Is capitalism exploiting you?

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micklupulo

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Thanks. I have a PhD in history, specialising in the twentieth century, so am familiar with modern history. :hat:

In all seriousness, I'd take Ayn Rand with 25kg of salt: Atlas Shrugged is a dreadful novel, and Rand was also an ideologue whose writings paved the way for the political, economic, and social problems we are dealing with today.

If you want a good overview of twentieth century global history, I'd recommend something like Eric Hobsbawm's Age of Extremes. Mark Mazower's Dark Continent and Tony Judt's Post-war are also good, but deal with Europe only. All are very accessible, enjoyable reads.
Hobsbawm is I accept generally very well regarded but is he not the one who suggested that the millions killed under Stalin would have been justified had communism survived and actually worked long term in Russia?
 

darlacat

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In order to abolish capitalism, all would be forcibly required to sacrifice greatly. But do consider that wherefer there is sacrifice, there is inevitably someone or some organization collecting the sacrificial offerings.
Hmm... We (hypothetically) might have to sacrifice some material goods and possessions, but in a post-capitalist society these might be seen as immaterial and a happy trade-off for greater freedoms in any case.

But also, under capitalism currently, billions give up the vast majority of their time and labour to swell the pockets of a small few, so there are already plenty of 'sacrificial offerings' being collected.
 

Argentum

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Hmm... We (hypothetically) might have to sacrifice some material goods and possessions, but in a post-capitalist society these might be seen as immaterial and a happy trade-off for greater freedoms in any case.

But also, under capitalism currently, billions give up the vast majority of their time and labour to swell the pockets of a small few, so there are already plenty of 'sacrificial offerings' being collected.
You have not addressed the aspect of force.
 

micklupulo

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If capitalism were abolished tomorrow, would there be need for a government? At least in terms of the current notion of the state, which is a very modern idea of governance - i.e. the nation state, and which developed alongside, is linked to, and is central to upholding and managing capitalism?

The more important question is, in my eyes, if you eradicate capitalism, what system would you develop to replace it? Some would argue that you wouldn't need a government in the form of a nation state, and instead have localised, non-hierarchical, more co-operative forms of organisation and work - i.e. a radical departure from how we currently understand economy and governance, but less so in terms of everyday social relations.

Massive question.
There's enough chaos in countries that have governments so forgive the cynicism but I shudder to think what would prevail if all governments were dismantled.
 

darlacat

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You have not addressed the aspect of force.
Neither have you addressed the aspect of force in capitalist society.

I'm not advocating the end of capitalism by violent means, by the way!
 

Argentum

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Neither have you addressed the aspect of force in capitalist society.
Ah, but it was you who dissed the voluntary aspect of labor, not me. And thus you completely missed the fact that I directly addressed the aspect of force.
 

darlacat

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There's enough chaos in countries that have governments so forgive the cynicism but I shudder to think what would prevail if all governments were dismantled.
Again, it depends what form of societal organisation replaces them. I'm not proposing a particular model to replace capitalism, but equally I don't think it's a case of capitalism or nothing - which is the subconscious and defeatist (depending on your perspective!) consensus: 'it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism'
 

darlacat

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Ah, but it was you who dissed the voluntary aspect of labor, not me. And thus you completely missed the fact that I directly addressed the aspect of force.
Well, labour isn't voluntary - it's a fact: if you don't work, you suffer. That's not voluntary. Voluntary would be a scenario in which someone has economic subsisdence outside of the relationship of labour-capital, and then decides to offer their labour but not for a cost. It would be a form co-operation. You would need to remove the profit and labour value aspect of work to make it voluntary - i.e. remove capitalism. If you want voluntary, co-operative labour, you would need to advocate anarchism.*

You mentioned force in to say that capitalism can only be removed by force - would it? There may be a slower, non-violent transition to a different form of economy and society.

*N.B. anarchism as a poltical philosophy is not no government and chaos, nor just guys in balaclavas vandalising stuff.
 

darlacat

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Hobsbawm is I accept generally very well regarded but is he not the one who suggested that the millions killed under Stalin would have been justified had communism survived and actually worked long term in Russia?
I had to look this up, as I couldn't remember him saying that! Apparently he said something along these lines later in his life in an interview with a Times journalist - although it's behind a paywall so I cannot find the exact quote, nor does it seem to be repeated anywhere else.

He did get a lot of flak for his continued involvement in the communist party. Along with the other key historians of the time, E. P. Thompson and Christopher Hill, he criticised the Soviet Union after Krushchev's speech and the invasion of Hungary in the 1950s, but didn't leave and express regret like his mates. He was also treated with a lot of suspicion by the British establishment - given he was a Jew who had fled Berlin as a child, rather than of English public school stock like his peers. A bit like how Ralph Miliband came to be treated.

His historical writing is excellent though - although he's coming from a Marxist perspective (which was dominant in the humanities and social sciences at the time), his work is very objective, reflective, and accessible.
 

Argentum

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@darlacat, you may have just invited yourself to become a prime example of what I described within paragraph #3 of my post #21 to this thread. You seem to now have checked all of the boxes.
 

darlacat

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Specifically how do you expect not working to alleviate the suffering of mankind?
I'm not advocating not working. To go back to my original point: labour under capitalism is a relationship of exploitation. Someone takes your time and labour power, and gets more out of it than you do. There is little-to-no meritocracy in this, so the vast majority of humans are trapped in this.

You can define work in a much broader sense: raising a family is work. Playing and writing music is work. Growing crops is work. Writing literature is work. Making beer is work. Teaching children is work. Collecting the bins is work. Saving lives is work. Caring for the needy and elderly is work. These are all forms of work that have value to society and culture, but these currently exist in an unequal relationship of labour-capital. We also have very wasteful and unnecessary forms of work in capitalism that have no real tangible value to society beyond making a few obscenely rich people even richer, but people are stuck doing this and have no time nor energy to undertake the meaningful work that they may do otherwise.

It's a huge problem/question.
 

samale

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There have been some interesting posts in this thread in the last 24 hours so I thought I would post a few follow-up things:

Regarding the idea that all the stands between the 'sheep' who have to work for others and the brave visionaries who go out on their own is a little courage and imagination:

Firstly if you secure a business loan using your house as collateral, that's brave but it's still the equivalent of capital investment. If you don't have the house with at least a deposit paid and/or X many years paid off then you can't do this. Having assets themselves give you a headstart. I'm not saying that most homeowners who started a business didn't earn that money for the house and then take sensible business risks to get where they are, but if I start off with a house I got for free (or a bunch of houses) then I have a massive headstart over you, and you, as a homeowner, have a massive headstart over someone who doesn't own a house to use as collateral and has no immediate prospect of one.

And there are nuances even within this - house prices were so much lower as a proportion of earnings in the 70s and 80s, for example, than they are now. Households with one worker earning a moderate wage could afford to buy houses. Now you need to have two of you earning decent money for this to be possible. In the (near) future it will be harder still. So the business set-up costs and risks for someone of my parents' generation were so much lower than they are now. There is a trend for later-middle-aged people to point at millennials and younger living 'at home' for longer and requiring financial assistance from their parents as if young people are the problem. This isn't some universal failing of an entire generation, like there was a systemic contamination of baby formula in the 80s and 90s, this is a problem created by the system. Wealth is locked up in the hands of older people and when it does get spent it finds its way in increasing amounts into the pockets of the fantastically wealthy.

The richest three Americans own more than the poorest half of the American population (some 165 MILLION people) the richest 15 families own more than the poorest half of the world's population (3.8 BILLION) people. Jeff Bezos is on track to be worth a TRILLION dollars in five years' time. Those gains may be legally gotten but this isn't sustainable and something absolutely has to give.

Not everyone can be a business owner, some people don't have the skills, attitude or, frankly, the desire to be their own boss with the stress and responsibility that comes with it. Society needs people willing and able to work for others. What workers do need as part of the bargain is enough money to live off, decent accommodation which isn't covered in, for example, lethal cladding, nutritious affordable food and adequate healthcare. There is enough money in the system to be able to give that to everyone not just in the US and the UK but across the world. There is just no appetite to do that - we are locked into a race to the bottom, tragedy of the commons, vanity project operated by just a handful of the world's greediest narcissists.

On the subject of getting degrees and qualifications that directly lead to earnings and employability - great, yes, but we can't have an entire society of network engineers and investment bankers. We need people to do the other jobs (all of a sudden we have a shortage of fruit pickers and HGV drivers and it turns out we need them .. who knew?). There are reasons why you would want to earn more that aren't down to money too - I would find a job as a vet, for example, more interesting than working on a till at TESCO and I would like to think I would choose 'vet' if both were paid a similar amount.

And if we were to manage to operate a society comprised entirely of engineers and doctors, would our lives be any better as a result? We might have amazing GDP but without people with a love of literature, which new novels would we read. Without people passionate about filmmaking and media, what would we watch in the cinema? Would we have craft beer if it would be a waste of someone's immense wealth of corporate/technical skills and qualifications to earn very little by brewing for a living?

Sorry, it's another very long one!
Great post, this is the very reason I enjoy reading In the snug. Once in a while you come across a thought provoking post.
👍
 

darlacat

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@darlacat, you may have just invited yourself to become a prime example of what I described within paragraph #3 of my post #21 to this thread. You seem to now have checked all of the boxes.
Ok - going to change my avatar to 'demented messenger of socialism' or something.

I don't think you're demented: it's good to debate these issues with people you don't politically align with, as it makes you reflect on your own position, and get a feel for how others think and approach things. Otherwise you end up speaking in a group in which everyone has the same opinon and confirms they're right. Big problem in our current age. I do worry you are quick to shut my opinions down though, purely because I mentioned Marx or someone, and now I check some pre-conceived boxes...

I do think Ayn Rand was a bit 'demented' though... wink...
 

DCBC

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Great post, this is the very reason I enjoy reading In the snug. Once in a while you come across a thought provoking post.
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Thank you! I don't expect everyone to agree but it's pretty much my world view.
 

Argentum

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I don't think you're demented: it's good to debate these issues with people you don't politically align with, as it makes you reflect on your own position, and get a feel for how others think and approach things. Otherwise you end up speaking in a group in which everyone has the same opinion and confirms they're right. Big problem in our current age. I do worry you are quick to shut my opinions down though, purely because I mentioned Marx or someone, and now I check some pre-conceived boxes...

I do think Ayn Rand was a bit 'demented' though... wink...
To my knowledge, Ayn Rand never personally killed, had people killed by others, or openly advocated the killing of anyone (sans perhaps in consequence of self defense). Check the histories of those who have, and see where they generally align themselves along the political spectrum.

PS: I don't think you are demented either. Misguided might be a better term. But once the bridge to force, suffering, sacrifice, sacrificial offerings and their collection, subjective justice, and death has been breached, demented becomes appropriate.

PPS: Much to perhaps most of what gets denigrated as capitalism today is crossing that bridge. And in doing so, it is morphing into something other than capitalism. My perspective is that it is becoming a willing participant in the fusion of corporate and government interest, and thereby it is becoming more and more a tool of fascism.
 
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micklupulo

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Just to take up the point of epithets for those of opposing views. In the Tory lexicon there is (so far as I am aware as I am not politically active) no equivalent to "vermin" "scum" or even plain "evil" being among the more polite words levelled at them.
 

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