luka

Moderator
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.
 

baboon2004

Darned cockwombles.
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.
 
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vimothy

yurp
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.
 
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vimothy

yurp
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?
 
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padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
^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.
 

craner

Beast of Burden
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.
 

luka

Moderator
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.
 

luka

Moderator
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.
 

luka

Moderator
craner as a small c conservative will take the former position although it wont go much beyond cheering vimothy on from the sidelines.
 

luka

Moderator
well put it this way, we could spend 62 pages trying to establish a theoretical definition of capitlism we an all agree on, that might be fun, but assuming what we actually want to talk about is the world we live in, that theoretical definition would be valuable only so far as it corresponded with the world we live in. so why bother with that step at all?
 

luka

Moderator
its taken me a week to read 8 pages of capital. i dont see how im going to be able to finish it this year really.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
^exactly. I'm just concerned with de facto what is. quibbles over definitions seem like an enormous waste of time (tho most marxists seem to love them). it's like arguing over what color to paint a house as it burns down around you.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
not intimidated by latin or pie charts tho. I saw plenty of both working in labs. creating meaningless graphs is practically a requirement.
 
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