be worth recalling here that the notion of "algorithm" does not originate within capitalism, as the word itself derives from the name of the medieval Persian scientist al-Khwarizmi.
    Your friend seems very smart and I'm sure has given this a lot of thought, but I don't find his/her argument persuasive as it is.

    Let's assume arguendo that we are on the verge of some kind of ecoological catastrophe.

    What we want to know is: is it the case that this catastrophe was caused by capitalism?

    In order to figure that out we need at least the following two things:

    1. A sensible and restrictive definition of capitalism;
    2. Some knowledge of what controls we need to hold constant to get a picture of the "ceteris paribus" effect of capitalism.

    (1) is clearly absent from the above quote and elsewhere your friend is basically question begging in regards to what constitutes capitalism.

    (2) doesn't seem to have been considered either, which is unfortunate since we are surely up to our eyeballs in selection bias.

    Say that you can divide up the causes of the catastrophe into "capitalism" and "other stuff". What are the relative proportions? It seems to me that some degree of pollution is a natural consequence of a popuation of seven billion people. It's not hard to think of other factors that might contribute.

    I'm no expert on these things, of course, so perhaps I'm just talking out of my ass here. But it all seems incredibly vague.

    I mean, if we we transitioned some other system, and the catastrophe was averted, where would the gains have been made? Increased economic efficiency? Lower standards of living? Etc? Etc?
    Last edited by vimothy; 28-02-2012 at 03:52 PM.

  11. #26
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    ^getting the feeling this forum is just the wrong place for me but will take a crack at your argument vim

    population of 7 billion+ driven by advances in medicine + agricultural/industrial revolution which itself powered emergence of capitalist economy. very difficult to conclusively prove deleterious effects of human activity on environment (tho they seem highly likely) but we're positing that as generally true either way. you ask how we can allot blame. 1) what is this "other stuff" + how is it separate from "capitalism"? I would argue such a separation is impossible 2) a real "ceteris paribus" (i.e. outside of abstract modeling) measurement is impossible b/c there's no way to determine the controls.

    facilitation is a more useful approach than causation. individuals or businesses do things that cause environmental damage (or human suffering or etc). those are not unique to capitalism but its guiding principle, self-interest, leads inevitably to favoring profit over all. there's no incentive to do otherwise beyond altruism, which is notoriously unreliable. as far as the trade-off, yeah it'd be lower standard of living in developed countries. least that's the only one I can see and it probably still wouldn't be sufficient. nor is it remotely likely to happen any time soon, at least not by choice.

  12. #27

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    I have a horrible feeling that Vimothy will destroy everybody on this thread with graphs and pie charts and links to academic papers, and then turn around and say, "actually, I haven't read Capital."

    Although that would be funny.

    I only read it because my undergraduate tutors insisted. I was studying literature, and hadn't even read the complete works of Shakespeare and Dickens but still got a First for it. An indictment of Humanities Higher Ed., that.

    By the way, has anyone read the main essay in this month's Standpoint? I did today. I thought: if Jenks reads this, he'll have an aneurysm. Or he'll have to cycle up a hill like Lance Armstrong to get it out of his system.

    I think the Engels essay on the family unit is stunning, and an equal to this book, for what it's worth, as is Marx's Theses On Feuerbach.

  13. #28
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    im not sure it helps to use loads of latin when there are standard english equivelents. i mean it does help in the sense that it has an intimidatory effect, but i dont think it helps us to communicate. im not even sure we need a definition of capitalism as in this particular pub debate capitalism is taken to mean 'the way we live now' it may be, if we can develop our arguments more as time goes on, we will need a more precise definition. at present, at this embryonic, half-arsed stage, we dont.

  14. #29

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    Yeah, buck your ideas up, you Deleuzian losers.

  15. #30
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    so at the moment we are going to take various positions on the way we have organised society at present. some of us will say, i think its pretty good, look at the alternatives, others will say, nah i dont like it, lots of people suffer and we're all going to hell in a handbasket.

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