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Re: the Communist Manifesto: critique
by Petros Haritatos
18 March 2002 11:18 UTC
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A simple 'thought experiment' might be to assume that "capitalism" has
disappeared and that goods and services are produced and allocated according
to enlightened methods. Would this mean that relationships of power and
subservience disappear? Would this avert a new depletion of 'the commons'?
Who would set limits, allocations, and rule on what is right or wrong?

Maybe one might re-frame the issue as follows: under whatever
social-political system (e.g. "capitalist" today or "communist" yesterday or
"mercantilist" or "feudal" earlier), oligarchies acquire positions of power
and seek to legitimize it. What we call "capitalism" is but one instance of
a broader social dynamic which generates hierarchies of power, whether one
looks at states, economies, churches, professional unions, singing clubs or
survivors in a lifeboat (ancient Athens tried to block this dynamic by
choosing rulers by lottery, and voting to disqualify citizens who were too

Under this perspective, the issue is the tyrannical relationships which
"capitalism" creates and sustains, and which can find other embodiments if
"capitalism" does not exist. Can we talk about abolishing capitalism without
discussing how to avert another tyranny from replacing it?

Petros Haritatos

-----Original Message-----
From: Threehegemons@aol.com <Threehegemons@aol.com>
To: wsn@csf.colorado.edu <wsn@csf.colorado.edu>
Date: &Sgr;&aacgr;&bgr;&bgr;&agr;&tgr;&ogr;, 16 &Mgr;&agr;&rgr;&tgr;&iacgr;&ogr;&ugr; 2002 3:28 &pgr;&mgr;
Subject: Re: the Communist Manifesto: critique

>I remain agnostic about the existence of capitalism, and the psychology of
those who use the term, until people clearly define what they mean by
'capitalism'.  In general, debates about 'capitalism' are textbook examples
of reification--the pretense is that there is some answer to the question of
whether 14 century England, the nineteenth century world economy, twentieth
century Soviet Union, contemporary China are or are not capitalist, when in
fact the answer hinges on the meaning of the concept being employed.
>Although capitalism as wage labor ultimately involves drawing too many
weird boundaries, describing those with means and interest in accumulating
as much capital as possible as 'capitalists', and tracing their ascending
relationship to other centers of power (territorial rulers, ideological
structures, etc) strikes me as a valuable project, regardless of what one is
going to call it.  I also don't believe it's a particularly good idea to let
capitalists organize the world for their own benefit, so I'm not sure its a
bad thing to 'fight capitalism'.
>Steven Sherman
><<I wholly agree -- many years ago I wanted to jettison the term
>> "capitalism," but people cling to it like a lifeboat in a storm.
>In this case quotation of the original is more than apt, if only because I
>had intended to add a note about that to my own: THAT is where virtually
>ALL my friends/comrades/colleagues and I part company for the very reason
>that Jack says, only moreso: I get the impression that the clinging to
>"capitalism" by those how reject it [!] is by no means an only an
>''academic'' or theoretical or political matter. NO, it is highly
>[intimately?] personal as well. The ''clinging'' as to a life-boat in a
>storm is a defense of their very personal idendity, which is tied to their
>- like mine! - life-long dedication to combatting ''capitalism''. So to
>admit - or even to consider that maybe - there is none and never was any
>such challenges one's identity in perhaps having to admit having
>mistakenly followed Don Quijote tilting at will-of-the-whisp windmills.
>Perhaps that is not a problem for me personally, because I know that I
>have made lots of other mistakes and because I have and need no identity
>to defend.>>

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