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This Country Needs a Few Good Communists

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Posted on May 31, 2010
AP / Elizabeth Dalziel

By Chris Hedges

The witch hunts against communists in the United States were used to silence socialists, anarchists, pacifists and all those who defied the abuses of capitalism. Those “anti-Red” actions were devastating blows to the political health of the country. The communists spoke the language of class war. They understood that Wall Street, along with corporations such as British Petroleum, is the enemy. They offered a broad social vision which allowed even the non-communist left to employ a vocabulary that made sense of the destructive impulses of capitalism. But once the Communist Party, along with other radical movements, was eradicated as a social and political force, once the liberal class took government-imposed loyalty oaths and collaborated in the witch hunts for phantom communist agents, we were robbed of the ability to make sense of our struggle. We became fearful, timid and ineffectual. We lost our voice and became part of the corporate structure we should have been dismantling.

Hope in this age of bankrupt capitalism will come with the return of the language of class conflict. It does not mean we have to agree with Karl Marx, who advocated violence and whose worship of the state as a utopian mechanism led to another form of enslavement of the working class, but we have to speak in the vocabulary Marx employed. We have to grasp, as Marx did, that corporations are not concerned with the common good. They exploit, pollute, impoverish, repress, kill and lie to make money. They throw poor families out of homes, let the uninsured die, wage useless wars to make profits, poison and pollute the ecosystem, slash social assistance programs, gut public education, trash the global economy, loot the U.S. Treasury and crush all popular movements that seek justice for working men and women. They worship only money and power. And, as Marx knew, unfettered capitalism is a revolutionary force that consumes greater and greater numbers of human lives until it finally consumes itself. The nightmare in the Gulf of Mexico is the perfect metaphor for the corporate state. It is the same nightmare seen in postindustrial pockets from the old mill towns in New England to the abandoned steel mills in Ohio. It is a nightmare that Iraqis, Pakistanis and Afghans, mourning their dead, live each day. 

Capitalism was once viewed in America as a system that had to be fought. But capitalism is no longer challenged. And so, even as Wall Street steals billions of taxpayer dollars and the Gulf of Mexico is turned into a toxic swamp, we do not know what to do or say. We decry the excesses of capitalism without demanding a dismantling of the corporate state. The liberal class has a misguided loyalty, illustrated by environmental groups that have refused to excoriate the Obama White House over the ecological catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. Liberals bow before a Democratic Party that ignores them and does the bidding of corporations. The reflexive deference to the Democrats by the liberal class is the result of cowardice and fear. It is also the result of an infantile understanding of the mechanisms of power. The divide is not between Republican and Democrat. It is a divide between the corporate state and the citizen. It is a divide between capitalists and workers. And, for all the failings of the communists, they got it. 

Unions, organizations formerly steeped in the doctrine of class warfare and filled with those who sought broad social and political rights for the working class, have been transformed into domesticated partners of the capitalist class. They have been reduced to simple bartering tools. The social demands of unions early in the 20th century that gave the working class weekends off, the right to strike, the eight-hour day and Social Security have been abandoned. Universities, especially in political science and economics departments, parrot the discredited ideology of unregulated capitalism and have no new ideas. Artistic expression, along with most religious worship, is largely self-absorbed narcissism. The Democratic Party and the press have become corporate servants. The loss of radicals within the labor movement, the Democratic Party, the arts, the church and the universities has obliterated one of the most important counterweights to the corporate state. And the purging of those radicals has left us unable to make sense of what is happening to us.

The fear of communism, like the fear of Islamic terrorism, has resulted in the steady suspension of civil liberties, including freedom of speech, habeas corpus and the right to organize, values the liberal class claims to support. It was the orchestration of fear that permitted the capitalist class to ram through the Taft-Hartley Act in 1948 in the name of anti-communism, the most destructive legislative blow to the working class until the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It was fear that created the Patriot Act, extraordinary rendition, offshore penal colonies where we torture and the endless wars in the Middle East. And it was fear that was used to see us fleeced by Wall Street. If we do not stop being afraid and name our enemy we will continue toward a state of neofeudalism.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, July 2, 2010 at 2:45 pm Link to this comment

I’m so glad our sense of humor is intact.  I don’t smoke but I would
take a puff on some MJ if it would help get me through Foucault! 
Either that or a shot of Leefeller’s Tequila.  Yes, I need a music break
anyway. 

BTW FYI Everyone:  A great band Shout Out Louds.

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By Foucauldian, July 2, 2010 at 2:20 pm Link to this comment

A turkey carcass?  You mean there’s no meant left?

Anyway, let’s smoke a peace pipe and let’s resume once you’re done with Foucault.  I think we both need a sharper focus.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, July 2, 2010 at 2:13 pm Link to this comment

Okay, I offer a receptive mind but you wish to say it is uncongenial. 
I admitted it was tainted with preconceived notions but stated I have
an openness to convincing argument.  If you wish to ignore that and
insist it is closed then there is no room for negotiation.  Seems like,
myself included, there are many here who are always ‘thinking.’ 
Saying that socialism/communism has a history of problems is not a
cop out.  You are picking out phrases rather than whole statements
I’ve made.  Of course I don’t have a problem considering all of
humankind as ‘a family,’ but it would depend on how it is instantiated
whether the inclusiveness is appropriate.  I’ve already qualified it.  So
how and why are you using the word family with respect to ‘all of
us in the world?’ 

You are right, exchanging world views appears to be a cul-de-sac way
to go.  Problems with capitalism have been discussed in general and in
general a number of us agree there are problems since it looks like
economies are failing everywhere.  I don’t see anyone who thinks it
ought to stay as it is.  Definitely not me!  But I do not dump it
wholesale as you seem to want to do.  There are good arguments for
capitalism as an economic system. 

However, all the economies that have failed have failed for different
reasons and that ought to be looked at before indicting capitalism out
of hand.  What are the similarities of financial practices or commodities
practices or labor practices among the states that have failed or are
failing since although on the brink none have actually failed completely
yet, due to the capitalistic economic philosophies under which they
operated?  Then what are the endemic differences?  Seems that only a
deep investigation is imperative before condemning an economic
system that has provided some benefits, speckled as it has been, or if
condemnation is exactly the right thing to do then it should be shown
why particular state systems failed and then how systems can be
repaired since knowing why it failed would be known.  Solutions would
show themselves.  It would be sort of like picking a turkey carcass for
the good parts and throwing the rest away. 

(As an aside) I must be hungry since i’m using food metaphors a lot,
LOL.

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By Foucauldian, July 2, 2010 at 12:33 pm Link to this comment

If I am “speechless,” Shenon, it’s not for lack of counterexamples or argumentation.  That I can always provide to a congenial mind.  But yours is on a path of resistance, hence my dilemma. 

You say you’re not entranched, yet you continue to defend the indefensible.  I don’t want you to commit to anything like a “socialist solution.”  I myself have no freakin’ idea what the solution might look like, let alone how to call it.  But you saying that other systems are riddled with problems as well is surely a cop-out.  We’re not operating under any other system but the system at hand.  So yes, let’s look at the problems that capitalism poses because these are the conditions we live with, day in and day out.

Perhaps we ought to wait until you’re done with Foucault.  We need to focus on particular problems rather than exchanging worldviews. 

Speaking for myself, I’m always thinking, always in flux, nothing is fixed.  I expect nothing less from you.

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By Foucauldian, July 2, 2010 at 12:12 pm Link to this comment

“That humankind is a family is a hypothetical construct.”

It wasn’t meant as a description, only recommending a vantage point.  You don’t have a problem with the perspective, do you now?

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By Shenonymous, July 2, 2010 at 11:51 am Link to this comment

That humankind is a family is a hypothetical construct.  If you mean
we are all of the same species, hence familial in a taxonomical sense,
then who can argue against that?  But that is not the reality of how
humans evolved.  Family has an extended meaning of kinship, of a
psychological nature, and means a manifold of closed systems of
people marked by similar interests, where interests beyond
subsistence of food and shelter, are psychological needs.  The
closed systems do not necessarily have the same teleologies.  I
think you are wolfing down the enchilada whole rather than see that
the enchilada is composed of tortilla, chicken (if a chicken enchilada),
cheese, and hot sauce! Agreed, the whole enchilada is delicious and is a
special whole unto itself. Then there are the peripheral attendants, i.e.,
rice and beans and maybe a salad (another complexity).  Where in the
analogy, attendants would become non-family members who share
points of view.  But in order, it seems to me, to repair a broken
enchilada, one has to begin with the parts and reconstruct.  Bottom up
reconstruction I think we are all agreed?

I agree that I do have a blind side and I have admitted as much before
so you are redundantly chastising me for the same old fault.  But then I
see you as having one as well.  I am just as frustrated that I cannot
convince you of my view as you are with me and yours.  You seem to
think yours is the only and best way to understand human societies. 
What exactly would be a ‘neutral’ attitude?  Ought I to capitulate to the
socialist solution?  If I did that then I would have been browbeaten
rather than convinced.  Rather than deride me for being entrenched,
which I really am not as dogmatic as you accuse, I have asked a few
times to be persuaded otherwise, but nothing substantial has been
forthwithcoming, theories do not illustrate actualities that would be
convincing.  I also am sure I’ve expressed that yes history is in the
process of evolving.  History only records change.  If things do not
change, just making note of it is not history.  It cannot help but be, as
that is the nature of history.  You want to give arguments where
capitalism poses problems and I counter that by saying it is not the
only system that has problems, but I have not said it does not have
problems!  Saying capitalism works only comes from the historical
evidence.  It has worked.  I have also emphatically said it that whatever
form has worked apparently is not presently working and needs
adjustments most likely with socialism and I think that is ThomasG’s
position as well although we might not agree to what degree each
would bring to the table.  I don’t know as he hasn’t said.  I do not have
a formula either so I can’t criticize him.  Nor do you as you have
admitted as much except to say that capitalism does not work and has
to go.  I maintain it cannot go, and I think Anarcissie holds that view as
well but again not a unified understanding as to why.

Perhaps you are speechless because you are having trouble showing
examples that reflect your points?  Maybe a more refined description of
your position would unearth them (as Foucault would say
archaeologically dig them up)?  I wish you would intuit that I am open. 
But I have not seen anything yet that counterdemonstrates what I’ve
said. 

Look, socialism has been around long before Marx put it into his
codification.  In modern society it is shown not to have worked and
many of the former states who were socialist are converting to a more
capitalistic based society.  That is proof of my point.  Show me where
the opposite is happening and what is driving it to happen, exactly, and
you will make me more of a believer.  I will give you one example.  The
United States is evolving toward a more socialistic state.

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By Foucauldian, July 2, 2010 at 10:55 am Link to this comment

“Capitalism works for a great number of people,
and in spite of the resistance of the socialist motive, will continue to work.  It might be that some elements of socialism will modify capitalism as a substructure for the way humans interact to get goods
and services and live certain ways, but it will not disappear as a mode of exchange.”

Now, you’re obfuscating, Shenon, when you’re saying “capitalism works for a great number of people.”  Do you mean simply as a “mode of exchange”?  If so, I might grant you that, but even then, think - it remakes people into mindless consumers.  By your own admission, you’re a classicist; and granted, Athenian democracy was but for the select few.  But surely, the ideas and ideals that moved those people were clearly superior to the kind of mindset that’s prevalent today.

What I find extremely frustrating about your posts is that in spite of your erudition and sophistication, you seem to suffer from a blind side.  For one reason or another, you can’t seem to adopt a critical stance with respect to capitalism and all its failures.  It’s not that your instincts and your heart are not in the right place.  I know it isn’t so.  But somehow, you seem unable to adopt a neutral attitude and feel obligated instead to defend a system that, in its extreme version, clearly doesn’t work.  My question is why.

Perhaps you’re overreacting to alternative solutions from our dark past.  But why should you?  You yourself subscribe to the idea that history is in the process of evolving, so why not go along with that spirit? I’d find our conversations much more exciting were we to embark on discussing the problems that capitalism poses rather than your point-blank statements to the effect that “it works,” which always leave me speechless.  Anyway, you have far too great a mind to settle for this.

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By Foucauldian, July 2, 2010 at 10:19 am Link to this comment

“Read your own words, the word nation implies a gathering of people, community means a gathering of people, both of these structures implies a government, a state, of some sort.  So yours and Anarcissie’s sentiments are obfuscating.”

Perhaps so, but the idea is to eliminate national interests and squabbles.  We’ve got to start thinking of the world at large, all humanity.  We are a family.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, July 2, 2010 at 10:00 am Link to this comment

On—I think it was—the cover of the last issue of the Whole Earth Catalog, they wrote “We can’t put it together.  It is together.”

Just another gnomic, Zennish quip from long ago and far, far away.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, July 2, 2010 at 9:33 am Link to this comment

In the autodidactic mode of learning and reading the amazing
amount of information I’ve been gathering it occurred to me how
really ignorant I am.  Actually I am staggered.  A true ingénue in
the world of economics it is difficult to understand even many of
the terms used without having had at least a comprehensive basic
course in economics. I own a copy of the huge Webster’s Third New
International Unabridged Dictionary, a set of EB, and untold number
of topical books, and am constantly looking up words and phrases,
and ideas and as well on the vast amount of information on the Net
to try to get a handle on what is being said.  The complexities are
astounding and lead many times to digressions to various unsuspected
paths.  And many times what is being said is really more incoherent
than the writers imagined.  Premises are specious and if so, then entire
arguments become null arguments.  It is with great caution I proceed to
think that I could possibly fathom this labyrinthine topic.  Waxing
philosophic…

It seems to me that when people form a group, regardless of how small
or large, but focus on small for the least applicable case, some form of
government develops as a natural way of keeping order, whether that
order is democratic, socialistic, fascist, or anarchist.  The guns pointed
to heads are the guns, metaphorically speaking even though at time
actually real guns, are ones created by the members of that society.

Foucauldian, you just said, “a benign Federation of Nations, a la Star
Trek, leaving each community to itself.”  Read your own words, the
word nation implies a gathering of people, community means a
gathering of people, both of these structures implies a government, a
state, of some sort.  So yours and Anarcissie’s sentiments are
obfuscating.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, July 2, 2010 at 9:31 am Link to this comment

My entire education from undergraduate to post graduate work on a
particular track did not really touch much on economics.  Not that it
wasn’t pertinent to my life in general as it is for everyone, but not
relevant to my degree track.  So I do feel handicapped in many ways
here. But I am dauntless and with the sword of my sharp mind, I will
“sally forth.”

As I reflect on myself, my life has been well within the category of
middle class, at one or two occasions even in the poor class, but mostly
in the middle.  Although I have wants and desires, I’d say I live a very
comfortable life.  I think many with whom I am in conversation here are
much better off wealth wise than I.  Is that significant?  Well, I am
wondering what is the source of their complaint?  It seems ideologues
always come from a certain “class” of really by comparison of a few
people who might see an anomalie then because it is human nature to
solve puzzles, they attempt to develop a theory then try to solve the
puzzle.  I don’t see their theory-based solutions as proving successful
actually, in any case. 

Even the theory that drives the conceptions of capitalism, socialism,
anarchy:  Capitalism, socialism, communism, anarchy are merely
dressings of the way groups operate as wholes.  A way to describe
those operations.  Capitalism is the way humans interacted about the
time Adam Smith noticed the forces that drove the way people
interacted to have goods and services.  When Marx and Engels came
along, they noticed the way human labor provides those goods and
services.  Then they theorized the relative value exchanged and whether
justice was at work as well.  So it became a labor of justice and a cause
célèbre for what they perceived would change what they thought were
injustices.  People as a whole, however, when fed up with their lives, as
a unit, will resist and rebel and make changes in spite of any theory
that can describe their situation.  It is history.  Capitalism was a natural
outgrowth of the way artisans, guilds and journeymen were supplanted
by the technology of the Industrial Revolution and surpluses of goods
collected as a result of better agricultural methods.  Labor became a
factor and some say it became a commodity, which seems to be an
applicable description.  Capitalism works for a great number of people,
and in spite of the resistance of the socialist motive, will continue to
work.  It might be that some elements of socialism will modify
capitalism as a substructure for the way humans interact to get goods
and services and live certain ways, but it will not disappear as a mode
of exchange.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, July 2, 2010 at 9:30 am Link to this comment

Sorry for the third post here, but it seems a way to put some
perspective on what I am saying.

From what I gathered it looks like the Spanish Civil War experience in
1936 is a paradigm example of rebellion/revolution where more than
500,000 people were killed.  Moving from an oppressive and corrupt
monarchy under Alfonso XIII to an appointed military dictatorship of
General Primo de Rivera who ruled until the 1930’s depression which
direly affected Spain just as it did everywhere then onto the long
dictatorship of Franco.  Elections that became a new ruling power from
events that gave its birth from the First World War and ironically the
Russian Revolution.  Spain had the original “Second Republic” movement
which was equivalent to the fascist takeovers that was engendered by
the force of Mussolini and Hitler.  A very intricate set of circumstances
drove the changes in social politics of Spain and
http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/spanish_civil_war1.htm
However, the forces that were working within the hearts of the people is
what finally made the changes, see
http://libro.uca.edu/payne2/payne24.htm
Quote: “The demand was for “regeneration,” and regen-erationism
(hyphenation is SIC) was for a time the commonly held but disparately
and diffusely defined goal of most political and civic groups.”

Since I am of the populace and since I’ve come to recognize the
importance economics has on my life and the society in which I choose
to live, I am stumbling my way through this conversation.  It is not a
sustained conversation readily available in other ways. It also occurs to
me that if I, a rather educated person, with fairly good powers of
reasoning, find this esoteric, what might ordinary human beings think? 
I think they do not even think about such dynamics that so much affect
their lives.  They are unsuspecting that there are forces that actually
drive the direction of their lives.  As I encounter people in public in
various capacities, they may complain as individuals about their unique
circumstances but as a whole, there is not a lot of motivation to change
and will move to act as the opportunity arises such as in elections. 
There is a false perception, I think, that change does not happen, but it
does on a microscopic pace, but it does change.  Again, it is history. 
There are billions of ordinary people in the world and the world keeps
going and it appears these people keep going as long as we can see
them as a whole entity.  This whole is constantly changing with
members coming to birth and dying.  So the whole doesn’t change but
the parts do.  And it is a mistake, categorically, to see the individuals as
the whole.  Individuals and groups are different phenomena and
different dynamics describe them.  We who are talking here are a pitiful
tiny, almost uncountable, number.  So with this moment of self-
reflection I trudge on in our theories.

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By Foucauldian, July 2, 2010 at 9:16 am Link to this comment

And BTW, you can call me Roger.  It’ll save some keystrokes.

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By Foucauldian, July 2, 2010 at 9:15 am Link to this comment

BTW, thank you both for your thoughtful comments.  If I seem impatient at times, it’s because I feel pressed to come to a finer understanding where we’re at with respect to social theory - trying to integrate, to the extent possible, Foucauldian thought with elements of Marxism and post-Marxism (Critical Theory) and the idea of liberal democracy. 

Have done massive amount of reading and thinking for the past year and a half, and it’s time to put it all together.  If I were forty, I’d take it at my stride and think nothing of it, but I’m not.  So perhaps this might help you understand the source of my impatience.

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By Foucauldian, July 2, 2010 at 9:00 am Link to this comment

“The alternative to changing the state is to attempt to change the culture from below, which is what I try to contribute to.”

But that’s precisely what I meant - by changing the culture you might change man.  Human nature is not written in stone.

I, too, am disenchanted with statehood (although it’s hard to conceive of a human community without some kind of structure or organization).  At any rate, the idea of nation-states is becoming obsolete and sooner or later it will become a distant memory.  What I envisage instead, further down the road, is a benign Federation of Nations, a la Star Trek, leaving each community to itself.

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By Shenonymous, July 2, 2010 at 8:59 am Link to this comment

Too many vague terms, ambiguity it is root of all evil.  So let us
define ruling class.  Getting to the nitty gritty, as per all the
theorists, Foucault, Wittgenstein, Marx, Engels, Smith, Kropotkin,
et al, all who say we must get down to the real people, how much
wealth does it take to be a member?  Or what other means give
power if not wealth? 

To be a politician these days, one has to have money, or money
backers, those who are acceptable and those who are not, but still
money.  Wealth drives the corportocracy and the power elites.  I am not
against wealth or its acquisition.  I’m against the manipulation and
exploitation of those who do not have the avenue to a decent life in the
service of the preservation of the powerful. 

It is a form of justice that I feel and then rationalize for.  I cannot
pretend to know more than a thimbleful of what is best for people.  I
hardly know what is best for myself!  Projecting onto the world what I
think is best is a slippery slope to a hell of our own making.  The
American population is complex and the world even more so.  It seems,
then, that a definition is needed as to what is a decent life.  I cannot
speak for all those 308+ million people in the United States. And it is
even more ridiculous to attempt to speak for the billions of people of
the world.  For myself, a decent life is one where I can think freely,
speak freely, read what I want, have things that I like, associate with
whom I wish, care for whom I choose, all that does not harm anyone
else in the process.  It is difficult to know if anyone was harmed in the
process of my acquisition of these things.  For instance, to be able to
think, speak, and read freely many people have died to guarantee me
that right.  These are not natural rights, they were paid for dearly.  And
that is what I see as the fallacy of such overarching abstract theories
that attempt to understand and prescribe ways of living in the world. 

How to curb the human tendency to exploit people, use up their energy
and labor for one’s own benefit does seem to be the essential problem
and the one we who are conscious ought to be working to purge as a
canker.  Wealth is not the problem as that can come by many means
not involving the labor of others but could be by one’s own efforts and
labor.  Definition of terms then the efficacious power to make change
from the expression of ideas from understanding those definitions that
result in a benefit to humankind obviously is a treacherous road to
march along because of all those who would use whatever power they
can muster to take advantage.  The ancient Greeks had models for
these ideas but we conveniently engage in the Great Forgetting. 
Aristotle said temperance is the best guide for a happy life, Plato
through the mouth of Thrasymachus in the Republic represents the
height of an exploiter. We do not learn from history nor from our lofty
philosophers and nor do we fully understand the ramifications of all our
ideologies.  I say it is because we mistake theory for reality.  One must
be extraordinarily, extra ordinarily that is, and I repeat it for emphasis,
we must be careful to intuit the real meaning of ideas expressed if one
is to be on solid ground in one’s own beliefs before taking action.  It is
our own hubris that is the culprit.

Eventually, Foucauldian, I will respond with your post of July 1, 6:40pm. 
I tend to saunter through my thoughts.  I can only hope it is tolerable.

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By Anarcissie, July 2, 2010 at 8:57 am Link to this comment

marimbadearco, June 29 at 5:39 pm:
‘Will Port’s comments are dead on:
Marx did not worship the state: he called on its replacement by collective something of workers (always left a bit undefined);
and he didn’t advocate violence, but correctly said that the ruling class won’t give up its power without a fight.  To think otherwise is to lead good people into a lion’s den: like Allende did in Chile in the early 1970s.’

Chris Hedges tends to write in a hyperbolic, if not hysterical manner.  Hence, if Marx thought the state would be a useful tool for the advancement of the human condition, for Hedges this is “worshiping the state as a utopian mechanism.”  We’re observing a poetic flight of rhetoric here, rather than considered reason.

As for violence, the state is violence in the sense of being an institution whose function is the application of coercive force.  Those who want to use the state for whatever ends must keep that in mind if they want to avoid delusion: it’s a gun pointed at someone’s head.  That is just a fact of life available to anyone who takes the trouble to think about it.  However, I think it’s misleading to say Marx “advocated violence” as if all other believers in the usefulness or necessity of state power do not.

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By Anarcissie, July 2, 2010 at 8:12 am Link to this comment

No, faith is not one of my talents.  My experience with the common man has led me to believe I had better proceed very carefully, as with packs of strange and ill-tempered dogs.

Hence my attraction to anarchism.  While individual humans seem to act with some restraint on their impulses to do harm, and even show occasional flashes of benevolence, organized into states it seems there is no evil they will not commit.  (By “state” I mean the whole set-up, including in the case of the U.S. large corporations and other bourgeois institutions.)  The centers of authority which the state provides attract and empower the worst, the most sociopathic individuals.  This makes it unlikely that the state will prove to be a useful tool to rescue humans from their very serious, indeed existential predicament.  I think history supports my opinion.

The alternative to changing the state is to attempt to change the culture from below, which is what I try to contribute to.  I think it’s a long shot, but the apparent alternative—the contest for power followed by some sort of cheesy Götterdämmerung followed by nothing at all—is boring if not morally repugnant.

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By Foucauldian, July 1, 2010 at 6:45 pm Link to this comment

I’m not certain exactly what’s your point, Anarcisse.  I’m willing to admit that your horizon extends further than mine.  But having said that, what is it really that you’re suggesting?

You seem to agree with the proposition that the system is no longer workable.  Yet, in the next breath, you state that “the ownership and control of the means of production by the workers can’t occur unless and until the workers step up to the burdens and risks of that control.”

Granted, a fair observation, it does depend on all that if not more.  So here is my question:  Don’t you have faith in the common man. 

I don’t know about your answer, but I do, I had better do or we are lost.

And no, I don’t pose it as an intellectual kind of question.  I pose it as an existential kind question, both to you and to Shenon.

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By Anarcissie, July 1, 2010 at 6:03 pm Link to this comment

I watched Wolff and I can’t say that I heard anything that I hadn’t heard or read before, or figured out for myself.  I agree that the working class was doing better and better until 1970, until they started doing worse and worse, monetarily speaking.  But having lived through the ‘40s and the ‘50s, I can’t call them a golden age of any kind.  I think they’d be better described as a prison.  The ‘60s were like a mass jailbreak.

The question of why working-class people accepted worsening conditions relates to something in the Communist Manifesto.  Karl Marx wrote, referring to the disruptions engendered by capitalism, “All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind.”  But that has not been what has happened.  In Europe in the early part of the 20th century, “man” responded to the collapse of the existing social order not with the use of his “sober senses” but by following noxious fables like nationalism, racism and fascism.  More recently we observe similar flights to fundamentalist religion.  In the United States, while things are not yet so dire, we just observed yet another go-‘round of the heroization of the politician as monarch, who is supposed to solve every problem just by being who he is.  Capitalism exists as it is because so many people want great leaders to take care of thinking for them.  I don’t know how to change this.  Maybe it will change without my help.

Socialism—the ownership and control of the means of production by the workers—can’t occur unless and until the workers step up to the burdens and risks of that control.  We don’t need another rerun of the state as capitalist.  We know how that comes out.

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By Foucauldian, July 1, 2010 at 2:40 pm Link to this comment

OK, let’s plug away. 

You say:  “‘The capitalist ruling class’ is too amorphous, but the rest I would go along with, with the exception of adding enforced regulation of institutions that affect the population in general and on top of that an indelible dose of integrity then I too would buy it!  Now I do not know of any program that would inculcate integrity.  Not even religions have been able to do that in over 2000 years.”

(1) Forget religion.  And the matter of “inculcating integrity” is another ball of wax. 

I’m not certain, exactly, how you view the idea of regulation - you can explain it to me in the next post - but I tend to be rather skeptical of the idea.  The whole notion of regulation arises out of the antagonistic system, it’s a comedy of manners if you like.  (See Wolff’s lecture.)

Lastly, I’m at wit’s ends when you’re arguing for ambiguity, claiming the capitalist ruling class to be “amorphous.”  Aren’t you referring to the phenomenon of a “ruling class” as having persisted
throughout history?  I’m certainly not going to challenge you on your thesis.  Why should you challenge me on mine?

(2) How can I deny the import of the technological advances, such as computer or the internet, for example?  You tell me, however, whether the average level of literacy has increased over the years?  John Milton was fluent in classical Greek and Latin when he was five.  Technology is a mixed blessing.

(3) Finally, let me set matters straight.  I have no horse in this fight, no set of predilections or cherished ideas except for one thing:  I know that capitalism, as we know it, has got to go.  It’s dangerous to our health. 

What will replace it, I have no idea.  Resorting to old labels, such as socialism or communism, is counterproductive and inhibits the thought.  Consequently, I try to keep an open mind, and I hope you too.

We are in a period of transition.  And that’s a fact.

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By Foucauldian, July 1, 2010 at 1:54 pm Link to this comment

First off, Shenon, I meant it as a compliment.  Nothing to suggest you’re being perverse, just very sophisticated and difficult for that very reason to make headway with.  Recall earlier remark about your “intellectual architecture.”  So don’t jump to conclusions.  If I did not respect your education and the quality of your mind, I wouldn’t have started this conversation.

I’ll tend to the rest of your comment in the next post.

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By Shenonymous, July 1, 2010 at 1:53 pm Link to this comment

No, Foucauldian, I am not an acolyte of Ayn Rand nor do I agree with
her absolute objectivism.  I have strong criticism of her views.  But I
won’t get into it just yet.  Too many other things to think about at the
moment in a coherent manner!  By the way I believe I mentioned those
sites for Reisman and van Kersbergen July at 12:50pm.  I have both
texts btw.  I didin’t say I agreed with Reisman who is a supplicant of
Rand.

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By Shenonymous, July 1, 2010 at 1:46 pm Link to this comment

Now Foucauldian I am being very resistant to calling you names,
and everybody knows I do not shy away from food fights once they
get started!  But you are sliding close to it in your sarcasm about me
and Ronald Reagan.  That is far from a truthful characterization.
There are seeds of denigration that is hiding there.  Most uncivilized
and definitely not my cup of tea.

You said “So here is a proposition for you:  eliminate the capitalist
ruling class, have the workers participate in major decision making,
alter the relations of production - in short, defang it and neuter it - and
I’ll buy it”
 

Isn’t that what ThomasG is more or less proposing?  ThomasG, are
you?

“The capitalist ruling class” is too amorphous, but the rest I would go
along with, with the exception of adding enforced regulation of
institutions that affect the population in general and on top of that an
indelible dose of integrity then I too would buy it!  Now I do not know
of any program that would inculcate integrity.  Not even religions have
been able to do that in over 2000 years.  Maybe a new enlightenment
using the electronic media and paragons of virtue who lived in our
midst could put all on its utopian way?  Course that won’t be an easy
sell.

I believe a “ruling class” rises regardless what system a society adopts. 
Not all people are born equally smart or clever or more/less greedy, or
generous, intelligent. There will be those in any group who will surface,
like cream and take charge.  After an initial organization, the pattern is
for an elite to develop. Eventually as history has shown, that elite
becomes corrupt. It is the lure of power.

Consider this: The computer you are using is the result of a capitalistic
society.  The house you rent or own, the electricity that runs your
computer, the furniture in your residence, the car you use, or bus, or
train, or bicycle, are all results of a capitalistic productive society. Even
our garden tools, and farming equipment, all the clothes we wear are
the result of a capitalist-based government.  Would you be willing to
give up all these commodities?  What would there be in all these
product’s stead if socialistic society had been the ruling system?  Nada
There would not have been the motivation to create these things.  Or is
it being proposed that all the fruits of capitalism just be usurped by a
socialist takeover?  That would really be obscene.

Show a strictly socialistic society where socialism engendered abundant
creativity.  The state art of Russia and China is dreadful and depressing.
Now some in the world might prefer to return to the cave and live au
naturale. I don’t and I do not believe that is the trajectory for humans. I
feel sure most 21st century people don’t either. Maybe there are some
countries in the world where subsistence is dependent more on nature,
but even these societies are becoming infested with the electronic age
and sooner or later they will drag themselves into the 21st century too. 
Attached is a site of socialist countries in the world today
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_socialist_countries
Notice exactly where they are.  These are countries where most of the
people are uneducated.  They are kept ignorant for the purposes of
socialism. Which of these countries has an equivalent economy as
Europe or the major countries in the Western hemisphere in spite of the
financial nightmare that developed.  I was most impressed with the list
of “former” socialist states.

So convince me socialism works!  I don’t want theory or hypotheses.  I
admit capitalism has its warts. But socialism doesn’t seem to survive
long enough in one place to get warts, except for Russia and China and
these two countries are definitely in a state of transition.

I admit to being more curious about ThomasG’s solution.  It is still too
fuzzy for me yet.

Okay, I’ll watch the rdwolff video.

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By Jack, July 1, 2010 at 1:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I could be wrong, but I think Howe hated the anti-war movement because he saw
them as a bunch of dumb kids who weren’t serious intellectuals like Howe and his
friends. But I’ve never read the guy. I know his essay about Philip Roth is what
inspired the amusing “Milton Appel” section of The Anatomy Lesson, though.

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By Foucauldian, July 1, 2010 at 1:43 pm Link to this comment

Had no idea you were a Randian, Shenon.

Anyway, here are the links:

(1) Capitalism, Reisman, full text, pdf file

http://www.capitalism.net/Capitalism/CAPITALISM_Internet.pdf

(2)  Kees van Kersbergen’s text Social Capitalism

http://books.google.com/books?id=xGyKwwzdE84C&printsec=frontcover&dq=Kees+van+Ke

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By Foucauldian, July 1, 2010 at 1:19 pm Link to this comment

Jack,

If Howe despised the intellectuals it’s because they sold out to the establishment and abandoned the working class.  I believe Hedges shares pretty much the same sentiment. 

Interesting you’re bringing up Irvin Howe. Just read up on him and will provide the link if possible.

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By Foucauldian, July 1, 2010 at 1:14 pm Link to this comment

Shenon,

Once you’re done with Foucault, let’s discuss some high points.

Also, an hour of so video from the New School by Richard D. Wolff, “Capitalism Hits the Fan” - http://www.rdwolff.com/content/capitalism-hits-fan-screening-new-school

Anarcisse too ought to watch this one.  Perhaps she’d be less puzzled about my use of the term “the golden years.” 

No hyperbole intended, just the facts, Jack.

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By Foucauldian, July 1, 2010 at 11:52 am Link to this comment

Hate to puncture holes in your pretty picture, Shenon.  You should have been a speech writer for Ronald Reagan.

(1)  “. . . ordinary people having a decent life:  The kind of life that is given lip service by the ideologues of socialism/communism.”

Wasn’t it nice while it lasted, Shenon?  No we didn’t pay it a lip service then because then it was possible to believe.  No longer.  Do you really foresee a recovery to yesteryears?  I don’t. 

(2) “Capitalism gave them the power . . .” 

Yes, and capitalism took it away.

(3) Russia and China examples:

It’s corporate statism - capitalism controlled and run by the state.  And we are talking talking here
about independent and autonomous spheres; neither is under the specter of the West.

South America still suffers from vestiges of colonialism; hasn’t been able to free itself from the Western grip,  (though Chavez is trying); and Cuba has been subjected to inhumane blockade, yes - by Cold War ideologues. 

(4) Yes - the concern is and ought to be with the world at large - but these are the fruits of capitalism which ought to have brought prosperity to all; meanwhile, ninety percent of the world’s wealth is held by the few.


Ultimately, therefore, I really don’t see what you’re defending, Shenon.  A long bygone era?

Again, if capitalism be allowed to run its course, it will invariably reach the kind of saturation point it has in the US; the very fact that parts of the world, those parts which are relatively speaking independent, are acting on their own initiative is proof positive that the Western system perhaps reached its outer limits before dragging the rest of the world with it.

So here is a proposition for you:  eliminate the capitalist ruling class, have the workers participate in major decision making, alter the relations of production - in short, defang it and neuter it - and I’ll buy it

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By Jack, July 1, 2010 at 9:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

My understanding is that Irving Howe was just the kind of liberal intellectual who
Hedges generally hates. He became pretty obsessively anti-Communist and
denounced the New Left, didn’t he? Dissent magazine seems to carry on his I’m-
kind-of-a-socialist-but-in-a-really-really-vague-sense tradition to this day. I
know Chomsky had a very low opinion of him.

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By Shenonymous, July 1, 2010 at 8:50 am Link to this comment

Aye, I think you are perceptive Anarcissie.  Golden Age is a state of
mind of course and a handy label.  Although my recollection of the
50s (I was very young) and within the context of my family at any
rate and just the feeling I had in grade school, was that angst was
not a general feeling.  From my American point of view, that came
when Kennedy was murdered in November 1961 and the ugliness
of Vietnam.  Even the earlier commie scare that McCarthy
gave birth to put many in the throes of dread but I don’t think
the entire society became involved like it did when the POTUS was
assassinated.  The honeymooners were over (literally the Jackie
Gleason scenario of the rather bland kind of lifestyle that at least
on the surface seemed to exist).  Seems like after that the world
went below hell.

Still wolfing down Foucault (I’ve progressed into the second lecture!
Hooray!), soon Das Kapital, and for balance Reisman’s Capitalism
(downloadable online BTW), and with that one, I admit my eyebrows get
raised more than I thought they would (or rather squinting eyes on his
views too).  One thing that impedes my full embracement of social
capitalization is the association with Christian infiltration of politics,
no…make that chokes on: the historical role of religion in shaping the
gendered effects of the welfare state.  I’ve read in my recent literary
travels that Calvinism in Holland is mostly responsible for the
justification of the religionists becoming involved in economics and
actually invents the capitalism we now enjoy (tongue in cheek kind of
enjoyment).  So it is religionists who invented it and religionists who
want to destroy it.  I can’t help but be referred to Kees van
Kersbergen’s text Social Capitalism.  As a non-religionist, the term
Christian democracy puts a knot in my stomach and nearly crazies my
mind.

Then of course there is socialist Robert Corfe’s three volume set of
Social Capitalism in Theory and Practice which sets out a thorough
definition more rational and not referring to religion per se this text,
which makes it a better resource that speaks of a “new age” of
employee ownership (but employees already have that ability in many
companies) but from what I can eke out of the text available online, his
argument does not portend to be any more convincing.  ThomasG, you
have not given why SC is a finer foundation to build a more egalitarian
society.  Some idea of Corfe’s theory can be squeezed out of the
Amazon.com Look Inside (perusing some of the pages is possible using
the search feature at that webpage by reviewing the Table of Contents
and using some of the chapter titles for a search.) Not by a longshot
does that mean he has washed his hands of religion and politics as
seen in the defensive Official Attacks on Christianity: Or, the Anti-
Christian Crusade (also three volumes) who also loves to use the figure
90% of the population when discussing politics. (It appears Corfe is a
pseudonym and no bio information found but I suspect from intros by
others in a couple of his books he is an Anglican, a cleric or perhaps
former cleric), one says he uses several pseudonyms.  While that does
not disqualify him from having a cogent theory, it does bias him in his
perspectives.

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By Anarcissie, July 1, 2010 at 8:14 am Link to this comment

I am curious as to what golden years are being referred to here.  The capitalist states (North America, Western Europe and Japan) were constantly in crisis throughout the 20th century.  There were serious crises just before World War 1 which are now generally forgotten; then World War 1; then the rise of fascism and the Great Depression; then World War 2; then the struggle of the U.S. ruling class to take over from the British Empire and dominate the world, which has led to dozens of military operations, one every year or two, and some serious wars such as Korea and Vietnam.  In the U.S., the period immediately following World War 2 was permeated by nuclear terror, political panics like McCarthyism, and the frightened conservatism of people whose youth consisted of severe depression and total war.  That leaves the hippie outburst, which didn’t last very long.  By 1980 we are back to rising crime, falling wages and living standards, failing education, environmental decay, and strange adventures in foreign policy and banking.  I don’t see many golden ages in there, except I guess for the hippies.

Capitalism is dynamic and mutable (which is why I don’t see it disappearing any time soon) but it is not designed to make anybody happy.  Those who are happy will not work and buy more and more and more.

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By Foucauldian, July 1, 2010 at 6:32 am Link to this comment

Do you have any references, Thomas, so I can look it up?

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By Shenonymous, July 1, 2010 at 4:37 am Link to this comment

The electronic and the Net age has changed the world.  No, I do not
suppose, Foucauldian, it is possible to maintain a cheerful attitude
because that is not what the previous generation was about.  They
were about being ordinary people having a decent life: The kind of
life that is given lip service by the ideologues of
socialism/communism.

Capitalism gave them the power to acquire their property and decent
life.  There were two world wars before those few decades of “Golden
Years.”  Then communist oppression in Russia and China and Vietnam
and satellites like Cuba and, and, and a stuttering of a whole new and
ugly world emerged that gave rise to those of both left and right
persuasion who would use their culture of fear to manipulate those
idyllic folks of those few Golden Years.

Well I think the latest news of Russia and China is very funny, funny in a
humorous way, not in a peculiar way.  First the Russians want to
become more capitalistic, more like the USA, visiting Silicon Valley and
supping with the POTUS.  Then we learn that China pays Caucasians to
hang around in strategic places in China to give a good impression of
Americans.  http://tinyurl.com/25533zx

Now that is really a hoot.  What has happened to those strong socialists
countries?  Yes, the world is changing.  If one reviews the history of
humankind one can see two cycles with transitional dynamics in the
interstices between.  There are golden ages then their corruptions and
the times in between.  People are not aware when they are in any of
those stages, it is only in retrospect, when their age is over that they
see what has happened.  It is true that the people of this age is
exploiting others and the planet, but there are forces at work that puts
the ships of state back on a healthy course. 

Perhaps your efforts are part of that correcting reconstruction but there
are others with different solutions who are also working to chart the
way to better lives for everyone.  Humans see the defilers, the infected
of mind, the selfish promoters a whole lot faster and humans work to
root them out in one way or another.  Transparency given by the ‘Net
and other electronic media is changing the nature of the world.  I think
the crises in Darfur and the Sudan is much more critical of remedial
action than any po’folk’s dilemmas in the Western world.  Communism
has not done much good on the continent of Africa.  And it looks as
though the experiments in South America are not going so well also.

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By ThomasG, June 30, 2010 at 8:26 pm Link to this comment

Foucauldian, June 30 at 3:55 pm,

What I have proposed is social capital and Socialized Capitalism.

Capital is an asset that provides a revenue stream and Socialized Capitalism can work to serve the greater good for the 90% of the population from the base of the Economic Pyramid upward, rather than for the 10% of the population from the top of the Economic Pyramid downward.

Time Warp Communism is not the answer, and Corporate Communism is not the answer either, but social capital, that is always used to reanimate the dead corpse of Privatized Capitalism, can be used together with Socialized Capitalism to provide a form of Capitalism that serves the greater good, rather than the greater greed.

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By Foucauldian, June 30, 2010 at 7:14 pm Link to this comment

That’s why it’s got to go. 

The Golden Age is over.

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By ofersince72, June 30, 2010 at 6:54 pm Link to this comment

A typical cycle of a Capitolist society,
those few decades of golden years took a century of
blood to get to, and less than a generation to give back
away.

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By Anarcissie, June 30, 2010 at 6:10 pm Link to this comment

On February 1, 1960, the great White Man Thing fell down in the Woolworth in Greensboro, North Carolina.  It was upon the White Man Thing that the sort of popular solidarity reported by Shenonymous depended, and had depended since the 18th century.  Once the White Man Thing fell down, things came loose and started to flap in the wind.  They’re still flapping.

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By Foucauldian, June 30, 2010 at 5:28 pm Link to this comment

Shenon,

You’re speaking of idyllic times when we were still naive.  Do you really suppose it’s possible to maintain such a cheerful attitude today?

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By Foucauldian, June 30, 2010 at 5:22 pm Link to this comment

Interesting.  Forget about the “automized individualist” option via the consumption route.  That’s a dead end. 

I am though somewhat concerned about the lukewarm collectivist mentality.  There is much truth to what you’re saying. 

I suppose much depends on the reason for the commune.  If it is for retreat, then indeed, a certain passivity may set in, a feeling of self-complacency.  But can’t a community be dynamic?

Part of the problem may be that we still keep on thinking of communities as a therapeutic, temporary type of solution - as a form of retreat from ways of life we find destructive and “dangerous to our health.”  At present, it’s difficult to imagine another model.

It may well be that we won’t have a clearer idea until capitalism is significantly trimmed down from its present scale and rendered harmless.  Only then will solutions present themselves, on the ground.

My take is - it’s happening anyway, with or without human agency, and whether we like it or not.  And that’s a good thing.

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By Shenonymous, June 30, 2010 at 5:08 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie, June 30 at 2:19 pm
I thought they all wanted to live in Bedford Falls (“It’s A Wonderful
Life”) in a house with a yard and a white picket fence.  However, I
don’t see a major contradiction between being moderately well-off
and taking care of your own business through participation in a union
or a cooperative.”

Most of my nine uncles, from immigrant parents, worked in steel mills,
a few in coal mines.  They all belonged to unions in the 40s 50s and
60s.  They had some clout with the business owners and fought for a
decent wage and benefits.  They got it but did negotiate.  They all were
Democrats and all supported the democratic and capitalist society that
was America.  They all owned their own home, their own car, clothed
and shoed their kids fairly well if not haute couture, and were not
interested in being politicians but had hot family debates that cooled
off before the next get together about who ought to be running things
both locally, statewide, and nationally.  It seemed that most everyone in
the towns had similar experience.  Business owners, doctors and
lawyers tended to be Republican, everyone else a Democrat.  All were
very patriotic and showed up at parades lining the streets 9 -10 rows
deep, and attended fireworks by the thousands.  Well attended city
picnics were common.  People seemed comfortable and relatively
happy.  The ideas of liberal and conservative were unknown and never
spoken of.  The towns were mixed races and nationalities and they
intermixed socially.  We did not have protests nor civic rancor.  Steel as
a megalithic business folded up and moved to other countries in the
70s and only one or two mills are still in operation.  This happened in
California as well as in the east, like Ohio and Pennsylvania, etc.  The
towns diminished in population as people moved away seeking
employment.  I wonder if this was not a typical cycle of American
society?

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By Anarcissie, June 30, 2010 at 3:57 pm Link to this comment

Traditional corporations are famous for making people wear clothes they don’t want to wear, come and go as they are told, keep their mouths shut and pretend to be enthusiastic about corporate goals and policies and do work they have little or no control over.  This is the kind of disindividuation I was talking about.  Much was made of it in the 1950s; see The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit and other epics centered on conformity issues among at least the White upper middle class.

Something else might occur in non- or semi-authoritarian systems of relations.  I lived among some Dukhobors about 40 years ago in British Columbia.  The older people had grown up in communes.  (The communes were broken up by the semi-fascist Social Credit Party government there in the 1950s.)  The older people seemed to have a distinctive sort of personality, less aggressive, ambitious, individualized, and self-centered perhaps than the Americans and Anglo-Canadians I knew at the time.  That might have had something to do with their communal living arrangements, which went back to the 17th or 18th century (and perhaps before, given the Russian-Ukrainian-Caucasian context in which their religion arose).  Perhaps this sort of personality was an adaptation to or for communal life.

Part of the reason the Dukhobors were broken up was that their self-sufficient, “sustainable” economic and political ways were repugnant to their mostly “English” neighbors; they were bad for business.  So here we see a capitalist paradox:  Man the worker is supposed to be a docile collectivist; man the consumer is supposed to be an atomized individualist (who, however, is content to express his individualism as a selection of mass-produced goods, all pretty much alike).

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By Foucauldian, June 30, 2010 at 12:41 pm Link to this comment

I don’t think it’s our worthwhile to consider “corporate rights” in the present context, Anarcisse.  It’s an anomaly as far as I’m concerned, a peculiarity of the present system.

When you spoke of “disindividuation,” however, I thought you spoke of communities in general, and if so, you do raise an interesting issue, for communities do tend to become, over time, “authoritarian” and in a manner of speaking, exclusive.  So this is another vital concept in need of rethinking, since the idea of community does figure among many social thinkers as representing a germ of a solution. 

Martin Buber’s is one text worth revisiting.

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By Anarcissie, June 30, 2010 at 12:18 pm Link to this comment

Usually when people refer to cooperatives or communes there is an implication that the social order within the collective is at least nominally egalitarian, libertarian and democratic.  None of that is true in traditional capitalist business corporations, so I would not use terms like “commune” and its derivatives about them.  It is, of course, nevertheless a disindividuating collectivity, which is curious given the emphasis on individualism prevalent among apologists for traditional capitalism.

Traditionally, I think liberals have believed that only natural persons had rights.  I am not sure how far this business about corporations being persons and having rights goes; I believe the Supreme Court decision touched only on freedom of speech, but I haven’t read it yet.

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By Foucauldian, June 30, 2010 at 11:55 am Link to this comment

Looks like an airtight argument, ThomasG.

However, I wouldn’t condone Communism on analogy with your example of “Corporate Communism.”  If “individual rights” are going to be jeopardized, it’s no solution.  There’s got to be a better way.

Besides, the emphasis on individual rights is a peculiarity of the present political/economic system, whereby “rights” (and appeal to rights) constitute the last line of defense, and a call to arms, in what is essentially a conflict-ridden, antagonistic system.  The trick I think is to envisage a system based on mutual aid and cooperation, a system, that is, that would be more responsive individual and communal needs.

In other words, the concept of “individual rights” may need considerable reworking. 

Just thinking out loud.

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By Foucauldian, June 30, 2010 at 11:39 am Link to this comment

No contradiction, Anarcisse, except they didn’t think such desperate measures necessary.

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By Anarcissie, June 30, 2010 at 10:19 am Link to this comment

I thought they all wanted to live in Bedford Falls (“It’s A Wonderful Life”) in a house with a yard and a white picket fence.  However, I don’t see a major contradiction between being moderately well-off and taking care of your own business through participation in a union or a cooperative.

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By ThomasG, June 30, 2010 at 9:57 am Link to this comment

Foucauldian, June 30 at 12:56 pm & Anarcissie, June 30 at 12:48 pm,

The people who own stock in joint stock corporations already have individual rights, so the claim to rights by corporations grants http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraterritoriality extraterritorial rights to corporations as a collective as a communal organization over and above individual rights of those who own joint stock in the corporation, and extraterritorial corporate rights as a communal corporate collective will, in fact, as history shows, displace and replace the individual rights that it usurps, and leave individual rights powerless to defend the individual interests of individual rights from the collective communal corporate extraterritorial rights of corporations claimed as a collective by corporations in addition to individual rights as joint stock holders in a corporation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraterritoriality

http://library.findlaw.com/international-law/extraterritorial-rights-and-jurisdiction/

The granting of individual rights to a corporation as a collective commune of joint stock holders is Corporate Communism!!  

What is the argument that justifies Corporate Communism for a collective of joint stockholders and decries Communism and its benefits for the individual??

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By Foucauldian, June 30, 2010 at 8:56 am Link to this comment

I think it’s a residual, Anarcisse, from the bill of sale called “the American Dream,” - the ideology that relative success was within everyone reach; the idea that workers were being exploited was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind.

Hopefully, the recent abuses on Wall Street and Big Business having taken this country to the cleaners will alter people’s perception.

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By Anarcissie, June 30, 2010 at 8:48 am Link to this comment

In the United States, the closest thing to socialism is socialism—worker-owned businesses, or cooperatives.  There are thousands of them.  There are also quite a few communes, if you prefer communism.  (A brief Google search will probably be more productive than my posting of URLs if you want more information about them.)  Traditional unions fit more into the liberal-capitalist model.

Over the years I have noted with some surprise that most workers (that is, people who live by selling their labor power) do not appear to desire ownership and control of the means of production.  They do not even seem to want to join unions.  The Left, advertising peace, freedom, equality and autonomy, makes few sales; domination and subordination are evidently preferred.  I hope this is a cultural problem and so have named it “the shadow of slavery”—a sort of overhang, or hangover, from the thousands of years human society was organized mostly in slave empires and serfdom.  I try from time to time to organize alternatives and contradictions.

However, it may be genetic, in which case humans may not be around much longer.

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By Foucauldian, June 29, 2010 at 8:37 pm Link to this comment

OK, I suppose, if your intent is to humor her.

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By Shenonymous, June 29, 2010 at 8:21 pm Link to this comment

Foucauldian, see Anarcissie’s post June 29 at 5:14 pm. 
Bonne nuit

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By Foucauldian, June 29, 2010 at 7:00 pm Link to this comment

What kind of move is it, Shenon, to say that the animals have language, too, and that they communicate?  What does it accomplish for you?

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By Shenonymous, June 29, 2010 at 3:12 pm Link to this comment

I agree that unions are not communist organizations, I intended
and meant to say they were the closest thing to a worker’s
organization, socialist in getting the distribution of wealth down
into the laborer’s wages.

Yes, Foucauldian, I know I have a bias and I am trying to transcend it,
but sometimes it will slip.  Thank you for tolerating my traipsing into
the light fantastic of, well I won’t say just yet, as I am still formulating,
or is that forumulating? I did say once that my middle name was
Hyperbole.  I will try to go slower. I even had requested once that
we go slow, so my bad.  I hope my next comments are not
speedstering.  My fried brains from all the reading I’m doing
can’t tell at this point.

Having a language does not mean the organism can think in general
terms.  Many animals have a language, whales for instance, I even have
a cd of whalespeak.  They do communicate with each other but I highly
doubt, though I have no proof, they do not contemplate nor discuss
such ideas as communism, democracy, or possible chess moves, or
even what the batting average is of Cano Robinson, and what that
might mean for their clan.

Say for instance that non-human animals develop language skill that
yields synoptic thinking, theories and high level communication
probably would not happen for thousands more years.  By that time
humans would have either done themselves in as a species, or moved
on to other worlds.  So would it matter if another species inherited the
earth?  LOL

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By Foucauldian, June 29, 2010 at 2:26 pm Link to this comment

Quite a diatribe, Shenon.  You’re moving ahead of the game, displaying your biases - I mean it kindly, we all have ‘em - but still…  Kind of impassioned plea on your part - that’s how I read your post.  We need to slow down:  we’re still at the foundational level.

You’re right, of course, about the US, but we’ve been spoiled by unreasonable ideas of rabid individualism, absolute concepts of freedom and liberty, and the illusion that we can think of our lives as somehow detached and separate from the larger community.  If anything, we’re not a nation in any integral sense of the word but an aggregate collection of individuals, each thinking themselves an island.  I’m not against individualism, but this is the most distorted sense.  In short, we all suffer from false consciousness. 

You’re right about one thing:  “nature” is indifferent to human purposes; it’s indifferent to morality.  Morality is something which WE bring into the world.

Which brings me to Anarcisse’s last post.  Language may not be the be-all-end-all explanation, but it’s the best we’ve got.  If there be anything like “the missing link,” language it is.

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By Anarcissie, June 29, 2010 at 2:23 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous—Unions are not in any way communistic.  They are pure expressions of liberal philosophy and political principles, based on property, bargaining, and the rights of expression, contract, assembly, and association.  (Of course I am using “liberal” here in the broader sense which includes both classical and modern varieties.)  A labor union, like a corporation, is simply a group of people who have contracted with one another to act in concert for their economic advantage.

Oddly (considering Locke derives the legitimacy of property from a fable about labor) there is a weird hatred of labor and those who do it permeating liberalism which comes out partly as depreciation of unions and laws against them.  It is one more failure to use reason, or I should say decision not to in favor of some other pleasure, like good old domination and subjugation (or illusions about them).

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By Shenonymous, June 29, 2010 at 1:49 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie, June 29 at 9:34 am
“Often enough, being “fit” means only being in the right place at
the right time.”
 

Or… being more clever.  Actually verse (16) afterwards says
“…wisdom is better than might,…”  So the trick is to select for
wisdom, naturally.  Now would that also be a tautology inasmuch
as wisdom would enhance survivability?

Just staying in touch on a daily basis.  My eyes are squinted trying to
see the truth in all that has been written biblically and nonesuch!  I am
digesting a ton of writings from all quarters, engorging might be a
better description.  Truth and coherence are the aims.  My copy of
Capital is on its way but it will then be days before I am able to
assimilate the first three chapters.  I’m almost through the two essays
and do not find Foucault godlike, yet. 

Nature has no empathy for humanity, it has no brain and is
teleologically driven.  No, I do not have a shred of empirical evidence
except I’ve never seen nature shed a tear over even one death or
maiming or destuction of entire villages by natural disasters.  Have you,
anyone?  One cannot infer morality from natural intentions.  Who can
say what “natural” intention could be anyway?  Darwin put together a
theory that most likely explains how crucial components came together
either by seeking covalent bonds in a sea of compounds or accidentally
bumped into to form organisms that evolve generally into forms that
survive.  We rarely know when nature has made a mistake or a weak
organism and life forms that emerge but quickly die.  We do know of
many extinctions where a species survives for a time but dies out from
various causes not only limited to weakness of physical constitution.  So
in a way being fit does enhance survival, but it is not the only factor
that insures it. 

Is it that the freemasons of Marxism would yield to the working class
mob rule? In a country like the United States, that would be an
impossibility, you do know that don’t you?  You would not take the
voting rights away from the Americans no way no how.  Look at the
closest thing that came to communism in the US, the unions and where
they are today?  Nowheresville. 

President Obama’s approval rating is 46% - 49% depending on which
poll one wants to believe.  Even with that kind of relatively low approval
I don’ think there is a rat’s ass chance in hell of a revolution of any kind
to take place.  Second of all the anarchists and the Marxists would be in
competition, no, make that “are” in competition.  And third, actually
even the poorest Americans are capitalists at heart even without an
education.  They all want to earn money, put their kids through school,
and buy good cars. You know, own stuff.  All this has ramifications for
the economy since to have cars the nation needs good roads, etc., etc.,
and blah, blah, blah.  And by the way, it occurred to me as I watched
the gushing over soccer this week, what would the socialist/
communists and anarchists do about the love affair Americans have
with sports?  You can’t just reformat the sports industry into a socialist
bureau.  And what about the entertainment industry.  Would that
become state owned too?  Ha!

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By marimbadearco, June 29, 2010 at 1:39 pm Link to this comment

Will Port’s comments are dead on:
Marx did not worship the state: he called on its replacement by collective something of workers (always left a bit undefined);
and he didn’t advocate violence, but correctly said that the ruling class won’t give up its power without a fight.  To think otherwise is to lead good people into a lion’s den: like Allende did in Chile in the early 1970s.

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By Anarcissie, June 29, 2010 at 1:14 pm Link to this comment

The development of language is probably not a complete explanation.  (1) Some non-human animals exhibit considerable ability to communicate in various ways which have not yet been fully understood.  (2) We observe fully developed languages as far back in history as we can go (several thousand years) and have to guess that prehistoric humans possessed language for at least several tens of thousands of years before that.  Yet “progress” began only in the last few thousand years, and even then (by modern standards) it proceeded only very slowly until the last few centuries or so.  So something not explained by the ability to use language, or to technologize, seems to be going on.

But in any case we have stepped out of nature (as we found it).  If we act like baboons, orangutans, dogs or cats, it is because we choose to.

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By Will Port, June 29, 2010 at 12:52 pm Link to this comment

I agree with everything in this column EXCEPT:

1.  Marx did not “worship the state as a utopian mechanism.”  This is a
common, and false, accusation by anarchists against Marxists.  On the contrary,
he called for the dismantling of the liberal state and its replacement by a true
workers’ democracy, which would eventually do away with the state as
unecessary.  Whether or not you agree with Marx that this is possible, don’t
mischaracterize his thought.  Stalinism and Maoism and all the other tyrannical
pseudo-marxisms and pseuo-socialisms of the last 100 years would have been repuslive to him..

2.  The phrase “advocating violence” is misleading and simplistic.  It fails to
distinguish between the violence of the oppressor and the violence of the
oppressed.  The incredible genocidal violence and constant threat of violence of
the capitalist state is beyond question.  How in heaven’s name can you expect
to dismantle such a state without the use of force?  The essential thing is that it
must be force exercised democratically by the broad working class itself, not
by “Red Guard” types or any other band of narodniks or intellectuals who
believe they are acting for the benefit of the working class.  To simply condemn
“violence” in toto means to render the victims and targets of the capitaliast elite
defenseless and hopeless.

In any event, Marx did not “advocate violence.”  He did advocate the forcible
taking of power by the working class.  He had no clear views of how to
accomplish this, but believed (naively) that the working class would in the very near future take care of its own interests and do what it had to do.  On this point, of course, he was mistaken.  But if you believe that the capitalist state must be dismantled, there is only one way to do that: democratic forcible revolution by the working class and construction by that class “from scratch” of a radically democratic society.

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By Foucauldian, June 29, 2010 at 12:18 pm Link to this comment

Of course.  Language trumps everything.  It makes us like gods.  A blessing and a curse.

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By Anarcissie, June 29, 2010 at 11:02 am Link to this comment

Foucauldian, June 29 at 1:04 pm:
’... So now, in answer to Anarcisse, I would argue that Darwin’s genealogy wasn’t as much of a problem for the Marxists as the idea of extrapolation.  To put it differently, the idea of reifying an analogy.  Similarities between the human and animal kingdoms are interesting and informative, but it’s a mistake to argue for one-to-one correspondence.  Our language faculty makes the world of difference. ...’

More generally, one might say we have stepped out of nature, partly because of our language skills, partly because of our physical and social technologies—not unrelated powers, of course.  It may be a tragic emergence—tragic in the sense that humans, unlike their genetically similar primate cousins, cannot run about the woods slaughtering one another and tearing up their environment as they might wish.  We have too much power; we can now destroy the earth, indeed at the moment many are hard at work destroying it.  But all of us know better.

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By Foucauldian, June 29, 2010 at 9:04 am Link to this comment

Exactly, Shenon, we’re on the same wavelenghth.  And hre is the link:  http://www.marxists.org/subject/science/essays/kropotkin.htm

Now, two significant quotes:

(1)Kropotkin sometimes speaks of mutual aid as selected for the benefit of entire populations or species – a concept foreign to classic Darwinian logic (where organisms work, albeit unconsciously, for their own benefit in terms of genes passed to future generations). But Kropotkin also (and often) recognized that selection for mutual aid directly benefits each individual in its own struggle for personal success. Thus, if Kropotkin did not grasp the full implication of Darwin’s basic argument, he did include the orthodox solution as his primary justification for mutual aid.

(2)There are no shortcuts to moral insight. Nature is not intrinsically anything that can offer comfort or solace in human terms – if only because our species is such an insignificant latecomer in a world not constructed for us. So much the better. The answers to moral dilemmas are not lying out there, waiting to be discovered. They reside, like the kingdom of God, within us – the most difficult and inaccessible spot for any discovery or consensus.

So now, in answer to Anarcisse, I would argue that Darwin’s genealogy wasn’t as much of a problem for the Marxists as the idea of extrapolation.  To put it differently, the idea of reifying an analogy.  Similarities between the human and animal kingdoms are interesting and informative, but it’s a mistake to argue for one-to-one correspondence.  Our language faculty makes the world of difference.

Anarcisse’s unwillingness to concede this point is rooted in a certain physicalist view whereby human behavior and action is reducible to physical events in the brain.

There’s another link to a “Science Magazine” recent podcast which has a bearing on the matter:  trying to narrow down human evolution to either “working memory” or “learning by imitation.”  I’ll post it as soon as I’ll get back to my home computer.

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By Anarcissie, June 29, 2010 at 5:34 am Link to this comment

“Survival of the fittest” is a tautology, for who are the fit?  Those who survive.  As many have pointed out, adaptation does not always go in the direction of greater strength, fortitude, intelligence or complexity.  “The battle is not always to the strong” as Ecclesiastes put it.  Often enough, being “fit” means only being in the right place at the right time.

After some reading at http://www.marxists.org I’ve concluded that my guess was more or less correct: Engels thought Darwin had the right idea, but didn’t like the genealogy of the idea.  The usual critics of Malthus were cited in his writing.

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By ofersince72, June 29, 2010 at 4:45 am Link to this comment

Thorstein Veblen….The Theory of Business Enterprise

“The direct cultural value of a warlike business policy
is unequivocal.  It makes for a conservative animus on
the part of the populace…[Warlike policies] direct
the popular interest to other, nobler, institutionally
less hazardous matters than the unequal distribution of
wealth or of creature comforts….In this direction,
evidently, lies the hope of a corrective for social
unrest and similar disorders of civilized life.”

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By ofersince72, June 28, 2010 at 7:58 pm Link to this comment

She….Thanks for the feed,  enjoyed that.

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By Shenonymous, June 28, 2010 at 7:15 pm Link to this comment

Try
Kropotkin was no crackpot - Stephen Jay Gould

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By Foucauldian, June 28, 2010 at 7:03 pm Link to this comment

I think you’re spot on, ThomasG.  We’re the only human animals with language. 

I’ll look up a seminal article by Stephen Gould on Kropotkin and post it.

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By ThomasG, June 28, 2010 at 6:48 pm Link to this comment

Foucauldian, June 27 at 1:12 pm,

Charles Darwin got the idea for his Theory of Evolution from Thomas Robert Malthus’ Theory of Population based on the goats and the greyhounds on Juan Fernadez Island in the South Seas.

Here is an excerpt from “Poverty and the Industrial Revolution” by Brian Inglis:

“In the South Seas there is an island, which from the first discoverer is called Juan Fernandez.  In this sequested spot, Juan Fernando placed a colony of goats, consisting of one male attended by his female.  This happy couple, finding pasture in abundance, could readily obey the first commandment, to increase and multiply, till in the process of time they had replenished their little island.  In advancing to this period they were strangers to misery and want, and seemed to glory in their numbers; but from this unhappy moment they began to suffer hunger, yet continuing for a time to increase their numbers.  Had they been endowed with reason, they must have apprehended the extremity of famine.  In this situation, the weakest first gave way, and plenty was again restored.  Thus they fluctuated between happiness and misery, and either suffered want or rejoiced in abundance, according as their numbers were diminished or increased.”

“The Spaniards, however, found that English pirates were using the island to stock up with goat’s meat.  They decided to put ashore a greyhound dog and bitch.”

“These in their turn increased and multiplied, in proportion to the quantity of food they met with; but in consequence, as the Spaniards had foreseen, the breed of goats diminished.  Had they been totally destroyed, the dogs likewise must have perished.  But, as many of the goats retired to the craggy rocks, where the dogs could never follow them, descending only for short intervals to feed with fear and circumspection in the valleys, few of these, besides the careless and the rash, became a prey; and none but the most watchful, strong and active of the dogs could get a sufficiency of food. Thus a new kind of balance was established.  The weakest of both species were among the first to pay the debt of nature: the most active and vigorous preserved their lives.”

When the fittest is not the most intelligent, and the most intelligent is not the fittest, does Darwin’s Theory of Evolution as the survival of fittest serve the purpose of preservation of the species when survival depends upon intelligence, rather than physical prowess?

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is and was misapplied with regard to human kind and Thomas Robert Malthus’ Theory of Population is and was misapplied with regard to human kind, both for the same reason, that adaptability as a result of intelligence was not taken into consideration—only physical prowess and agility.

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By Anarcissie, June 28, 2010 at 6:22 pm Link to this comment

So Engels is criticizing the genealogy of Darwin’s ideas rather than their validity.  That sounds more like the Engels I’m vaguely familiar with.

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By Foucauldian, June 28, 2010 at 6:01 pm Link to this comment

BTW, Marat.  Looked up your main man, Cockshott.  Here is the link to his three videos - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5U4e6ALxOhk&feature=related - as well as to the entire text of Towards a New Socialism - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5U4e6ALxOhk&feature=related.

Where did you say you’re organizing?  In France?

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By Foucauldian, June 28, 2010 at 5:47 pm Link to this comment

Thanks.

I’m trying to compose a measured response which would express Engels’s well-found reservations concerning the wholesale application of the evolutionary theory to human development and the development of human societies.  First off, it smacks of “scientism.”  And in the extreme, of the cognitive-sciences’ project of attempting to reduce the sociological to physicalism.

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By troll, June 28, 2010 at 4:59 pm Link to this comment

Similar language can be found in an 1875 letter from Engels to Lavrov available here: http://tinyurl.com/2fqzqlx along with a discussion of Marx and Engels’ positions on Darwin’s theory.

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By Foucauldian, June 28, 2010 at 4:56 pm Link to this comment

Gotcha.  I was going out of my mind looking through Marx and Engels quotations as well as Marx’s address.

For a while, I thought I was insane.

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By troll, June 28, 2010 at 12:53 pm Link to this comment

Foucauldian, the source of your quote is Engels’ Anti-Duhring pp208-9

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By Foucauldian, June 27, 2010 at 2:02 pm Link to this comment

Well, I’m glad you weren’t.  I think there’s much merit to Engels’s remark, and I’ll try to unpack it once I locate my sources.

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By Anarcissie, June 27, 2010 at 1:41 pm Link to this comment

No, not at all.  He expresses a somewhat naive view of Darwin’s theory and then says it was constructed on an ideological basis, an image of Hobbes’s war of all against all.  I’d say that implies a rejection of the theory, although he doesn’t come right out and say so—and one can certainly produce a valid theory for bad or irrelevant reasons.

Elsewhere I’ve read that Marx and Engels were big fans of Evolution as it was proposed in their time.  I confess to not having personally searched through the works for their opinions of it.  I think the only thing solely by Engels that I’ve read was his book on the social evolution of the family.

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By Foucauldian, June 27, 2010 at 12:43 pm Link to this comment

Are you being facetious?

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By Anarcissie, June 27, 2010 at 12:06 pm Link to this comment

So Engels didn’t believe in evolution through natural selection?  I’m shocked.

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By Foucauldian, June 27, 2010 at 9:12 am Link to this comment

Interesting posts, Shenon, Anarcisse.  Before I respond more fully, let me offer first the following citation (as food for thought):

“The whole Darwinian theory of the struggle for life is simply the transferance from society to organic nature of Hobbes’ theory of bellum omnium contra omnes, and of the bourgeois economic theory of competition, as well as the Malthusian theory of population. When once this feat has been accomplished…it is very easy to transfer these theories back again from natural history to the history of society, and all together too naive to maintain that thereby these assertions have been proven as eternal laws of society.” Engels

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By Shenonymous, June 26, 2010 at 10:30 pm Link to this comment

Before all being Indians, we are humans first and before that just a
twinkle in our parents eyes.  I would think being an Indian in this
case is a certain mindset.  This is not in any way meant to be an
affront to Native Americans.  Opportunism, even a Leefeller species,
sounds much like self-interest, which is what Darwin said long ago
and many since have agreed.  Problem is, self-interest only goes so
far in terms of survival, and at some point society becomes
necessary, even if it is limited to the society of a family. 

There are some mammals that live communally to some degree or
other (squirrels live communally and some birds as well communally
roost).  The difference is that only the insects have the master
(queen)/slave arrangement.  Problems associated with mammalian
communal nesting include an increase in the potential for predation
risk, resource competition, cuckoldry (as if that is only a problem in the
lower species, LOL), parasite/disease transmission, and infanticide.  The
alpha males of mammals take over the group, so my guess is it is a
kind of socialized tyranny, if that isn’t an oxymoron.  Maybe in some
cases a benevolent tyrant!  Sort of like Pericles?  (His reign is said to
have been the Golden Age of Greece.)  For instance, chimpanzees form
communities of about 50 animals composed of family groups of three
to six individuals.  Hierarchies are formed by adult males and one
becomes the alpha male through combat.  Territory, however, is strictly
patrolled and fights and wars can break out between neighbors.  But I
suppose herding animals like buffalo, gazelles and flocking birds or
even schools of fish could be thought as living communally, but again
leadership is diffuse and in some cases don’t exist at all.  They also
appear as a multipart whole, not many individuals.  Fecundity seems to
be the driving force for cooperative living, say for instance in the
banded mongoose and especially the bonobos.  In lions the benefit of
multiple breeding most likely is rearing the young communally.  For the
few animals that do live in shared spaces, in comparison with the vast
number of mammals that don’t, I still see the supraorganization of
communism for humans more like the lifestyle of insects. 

Cool, Anarcissie, I’m trying tinyurl using the last link in my last post to
see how it works.  The thing is that Foucauldian did post a link that
was three lines long and it all printed in the hot link mode.  I like the
short version by tinyurl, but I am curious why my extra long link
addresses don’t format like Foucauldian’s?
http://tinyurl.com/27q6n39

Yes, meaning to respond earlier to Foucauldian, June 24 at 8:30 pm, I
am familiar with Russell, and his orbiting teapot is just as real as the
FSM, or the Great Unyun, my fav. Of course we don’t know unicorns
don’t exist,
nor a fusha polka-dotted orange rumpadumpus, since
there is no unassailable way to deny truthfully that a given thing exists. 
Did I invent a Meinongian earlier?

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By Anarcissie, June 26, 2010 at 7:52 pm Link to this comment

In reference to Kropotkin, it seems obvious that evolutionary selection must include cooperation or symbiosis because we observe them, and they are clearly advantageous adaptations.  The whole realm of cooperation and self-organization theory is interesting and touches on many things; see Axelrod (http://www-personal.umich.edu/~axe/).  In this regard it is surprising that cooperation in the sense of multicellular organisms appeared only about one billion years ago, whereas life has been around for 3.5 billion years.  It is also theorized that it evolved more than once in different instances.  Why did this fairly simple tactic for survival and reproduction take so long to appear?

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By Foucauldian, June 26, 2010 at 2:21 pm Link to this comment

BTW, Shenon, just noticed your post dtd. June 26 at 11:24 am.

Indeed, Foucault is a difficult read, but you’ve got to go with the flow, get the feel for the rhythm, the repetitions.  If a thought evades you, keep on going on revisit it later.  Eventually, it will make sense. 

I thoroughly agree, though.  You can’t translate it into ordinary idiom.  It is a specialized language.

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By Foucauldian, June 26, 2010 at 1:19 pm Link to this comment

Excellent post, Anarcisse.

In support of your argument, here’s a link to Kropotkin’s http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/kropotkin/mutaidcontents.html. Mutual Aid:  a factor in evolution.

The point which sticks to mind is the attention paid to the environment.  Kropotkin, being a Russian, takes Siberia for his test case.  And he does argue, quite eloquently, that in those conditions, the strategy of co-operation (and mutual aid) is more conducive to individual’s survival than bitter competition for limited resources.

Contrast this now with conditions which obtain in Great Britain, a small and inhospitable island, where precisely the opposite strategy, dog-eat-dog, may seem the right thing to do.  (Ergo:  Malthus and eventually Darwin).

There is a lesson to be drawn from this.  It’s a fallacy to generalize from one’s particular situation.

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By Foucauldian, June 26, 2010 at 9:31 am Link to this comment

Shenon,

I would try to stumble with the first three chapterms of the Capital, in conjunction with Harvey’s lectures, for the layout of basic concepts of value and the nature of money.  It’s essential to understanding how the system work.

I’d stay away for a while from secondary sources on Foucault.  You have to read him first hand to experience the Foucault “shock and awe.”  I’ll forward you the articles mentioned (I trust the private message should work).  There is a certain grammar to postmodern thought, and one has to become familiar with it in order to be able to navigate.

It’s good you’re asking questions.  The mushrooming of the disciplines is of course a byproduct of scientific and technological revolutions.  But although resultant knowledge is not an ideology(according to some postmoderns), they are nonetheless manifestations of power and the corresponding regimes of truth.

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By Leefeller, June 26, 2010 at 8:32 am Link to this comment

Economics according to Anarcissie seems well portrayed. With the new world order being shoved down the worlds collective throats some must see the manipulations and posturing as it affects ones life. Unfortunately most people who vote cannot see beyond what they want to see. 

I find the dry subject of economics worthy of reflection only because everyone is now effected by it, sort of like the drying of paint and my favorite quote from Tao Walker, another TD poster who stated .....“We are all Indians now!”

At best one can comprehend as best they can, and the Leefeller opportunism economic theory is only the tip of the iceberg.

If economic theory becomes belief like religion or other beliefs, then it is forced down or up non believers orifices, so it seems.

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By Anarcissie, June 26, 2010 at 8:21 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous—try http://tinyurl.com/ for overly long URLs.  There are also some competing services of the same type.

There are some mammals which live communally, prairie dogs maybe—I forget which ones.  “Communally” doesn’t mean without property, however—it just means some stuff is used in common.

As it is necessary for human to live by appropriating parts of the world as comestibles, shelter, tools, and so on, we are always going to have facts of possession, which we can call “property”, archaically meaning “that which pertains to someone or something.”  Since life itself is involved, property can sometimes be observed as “that which a social order deems it right to defend possession of by violence if necessary.”  But what constitutes property can vary a good deal from one social order to another.  It is not some kind of absolute, well-defined thing given by the gods, in spite of the classical liberals.  In fact there is a good deal of discussion and dispute in sociological and anthropological circles about it.  (For example, how is “my seat” on a bus particularly mine?  Sociologists think about these things.)

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By Shenonymous, June 26, 2010 at 7:27 am Link to this comment

I’ve been involved for a couple of days now reading and listening
(along with the demanding mundane business of life).  It is all
daunting to say the least as it has been years since I’ve even
brushed on this stuff, decades really and even then my classes
were more an overview rather than any indepth reading of
economics.  It didn’t seem pertinent to my career goals of teaching
in the humanities.  The world has changed and insight into the
necessity for everyone to become familiar with the dynamics of
how one lives within the construct of a society which in turn must
negotiate with all other societies in the world becomes all too clear.

I’ve listened to about an hour of the introduction of the David Harvey
lecture series on Capital, a lot of the time spent in chatter but there are
some moments of relevance to Marx’s intention in writing the three
volumes.  I can only guess that the three volumes were because of the
complexities that present themselves in the way capitalism manifests
itself in societies.  I don’t see myself reading these volumes.  Not
because of lack of interest but because of lack of time and because I
really only want just a little bit better than a superficial understanding
so that I can justify to myself why I choose to live the way I do.  I
believe most people don’t even want that much of an understanding
and will just go along willy-nilly with the life they find themselves in
from their birth onward.  All this does not preclude that I won’t use the
powers of logic to evaluate the premises I run across and the ensuing
conclusions they point to when made to have a relationship. 

That being said, I will make a few comments before having to go off to
do the errands of the day.  Yes, my 1989 test on economics is really
over the hill, it’s even beyond the next hill.  I was only using it for some
refresher on basic terms, so please don’t fault me for that.  I had said I
wasn’t an econ major.  I did purchase a few months ago the Hayek text
The Road to Serfdom but as mentioned I have not put my nose into it
except for a flipping of the pages and a mental note to “get into it”
soon.  Well soon has not yet happened but I see it might be immanent.

Watching the Harvey Lecture from the link you provided, which only was
about 10 minutes long and then I wasn’t able to find the way to watch
the rest of it, so I found the entire 15 lectures on iTunes and am now
listening which is really better since I don’t have to watch every physical
gesture or shots of the adoring audience that is captured on the video.

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By Shenonymous, June 26, 2010 at 7:24 am Link to this comment

I’ve also been sprinkling my reading up on Foucault and I have to
say I find that reading most difficult to reduce to simple and
understandable terms.  I do not have any affinity for the language,
or at least the language that is the translation.  I was not able to
find the two lectures you recommended except for a few articles
found on a google search at
http://www.google.com/#q=foucault+-
+Two+Lectures+and+Power/Knowledge&hl=en&prmd=b&ei=f8IkTLjJEsP
38Aa528XdDw&start=0&sa=N&fp=abb01c78b666a2d

By the way, how do you get the TD site to print a link in its entirety that
is longer than one line length?  Every time I put in a link if it is too long
it goes to a second line that is separated from the link address and
then the link does not work and I recommend that a copy/paste into
the browser address line be done.  Aarrrgh!

I am also reading Reisman on Capitalism, so at the end of this
propaedeutic I should have learned a lot about both capitalism and
socialism.

So over the next few posts I will try to deal with what my mind has
been able to fathom from all the reading and listening.  And deal with
the many feet of posting you and Marat, and Anarcissie, have made in
the last few days.  Only to see if I my understanding is reasonable or
not.

Just for starters and using only my powers of reason from observation
of real life… what struck me right away from Harvey’s 10 minute video,
is that he nearly immediately criticizes that property ownership is one
of the egregious features of capitalism.  Well it seems to me that
property ownership is a natural inclination.  On my acreage I get to
watch a lot of critters and such.  I’ve noticed that they all have their
own homes and protect their homes fiercely from intruders:  squirrels,
birds, skunks, and so forth.  The only creatures that live communally
are insects: ants, wasps, bees, etc.  So most animals do not live in
common.  They build separate homes and live in them.  What
communism is promoting is a hive existence where the queen
represents the state.  It is a rather mindless existence for I think that is
exceptionally important for the human project (the experiment of
nature’s creation of humanity).  And I want to dwell on this feature but
will do so a little later.  I plan to listen to all 15 lectures which is more
than 20 hours of listening so it will be a while before I hear all of it.

You said back on June 21 at 5:41pm in elaborating on my earlier post
about bourgeoisie dictatorship and its hidden ideology that Foucault
would throw in legal-juridical action “as well as regulation and
surveillance brought about by the mushrooming of the disciplines and
their corresponding knowledge regimes.”  I am curious why the
‘mushrooming’ of the disciplines happens?

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By ofersince72, June 25, 2010 at 11:33 pm Link to this comment

Of course not,  ,I was talking the MSM talking heads

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By Foucauldian, June 25, 2010 at 11:26 pm Link to this comment

ofersince72,

I trust you didn’t include Harvey in that group.

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By ofersince72, June 25, 2010 at 7:49 pm Link to this comment

Faulk…

Thankyou for the DavidHarvey feed….

he reaffirms…...politico tends to make economics
            far more complicated than it needs to be

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By Foucauldian, June 25, 2010 at 7:43 pm Link to this comment

Sure, but the major concepts still apply.  “Reading Capital” with David Harvey is a great resource.  And he does bring it up to date.

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By Anarcissie, June 25, 2010 at 6:52 pm Link to this comment

Well, I think there have been major changes in capitalism (as we know it) since Marx wrote Capital.  The most important one has been the change from what we might call subsistence capitalism, in which the products of industrial production had known, obvious value, to what I call consumer capitalism, in which the workers also have to be directed to labor as consumers and scarcity has to be produced artificially.  In the formulation at the beginning of Capital, we have value being produced by labor upon raw materials.  However, in consumer capitalism, new kinds of labor, like advertising, marketing, and state intervention, must be brought to bear to create values which are in a sense fabulous or fictitious.  At the same time, the vocabularies of all parties have been affected, one might well say corrupted, by the massive onslaught of propaganda which was one of the features of industrial life in the 20th century.  (That is why capitalism is often conflated with free enterprise” or “individualism” when it is actually normally rather antagonistic to both.)

I’m not dismissing Marx’s work, but as he himself said, everything has to be questioned.

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By Foucauldian, June 25, 2010 at 8:01 am Link to this comment

All I’m saying, Marat, try to deal with one point at a time.  That’s all we can possibly do on a forum such as this. 

Of course I can follow your argument; it’s just that it’s too packed.  You’re trying to cover too many bases at once.  Easy does it.

Just a friendly suggestion.

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By Foucauldian, June 25, 2010 at 7:57 am Link to this comment

Anarcisse,

Paragraphs two and three are spot on.

As to definition of terms, Marx’s Das Kapital remains the definitive text.  And in this regard, I can’t be any more forceful than suggesting that both you and Shenon take a look at David Harvey’s lectures, in video form, on “Reading Capital” (see link below).


http://davidharvey.org/

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By Marat, June 25, 2010 at 7:55 am Link to this comment

Monsieur Foucauldian,

To say that ,,It’s really difficult to follow your
argument, especially since it’s so replete with
quotations’’ it’s not excuse, you should try to read
my posts again and again if it takes longer time to
get it into your brain. And the quotations comes
always after my statements. Please, try again, it’s
not hard, you will see. After all, repetitio est
mater studiorum.

You accused me for bad spelling, I admit it, English
is not my native language, but you aren’t so stupid
not to understand what I want to say, or you did not?
What it relates to the brevity into my writing style,
you should immediately start begging your colleague
Shenonymous not to put so insufficient ,,thesis’’ in
his/her posts, when he/she reply to me, what I have
to take account in my response. Please be kind to do
it. My sincere thanks in advance. 

Dear Monsieur Foucauldian, I do not try to write any
dissertation here, because I know that if we had all
the answers our life problems wouldn’t be solved. I
do not find my intended audience here, you can keep
it for free, but I try to find it among the workers
in my town.

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By Anarcissie, June 25, 2010 at 7:28 am Link to this comment

You guys are going ahead much too fast for me.  Permit me to go back a bit and pick up a few things I’ve found lying around so I can get caught up.

Shenonymous, June 24 at 12:36 pm:
’... I don’t think capitalism is a vague term.  It has a specific meaning in economics as a system based on free markets, open competition with an eye on profit motive, but one which extols as its highest virtues, private ownership of the means of production and ownership of property.  Capitalism is the right to own and use wealth to earn income and to buy and sell labor with little government control.  This is in sharp contrast to socialism/communism where all property is held in common by a community or a state and all the economic and social activity is controlled by a totalitarian single self-perpetuating political
party. ...’

Capitalism is a vague term if people use it vaguely.  In my dictionary (one of them) it is said to be the private ownership of the social means of production.  (The private ownership of vernacular means of production would be taken for granted, I guess.)  That does not necessarily entail free markets in either produced goods or in capital.  Nor does it exclude socialist relations, because some means of production might be owned and controlled by the workers who used them, as in a producers’ cooperative, thus satisfying the definition of socialism as “the ownership or control of the means of production by the workers.”

When we limit our attention to the predominant forms of capitalism that we actually observe, in which a particular class of people (capitalists) own and control the means of production, necessitating the existence and exploitation of a working class, we see many attempts, many of them successful, to eliminate competition and free markets and establish monopolies and cabals, usually with the assistance of state power.  It is evident that there is nothing in the actual practice of capitalism or its ideology to produce or maintain free markets or, indeed, free anything else except the freedom to own property, especially capital. 

Besides that, the actual practice of capitalism apparently requires the existence of a class system, and an ideology and practice of domination and subjugation visible in both political and economic analysis.  (I am speaking here from history rather than theory—this is what we observe.)  Historically this practice of domination has included effective control of the media and the academic system by the capitalist ruling class, with the severe narrowing of attention and scope widely noticed by the small minority who by some chance escape it.  The capitalist effort to weaken or suppress dissident voices continues today in the attempt by major corporations to destroy Network Neutrality.

I think, then, that it is necessary to separate the ideas of freedom, of markets, and of capitalism (as the private ownership of the means of production) from one another.  They are three different things, and one can observe any of them in the absence of the others.

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By Foucauldian, June 25, 2010 at 6:57 am Link to this comment

Shenon,

You just simply have got to read one or two of Foucault’s essays.  I cited the Power/Knowledge text.  There are two pieces in particular, “Two Lectures” and “Truth and Power” - fifty pages altogether.  If you don’t have the text, I could scan the two articles for you and send it to you in pdf form. 

I don’t think we can make much progress here unless you get first-hand exposure.

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By Foucauldian, June 25, 2010 at 6:42 am Link to this comment

Marat,

It’s really difficult to follow your argument, especially since it’s so replete with quotations that it’s almost impossible to tell your own words from the words of those you’re parroting.  Since you pride yourself on British spelling, I’d suggest you take a cue from the Brits and introduce brevity into your writing style.  And do try to put your arguments in your own words.

Besides, this forum is not the proper platform for a dissertation or an essay.  Deal with one point at a time, or you shall simply lose your intended audience.

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