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Re: capitalism?
by Carl Nordlund
17 March 2002 17:24 UTC
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My 2 oren:

Doesn't the whole debate regarding whether the term 'capitalism' is
appropriate now, 150 years ago, 800 years ago etc boil down to how 'capital'
is defined? A definition where the wage-labor-part is central would, as
Sherman pointed out earlier, most definitely shrink the term's validity in
both space and time. What definitions are applied in the current discussion?

In conjuncture with this, I find the Kohler 'sociologist-as-a-baby'-thought
interesting. This baby's description of the world would most probable be a
different version than the one that Marx presented, although the underlying
forces between these two descriptions most probably, imho, are based on the
same 'mechanisms of accumulation' albeit with different 'systemic

Khoo's computer OS-analogy has another dimension too - excuse me for also
getting carried away here! As a part-time programmer I know several people
who still work on quite antique equipment due to nostalgia reasons. They
argue, quite true, that the old computers with their processors (old Z80:s
etc) were a lot 'cleaner' and more 'structural' than the modern very complex
hardware setups, not to mention the ever-more complicated operating systems
with their compulsatory backward compatibility (if Microsoft didn't have to
make their Windows XP compatible with old MS-DOS-stuff and earlier Windows
program, it would be a LOT faster and more efficient. The same definitely
goes for Intel's processors, chips which dominate the world market for PC:s
not because they are the best but because they dominate the world-market for
PC:s...). Is this a viable analogy to the current usage of 'capitalism'?

Frank & Gills (1993) write the following:
'Historical-materialist political economy begins with the recognition that
"getting a living" is the ultimate basis of social organization. The
ultimate basis of "getting a living" is ecological, however.' (ibid 1993:82)

Perhaps, then, can the concepts of accumulation, unequal exchange and
stratification, both national, regional and on the world system (unhyphened)
scale, be explained in terms derived from the natural sciences, doing, in
principle, what Bunker did in 1985? Such a change of 'operating system'
would most probably demand a reinterpretation of some historical data,
arguments and economic scenarios, but it would, I think, make it possible to
include a much wider range of human history, in space as well as in time,
without having to think about the terminology's backward compatibility
problem all the time.


- - -
Carl nordlund, PhD student
carl.nordlund@humecol.lu.se <mailto:carl.nordlund@humecol.lu.se>
Human Ecology Division, Lund University, Sweden

> -----Ursprungligt meddelande-----
> Fran: wsn-owner@csf.colorado.edu [mailto:wsn-owner@csf.colorado.edu]For
> g kohler
> Skickat: den 17 mars 2002 16:34
> Till: wsn@csf.colorado.edu
> Amne: Re: capitalism?
> I enjoyed reading the post by Alan Spector and one line in particular
> caught my attention, namely:
> "But there are processes distinctive to the
>  situation in the world today, as opposed to 800 years ago, aren't
> there?"
> As a response - in a reflective mode, neither defending or attacking
> anything in particular, I like to suggest a variation on that question -
> namely,
> "But there are processes distinctive to the
>  situation in the world today, as opposed to 150 years ago, aren't
> there?"
> What I mean is that a sociologist-as-a-baby looking at the world for the
> first time and describing the present world would describe it
> differently from the way Marx and Engels did at their time. I am
> referring, in particular, to the paragraph in CM where they say that in
> the old days there were many gradations of rank in society, but that in
> their own time this had reduced itself to a dichotomy. I think that was
> a fair description of English, French or German society around the
> middle of the 19th century. However, you cannot say that our
> contemporary world society is equally dichotomous. The US government is
> trying to artificially a create a global dichotomy, but in fact there
> are "many gradations of rank" in contemporary world society, rather than
> a dichotomy.
> Gert
> __________________________________________________________________
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