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When the term poor is used and when we discuss poverty, there are commonplace definitions that we always rely on. To be poor relates to a lack of money or income. But that is a tautology in many senses; a definition that already presumes that poverty relates solely to income and while commonplace is essentially misleading. A far more useful definition of poverty relates to a broader range of things within a social context. Let’s begin with some definitions of poverty in the context of the modern debate on poverty:

Let's start with that advanced by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation:

“Relative Poverty - When we talk about poverty in the UK today we rarely mean malnutrition or the levels of squalor of previous centuries or even the hardships of the 1930s before the advent of the welfare state. It is a relative concept. ‘Poor’ people are those who are considerably worse off than the majority of the population – a level of deprivation heavily out of line with the general living standards enjoyed by the by the majority of the population in one of the most affluent countries in the world (http://www.jrf.org.uk/...).”

Additional definitions address the impact of poverty on ensuring accessing fundamental notions of rights, like the European Commission definition. In its Joint Report on Social Inclusion (2004) the EC defined poverty in the following way:

“People are said to be living in poverty if their income and resources are so inadequate as to preclude them from having a standard of living considered acceptable in the society in which they live. Because of their poverty they may experience multiple disadvantage through unemployment, low income, poor housing, inadequate health care and barriers to lifelong learning, culture, sport and recreation. They are often excluded and marginalised from participating in activities (economic, social and cultural) that are the norm for other people and their access to fundamental rights may be restricted (http://www.jrf.org.uk/...f).”

What we can do is link the existence of poverty directly to property ownership, or the lack of it. Essentially poverty is a direct result of a system of property ownership and hence the rise of classes in human society. At its most fundamental level, poverty relates to a lack of ownership of property which thereby requires people to labour to ensure their subsistence. That sounds like all of the working class is essentially poor; by definition yes it is … the fact that people need to work to sustain themselves is due to the fact that they have limited ownership of property on which to survive without working.

While this sounds incredibly Marxist, actually this definition actually goes back to Jeremy Bentham’s defence of wealth inequality and his argument that we cannot eliminate poverty; we can eliminate destitution or indigence, but not poverty. According to Bentham, poverty (the state of having no recourse to property) is the general state of mankind. It is the fact that the vast majority of humanity does not own property that forces them to sell their labour to obtain their subsistence.
If we accept Bentham’s argument and quite honestly it is far more sensible than arguing that people are poor as they have insufficient income or money as that is meaningless, then an obvious question arises in this context:  what happens when people are unable to labour (due to age or infirmity initially)? No one with the slightest bit of morality would argue that they should be left to die. But let’s add another condition which relates specifically to a situation in which the economic system produces large numbers of people that are unable to find employment deriving from the way in which the system reproduces itself and also are unable to produce their own subsistence due to private ownership of land and also means of production?

Class Relations and Provision

How the subsistence of people that are unable to labour is provided and what is the role of the ruling classes (in its various incarnations) in this provision became relevant once people become separated from directly producing their own subsistence. This is the topic which this piece addresses; this is essentially an old question and arises with the existence of towns and in societies based upon trade; that is, it is a long-standing problem of human existence and the interrelationship between those in the countryside and surviving in the towns are inextricably linked.

What also needs to be addressed are the various attempts to address provision for the poor in the context of various systems, addressing the differences between charity (both religious based and secular) and the social welfare state seems an obvious question. The issues that need to be considered in this context are the relationship between access to wealth and property and the maintenance of the status quo in the context of provision for the poor.

An important question that relates to this point is whether the creation of the social welfare state would have occurred in the absence of working class movements as the ruling class recognised that the required reproduction of the working class was threatened due to the inadequate provision provided by charity requiring a more systematic manner of maintenance of a reserve army of labour or was this forced upon them by the demands of the working class through the strength of various forms of working class movements.

I would argue the latter; the specific forms of general protection were those fought for and demanded by the working class and their demands conditioned and influenced what was ultimately instituted by the ruling class. But would these have been done if they weren’t in the interest of capital? Certainly not, the need to balance keeping workers incomes as low as possible with ensuring the subsistence and reproduction of the next generation of workers provides a basic socially accepted level to which wage income cannot fall below at least without considerable resistance and time. This is a socially determined level and as such differs between countries and over time and space. Access to healthcare, pensions, education, housing, decent working conditions become a part of general social subsistence and if it could be provided independently of wages so much the better. However, the provision of these things independently from employment breaks down the link between work and subsistence that is such an important part of maintaining and justifying class societies.

If historically, work was the manner in which non-propertied people’s subsistence was obtained, and if the linkage between work and subsistence is severed, this creates a problem especially in a system which relies upon the exploitation of the work of the vast majority to function. In the context of the capitalist system, where obtaining paid labour to survive in order to produce exchange values is essential for the system to function, the introduction of the possibility of obtaining subsistence through assistance of the social welfare state introduces a serious tension.

Part of the problem derives from the manner in which work is done in the context of the system where human creativity and endeavour is rarely part of the job; the other part of the problem is the lack of recognition of work which is unremunerated like women’s labour in the home, that is it produces use value for the society at large, but not exchange value in the context of the system. Additionally, rather than see work in a broader sense that contributes to the society at large (which is something that people do constantly irrespective of remuneration), work in capitalism is tied to paid labour in the interests of capital itself and this means that the introduction of guaranteed incomes in the absence of work introduces a threat to a system dependent upon the exploitation and deskilling of labour.  This has led to attempts to both dilute the social welfare state and reintroduce the linkage between work and subsistence, Bill Clinton’s welfare reform (1996) and the introduction of workfare should be seen in this context. This tension and attempts to deal with it are still being played out today in the advanced capitalist world.

Social Responsibility: Horizontality and Verticality

Poverty exists in economic systems prior to the consolidation of the capitalist economic system. There is ample evidence from religious texts and laws specifically to address the importance of charity and caring for the indigent, the sick or infirm, and the elderly and these texts pre-date capitalism by quite some time. Clear commandments to give charity are an essential part of what it means to be a good Muslim and Jew for example. It is not considered to be a voluntary; it is incumbent upon you to provide for the less fortunate as part of your obligations to others.

We can discuss social responsibility for family members and members of the community as it was addressed in the context of some different modes of production; we can break it up as pre-capitalist and then capitalist. Secondly, framing the discussion in terms of the relationship between vertical and horizontal provision of subsistence for all members of society is helpful. This is especially so when we are able to put the discussion into the context of how everything gets subsumed to verticality due initially to the nature of religion and later social provision in the context of the social welfare state when it became obvious that religious and philanthropic organisations could not cover the quantity and quality of assistance required due to the large numbers of unemployed created by a system in which profitability is the primary consideration.

The term “horizontality” refers to the idea of equality in a relationship coinciding with the receipt of subsistence as part of a group (irrespective of definition from small family unit to member of the human race); that is, you are entitled to subsistence due to simply being part of the group. This implies no power relationship or obligation; it is merely a relationship of entitlement. “Verticality,” on the other hand, relates to this being received through the basis of beneficence due to power relationships of leader or representative of ruling class to member of group; this can be from god’s representative, from the leader of the community to their “dependents” or “subjects” (father to child, king to subjects, “god” -- or his representatives -- to the faithful, or state to citizens). This connotes a sense of obligation and power relationship as it is the organisation of work or society by the leader(s) that ensures the existence of everyone’s subsistence.

Whether the property was under control of a group to ensure the group’s subsistence and reproduction of the next generation and hence the creation of a more horizontal relationship between group members or whether it was more vertical under the control of a leader, ensuring subsistence and reproduction of the group was essential.

The interesting question that already begins in such an early time was to ensure reproduction of the group, and if property was already privatised, maintenance of control over this property ensuring that the property-less were provided for was an essential component of maintaining control.

Justification of the maintenance of property and the assertion of leadership means that at an early stage of human societal development leaders needed to demonstrate that subsistence of community would be ensured due to their leadership. Then there are those who irrespective of the division of labour cannot provide for themselves due to age (too young or too old) or infirmity (whether temporary or permanent) and they need to be provided or accounted for in the context of the social grouping as a whole. The relationship between kinship, community, and social provision ensuring subsistence and reproduction of all is strongly intertwined.

This is something that has persisted even as human societies transformed through various modes of production. However, what has altered is the horizontality or verticality of the relationship between people within a social or religious grouping, community, society, nation and nation-state.

Sometimes a completely vertical relationship can maintain the ideas underlying initial horizontal relationships, but the reality and provision are done under the control of those in power.   One example of the persistence of initial horizontality can be found in the requirement to provide through charity for less fortunate members of the community. This is seen in many religions as an essential commandment for all members; provision for the elderly, children, the sick, the poor is required to be a member in good standing of the religion smoothing your access to heaven and/or earthly rewards. This does not have to take the more vertical form of actual provision of funds, but can take the more horizontal form of services to others for those that cannot give funds; giving of your time to assist others, providing access to water for all on a road well-travelled or sharing what you have with others.

More and more, the manner in which this was done was not through direct provision or support between people (although this clearly persists even today), but rather through the systematic intercession of religious authority; thereby providing legitimacy for the religion as provider of assistance for the poor.  Initially, religion, rather than the state, became the main provider of assistance to those in need that had fallen through the cracks in terms of defined roles for working people in the society.

Overwhelmingly, responsibility for those in need belonged first to family; in the absence of family to be responsible, provision for the elderly, the disabled or sick, women and children would be provided. The fact that the provision of assistance to the destitute was deemed to be first the responsibility of family, then the local community and then the religion itself (or the state as representative of the religion in theocracies) is enshrined in most religions in discussions of provision of charity.

Essentially, charity of all sorts is limited and requires a network beginning at the level of the family and throughout communities. It requires sufficient wealth and income inequality to sustain provision. Simply enshrining coverage through religion does not cover everyone in the society and it cannot do so in the context of a capitalist system producing large numbers of unemployed people and the need for a group of unemployed people to be called into work when the opportunity arises during its industrial phase.

Initially, the state, as Le Gauchiste raised in his discussion of bread provision was tied into guaranteed subsistence for the non-propertied as a whole rather than for those that had fallen through the cracks in society. This discussion can be seen not only in the older discussions of bread and circuses of the Romans, and in the assize on bread that existed in large parts of Europe, but even in later discussions of the role of the state in the works of Locke and also the Physiocrats where the role of the state in civil society as an extension of the right to subsistence guaranteed by the right to life is argued to be ensuring the subsistence of all in the context of rising private property relations in land commensurate with the completion of the transition to capitalism and  the bourgeois democratic revolution.

The state was essentially forced to step in when inevitably religious and philanthropic organisations proved unable to cover for large numbers of people unemployed through no fault of their own. Simply enshrining coverage through religion or philanthropy does not cover everyone in the society and it cannot do so in the context of a capitalist system producing large numbers of unemployed people and the need for a group of unemployed people to be called into work when the opportunity arises during its industrial phase.

Social Welfare State vs Philanthropic Provision

One would think in this day and age that the ruling class is aware of the inability of a small group of wealthy individuals providing sustenance for those in need in the context of a capitalist economic system. Much of this argument is wed to the idea that the social welfare state is essentially the same thing as charity and hence should be addressed under the rubric of a small group of wealthy individuals or foundations who ascertain the deservedness of the recipients. Control over whom gets assistance and the importance of the wealthy and powerful in providing it is an essential component for those advocating this form of provision to the poor. This can be seen quite clearly in the following from the Cato Institute advocating the elimination of welfare and its replacement by charity:

“The ultimate reform goal, however, should be to eliminate the entire system of low-income welfare for individuals who are able to work. That means eliminating not just TANF but also food stamps, subsidized housing, and other programs. Individuals unwilling to support themselves through the job market would have to rely on the support of family, church, community, or private charity.
What would happen to the poor if welfare were eliminated? Without the negative incentives created by the welfare state, fewer people would be poor. There would also likely be fewer children born into poverty. Studies suggest that women do make rational decisions about whether to have children, and thus a reduction in welfare benefits would reduce the likelihood of their becoming pregnant or having children out of wedlock. […] In sum, private charities typically require a different attitude on the part of recipients. They are required to consider the aid they receive not as an entitlement, but as a gift carrying reciprocal obligations. At the same time, private charities require that donors become directly involved in monitoring program performance (Cato Institute:Downsizing the Federal Government).”
Historically, this bears a strong resemblance to the arguments of Malthus in the 19th century; neither recognising that unemployment is part and parcel of the system and shifting the blame for poverty onto the poor. Like the Cato Institute, Malthus also advocated that assistance should primarily be done under the rubric of religious charities and philanthropic organisations in opposition to the generalisation of state support under the Poor Law (old and new) advocated both by Tories of the time and by Liberals such as Bentham who supported state provision for the poor.  

In the US, the social welfare system is geared towards assisting the poor. In that sense, it differs substantially from the system created in Europe. There are clearly some general programmes in the US geared towards temporary conditions of unemployment and disability. There is also a state education system and a general pension system provided by social security (but the cap on contributions is pushing this more and more towards assistance for retired members of the working class rather than a general system).

The resort to a system of taxation (where the vast majority of money is provided as an intra-class transfer of income and not between the upper class and working class) and contributions towards provision of pensions and insurance (e.g., unemployment insurance, disability insurance) and to the state as guarantor of the social subsistence of the majority of society came about for a number of reasons. In fact, the intra-class nature of provision for the social welfare system is the first thing that differentiates it from charity (interclass based) as it is more horizontally defined; however, it is vertically administered through the state.

The impersonalisation of the social welfare state also serves the need of the bourgeois state legitimising the capitalist system and creating the illusion that it covers all. From the point of view of the ruling class, given the instability of the system resulting in economic crises, the need to limits costs of employers to ensure provision of services and pensions, state provision is incredibly useful to provide the illusion that the system covers the needs of all irrespective of access to private property and wealth. In the case of those unable to labour to obtain their subsistence, the provision of income for these people plays an important role in the system. It maintains the power of the ruling elite by keeping discontent and social disorder minimalized and as such protects the system; it provides income to ensure consumption of goods produced in the system keeping economic growth and ensuring profits are realised, and it ameliorates inequalities brought about by a system based upon private property, wealth and income inequality, where production is not based upon need but upon profitability.

This form of provision of the universal social welfare state (and even its inadequate relation in the US) has moved well beyond charity provided in earlier systems and is based not only on covering the poorest but ensuring access to services (e.g., healthcare) to ensure reproduction of the working class while not affecting substantially the reproduction of the economic system where the employer needs to provide for it. So, the notion of social subsistence (rather than assistance to the poor) is what defines the role of a universal social welfare state (as existing in Europe). In this context, social subsistence is made available to all and is not an extension of earlier forms of charity; social subsistence includes access to housing, food, transport, disability benefit (both sickness and long-term), provision of pensions, healthcare, general education, child-care, maternity benefits and extra income for those that have children.

Universality has made it far more difficult to accuse recipients as the lazy feckless poor and has forced a specific targeting on programmes that the poorest members of society receive (e.g., housing benefit, job seekers allowance, long-term disability benefits) while shifting more general benefits towards means-testing (e.g., winter fuel allowance, child benefit). This attempt in Britain to shift towards a system more similar to the US is undermining the universal nature of the social welfare state and will invariably undermine social subsistence in Britain by definition as access to services will be limited on the ability to pay and hence will not be available to all.

Where should the Left stand in the discussion?

As members of the Left, the defence of the universality of the social welfare state is important. Yes, it serves the needs of capital, but it provides an essential part of social subsistence for the working class as well. Fighting for the interests of the working class to provide both for short term assistance when invariably the capitalist system fails to provide for all and also to ensure provision of services that will not be guaranteed to be supplied to workers if privatised is essential. A cursory glance at the US health system should provide clear incentives to protect the NHS. In the case of a social welfare system (like the US) geared towards only the poor, fighting for extension of protections and making them universal is an obvious step forwards for the working class as a whole.

Additionally, we need to be helping to develop different forms of support that are more horizontally based. Socialisation of care to provide care to free women from these roles in the home could also not only provide jobs for women, but they can also ensure that this is more communal or cooperatively based.  An excellent example of this would be community provision of childcare in the absence of state provision (with funds provided by the state or raised within the community). This has been attempted in Venezuela under the Chavez government. Another example concerns solidarity. Solidarity is horizontal, not vertical. It is a relationship based on equality where support, assistance and needs are being met in a shared relationship.

Originally posted to Anti-Capitalist Meetup on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 03:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Hunger in America, Invisible People, In Support of Labor and Unions, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (30+ / 0-)

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 03:00:13 PM PST

  •  Apologies for the length! (18+ / 0-)

    This is something that I have been thinking about for a while and am still working on pulling together. I would appreciate any comments or ideas that you have. Thanks!

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 03:03:54 PM PST

    •  Please don't apologize! (5+ / 0-)

      Sometimes it's necessary to flesh things out. I think this is very well written and extremely informative.

      Thank you.

      •  Thank you Joe! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JayRaye, Evoculture

        As I said, it is part of a long project and it has taken me a while to get to where I am and I am never certain if things are clearly there; that combined with writing like a 19th century German philosopher means that when I am writing something seriously, it tends to be a bit long!

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 08:02:46 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's excellent, but you're right about the tone (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Gorette, NY brit expat, JayRaye

          This is an excellent diary, very well written, but I think your own analysis of the tone is very apt. It is written in a certain style. It would be very good to have another version of it in pamphleteer language! Why not do that? You're clearly talented as a writer; it could be interesting for you to recast the text for a different audience. Same message, different voices, sort of like Lawrence Durrell with the Alexandria Quartet :-)

          Bravo! Keep up the good work!

          •  agreed ... once I have the argument (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JayRaye

            coherent, then I can do it in different style. I need to be certain that I have it and then can write for a different audience. This was to ask people that I respect if the argument made sense; I need to add some historical stuff to it and a further discussion on charity in Islam. There are different things that need doing for different levels of organising. :) But you are right, trying to put this in some sort of pamphlet form would be a good idea as the issues are important for a struggle that is occurring in several places in the world today and it is relevant ... thanks for the suggestions, they are good ones.

            "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

            by NY brit expat on Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 05:42:35 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Glad, so glad to see this here. Am going to (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat, JayRaye, annieli

      read and comment later when I can.

      "extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy.... the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake." Paul Krugman

      by Gorette on Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 09:56:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  thanks Gorette! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JayRaye, Gorette

        I look forward to it. I am still checking back as I am really appreciating people's input on the piece!

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 10:15:25 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  excellent diary, a great help in understanding the (8+ / 0-)

    structure and agency issues supporting social welfare. The historically structural conditions underlying both verticality and horizontality in power and convention as well as strategic and tactical motivations of ideology. Class and social division become the key factors in attempting to move from the framed dependencies according to status and to the notion of membership in and contributing to a more universalized common good that is not fractured by falsie consciousnesses. It is not alienated Samaritanism or privatized Charity but a collective humanism that should transcend the reified terms of poverty and "the poor" as a permanent underclass.

    As members of the Left, the defence of the universality of the social welfare state is important. Yes, it serves the needs of capital, but it provides an essential part of social subsistence for the working class as well. Fighting for the interests of the working class to provide both for short term assistance when invariably the capitalist system fails to provide for all and also to ensure provision of services that will not be guaranteed to be supplied to workers if privatised is essential. A

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 03:14:32 PM PST

    •  Thank you so much! (7+ / 0-)

      I was uncertain whether what I was saying would make sense to anyone and unsure if anyone would be interested. This is part of a long term project that I have been working on and I was just so uncertain if what I said was of any use that I didn't even repost it elsewhere. Diane Gee said to put it on WWL and I did so, but was so worried!!

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 03:20:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Of course it's of interest. (4+ / 0-)

        It's a universal issue, no matter what kind of society is being talked about, and you have thrown out an excellent overview of the situation.
        I also like the definition of the impoverished as those without property to fall back on for sustenance. So many unpropertied people think of themselves as middle class because their current income allows them to have certain trappings of the middle class.
        Forced removal of people from their property as happened in the US during the foreclosure crisis, and currently in China during forced urbanisation, show how those in authority can manipulate people into poverty, no matter what the underlying political system.
        In places lie Venezuela, where land ownership is transferred to a greater number of people, the establishment in places like the US and the UK become particularly antagonistic to those governments because of the implied threat to their own power.

        “The universe implodes. No matter.” -Liam Williams

        by northsylvania on Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 01:24:23 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You know when you have been thinking about (5+ / 0-)

          something and working on it for ages and you don't have many people to talk about it with and you are unsure that you have something to offer? That is where I was, so happy that people took the time to read it and think about what I wrote. :)

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 04:48:24 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  ACM Schedule (5+ / 0-)

    November

    17th: URGENT!!!! we need someone!
    24th:
    Annieli

    December

    1st:
    8th:
    15th:
    22nd:
    JayRaye
    29th: Annieli

    We really need a volunteer for the 17th of November! Can anyone step in to do this?  Also, we need to fill one Sunday in November and then 3 Sundays in December still need coverage, the 1st, the 8th and the 15th! Can anyone volunteer? We need you to keep going people! Contributions anyone?

    Can anyone please volunteer for next week? This is very urgent at this point!!

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 03:22:47 PM PST

  •  Landholding and poverty (13+ / 0-)

    In 1894, the Dawes Commission met with American Indian nations in Oklahoma in an attempt to force them to change from communal landholding to privately held property. The representatives of the Five Civilized Tribes pointed out that the lack of almshouses was evidence that their system worked.

    Forcing the Indian nations to adopt private landowning brought great poverty to many Indians and great wealth to a handfull of non-Indians.

    Thanks for a great piece.

  •  Thanks for bringing a new perspective to the (7+ / 0-)

    question of whether or not the "poor" deserve any 'help' from the state.  By placing the question in its structural and historical context, you help to clarify that this isn't just the society's leaders (whether they be feudal lords or capitalist CEOs) being beneficent and giving people some help from the goodness of their heart, but a recognition that it is necessary to keep the society (as a whole) afloat. This is especially ironic since it is because the leaders have exploited those workers by stealing their labor power that makes it necessary for the leaders to give back some of the wealth they have stolen (to for example, provide for the raising of the next generation of workers who can't immediately input into the system by providing public education).

    While this might seem obvious, as Annelli points out there is a lot of "false consciousness" and lack of awareness of the critical role of our own labor power in our society among those of us who labor ourselves and we tend to buy into the idea of valuing our labor power by how much 'money' we have individually accumulated, instead of by our contribution to society as a whole.  

    The distinction between sharing our labor value across time and the society as a whole contrasted to receiving charity from a controlling hierarchical leadership is a concept worth looking at.  

    •  I am sorry that I cut so much of the historical (5+ / 0-)

      discussion; I will revisit it and will add some on the dimensions pointed out by Ojibwa above to give it a coherent basis in societies in which private property does not exist. I will also do more on additional history clearly! :)

      Honestly, I think if this was obvious, people would not fall so easily into the lies disseminated by ideologues of the ruling class. I wish I could write like EP Thompson to bring the lives of the majority to life.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 04:07:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, it is because workers have been (6+ / 0-)

        separated from their work through the mechanism of exchanging goods for money, hence the dictionary definition that equates 'money' with lack of resources rather than the actual resources needed for survival.  This is why the capitalist mode is so invidious.  

        In that sense, the real relations of production have been obscured.  As individual workers, we let the capitalist steal our labor power by underpaying us and compete with the next worker for the job even if it means we take less pay; as consumers/taxpayers we forget that the social safety net is the way we,  redeem some of what the bosses have stolen from us as individual workers, and we vote to cut any of our money going to other workers to keep a little more in our pockets.

        Intellectually it should be obvious, but emotionally, we all tend to suck up to those perceived to have more power in the hopes some of that power will gain us another crumb of the pie.

        •  This is so true! (5+ / 0-)

          Sickening,

          but true!

          God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

          by JayRaye on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 04:43:01 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  That is it exactly ... (6+ / 0-)

          agreed completely in the way that you have phrased it ... the real relations of production are obscured, instead of viewing things in the way that nothing could exist without us, people have been tricked into thinking that our contributions, our work, our creations actually are the work of those that own everything. Getting people to see behind the veil of ideology to how the system works is difficult as reality is so hidden.

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 04:45:42 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Brilliant. (5+ / 0-)
          As individual workers, we let the capitalist steal our labor power by underpaying us and compete with the next worker for the job even if it means we take less pay; as consumers/taxpayers we forget that the social safety net is the way we,  redeem some of what the bosses have stolen from us as individual workers, and we vote to cut any of our money going to other workers to keep a little more in our pockets.
          Capitalist thought frames this as enlightened self-interest when what it actually is, is greed. Most people, unless they are profoundly disabled, tend to work somehow for the betterment of themselves or the people around them, and this work benefits society as a whole. Those who are unaware of those contributions tend to begrudge any societal support toward their welfare.

          “The universe implodes. No matter.” -Liam Williams

          by northsylvania on Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 01:36:30 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Way above my pay grade (10+ / 0-)

    ...but I thank you the work that went into putting this diary together, and appreciate the background and sourcing.

    I'm a social democrat - not a theorist or big thinker - because I have always felt that regardless of station in life, we really are our brother's keeper.  We're all stakeholders in the outcome of one individual or one family who simply doesn't have the means, socially or economically, to subsist anywhere else other than at the leisure of the barons in government.

    It makes me sad that we're well into the second decade of the 21st century and we're still debating the social efficacy of supporting those who are truly in need.

    UID: 14791 Join Date: 7/7/2004 Status: Lifetime member Mojo: nearly infinite Any questions?

    by Richard Cranium on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 03:50:49 PM PST

    •  It is so depressing that in this day and age (9+ / 0-)

      people can be manipulated into forgetting that we stand together or fall together and the obvious point that we need to be there for those that need us, whether on a microcosmic level of friends and family or a social level ... the whole situation has stopped infuriating me and made me extremely sad.

      Sorry for the level; this has been literally floating around in my head and I have been working on it for so long that I am not even sure if I am even expressing what I am trying to say. So glad to have your comments Richard Cranium and I will try to somehow come back and put it at a level which resembles normal speech rather than the detritus floating around in my brain (yes, it is a strange brain).

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 04:03:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I found this diary to be very readable. (7+ / 0-)

        Enjoy reading theory from time to time, even tho I could never write theory.

        The old noggin needs a little stretching once in awhile.

        And this topic is timely, as the working class is being further impoverished (ie property and assets, both private and public stolen from us) at an accelerated rate.

        God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

        by JayRaye on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 04:21:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  What is saddening is that I have been (7+ / 0-)

          working on this topic and developing these ideas for quite some time and each year it becomes more and more timely ... although I know that this will never become untimely as long as we are living in a capitalist system as it is tied into property relations and class relations, I always hope (in vain) that arguments like these will become untimely! sigh

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 04:33:09 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Something I've been thinking about... (8+ / 0-)

    As we become more and more the Company Nation, USA Inc, akin to the Company Town only on a massive scale...

    Then can the ruling class simply tell us to get off the planet?

    Seeing as how they will, eventually, own the roads, all the land, the banks, the giant big box stores, and all the parking lots around them, almost all of our homes (mortgages), privatized schools and parks and prisons and we are now born debtors to Big Insurance....

    Prisons!...that does leave prisons as place to be fed and housed....

    And then there will be the privatized police and massive amounts of prison guards. Those would be the plum jobs with plenty of job security.

    Great diary, expat. You hit a homer on this one.

    God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

    by JayRaye on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 04:01:56 PM PST

    •  If they send us off the planet who will do (5+ / 0-)

      the laundry and cleaning for them?! Who will they have to buy the garbage that they try and convince us that we need while telling us that food, water, housing, clothing, heating are luxuries? :D

      Thank you!

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 04:17:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Robots? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NY brit expat

        God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

        by JayRaye on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 04:23:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  who will build the robots?! (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JayRaye, annieli, worldlotus

          try as they may, they cannot eliminate us completely! :)

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 04:28:37 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  yeah, they need some of us to be sure (5+ / 0-)

            but most of us are surplus to them

            where a friend of mine works, that's what they call getting laid off:

            being

            SURPLUSSED

            God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

            by JayRaye on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 04:38:13 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  exactly, we are redundant, surplus to requirements (5+ / 0-)

              of a system that doesn't need us and then they say that it is our fault rather than the fault of a system whose requirements only need less and less of us relatively to ensure profitability. Being surplus to requirements is exactly what is going on; I also love the use of the term redundant over here in Britain ... redundant, unneeded, our profit requirements no longer need your labour currently ... thank you very much and now good luck on that subsistence thing as we have decided that quite honestly you are lazy scum and do not deserve to live.

              "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

              by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 04:50:07 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  But they still do need us - in the billions world (5+ / 0-)

                wide if you add up all the unpaid labor, the mines, oil fields, textile and biotech workers, those making replica bags and fake medicines, etc.  And even if the overall requirements for actual labor have in relation to the actual number of the people on the planet gone down -- there is still the concept of necessary but not sufficient.  As you pointed out - who makes the robots?  And at least until computer can get out of binary thinking, the human mind is still a necessary and wonderful thing -- whether it is a person at a call center cutting through the crap and answering a question with multiple connections that can't be answered by a computer to the computer tech coming up with a new application.

                •  I would only add this to your comment, Geminijen: (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  NY brit expat, Evoculture

                  "But they still do need us [for now]....

                  Once they don't need us anymore, and they own every square inch of planet earth, they will have no problem telling us to get off of their "property."

                  We are not really fellow human beings in their eyes, which was really my point, and not how many of us they need.

                  God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

                  by JayRaye on Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 10:51:04 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

    •  They're Doing It Now via Climate. (6+ / 0-)

      Their behavior is consistent with knowing what's coming and feeling that enough of them and the amount of support they need will be able to make it through a bottleneck.

      There's only 1 billionaire on the planet so far as I know that's willing to burn through most of his fortune to resist climate change. The other thousand or few of them surely include a large percentage that know it's happening.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 04:31:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agreed completely Gooserock! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JayRaye, annieli

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 04:39:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Horribly cynical way (5+ / 0-)

        to think about the ruling classes, but a conclusion that is indeed staring us in the face. NYbrit's and JayRaye's examples above show us that the very framing of becoming unemployed as "redundant" or "surplus" implies that we have also become less than human, and therefore expendable. Sending in the Four Horsemen as the ultimate enforcers is a no brainer for the ruling classes. They only need militarised police to keep those spectres away from their gated communities.

        “The universe implodes. No matter.” -Liam Williams

        by northsylvania on Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 01:46:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  the next round of enclosure of the commons (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat, JayRaye, Evoculture

      may be the last, if it encompasses the entire planet. For the pattern, we can probably understand a lot looking at historical examples such as the Highland Clearances.

      If you act out of anger, the best part of your brain fails to function. - the Dalai Lama

      by beverlywoods on Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 08:06:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Its a brilliant piece (6+ / 0-)

    I always get you.

    ..the smoker you drink, the player you get....

    by Diane Gee on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 08:30:46 PM PST

    •  you do! thank you Diane! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annieli, JayRaye

      Also thanks for the support yesterday! Sending hugs!

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 04:49:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good writing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annieli, NY brit expat, JayRaye

    You arrived at exactly Rianne Eisler's concept of partnership versus domination oriented societies.  You are using similar terminology when you talk about vertical versus horizontal social responsibility.

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Riane Eisler

    by noofsh on Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 04:31:56 AM PST

    •  thank you! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JayRaye

      I have been working along a similar line and arrived at the same place it seems coming from reading through history of economic and political thought and economic history specifically on subsistence, the rights of the poor and discussion on how to address poverty. :)

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 07:50:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Poverty is an Institution ... (4+ / 0-)

    ...it is not a "choice" as is often hoisted upon the poor.

    An institution, according to Websters, is something that is a well established (or accepted) system within a society that is considered a fundamental part of culture. They use the "institution of marriage" as an example, but we could also point to the Institution of racism and sexism, and the Institution of slavery that was well ensconced within our society in the past.  Institutions remain in place in spite of the horrible impact it has on many because it benefits someone ~ in most cases it benefits the upper classes.

    It is important to view poverty as an institution because it is only then (IMO) that we can begin the dismantling of it.  By understanding that poor people are far from the "burden" on the upper classes that they would like to say it is, the truth is these classes actually depend on the Institution of Poverty for their own existence.  

    The Institution of Poverty remains in place because it is based on racism, sexism, ageism, classism and disabilities.  It is illegal to discriminate against anybody who is part of most of these "isms" (except classism). BUT, it is absolutely legal to discriminate against anybody who is poor for employment, housing, even entry into public buildings.  The real reasons might BE one of those "isms" but it can be all wrapped up in a pretty bow and used without so much as a raised eyebrow by anyone.

    This upper class dependence is manifested in many ways, here are a few:

    1. Employment.
    Not only do the upper classes depend on cheap labor by the poor, they actually have created an entire economy for themselves on the backs of the poor. They employ the middle class to be the "gatekeepers" to resources for the poor in both government and mega-non-profit agencies. Rich donors employ their bored spouses, friends and relatives in 6 figure "executive director" positions in their pet mega-non-profits and foundations.

    2. Mega-non-profits and foundations
    * Speaking of that, there is a reason that tea partiers use "charitable deductions" as the main reason not to tax the rich. These are the very organizations that the rich and corporations use as their own private Cayman Islands in order to hide their wealth. By "donating" their $millions, in actuality they give nothing because they can use that "donation" for tax deductions that give it back.

    * In truth, if you do the math, they bring in the average of $54,000-67,000 per client but actually only use about $2000 per client in direct services! NOBODY wants to ask where the other$52,000-65,000 goes, do they?

    * Furthermore these mega-nons and foundations receive $billions in government funding and contracts for their "services" which are often punitive, selective and paltry for those who need those services.

    * Do not confuse mega-nons with small nons. Small nons often do 10 X the work, achieve most of their goals and operate on budgets less than what ONE of those manager of a government or mega-non gets in salaries.  They often get zero grants from any of these foundations and mega-nons.

    3. Corporate profits and reliance:

    * It has been written about plenty about how large corporations like WalMart, Target, and others are using the poor as raking in the dough. I just want to add here that, often these corporations actually get grants "for being so nice as to use the poor in slave labor by forcing them to "volunteer" their services for "job training" and the like. Why pay anybody when you can get the labor for free with the blessings and even more money out of the government?

    4. Taxes
    *  Nobody seems to know that the poor pay the highest proportion of taxes and fees than any other class. Yes indeedy check out your state here: http://www.itepnet.org/... . A welfare mom pays more of her income than the richest among us. If the richest did pay the same proportion as a welfare mom, not only would most states be out of their deficits, they would have a heueuege amount of revenue to sometimes put an entire adult population through a 4 year college and beyond ~ and these rich would still have $billions to "eke" out their living.

    So the upper classes depend on the poor, they need they poor, they will insist on KEEPING the poor in place because ~ it is an institution we all have to live within. By demonizing the poor, making it a "choice" and not the well ensconced institution it is, then they get you to believe the poor are such a terrible burden upon us all, doncha know. The truth is that once it is known that they are actually living off the backs of the poor, THIS is what the real "burden" is about!

    My 2 cents

    Cat in Seattle  

    First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they hurt you, then you win ~ Mahatma Gandhi

    by mntleo2 on Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 06:39:35 AM PST

    •  Poverty under capitalism is more than an (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JayRaye

      institution, it is a direct result of the manner in which the system works founded upon private property relations. It is systemic and it is far broader than it appears in earlier modes of production ... but I do hear what you are saying.

      Thank you for the long response; it is the working class that has always maintained the social welfare state through taxation and this is not only relatively in terms of proportion of income. I appreciate the link, I can add that to the general piece ... and it is an important one.

      Thanks!!

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 07:59:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You SO correct about this! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NY brit expat, JayRaye

        The reason I often address poverty as being institutionalized is because even the poor blame themselves for being poor and need to understand they are caught in a giant web that few escape.  

        I once took some classes in Institutionalized Racism and it opened my eyes to what an institution is and how ensconced racism was within our culture. I then began to find many of the same parallels with poverty, which often encompasses many of those same isms, including racism.  

        But yes, even though it is something that, while far more complicated than this term "institution", it is sometimes easier to get across to the marginalized because while remaining "invisible" to those who do not experience it, they experience it so much and know what an institutionalized form is (and even to some who do experience it but do not see it).

        As a low income person trying to speak to this and raise the conscience of other low income folks, Capitalism unfortunately can be too "lofty" of a word to get this across. These are people (including me) who are disenfranchised where academics is admired but we are told we "just do not know" so we "do not understand". Also it is not that the use of capitalism is not understood, it is that it is so accepted as part of our culture it is hard to see the problems they live because of it without appearing so "radical" they might never get a chance to be heard.

        I am also in hopes that by using this word it also speaks to the upper classes because it describes a blanketing about how insidious poverty is within our society.

        Hope this helps, your piece is so amazing and I get it, so I hope you know I am wishing I could join you in NYC!

        Love, Cat in Seattle

        First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they hurt you, then you win ~ Mahatma Gandhi

        by mntleo2 on Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 09:17:13 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Ok, I understand your use of the word (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JayRaye

          institution and why you use it. That makes sense for many reasons; I am trying to get people to understand that it is systemic and exists as a by-product of the system. :) That is the second step in a bigger struggle whether against racism or the system as a whole! :)

          I am so glad that you liked the piece; it is a project ... BTW, I am a NYer living in Britain rather than the other way around ...  people always get confused, but that reflects my own confusion as well! :)

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 10:13:37 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  priestly class and prayers (0+ / 0-)

    if prayers worked, would we also need priests? or would just god suffice?
    if we had a or the timocracy, would we also need professional politicians?

  •  Ok, I came back to read this and (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat, JayRaye

    find it more of a scholarly essay which I find it hard to relate to in my present incarnation. Back when I was married to a professor and editing his work at times, I could make myself read such, but now, not so much.

    I'm going to look at the comments though to see what others have said. The topic is so important and ignored that I was happy to see your title this morning. I don't want to discourage you, just explaining.

    As far as I got before I began to skim, this stood out to me:

    If we accept Bentham’s argument and quite honestly it is far more sensible than arguing that people are poor as they have insufficient income or money as that is meaningless....
    People ARE poor when they do not have income. Or when they have too little money. It's not just a lack of property though that certainly is involved and important, though your argument may be correct academically. This past couple of years reading about the percentages of property owned by various income groups I have been amazed to learn how little the people in poverty own. Yet still we hear the right complain that we have refrigerators, computers or tvs even. Yes, I am now old and in the poor category, living on Social Security and Medicare. And it is very hard, but I really feel for families trying to bring up children to have hope when all seems against them.

    "extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy.... the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake." Paul Krugman

    by Gorette on Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 04:47:21 PM PST

    •  I'll try again to read tomorrow, as you certainly (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat, JayRaye

      have some high praise here. Partly, you know, I'm used to reading things here that are much  more immediate, rooted in someone's life. But there is a need for and place for theory, so I salute you for this project. It must be great to have these comments by thoughtful people. Obviously am not including myself in that category tonight! I'm tired.

      Best wishes.

      "extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy.... the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake." Paul Krugman

      by Gorette on Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 04:55:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Take your time ... I am always interested (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JayRaye, Gorette

        in what people have to say Gorette as there are many different insights from many different experiences that we all have. There are days that I can't think at all and everything I read just doesn't make sense; the brain just won't hook up no matter how much coffee I suck down. :) Rest, when you have time and patience, read and let me know what you think. Send me a private message here if you have some ideas. :)

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 05:48:27 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Very glad to see this on Spotlight. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat

    It's diaries like this one, and so many others here, as well as the great discussion, that make me so proud to a member of this group!

    God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

    by JayRaye on Mon Nov 11, 2013 at 06:16:24 PM PST

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