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View Diary: Marx for Dummies 1 (193 comments)

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  •  How do you explain radically different (0+ / 0-)

    cultural and societal constructs? Or do you think all such are essentially the same?

    Nothing human is alien to me.

    by WB Reeves on Tue Apr 16, 2013 at 11:39:22 AM PDT

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    •  I think the differences we see (0+ / 0-)

      are artifacts of resource limitations primarily. Think about Feudalism, for example. It was a very stable institution in Europe and even more so in China. Brutal and exploitative at a level as bad as any 19th Century "dark satanic mill". In medieval Europe, your chances of dying violently were quite high, about 30-fold what they are today. When given the chance, feudal rulers quite happily plundered neighbors with the only cause being that the neighboring country had more of what the ruler needed. England's lust for Bordeaux was doubtless driven by a need for wine-growing. In fact, one of my ancestors served King John as a kind of bailiff in that region. Feudal regimes were every bit as rapacious as any capitalist, as ruthless, as cunning, as unconcerned with the lot of the peasants as even the most diehard capitalist today. What changed, and what did away with feudalism, was our access to very cheap energy - coal and oil. My point is that the people of feudal Europe and elsewhere were not different from us, definitely no better. No fossil fuels would see no capitalism. We would still be ruled by a King and grub along at a subsistence level. So, pining for some Halcyon time when we were good and noble until nasty old capitalism was left here by a serpent to corrupt us is bilge. Capitalism is us plus cheap energy.

      For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

      by Anne Elk on Tue Apr 16, 2013 at 12:06:39 PM PDT

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      •  Except that Capitalism (0+ / 0-)

        began to emerge before the wide use of fossil fuels. Its roots go back to the Italian Renaissance and the energy source for early industrial development was water power, not coal or oil.

        Further, water, coal and oil have been around since before the beginning of Human civilization. How is it that the use of these on a large scale did not began until roughly 300 years ago?

        Moreover, the early driver for capital accumulation, a necessary prerequisite for Capitalism, wasn't fossil fuels but human labor in the form of the transAtlantic slave trade.

        BTW, what makes you think that radical differences would only refer to artifacts of the past? We live in a radically different fashion from any other time in human history.

        Lastly, your final comment is a caricature having nothing whatever to do with Marx's view. Marx didn't pine for a mythical halcyon past. Quite the contrary. Marx lauded Capitalism for its destruction of feudalism which he saw as opening the door for a full development of human civilization.

        There are legitimate criticisms to be made of Marx and Marxism but this isn't one of them.

        Nothing human is alien to me.

        by WB Reeves on Tue Apr 16, 2013 at 12:41:23 PM PDT

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        •  I am afraid that I must disagree with you (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          WB Reeves

          on a few points. Last point first. I was not particularly targeting Marx himself for this mystical view of pre-industrial civilization, although he does in some writings speak romantically in this vein. As you know, he was a great admirer of capitalism himself. However, many Marxists I have known do subscribe to this notion of capitalism as a fall from grace, whereas I merely believe that capitalism is an expression of who we are as a species when it is enabled to give free rein to its desires through massive availability of cheap energy. If fossil fuels had not existed, industrial capitalism would not have existed, and we wouldn't be having this discussion.

          Your point about capitalism preceding mechanization simply reinforces my argument. People were already capitalists to the maximum extent allowable prior to mechanization. As to the whys and wherefores of the onset of the industrial revolution, that's another question. The interdependence of all of the inventions that lead to steam engines, printing presses, and electrical power, meant that a whole set of preconditions had to be met. That it didn't happen sooner is not so surprising. However, it did and the iterative nature of invention meant that growth compounded upon growth.

          For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

          by Anne Elk on Tue Apr 16, 2013 at 01:11:48 PM PDT

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          •  I'm afraid you are confusing Capitalism (0+ / 0-)

            which is an economic system, with acquisitiveness, which is a trait not uniformly present in all individuals or societies.

            That you may have met people who call themselves Marxists who believe in a "fall from grace" is interesting but simply points up that some folks don't know what they're talking about. Has anyone here made this argument?

            Again, Capitalism's development predates the use of the fuels you specify so while their availability has something to do with the subsequent development of the system, the relationship cannot be causal.

            As for Capitalism being the natural expression of who we are, that is an ancient argument that has been made for every system of social organization in human history. All social systems have justified themselves as expressions of the natural order, or in Panglossian terms, as being the best of all possible arrangements in the best of all possible worlds.

            My point hardly reinforces your argument, since Capitalism predates the use of fossil fuels but emerged only a few centuries ago. This hardly comports with the view that it is the natural expression of our "nature" as a species. Frankly, your argument is anachronistic.

            Nothing human is alien to me.

            by WB Reeves on Tue Apr 16, 2013 at 01:35:45 PM PDT

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          •  Feudalism is the origin of capitalism (0+ / 0-)

            The same ~30 families have been running the Anglo-American axis for more than a thousand years.

            We're living in a feudal-by-proxy society, where the wealthy, and the companies they control, run the nation's affairs indirectly, thru so-called elected 'representatives' in which elections from among a limited number of potential managers who are pre-empted, corrupted by the offers they can't refuse - and the price of not playing ball.

            We're on the brink of this becoming completely revealed.  They're just grabbing, now, trying to steal anything they may have left in some citizen's back pocket.  They're not even trying to hide it, I suppose because their base will turn out for them no matter what they do...because Fox, Limbaugh, Co. will never breathe a word of what they do.  Their self-captivating audience will dependably cover their ears and avert their eyes from anything at all if it can be linked to those lying imaginary liberals.

            At this point, I consider it inevitable that the progressive left and radical right will join forces to oust the Business As Usual, Divine Right of Money crowd.  It's the only way.  Get 'em right in the old gerrymander.  The fights that followed would be epic (not that I'd live thru them).

            I am a leaf on the wind - i hover, twirl, float,
            Weightless, frictionless, I fly

            by chmood on Tue Apr 16, 2013 at 03:52:01 PM PDT

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