Alex Day <email@example.com>
Fri, 22 Oct 2004 12:05:42 -0700 (PDT)
I think matt and jonathan covered well in their
responses what needs to be said. I would stress a few
things (actually say too much again). Brian, I think
you are using terms such as "capitalism", "profit",
"surplus value", etc. In a very lose way. It is
exactly by being so vague with these terms that you
can make the arguments that you do. You said you have
been studying Marx for some time, then perhaps you
should try working with his categories for a time and
see how your arguments work then. Not that we can't
change them, but you might find that an interesting
experiment at least. The question is, by re- or
undefining those categories, by making them much less
specific, what do you gain analytically? Or, by doing
so, does it simply allow one to make more vague
arguments? I would say that is pretty much what you
are doing. I think with a little more precision in
the use of your categories, you will find you make
stronger and more nuanced arguments. It would be hard
to argue, as I think you have, that you can have
"capitalism" without "capitalists", "wage workers",
Also, it is through your redefinition of these terms
and ahistorical perspective that you are able to be so
utopian in your arguments. Here is a case in point:
> Workers might choose to sell their labor power for
> reasons other than
> survival desperation. In mty view of a just
> society, such would be the case
> nearly always. Maybe they are risk averse and
> prefer a steady wage to the
> up and down of being a sole proprieter or partner or
> member of a co-op.
> Maybe they don't want to put in the number of hours
> necessary for that, etc.
Alex: Perhaps you can *imagine* this to happen. But,
if we look at history (not a bad thing to do in such
discussions), people rarely become wage labourers out
of choice when they have access to subsistence without
working for others. Perhaps you can imagine a world
with nice capitalists investing in the production
porcess and not extracting surplus value. Like you,
the classical political-economists always ignored
primitive accumulation (see Michael Perelman's The
Invention of Capitalim: Classical Political Economy
and the Secret History of Primitive Accumulation on
this point), the process through which people were
separated from the means of subsistence and split into
workers and capitalists. This was not a pretty
process; it was violent and state driven in most
cases. And, it continues today. Like the
political-economists, you wipe away that history in
your imagined world.
Interestingly, some of your arguments actually sound a
bit like Proudhon. Have you ever read him? You might
want to check that out. Recently Cui Zhiyuan has been
using him quite a bit.
On another point:
> I don't see why that's the "worst" (case of
ideology)? In the current
> post-Hussein Iraq, the
> Iraqi people have freedoms but are getting
> ripped-off economically. Under
> the Hussein family they got ripped off even MORE,
> and suffered hideous
> torture, murder, repression, and humilitation. But
> crucially, the Iraqi
> people no longer have to stand for Bush's economic
> BS, they can struggle
> against it (as they are), sharply UNLIKE under the
Well, I would say you reproduced that ideology pretty
directly in your very response. Under the current
post-Hussein Iraq "people have freedoms." I'm looking
at the news and don't really see this to be true.
Sure, they have some formal freedoms, perhaps even
more than Hussein (never read his constitution). And
they may end up with more "freedoms" once the US
leaves. But have they been given the freedom to
decide what kind of social relations they will have?
No. It has pretty much been decided by the US that
all state run busnesses will be privitized--one can
think of this as accumulation by dispossession again.
The "right" to private property has been imposed
before any democratic power (in the broad sense--I'm
not only talking about managed elections here) is
allowed to exert itself. Why before? Because it
isn't so likely to happen after, is it? Bourgeois
"freedom" comes after private property. This is one
thing the left is China also critiques the liberal for
not paying attention to; and, this is why many of the
neo-liberal technocrats in China are really follow-ons
from neo-authoritarianism--****accumulation by
dispossession has to be imposed, people don't choose
to have it done to them willingly.**** Also,
striking is banned. There is a serious and violent
crackdown on union organizing and activity.
Newspapers and news media organizations are censored
and put out of business if they say the wrong things.
Not to mention that one might have a minimal right to
assembly, but you might be bombed for assembling. I
would say your comments illustrate very well the
ideology I was talking about.
> Depends on what you are asking. TINA to what? TINA
> to elections (for
> example), right? If so what? Hereditary succession?
> secret backroom
> selection? coup d'etat? Self-appointed vanguards?
> Theocratic clerical
> selection? Marx took it for granted TINA to
Alex: I think it was pretty clear that I thought you
were arguing that there is no alternative in the
present to capitalism. That certainly seemed to be
what you were saying, although you don't really define
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