• boethius
    297
    but, the path to any kind of vaguely ‘classless’ society is through capitalism NOT socialism.

    Once everyone has access to whatever resources they wish - which has happened VERY quickly over the past few decades - then ‘wealth’,in term of ‘money’, will dissolve.
    I like sushi

    This so mindbogglingly incredibly naive it is almost painful to read and respond to.

    By "everyone has access to whatever they wish" what you actually mean is everyone around you in your class has access to sufficient resources to be happy in your opinion and you don't give two figs about first-peoples thrown off their land and forests burned to graze the cattle you eat, or the factory worker living in slave-conditions to make your electronics, or the people that don't have the skills to "cut it" and are homeless but contribute to the system by being a signpost of fear to keep the wage-slaves focused on the rat race.

    Classes are not vague. People who are homeless form a class of identifiable people that share the characteristic of being homeless. People who work for a subsistence wage and have no capital form a class of people with these characteristics. People who work for a higher than subsistence wage and have enough capital to avoid homelessness in the short term (but not long term) if they were fired form a class sharing these characteristics. People who have enough capital that they do not ever have to work if consuming only the rents, interest or capital gains increase of their capital stock form a class sharing this characteristics. Or, as usually referred to there is the under-class, lower-class, middle-class and upper class of economic means.

    Classes are only vague if you are securely middle to upper class and simply ignore everyone else. Then yes, who cares if you have a meaningful job, washing machine, a car and can go on great vacations and have fun on the internet and virtual reality or whether you have a mansion, a yacht and the complete set of Victorian styled servants.

    Now, is there enough resources for everyone to share a middle-class level of comfort? It's trivially easy to prove as production efficiency has increased hundreds to thousands of fold, depending on how it's measured, and it's almost impossible to argue that there is not enough production capacity to provide everyone a decent standard of living. The whole point Marx is trying to explain is why this doesn't occur; how can people remain wage-slaves through several orders of magnitude increase in productivity (far more than population increase)?

    If your point is just that you personally don't feel part of a class, no more willing to go to bat for the rich than the poor, again, if you bother to read Marx, he's completely aware of this. The fact that people form objective economic classes, Marx is very well aware, does not automatically create political parties of those groups.

    There are of course problems with Marx, but pointing out there are in fact classes formed in a capitalist society in relation to capital ownership or lack-of-ownership is not one of those problems.

    As to your contention of "accelerating material abundance that will soon satisfy everyone!" this is claimed every decade by proponents of capitalism since capitalism emerged: look at the steam boat and pump, affordable hammers and nails, the electric ironing board, the auto-mobile, the microwave, the flying machine! How easy life has already become for everyone, what paradise awaits!
  • I like sushi
    1.3k
    Yes, many people around me. I’ve noticed the change quite quickly where I live (not in what most would call a ‘developed’ country - one that was until fairly recently regarded as third-world: maybe it still is in some circles?). Plus, I’m also aware that on a global scale ‘wealth’ has dramatically increased. Obviously it isn’t as big a leap as there was from 1900 to 1960, but there has been considerable - and significant - change over the past few decades OUTSIDE of North America and Europe.

    I wasn’t saying anything extraordinary or particularly naive. I guess you thought I meant everyone has access now? I didn’t. I meant a great swath of the human population has access today that merely a few decades ago. Literacy, family planning, health care and wealth have gone up and child mortality, war and poverty have gone down.

    I never mention not feeling part of a class. My point was that capitalism has, although in fits and starts, moved everyone up the ladder over all. This is undeniable isn’t it? I’m not saying social action hasn’t helped too (far from it!). Once we get to a certain point then the idea of ‘money’ will begin to dissolve: I don’t mean next week though or in 10 years.

    That’s all. No big deal other than pointing out that the average person today is in a better position than 100 years ago with more ready access to trade, education and healthcare.
  • NOS4A2
    1.1k


    I never mention not feeling part of a class. My point was that capitalism has, although in fits and starts, moved everyone up the ladder over all. This is undeniable isn’t it? I’m not saying social action hasn’t helped too (far from it!). Once we get to a certain point then the idea of ‘money’ will begin to dissolve: I don’t mean next week though or in 10 years.

    It is undeniable, in my view. Compare South to North Korea, West to East Germany. Extreme poverty throughout the world might be eradicated in our lifetime.
  • I like sushi
    1.3k
    Possibly ... I wouldn’t be massively surprised, but I’m the kind of person that lives by ‘hope for everything, expect nothing’.

    If we’re talking ‘monetary’ wealth rather than access to unlimited resources, then, yeah. I don’t seriously expect to see a world where everyone has the same level of opportunities as me, and if they did it would lead to a more immediate problem of ‘personal value’ - meaning a self of ‘worth’ - as I mentioned.

    Humans live to strive, and strive to live. How we’d cope as a social species if we all had equal, and immediate, access to endless resources I cannot imagine! We appear to need a ‘goal’/‘struggle’ in life. I have no answer as to how society could find meaning, with today’s apparent attitudes, without something to push against. I do believe that the answer lies in our innate joy of learning and exploring though.
  • boethius
    297
    Yes, many people around me. I’ve noticed the change quite quickly where I live (not in what most would call a ‘developed’ country - one that was until fairly recently regarded as third-world: maybe it still is in some circles?).I like sushi

    Well, you should definitely give Marx a go then, as this is one of his predictions: that capitalism definitely seems good at the start.

    Plus, I’m also aware that on a global scale ‘wealth’ has dramatically increased.I like sushi

    This is up for debate.

    In questioning this assertion there is first the consideration of what constitutes wealth; do we mean only privately held goods or public goods too? Obviously, proponents of capitalism will say "oh, oh, only privately held wealth counts!" in which case, indeed, if we add it up it has significantly increased on average.

    However, if we suspect we are being fooled by a garbage-in-garbage-out analysis, and consider public goods too, then the situation is very different.

    First, if we consider social institutions protecting political freedom a social good, then we now have to question whether increase in private wealth on average for a nation and increase in national power and technological sophistication that comes at the expense of political freedom a worthy trade-off. What if some increases in average private wealth come at the expense of a sort of Faustian bargain with totalitarianism and the increase in general wealth translates directly to an increase in totalitarian power? If public institutions are undermined by capitalism -- either leading democracy towards totalitarianism or reinforcing totalitarianism whenever it can make use of capitalist systems -- then it is not a given that increases in average private wealth compensate decreases in public institutional wealth.

    Second, if increases in average private wealth come at the expense of the earth's capital basis of production (ecosystems) -- that we are in affect drawing down our capital base and spending those resources flippantly -- then there is no basis to argue that the increase in wealth is, overall permanent. It is not a given that increase in technological and scientific knowledge wealth always exceeds decreases in ecological wealth. If, overall, we are actually just drawing down the earths capital and pretending it's revenue, this is not a "macro economically justifiable" situation, just a plunder based system that leaves a bad situation to future generations (as well as many living today who feel the effects of these negative externalities). Small is Beautiful is a depressingly old book that explains this pretty well.

    That is why proponents of capitalism, such as libertarians or neo-liberals, eschew empirical investigations into these questions, social and environmental, and just throw out extremely simplistic metrics of progress (hence the term "myth of progress": it must be believed without question or else the whole intellectual edifice collapses). If questioned they have no empirical arguments, just the assumption that 'technology is going to fix everything soon'.

    My point was that capitalism has, although in fits and starts, moved everyone up the ladder over all. This is undeniable isn’t it? This is undeniable isn’t it? I’m not saying social action hasn’t helped too (far from it!).I like sushi

    Above is the basis on which to deny it, however, if you accept, even the benefits you do see around you, also caused by socialist policies, then you haven't really formed an argument for capitalism, just modernity in a general sense.

    Once we get to a certain point then the idea of ‘money’ will begin to dissolve: I don’t mean next week though or in 10 years.I like sushi

    A point in capitalism or a point in socialism? Either way, look backwards and compare technology now to 50, 100, or 200 years ago, wouldn't people at any of these times certainly believe, given a description of our level of technology, that we "no longer have poverty" and "no longer have money" with such amazing powers and productivity levels? If you lived at those times making a similar argument to what you're making now upon what basis would you say anything different to what you're saying now?
  • I like sushi
    1.3k
    However, if we suspect we are being fooled by a garbage-in-garbage-out analysis, and consider public goods too, then the situation is very different.boethius

    I’m not entirely sure what this means.

    Anyway, if we’re going to have a discussion it would be nice to build from some common ground.

    What do we agree on?

    Without meaning to paint a black and white picture of capitalism, socialism or communism I hope we can generally agree that there is no pure form of any? I hope we can also agree that capitalism has helped to bring many people out of severe poverty (this doesn’t mean it is the main force only an important one among many). It is also true, I hope you agree, that social force has helped reign in (with varying degrees of success) capitalism where necessarily and reversed the chance of returning to some Gilded Age.

    To add, I hope we can also agree that a great deal of Marx’s world was influenced by the impact of the industrial revolution. Today most of the concerns imagined - by people like Charles Dickens - never came to fruition. Now we live in a completely different economic landscape and we certainly have to assess how best to deal with the coming problems and the immediate problems.

    My concern is that many more people have access to the most amazing tools (mobile phones + internet) yet I’m unsure if anyone has really been taught to use it to its fuller potential - for education and training.

    Anyway, let us stick to what we can agree on. I ask because if there is no common ground then there is no charity in the discussion only accusations and hyperbole. I’m not interested in that kind of exchange.
  • boethius
    297
    I’m not entirely sure what this means.I like sushi

    "Wealth" is a very broad term, and proponents of capitalism generally only focus on privately held wealth, usually material things and their direct proxies. However, if this isn't the whole story of wealth, then it's not straightforward to say when and where "wealth has increased".

    If we can be both materially poor as well as politically poor (disenfranchised), then it is not clear if one improves at the expense of the other that wealth has really increased. For instance, consider a political revolution that brings democracy but not very strong democracy (high likelihood of a coup bringing things back to despotism) and during this revolution many things and livelihoods were destroyed; it may not be clear that the slight increase in political wealth compensates the large decrease in private wealth (people may say "we are worse off than before"). Likewise, consider an increase in private wealth in a despotic state that reinforces that despotism (because the state is now also stronger), people who don't like that despotism may feel they are actually worse off than before (democracy is actually further rather than closer and they are more, rather than less, likely to be imprisoned and tortured for their political beliefs).

    Now, if a country has both very strong democratic political institutions and also a high average private wealth, then I would definitely agree that country is very wealthy. But how many countries are these? Not very many. A key contention of the proponents of capitalism some decades ago was the completely unfounded theory that market processes create increase in average private wealth which creates democracy -- that the more there are "markets" the more there will be democracy. History has proven this theory false and the proponents of capitalism generally don't even bother with this claim anymore.

    This private and public wealth distinction I mention as it is very fruitful to think about.

    However, where you maybe unsure how public wealth, in terms of one's share in institutions, can be measured and what trade-offs (increases in average private wealth at the expense of in institutional wealth), the ecological criticism of capitalism is far stronger and easy to measure.

    There is simply no refuting capitalism (market forces) have lead to a high rate of consumption of natural resources (unless one is uninterested in science) that is unsustainable.

    There is simply no reasonable economic argument that can justify being unsustainable. This is why the proponents of capitalism simply ignore or deny the science of these issues while simultaneously asserting that our science is so good it's going to simply solve all ecological problems if they exist (which they don't, climate scientists are corrupt, but if ever there was a problem, which there isn't, then technology, created by our amazing science, is going to fix it).

    In economic terms, if the average standard of living today is due to drawing down the earths capital stocks (the basis of production) and simply consuming that capital, then this is the characteristic of an extremely inefficient economic system. If you live off your capital, destroying it and pretending it's revenue, then at some point you will run out of capital and be destitute. I.e. if you sold all your belongings and lived like a super rich person for a day, renting a yacht, hitting the clubs, buying everyone champagne, this does not make you a super rich person, the wealth is completely illusory; we would call you a fool for buying us campaign with the money you got by liquidating all the assets your future depends on. The rate of consumption of drawing down a capital stock isn't really relevant. The higher the rate you consume your own capital the more you can appear wealthy in the short term; if you spend all your capital in half an hour people around you will be more impressed than if you spent it all over a year, but that doesn't really matter.

    If capitalism is simply converting the earths capital basis (life sustaining systems required to produce any standard of living whatsoever) and pretending the consumption of that capital is income, then if wealth measurements ignore this and you simply measure short term average material wealth then you will conclude that average material wealth is going up that "people's income is going up". The higher the rate of drawing down the earths capital basis and pretending it's income, the higher the average private wealth is going to be. But if a narrow measurement of wealth is a garbage measurement, then the conclusion you get out if is garbage also.
  • I like sushi
    1.3k
    Wealth, in term of economics, is not a broad term. We’re primarily discussing economic theory, so I meant value of assets owned. I certainly wasn’t equating ‘wealth’ with ‘income’, but they’re are inevitably related.

    I’ll wait for some response to my request for common ground.

    I will say though that painting proponents of capitalism as being against social tools is pretty much the kind of talk I was looking to avoid. Social policies are predominant in all capitalist economies (that’s why they’re referred to as ‘mixed economies’ - which is a very mixed bag from nation to nation and trade deal to trade deal).
  • boethius
    297
    Wealth, in term of economics, is not a broad term. We’re primarily discussing economic theory, so I meant value of assets owned.I like sushi

    Wealth is a broad term, your share in public institutions is part of your asset base. Public institutions are assets owned by whoever controls those institutions.

    I certainly wasn’t equating ‘wealth’ with ‘income’, but they’re are inevitably related.I like sushi

    I am not equating wealth with income either, I don't know where you get that.

    I will say though that painting proponents of capitalism as being against social tools is pretty much the kind of talk I was looking to avoid. Social policies are predominant in all capitalist economies (that’s why they’re referred to as ‘mixed economies’ - which is a very mixed bag from nation to nation and trade deal to trade deal).I like sushi

    I've already said that if you want to discuss "what's happened" without making a distinction between capitalist policies and social policies, then a better term is modernity.

    What is a "mixed economy" a mixture of? It's a mixture of capitalist and socialist based policies. The proponents of a mixed economy are not the proponents of capitalism, they are the proponents of a mixture.

    The proponents of capitalism want to minimize the socialist part of the mixture, if not get rid of it entirely, that's what makes them proponents of capitalism and not proponents of a highly regulated welfare state with very strong unions.

    At the same time, proponents of capitalism want to claim basically all good things are caused by capitalism (market forces). If Finland is the happiest country in the world ... well that's because of capitalism! nothing to do with strength of social democratic institutions, welfare state policies, rehabilitation based justice system, publicly owned utilities and other market intervention, or that unions have increased in number and power over the last decades rather than decrease.

    But, as I have gone over, modernity is not sustainable, what economists that support status quo capitalism (i.e. paid propagandists) identify as private wealth represents converting humanity's capital base and spending it (i.e. destroying the resource base) and calling that process wealth creation. Wealth creation, under any definition of wealth private or social, must be sustainable to have really been created. A company that is drawing down it's capital faster than it makes income can appear stable in the short term but is, by definition, going towards bankruptcy. The faster an individual or a company liquidates assets the more, in the short term, that company or individual can appear to act like a truly wealthy individual or company (doing things expected of the truly wealthy), but it is an illusion (the "truly wealthy", in a narrow materialistic sense, buy the startups and the yachts and the champagne and throw the parties with income that their capital base yields not by liquidating that capital base overall; if humanity as a whole is liquidating it's capital base to pay for the party, this is not real wealth but illusory wealth).

    I’ll wait for some response to my request for common ground.I like sushi

    There is essentially no common ground along the lines you point out.

    The myth of progress is just that: a simplistic myth, essential to short circuit any thorough analysis and to conclude "well, whatever modernity is, it's been pretty good!" which is why you wait for the myth of progress input to carry out further reasoning for the desired outputs. Without the myth of progress, all sorts of claims must actually be checked empirically (can private wealth increase at the expense of public wealth? must be checked. Is wealth production, of any kind, at the expense of the resource base happening? Must be checked.).

    To make an analogy, if you are trying to get to next town over and plot a course that takes you over a cliff and instant death, moving towards that cliff is not progress towards the next town. Status quo economists (i.e. paid propagandists) want to be able to simply measure how fast the economy is walking (how much is being produced) and claim that therefore that's how quickly it is progressing; that the purpose of an economy is to progress in this way and that lot's of progress has already occurred. However, if this rate of change of production represents a process that brings disaster relentlessly closer, rather than farther away, then it is progress towards disaster.

    Wealth is not a narrow term, it basically represents "goodness", but by defining it narrowly in it's measurement, economists that are proponents of capitalism (i.e. paid propagandists) can use all sorts of bait and switch fallacies (don't we want to be more wealthy? don't we want to support wealth creation? aren't therefore wealth creators good things and we should let them create more wealth? all of which is garbage-in-garbage-out arguments if the measurement of wealth is only one narrow aspect of what is meant by wealth) and also derail any constructive conversation into meaningless imaginary games of moving wealth around in charts that represent no actual data points about the real world.
  • I like sushi
    1.3k
    Note: I never said you equated wealth with income.

    I’ll ask once more ...

    What do we agree on?

    Without meaning to paint a black and white picture of capitalism, socialism or communism I hope we can generally agree that there is no pure form of any? I hope we can also agree that capitalism has helped to bring many people out of severe poverty (this doesn’t mean it is the main force only an important one among many). It is also true, I hope you agree, that social force has helped reign in (with varying degrees of success) capitalism where necessarily and reversed the chance of returning to some Gilded Age.

    To add, I hope we can also agree that a great deal of Marx’s world was influenced by the impact of the industrial revolution. Today most of the concerns imagined - by people like Charles Dickens - never came to fruition. Now we live in a completely different economic landscape and we certainly have to assess how best to deal with the coming problems and the immediate problems.

    My concern is that many more people have access to the most amazing tools (mobile phones + internet) yet I’m unsure if anyone has really been taught to use it to its fuller potential - for education and training.

    Anyway, let us stick to what we can agree on. I ask because if there is no common ground then there is no charity in the discussion only accusations and hyperbole. I’m not interested in that kind of exchange.
    I like sushi

    Or make your own suggestions? I don’t care what you don’t agree just yet. I’m only interested in what we can agree on (see above).

    Note: If you don’t believe things have gotten better for people due to capitalist economics then the worlds problems must be due to socialist economics or communism. That is if you disagree that the distinctions aren’t completely black and white - if so you’re correct; there is nothing more to be said.
  • boethius
    297
    Or make your own suggestions? I don’t care what you don’t agree just yet. I’m only interested in what we can agree on (see above).I like sushi

    This is really a poor debate tactic to avoid clarifying your position.

    I've already stated that if you're not making a distinction between capitalist and socialist policies then you're essentially just referring to modernity (whatever happens to be out there in recent times).

    My position is that your position is inherently contradictory, you want to support the statement "things have gotten better for people due to capitalist economics" while appealing to performance under a mixed economy a la "Social policies are predominant in all capitalist economies (that’s why they’re referred to as ‘mixed economies’ - which is a very mixed bag from nation to nation and trade deal to trade deal)".

    And you want to avoid teasing apart what is due to socialism and what is due to capitalism.

    So, I disagree with the analytic framework of viewing contradiction as totally fine.

    I also disagree with the statement that life has gotten better. If you spend all your capital today on renting a yacht and champagne it maybe true that today life is good, but it doesn't follow from this that your life has gotten better if you are destitute tomorrow.

    Sustainability is inherent in the notion of wealth. Someone who is spending "like a rich man" but unsustainable we would not consider to actually be a rich man, rather creating the illusion of being a rich man.

    We do not agree that life has gotten better for most people. This is the myth of progress, it is essential to nearly all arguments supporting the status quo, because the status quo today is inherently dynamic it is required to assume that this dynamic change is good, is progress towards better things. If you start with the premise the status quo is good, of course you quickly end with the conclusion that the status quo is good. The myth of progress is that starting assumption that the status quo is good.

    Knowing this, you will now be able to spot it whenever you hear things, such as has happened already in this conversation, that 'child fatalities have gone down' due to progress, due to capitalism, therefore progress has been good and capitalism also, or 'people are wealthier' on average, or 'our technology is super good'. The goal in all these arguments is to short circuit the concept of wealth, which has a broad meaning basically representing "good things", and tying it to a single metric that has increased, such as child mortality, and excluding things like political wealth (one's power to affect government, in other words ownership of your government, and in turn what your government owns that you therefore share if you have power over it) and sustainability.

    Note: If you don’t believe things have gotten better for people due to capitalist economics then the worlds problems must be due to socialist economics or communism.I like sushi

    This is not a logically sound argument. If A is composed of B, C, D and you discover A is poisonous, it does not follow that B, C and D must all be poisonous.

    'Communism' as represented by totalitarian Soviet Stalinism, definitely was no more ecologically sound than capitalism, being just as dependent on oil and doing things like draining whole lakes to grow cotton along with other catastrophes. (And there is a seed of this in Marx who does not question the goodness of industrialization; an industrialization fetishism to use Marx's language.)

    However, the ecological failure of totalitarian Soviet Stalinism does not provide much evidence against proportional democratic socialism with heavily regulated markets. These proportional democratic socialist countries with heavily regulated markets nations are, however, a small minority of economic systems, so it's difficult to argue are a cause of global ecological exhaustion. Furthermore, if you go to these countries, there is far sounder ecological policies internally than compared to countries where capital dominates policy making; the theory lines up with what we find in practice.
  • I like sushi
    1.3k
    I haven’t attempted to debate. There is no tactic. I was gauging the worth of a discussion with someone whose opening gambit to me was to call me mind-bogglingly naive.

    I assumed you may have something to say. Now I don’t.

    Good luck. No hard feelings.
  • boethius
    297
    I haven’t attempted to debate. There is no tactic. I was gauging the worth of a discussion with someone whose opening gambit to me was to call me mind-bogglingly naive.I like sushi

    Well if you really are not concerned about debating what's true and what's false, great tactic to avoid challenging your own beliefs and assumptions.
  • jamalrob
    2.1k
    'Communism' as represented by totalitarian Soviet Stalinism, definitely was no more ecologically sound than capitalism, being just as dependent on oil and doing things like draining whole lakes to grow cotton along with other catastrophes. (And there is a seed of this in Marx who does not question the goodness of industrialization; an industrialization fetishism to use Marx's language.)boethius

    Marx does not use "fetishism" in this sense, and he arguably doesn't even use the word pejoratively. Rather, he uses it to mean the attribution to inanimate objects of powers or characteristics that properly belong to people. In particular, he writes about the reification and naturalization involved in market exchange, which is a "fetishism of commodities" in which relations between labouring people are seen as relations between objects: social relations become properties of things, and this state of affairs is experienced as being natural.

    Generally, economic growth in capitalist form has made life better in several measurable ways for people all over the world. This in itself is not an "argument supporting the status quo", but just a fact. Similarly, we can acknowledge the benefits of growth in the Soviet Union without endorsing forced collectivization, terror, and the use of slave labour (and environmental devastation, as you point out). My argument against capitalism is that progress in human development doesn't happen fast enough, fairly enough, or securely enough, and ties us all into a system of endless toil and precarity.
  • boethius
    297
    Marx does not use "fetishism" in this sense, and he arguably doesn't even use the word pejoratively.jamalrob

    I would argue Marx uses the term pejoratively (just not only pejoratively), and of course not using the sexual connotation "fetish" has today but the connotation the word had in the 19th century, which I agree you correctly refer to as "reification".

    But to those not aware of the context of fetish when Marx was writing:

    A fetish (derived from the French fétiche; which comes from the Portuguese feitiço; and this in turn from Latin facticius, "artificial" and facere, "to make") is an object believed to have supernatural powers, or in particular, a human-made object that has power over others. Essentially, fetishism is the emic attribution of inherent value or powers to an object.

    The concept was popularized in Europe circa 1757, when Charles de Brosses used it in comparing West African religion to the magical aspects of ancient Egyptian religion. Later, Auguste Comte employed the concept in his theory of the evolution of religion, wherein he posited fetishism as the earliest (most primitive) stage, followed by polytheism and monotheism. However, ethnography and anthropology would classify some artifacts of monotheistic religions as fetishes. For example, the Holy Cross and the consecrated host or tokens of communion found in some forms of Christianity (a monotheistic religion), are here regarded as examples of fetishism.
    Wikipedia

    I completely agree with Marx's use of the term fetish, the basic point that money becomes "a human-made object that has power over others [...] the emic attribution of inherent value or powers to an object" and that this psychological relation to money in a capitalist society is why it makes sense to accumulate money indefinitely "for the purpose of accumulating yet more money" being sufficient reason to do so (that there is never "enough", no other natural end point of capital accumulation other than what is possible to accumulate), whereas other commodities it would be bizarre to devote one's life to accumulating and storing a maximum quantity of grain or copper or beanie babies (without making any use of such commodities other than to accumulate more of the same); that if anyone one in capitalist society that met someone who lived meagerly and efficiently to simply increase a large store of beanie babies we would view as wack, accumulating a large store or grain when people are hungry we'd view as immoral, and someone just making a giant store of copper we would suspect of perhaps illegally trying to corner the market -- but if we met someone fully devoted to simply making as much money as possible we'd view as completely normal, in fact laudable.

    I think we agree on this point.

    It is this same psychological relation I levy at Marx's idea of a industrialized scientific society which he takes for granted as a good development. Marx does not realize that science and technology also has this fetish kind of power over us. What is the material view of history other than this fetish.

    Generally, economic growth in capitalist form has made life better in several measurable ways for people all over the world.jamalrob

    This what I'm debating against. This argument reduces to "measurable if you choose to measure metrics that have increased", which, sure, I grant that. But that some metrics have improved is not sufficient reason to conclude capitalism or modernity in general has been an overall improvement. For instance, a nurse that measures a fever has gone down in a patient is right to note this change as a good thing ... but if the nurse then measures that the patient's heart has stopped, there may not be overall improvement.

    This is the core of the myth of progress, of using very broad terms like "wealth" and "life improvement", then choosing a narrow metric of measurement of one or a few aspects included in these things, and then claiming that any arguing about other metrics is immature and childish and shutting down the discussion.

    My view of capitalism, or just modernity in general that would include soviet communism, is that it is akin to ever increasing doses of cocaine; there are short term "good effects" but at a massive long term cost; the short term "life improvement" is an illusion. If you have ever argued with someone in the honey moon phase of cocaine or other stimulants who think it's great and made their life better, you get the exact same structure of argument as the myth of progress (it's seems pretty good right now bro) and my argument against capitalism and modernity is exactly the same as you will be trying to make cocaine.

    Yes, productivity has gone up (just like with cocaine) but if it is a dynamic that moves towards ecological collapse (cardiac arrest) then the goodness of this productivity is wholly illusory (just like cocaine addiction). Marx and Marxists after him were keen consumers of the cocaine of industrial civilization. That the soviet union devoted itself to industrialization is not a rupture with Marx; where we can argue Marx would not have approved of the soviet union is not "endorsing forced collectivization, terror, and the use of slave labour (and environmental devastation, as you point out)" as you point out.

    The industrial revolution and urbanization, in my view, are entirely a mistake, the pathway to the destination that goes over a cliff and breaks all your bones.

    In saying this, I am not against literacy, democracy, medicine, science and increasing our technological powers; but all these things are independent of industrialization in my view (they are historically tied together, but not intrinsically tied, we can have these things without urbanized industrialized civilization; and we will have these things without industrialization as it is unsustainable and so will come to an end one way or another: localized decentralization of production or complete ecological collapse is the choice facing us, from my point of view).
  • jamalrob
    2.1k
    This what I'm debating against. This argument reduces to "measurable if you choose to measure metrics that have increased", which, sure, I grant that. But that some metrics have improved is not sufficient reason to conclude capitalism or modernity in general has been an overall improvement.boethius

    First you say you're arguing against the claim that "economic growth in capitalist form has made life better in several measurable ways" but then you appear to accept it in the next sentence. I did not claim that capitalism has made everything better. I was trying to point out that any critique of capitalism that doesn't accept, or that disapproves of, the improvements that capitalism has enabled is worthless, or worse, reactionary.

    Otherwise I completely disagree with your basic argument that industrialization and urbanization are bad, but I didn't really intervene here to debate it.
  • boethius
    297
    First you say you're arguing against the claim that "economic growth in capitalist form has made life better in several measurable ways" but then you appear to accept it in the next sentence.jamalrob

    I don't accept it in the next sentence. I accept that some metrics have increased, that is not the same as saying there has been an overall improvement. I go onto explain how this is possible with the example of the nurse and then later again with the example of cocaine.

    I was trying to point out that any critique of capitalism that doesn't accept, or that disapproves of, the improvements that capitalism has enabled is worthless, or worse, reactionary.jamalrob

    I agree that we should look at whatever historical metrics are available objectively. Pretty much every post I've made has aimed to dismantle the myth of progress you are inferring here: that a few metrics prove a general point (a few cases a generalization does not make).

    I do not view improvements that are not sustainable as improvements, they are the illusion of improvement, just as the rate of walking or running on the wrong path is not advancement; the more you go the wrong way the worse off you are regardless of how efficient you travel.

    Otherwise I completely disagree with your basic argument that industrialization and urbanization are bad, but I didn't really intervene here to debate it.jamalrob

    The badness is in the non-sustainability of these systems, that has simply been the empirically verifiable result of what has happened in developing these systems. "You cannot argue with nature" as Feynman reminds us in the context of a small technological disaster, and industrialization is (in the context of human history) an argument with nature we are losing incredibly fast.
  • jamalrob
    2.1k
    I don't accept it in the next sentence. I accept that some metrics have increased, that is not the same as saying there has been an overall improvement.boethius

    I said that "economic growth in capitalist form has made life better in several measurable ways", not that "there has been an overall improvement". If you accept that some metrics have increased, and that these increases have improved life, then you agree with the statement you said your were debating against.

    I do not view improvements that are not sustainable as improvementsboethius

    Maybe this is the answer, in which case, yeah, reactionary.
  • boethius
    297
    I said that "economic growth in capitalist form has made life better in several measurable ways", not that "there has been an overall improvement". If you accept that some metrics have increased, and that these increases have improved life, then you agree with the statement you said your were debating against.jamalrob

    This is the myth of progress in a nutshell.

    The mistake you make is "that these increases have improved life". This conclusion does not follow from the premise "some metrics have increased".

    A patient who's fever has gone down has this improved metric, so the patient does indeed have this going for them, if the patient's fever is decreasing because the patient died (which other metrics tell us) we cannot conclude the life of the patient has improved. The "improvement" of the reduction of fever is an illusory improvement, it "would otherwise be a good thing" if the patient was recovering.

    You must add the qualification of "all else being equal" or "insofar as we are only looking at these metrics" to "that these increases have improved life" to turn it into sound tautology of just reiterating that the metrics have indeed increased.

    This is the bait and switch fallacy, you are in the first part of the argument considering a narrow definition of improvement and then switching the meaning to "improvement of life" which is far more general. You want to catch opponents of the myth of progress in a "gotcha" of saying that the metrics in question are not an improvement; the way to deconstruct the myth is by proper analysis of what we might otherwise include in the idea of "life improvement" (such as social wealth) and that even if we agree on "human quality of life" what may seem like quality of life improvement, if is only short term, is potentially a metric of harm and not benefit; the local rate of change of a metric does not inform us of where that metric is ultimately going (the distance as the crow flies between you and your destination does not necessarily indicate how quickly you will get to your destination nor whether you will go over a cliff on your current distance-minimizing rate of change).
  • jamalrob
    2.1k


    vvn3pks6kbswan8s.png

    NOTE: "The Human Development Index (HDI) is a statistic composite index of life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators"

    Are you saying that these are not improvements at all, because other problems somehow make them illusory? Millions would disagree.

    The mistake you make is "that these increases have improved life". This conclusion does not follow from the premise "some metrics have increased".boethius

    I am saying that life has improved in certain measurable ways.

    Now please don't respond once again by arguing against claims that everything is getting better. I'm not making that claim.

    Links:

    https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/human-development-index-escosura?time=1870..2015&country=GBR+USA+KOR+IND+CHN+BRA+CPV+AGO+GMB
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Development_Index
  • boethius
    297
    Are you saying that these are not improvements at all, because other problems somehow make them illusory? Millions would disagree.jamalrob

    Millions disagree with a lot of things I believe, doesn't bother me. I'm pretty confident we can find many things you believe where we can see millions disagreeing with.

    Yes, other problems make many increased metrics (not all, specifically facets of industrialization) under modernity illusory (whether you attribute the increase to capitalist or socialist policies, or a mix leaning on way or another; which is also an important debate).

    If an increased metric is due to a system that is not sustainable, then the idea that the increase in that metric (the objective observation) is actually an improvement (a moral judgement that what we are seeing is actually good), then it is an illusion that the metric increase represents an actual improvement.

    It is a trivial exercise for an organization to draw down capital and spend the proceeds in a way that seems like income; but it is not the case that the organization is improving through such a process.

    Executives and even workers may benefit in the short term by selling or mortgaging core assets and paying themselves a higher wage or even reducing the cost of their product or service (and so buyers also seem to benefit), but it is simply unsound to look at such metrics and say "things are improving; this is good business".

    Of course, organizations do sell and mortgage assets, moving that money to the revenue side of the books is not what we'd base a judgement of whether it's a good idea or not: but rather, is that part of a sustainable plan? If it's not sustainable we'd say it's bad business, criminal if the plan wasn't even trying to make the business sustainable but just embezzling money out of the business to benefit a few, we would say it is then defrauding the shareholders.

    The shareholders in this analogy are the people alive today but also future generations. If what we do today is liquidating the earth's assets and calling it income, we are defrauding future generations of those assets. It's trivial to show that by liquidating assets we can improve quality of life metrics in the short term (just as it's trivial that management can liquidate assets and pay themselves, and workers if they feel like it, a great salary today), and the faster we draw down those assets the higher the quality of life in the short term we can create.

    For a while (since capitalism emerged) the organization "western civilization" and later "humanity" was doing bad business, drawing down assets without realizing it's not sustainable (not creating equally good assets for future production), but now the evidence is overwhelming that our plan isn't sustainable and so we have moved since a few decades to the defrauding the shareholders side of the analogy.
  • jamalrob
    2.1k
    Millions disagree with a lot of things I believe, doesn't bother me. I'm pretty confident we can find many things you believe where we can see millions disagreeing with.boethius

    You missed the point, or else you're intentionally ignoring it (which seems likely based on the intellectual dishonesty of your recent posts). The point is not simply that millions disagree with you, but that those millions disagree with you because they have benefited from the massive improvements that I mentioned. Their lives have improved. For example, they have lost less children thanks to their improved access to improved healthcare, they've been able to send those children to school, they've lived longer and healthier lives, they've been able to buy washing machines to release women from day-long drudgery, and so on. In saying that these millions disagree with you, I wanted you, or people reading this, to see what you are saying, namely that these improvements are not really improvements at all--and thus to see just how misanthropic and reactionary your position is.
  • boethius
    297
    You missed the point, or else you're intentionally ignoring it (which seems likely based on the intellectual dishonesty of your recent posts).jamalrob

    What's dishonest about repeating my argument and dealing with criticism?

    How do you know it's not that you have missed the point and how is argument I'm intentionally missing the point more credible than the argument you're intentionally missing the point and pre-emptively accusing me of what you're doing as a Trumpian-style diversion tactic that has proven to be extremely effective on those that lack critical thinking skills?

    Please, share your reasons why we should assume prima facie that your argument throwing shade on my intentions is more credible than a similarly structured argument throwing shade on your intentions of throwing shade on my intentions.

    The point is not simply that millions disagree with you, but that those millions disagree with you because they have benefited from the massive improvements that I mentioned.jamalrob

    This is in no way a problem for my argument. Drawing down the capital of a company to increase the income of executives, or even workers, benefits those executives and workers. If they have no analytical ability to question the long term affects of this or if they simply have no interest in the long term affects, then it's perfectly reasonable that they see such a management decision as beneficial to them and would be willing to argue it's "just a good thing in general".

    Their lives have improved. For example, they have lost less children thanks to their improved access to improved healthcare, they've been able to send those children to school, they've lived longer and healthier lives, they've been able to buy washing machines to release women from day-long drudgery, and so on. In saying that these millions disagree with you, I wanted you, or people reading this, to see what you are saying, namely that these improvements are not really improvements at all--and thus to see just how misanthropic and reactionary your position is.jamalrob

    I totally understand that you want to play this gotcha game of catching me denying "children not-dying is good". And I totally get why you will simply continue down this path rather than engage in the criticism of this analytical framework I have brought up. The myth of progress is a foundational myth of our society, as with foundational myths in the past, society simply no longer makes sense without it and undermining the myth is to undermine the prevalent conception of society and invite disruption (and potentially the loss of what people who believe in the myth view as the ultimate purpose of society, and therefore cannot conceive of any change with respect to the myth as a good thing under any circumstances; i.e if you believed in sacrificing to the gods the whole purpose of society is to sacrifice to the gods and there simply is no potential criticism of the status quo of sacrificing to the gods from within the mindset of belief in the myth). However, as with previous foundational myths, the fact that "millions believe it" doesn't make it true.

    The mistake you are making is only considering local rate of change. I believe the local rate of change of infant fatality is decreasing, I I believe this "all else being equal" or "without considering other metrics" is a good thing (decreasing child fatality is one of my priorities, just not the only one and improving this metric in a way that works only over the short term is in my view not a real improvement), but if the system that has made these changes brings us to an ecological collapse then we are worse off than we were before, the short term benefits were illusions in any general sense.

    A CEO that embezzles money from their company and gets away with it is benefiting in a local sense -- I am not denying that there is a benefit from the perspective of the CEO, a benefit does exist in at least one conception of the world -- and if that CEO shares the loot around (perhaps to undermine people's vigilance to question him or go over the books that they otherwise might do) then those people benefit too in a local sense, but it is false to then infer there is a global benefit to the company, much less humanity as a whole.

    There is simply no way to divorce the concept of "life improvement" from the concept of sustainability; you can say "well, maybe our system is not sustainable but it's improved my life and some other people's lives and that's what I care about" but that is to admit that there is no improvement in a general sense and also to admit that one's argument is by definition not compelling to people who do not exclude future generations from the concept of "what improves people's lives". If you tell me "look, the boomers made bank and capitalism was the main cause of that and a lot are now dead or will be dead before we even see what happens to the environment when pushed to the limits" I would agree with the conclusion that therefore, capitalism was good ... for the boomers (who only cared about themselves), I would not agree with any attempt to generalize to young generations now that will experience the consequences of past resource extraction and pollution dumping nor subsequent generations.

    That is why the myth of progress is foundational, once the claimed progress has a cost attached there is no way to short-circuit the argument to "therefor capitalism is good" in any form of modernity, it becomes necessary to look into this cost and do a cost-benefit analysis over the number of generations that you care about. If capitalism comes at a cost of corruption and tyranny down the road as the concept of civic duty is dissolved in a corrosive sea of self-narrow-material-interest, ignorance-praise and wage-slaves simply not having the time to understand their political situation, or transferring a large proportion of the global means of production to communist China, then that cost has to be understood and factored in; one has to actually go and check what kind of system capitalism creates down the road, the argument that "well these metrics have gone from here to there" doesn't tell us what will happen in the future about other metrics nor even that metric!

    If capitalism is not sustainable then by definition it cannot be good in any sense for future generations; so, again, one has to actually go and check if it's sustainable or not. You can argue capitalism is in fact sustainable, but this is a empirical argument that has to actually be made; you can argue that you don't care whether it's sustainable or not, you just want people to agree that some metrics have gone from A to B so far, but then you can't expect people to conclude anything particular about the system as a whole and its future.

    What the myth of progress provides the proponents of the status quo is a reason to not check; if we believe some things have gotten better and those some things represent the whole and if we believe the future resembles the past then we conclude things will continue to improve and don't need to check any of the available empirical checkable things about the whole other than a few "some things" that serve as input to the argument, and if anyone disagrees we first accuse them of not caring about that metric (the gotcha I'm referring to) and then second we wave our hands around and claim science and technology will solve all problems in the future as they arise, even getting off planet if need be, while simultaneously dismissing the work of any scientists that claim our problems are here and now.
  • jamalrob
    2.1k
    What's dishonest about repeating my argument and dealing with criticism?boethius

    Precisely this kind of response. You know very well that I did not claim there was anything dishonest about repeating your argument and dealing with criticism. This is tiresome.

    How do you know it's not that you have missed the point and how is argument I'm intentionally missing the point more credible than the argument you're intentionally missing the point and pre-emptively accusing me of what you're doing as a Trumpian-style diversion tactic that has proven to be extremely effective on those that lack critical thinking skills?

    Please, share your reasons why we should assume prima facie that your argument throwing shade on my intentions is more credible than a similarly structured argument throwing shade on your intentions of throwing shade on my intentions.
    boethius

    This is gibberish, but from what I can make of it it's full of baseless assertions, and baseless attributions of what you see as the enemy position. Diversion tactic? What are you talking about? I came here to make two simple points, first that you used "fetishism" in a way unrelated to Marx while claiming it was "Marx's language", and second that economic growth has led to improvements. You have done everything you can to deny that these improvements are improvements at all, and this is what I want to show, that you are dismissing real benefits that people have enjoyed, on the basis of possible future problems. I'm not interested in directly confronting your inhumane apocalyptic dogma.
  • boethius
    297
    You know very well that I did not claim there was anything dishonest about repeating your argument and dealing with criticism. This is tiresome.jamalrob

    What then is dishonest? You've made this claim:

    which seems likely based on the intellectual dishonesty of your recent postsjamalrob

    I'm defending against this claim not by claiming that you believe responding to criticism is intellectually dishonest but with the argument "I am responding to criticism and therefore intellectually honest".

    It' you making a claim without any supporting arguments, my argument is those supporting arguments don't exist. So, back up your claim or then retract it, or then explain how "not willing to backup a claim nor retract it" is anything other than intellectually dishonest.

    This is gibberish, but from what I can make of it it's full of baseless assertions, and baseless attributions of what you see as the enemy position. Diversion tactic? What are you talking about?jamalrob

    It's not gibberish. You've made the "baseless assertion" of "which seems likely based on the intellectual dishonesty of your recent posts" and "you missed the point, or else you're intentionally ignoring it".

    And you qualify "intentionally ignoring" with "which seems likely based on the intellectual dishonesty of your recent posts", yet you have no supporting arguments for this, nor citation of where I'm being intellectually dishonest.

    I point out your claim is baseless and provide an alternative claim, that I'm being intellectually honest with in addition to this the supporting argument that I am responding to criticism, and you view this as baseless and gibberish.

    Ok, please also support your arguments here about why my argument with supporting argument is baseless and gibberish, yet your argument that lacks any supporting argument is honest philosophical work.
  • Isaac
    1.3k
    You have done everything you can to deny that these improvements are improvements at alljamalrob

    Well that's as good an example of begging the question as you're going to get, you've actually described them as "improvements" when what is at issue is whether they are or not.

    The things you've pointed to are numbers, numbers which have gone up or down. Metrics do not 'improve' they either go up or down. Whether their doing so constitutes an 'improvement' is a judgement, and any rational person would consider someone a fool for not taking all relevant factors into account when making a judgement.

    So it makes no sense at all to say an increased supply of washing machines is an 'improvement' on its own. Why would you deliberately decide not to take account, in that judgement, of factors which you know full well are relevant to it (sustainability, pollution, quality of work, power relationships etc...)?
  • jamalrob
    2.1k
    Because in itself the availability of washing machines is an improvement, and I'm not going to argue for that. There may be other metrics that have shown other things getting worse, and you're right that the underlying issue here is to interpret that balance of gains and losses, but my point was to reveal boethius's stark denial of real gains for people (again, I'm not going to argue that the increased HDI figures show real gains for people).

    If my argument begs the question, it does so in the way that Moore's Here is one hand does.
  • boethius
    297
    You have done everything you can to deny that these improvements are improvements at all
    — jamalrob

    Well that's as good an example of begging the question as you're going to get, you've actually described them as "improvements" when what is at issue is whether they are or not.
    Isaac

    I've described them as changes in a metric, which I agree the various metrics discussed have changed in the proposed way (infant mortality, longevity, average material comfort).

    I've described that to go from the observation of the metric over a given time to the idea of "improvement" is a moral judgement. It's this moral judgement that begs the questions: "improvement overall or improvement in one area at the expense of other, potentially more important areas" as well as "improvement for who".

    For instance, China has recently announced that facial recognition will be required to get a phone number and each time you access the internet, in addition to existing mass surveillance, crackdowns on dissidents, and no free speech. It's a question that must be answered whether the increase in average material comfort for the average Chinese is worth while exchange for zero free speech and zero anonymous internet access (a freedom we are both enjoying as we have this conversation). Most of the reduction of poverty in the last decades has been in China, so if we are referencing China to support "progress of metrics" to support "capitalism and/or modernity has improved people's lives", we must actually resolve the question of "is it worth it to the average Chinese, the increase in material things at the expense of even more intimate surveillance and thought policing than existed before?" This is not a trivial question to answer. If you say "well millions of Chinese say it's worth it" well my question for you is "first are you sure it's worth it and they're not mistaken, and, second, do they even really believe this or do they just say it due to coercion from the Chinese state ... and people who disagree we don't hear much from".

    I've also detailed how I have zero problem accepting some metric really is an improvement (a moral judgement of goodness) from some perspectives, with the analogy of the embezzling CEO, if he gets away with it and views selfish self-serving as a good thing then life has improved for the embezzling CEO. However, that an improvement exists from one perspective does not entail it exists from all perspectives. If a system isn't sustainable it is by definition "not a good thing" from the generations that will suffer the consequences of an unsustainable system. If we don't care about those generations, then I agree it's possible to conclude "life has improved", but this is just the tautology of "life has improved for those who think life has improved", and if millions disagree later, tough for them.
  • Isaac
    1.3k
    Because in itself the availability of washing machines is an improvementjamalrob

    That's the matter I'm taking issue with. I don't see how it makes any sense to say something is an improvement "in itself" where, by that, you mean "when ignoring certain other factors inextricably connected with it" .

    The only thing that metric has done "in itself", is go up. To judge that to be an improvement involves a decision about how many explicitly linked factors you're going to take into account. There's no pure default number of additional factors that constitute "in itself".
  • frank
    3.4k
    I don't see how it makes any sense to say something is an improvement "in itself"Isaac

    Most technological innovations that take root are improvement relative to the hosting society's agendas.

    So there's a vague similarity to evolution. Much of the technology you see around you, if broken down, would be found to have come into existence originally as just crazy ideas in people's basements. One crazy idea inspires another and the stream of events is taken up by social forces. Thus the crazy idea becomes necessary to the average person's life, literally, since eventually the average person has to conform to social norms to survive.
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