Thoughts on evolutionary and reformist socialism - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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As either the transitional stage to communism or legitimate socio-economic ends in its own right.
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#14857572
Just wondering what peoples thoughts on the idea of over time transitioning towards socialism in a gradual process within existing political systems. As well as the relationship those movements should have with more revolutionary groups.
#14857658
It worked for Britain when it spent an entire century transitioning from feudalism to liberalism and still has a monarchy and house of lords today. I think it may be a more viable model than revolution since laws and taxes can be used to promote the outcomes you want whilst being open to feedback and backtracking.
#14857666
A peaceful transition to socialism would be nice. However, in reality, it doesn't work like that. The entire apparatus of every capitalist state exists to facilitate the authority of the capitalist elite. This is why every serious challenge to the authority of the bourgeois elite is met with violence, persecution, and dissolution. Socialist movements that think reforms toward socialism can overcome these things all invariably devolve into liberal movements and parties after a slow process of being neutered. Capitalist nations some people mistake as having strong elements of socialism (most popularly the Scandinavian nations) are liberal democratic nations with strong social democratic tendencies.

In a transition from feudalism to capitalism, members of the aristocracy can adapt and become capitalists, while still maintaining elements of their power, prestige, and wealth. In a transition from capitalism to socialism, that sort of power and wealth cannot be maintained, and those with power and wealth aren't going to give those things up easily.
#14857683
Still yet to develop a background where I could argue it explicitly but a few things I've read give way to certain speculations based on characterizations of Eduard Bernstein and reformers of all types that are not necessarily socialist in their ideal.

It's a view that seems to be at risk of not being a dynamic view that may presuppose economic determinism and hold blind optimism in inevitable change but lose sight of the required agency of humans who do and are required to change things. Or they in fact don't have any legitimate aspiration for socialism, that such an ideal is too weak to have any substance. This can be seen with Eduard Bernstein's emphasis on the journey with no end, but a tension between the ideal and reality is absolutely crucial to making that ideal a reality.
And more recently, I've been thinking that from this world view comes a differences of opinion about class antagonism, in which reforms of course minimize but I think don't save much in that capitalist crisis occur as does free trade which increases the antagonism between classes.

But many reformers seem like they want to change capitalism to be nicer to such extent that they maintain a tension of wanting capitalist relations with something increasingly unsustainable within capitalism. So for example, Thomas Piketty among others look at the increasing disparity of wealth and such and their response is a moderate one in regards to the welfare state increasing.
But the utopianism of his moderate view is that it would require that capitalist countries are equalized in wealth and power, which they aren't (combined and uneven economic development). But the plus side of such moderate views is it can be a path to open up to the more radical conclusion in acknowledging the limitations of capitalist relations. That a lot of talk about revolution can express an impotence. Although I think at least a acknowledgement in the abstract is important, because it might reflect a sense of seeing the tensions between somethings that I don't think is present in an evolutionary outlook. That there may be an ideal of things as static found in an equilibrium. But I think this downplays the sense in which things are always changing and that in a tension, one side often dominates the other (e.g. hegemony). Which I imagine expresses a fundamental support for similar presuppositions of a pro-capitalist, perhaps like the existence/maintenance of private property. Such a presupposition would restrict what one ponders and makes it difficult to imagine outside such conditions.


But in the end, the crisis of capital will hurt workers the most and no amount of reformism will displace such crisis. Sure it's nice that during the depression the government decided to step in, but better that overproduction of capitalism didn't lead to such circumstances in the first place. To which I wonder if reformers adopt certain ideas about the economy like an underconsumpionist theory in which capitalist crisis are explained as workers just not having enough money to stimulate the economy. Which I think can be effectively dismissed.
But such reforms aren't terrible I think, what makes life better for workers is good. But I think the emphasis should of course be for the workers first and foremost, a clear partisanship that doesn't seek to stand between and or above the classes. To which I worry reformers may be more primarily motivated to diminish the class antagonism as the conflict is upsetting to them than they are for socialism. But the issue can be a denying of an inherent conflict that isn't resolved within capitalism and denying conflict ends up repression instead of a solution.

But I guess in the short term, I see the success of moderates often riding off of the success of radicalism in some cases. That negotiating with the moderate is more appealing in times that one is more threatened by a rising radicalism. I don't see much leverage for many moderates until there is the actual threat of others.
I think the limitation of some radicals is to only be at that radical end and thus impotent (Reminded of Gough Whitlam, 'surely the pure are impotent'). But I think there are historical examples like with Lenin who are sensitive to changing circumstances, not strictly tied to abstract principles but an ideal in relation to the changing world. That one can do things that seem reformist, but always tempered by a sense of returning to the ideal when circumstances are right, to press further and not be satisfied with the initial limits/gains. This is I suspect a big part of the divergence, one might travel similarly up to a point and then they may become oppoisition as the other will go no further.

Spoiler: show
p. 98
One of the earliest and most influential of Marx's interpreters who have argued for combining Kantian morality with Marxist theory is the German social democrat Eduard Bernstein. Bernstein was a member of the German Social Democratic Party and wrote throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, developing his theory of “evolutionary socialism”: a reformist socialism which eschewed revolutionary activity. Bernstein interpreted Marx as an economic determinist who saw communism as the necessary result of a crisis-ridden capitalist society doomed to collapse. However, Bernstein took the relative prosperity of German society at the end of the 1800s to be proof that capitalism would continue to expand, workers' living standards would continue to rise, and therefore it was more preferable for the working class to limit its political program to gradual reforms of capitalism, than to a revolutionary overthrow of it. These gradual reforms would eventually add up to a communist society. But if communism was not inevitable, as Bernstein understood Marx to have assumed, then it would have to be shown that it was a good moral choice. Since Bernstein understood Marx's theory to be deterministic, he argued that it did not have the resources for a moral philosophy on its own. That moral philosophy would have to be lifted from somewhere—from Kant

We can already see that there are two important errors in Bernstein's argumentation. The first is that the fact of present economic expansion, taken by itself, by no means invalidates the thesis that capitalism is inherently crisis-ridden, as Bernstein, and no doubt, everyone else in Europe found out not so long after the 1899 publication of Bernstein's Evolutionary Socialism76. Secondly, Marx never subscribed to the crude economic determinism that Bernstein attributed to him. Although it is true that Marx thought crises were inevitable, he by no means committed himself theoretically to the view that communism was also inevitable.

https://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/m/e.htm
Eduard Bernstein (the former collaborator of Marx and Engels, for whom the term “revisionist” was first coined) said: “To me that which is generally called the ultimate aim of socialism is nothing, but the movement is everything.” [Evolutionary Socialism] This is going to the other extreme and is equally as wrong as “the End justifies the Means.” If a movement has no “end” – an ideal or vision – which is in contradiction to existing conditions, including the movement itself, then such a movement can be nothing more than a celebration of existing conditions and a support for the status quo. The deception involved in the idea of the “movement is everything,” the rejection of any ideal which contradicts what exists, is not only incompatible with Marxism; such a reconciliation with the existing world is actually contrary to human life itself, which is always striving for something.

http://burawoy.berkeley.edu/Marxism/Marxism%20As%20Science.pdf
Luxemburg accused Bernstein of utopian thinking insofar as he thought that the effects of capitalism could be suppressed without suppressing capitalism itself. Equalization of wealth and the introduction of cooperatives could not come about through the reform of capitalism. She regarded Bemstein as equally utopian in postulating a law of increasing democracy since she considered even bourgeois democracy to be a very fragile form of state, continually threatened by the bourgeoisie and defended by the working class as a condition of its emancipation. In returning to this question, The Junius Pamphlet (Waters [I9151 1970, pp. 257-331) addressed the crisis of German social democracy brought on by its support for the war and anticipated the rise of fascism.

From social reform to modern sociology
Political economy recognised the poverty which was the lot of the working class in a capitalist society, and recognised that employers might abuse their powers to drive down wages, but poverty was in general not the result of any such exploitation, but of the limited development of the productive forces, on the one hand, and the excessive pressure of population, on the other. The general condition of the working class could therefore not be ameliorated either by trade union pressure or by political intervention, beyond that required to check the abuse of the employers’ power, but depended on the development of the productive forces, through the productive investment of capital, and on restricting the growth of population by the exercise of ‘moral restraint’. The political implication of such an analysis was that the working class did not constitute an independent interest, its improvement depending on the economic and moral progress of the nation as a whole.

This denial of the independent interest of the working class could not survive the growth of trade unionism, working class political agitation, and the wider movement for social reform. A more pragmatic approach to the problem of order was called for than was allowed by political economy, and this approach was provided by various schools of sociology and historicism. However the abandonment of the laws of political economy removed any coherent basis on which to address the ‘problem of order’, and so to evaluate proposed reforms. Political economy had provided a model of the ideal society, based on the rational individual, against which to judge misguided reformist schemes. The pragmatic approach to social reform provided no means of setting limits to the demands for reform, which escalated with the legalisation of trades unions, the extension of the franchise, and the growth of working class parties. Without an adequate liberal solution to the ‘problem of order’, which could recognise the necessity for social reform while confining reformist ambitions within appropriate limits, there appeared to be nothing to stop the inexorable advance of social reform towards socialism.

To the above, there is the point that the working's class interest is necesarily at odds with the capitalist class and will always break the laws of the land to follow through on it's own interest as any group does when its interests lay out the limits of the status quo.
http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/10867/1/VWills_ETD_2011.pdf
Hence, in the preamble to The Programme of the French Workers' Party, Marx writes that “the producers cannot be free unless they are in possession of the means of production” (Preamble to the Programme of the French Workers' Party, MECW 24:340). This type of freedom, the freedom of the majority of society to appropriate the means of production, is of course not a realization of bourgeois freedom at all, but rather a distinctly socialist freedom in which workers would exercise direct control over the raw materials, tools, machinery, infrastructure, and so on that are required in order for production to be carried out at the level of efficiency to which it has been developed under capitalism. This substantive freedom would be directly at odds with the capitalist mode of production that depends on the forcible separation of the producers from the means of production (cf. Marx's discussion of primitive accumulation in the first volume of Capital).

The implementation of such a genuine, substantive freedom of course would require “despotic inroads117 on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production,” something Marx already wrote earlier, in The Communist Manifesto (Manifesto of the Communist Party, MECW 6:504). It would neither be a realization of bourgeois freedom nor would it even be commensurate with, or justifiable on the basis of, bourgeois freedom and equality, even as it is bourgeois production which makes this substantive freedom first possible.

In the reformist struggles of workers under capitalism, we see a first inkling of how this genuine, substantive freedom comes into conflict with formal, bourgeois freedom. In the first volume of Capital, Marx writes:

It must be acknowledged that our labourer comes out of the process of production other than he entered. In the market he stood as owner of the commodity “labour-power” face to face with other owners of commodities, dealer against dealer. The contract by which he sold to the capitalist his labour-power proved, so to say, in black and white that he disposed of himself freely. The bargain concluded, it is discovered that he was no “free agent,” that the time for which he is free to sell his labour-power is the time for which he is forced to sell it, that in fact the vampire will not lose its hold on him “so long as there is a muscle, a nerve, a drop of blood to be exploited.” For “protection” against “the serpent of their agonies,” the labourers must put their heads together, and, as a class, compel the passing of a law, an all-powerful social barrier that shall prevent the very workers from selling. by voluntary contract with capital, themselves and their families into slavery and death. In place of the pompous catalogue of the “inalienable rights of man” comes the modest Magna Charta of a legally limited working day, which shall make clear “when the time which the worker sells is ended, and when his own begins.” Quantum mutatus ab illo! [What a great change from that time! – Virgil]. (Capital, MECW 35:306)

In Capital, as in the Grundrisse, we see that the worker's freedom to enter into a contract and to dispose of his labor-power as he wills is only an illusory freedom, and that he was never in this transaction a totally “free agent” at all because he is not simply free to sell his labor-power or not, but rather is compelled to sell it if he wishes to live. That compulsion makes the worker susceptible to the most brutal working conditions. Thus, the first step in bringing about substantive freedom from oppressive working conditions and exploitative relations of production is for workers to combine together and push for laws that actually curtail the abstract freedom granted to them in bourgeois society. These measures on the part of workers are vehemently opposed by the bourgeoisie:

The same bourgeois mind which praises division of labour in the workshop, life-long annexation of the labourer to a partial operation, and his complete subjection to capital, as being an organisation of labour that increases its productiveness, that same bourgeois mind denounces with equal vigour every conscious attempt to socially control and regulate the process of production, as an inroad upon such sacred things as the rights of property, freedom and unrestricted play for the bent of the individual capitalist. (Capital, MECW 35:361)

As an illustration, Marx describes how in the French Revolution, the rights which could aid workers, such as the right of association, were subordinated in practice to the right of bourgeois property:

During the very first storms of the revolution, the French bourgeoisie dared to take away from the workers the right of association but just acquired. By a decree of June 14, 1791, they declared all coalition of the workers as “an attempt against liberty and the declaration of the rights of man,” punishable by a fine of 500 livres, together with deprivation of the rights of an active citizen for one year. This law which, by means of State compulsion, confined the struggle between capital and labour within limits comfortable for capital, has outlived revolutions and changes of dynasties. Even the Reign of Terror left it untouched. It was but quite recently struck out of the Penal Code.
Nothing is more characteristic than the pretext for this bourgeois coup d’état. “Granting,” says Chapelier, the reporter of the Select Committee on this law, “that wages ought to be a little higher than they are, ... that they ought to be high enough for him that receives them, to be free from that state of absolute dependence due to the want of the necessaries of life, and which is almost that of slavery,” yet the workers must not be allowed to come to any understanding about their own interests, nor to act in common and thereby lessen their “absolute dependence, which is almost that of slavery;” because, forsooth, in doing this they injure “the freedom of their cidevant masters, the present entrepreneurs,” and because a coalition against the despotism of the quondam masters of the corporations is – guess what! – is a restoration of the corporations abolished by the French constitution. (Capital, MECW 35:730-731)

Bourgeois opposition to the attempts of workers to exert social control on production further reveals the practical contradiction between formal bourgeois freedom and the real freedom workers struggle for within capitalism, in struggles that necessarily point beyond capitalism for just this reason. While the capitalist defends “sacred” bourgeois freedom, he is at the same time also perfectly willing to defend the real unfreedom of the worker, the “complete subjection” of the laborer to capital.

https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ot/zizek1.htm
Here, Lenin’s reproach to liberals is crucial: they only EXPLOIT the working classes’ discontent to strengthen their position vis-a-vis the conservatives, instead of identifying with it to the end.52 Is this also not the case with today’s Left liberals? They like to evoke racism, ecology, workers’ grievances, etc., to score points over the conservatives WITHOUT ENDANGERING THE SYSTEM. Recall how, in Seattle, Bill Clinton himself deftly referred to the protesters on the streets outside, reminding the gathered leaders inside the guarded palaces that they should listen to the message of the demonstrators (the message which, of course, Clinton interpreted, depriving it of its subversive sting attributed to the dangerous extremists introducing chaos and violence into the majority of peaceful protesters). It’s the same with all New Social Movements, up to the Zapatistas in Chiapas: the systemic politics is always ready to “listen to their demands,” depriving them of their proper political sting. The system is by definition ecumenical, open, tolerant, ready to “listen” to all — even if one insist on one’s demands, they are deprived of their universal political sting by the very form of negotiation. The true Third Way we have to look for is this third way between the institutionalized parliamentary politics and the new social movements.

The ultimate answer to the reproach that the radical Left proposals are utopian should thus be that, today, the true utopia is the belief that the present liberal-democratic capitalist consensus could go on indefinitely, without radical changes. We are thus back at the old ‘68 motto “Soyons realistes, demandons l'impossible!": in order to be truly a “realist,” one must consider breaking out of the constraints of what appears “possible” (or, as we usually out it, “feasible”).
#14857846
mikema63 wrote:transitioning towards socialism in a gradual process within existing political systems.
It's working in Canada, and many other countries. Pretending otherwise is a bit erroneous.
#14857894
It's working in Canada

After a fashion.

Even when a society [Canada] has got upon the right track for the discovery of the natural law of its evolution, it can neither clear by bold leaps, nor remove by legal enactments, the obstacles offered by the successive phases of its normal development. But it can shorten and lessen the birth-pangs... The process of revolution will take more brutal or more human forms, according to the degree of development of the workers.

Marx, preface to Das Kapital
#14858141
To be more succinct, I wonder if a general distinction may be found in the idea of whether there are problems inherent to capitalism that cause its periodic crisis or whether it can be fine tuned to work more smoothly so that recurring disruptions are adequately managed.
Many were able to seem the very same issues that Marx did, but retained an optimism that it could be improved so that the irrationality of Capitalism could be overcome whilst effectively retaining capitalist production. But it seems to me that the impact of Marx's criticism is that there is an inherent irrationality to capitalist production and as such will always tend to crisis destructive to people and their needs/wants.
That the great productive power developed under capitalism is certainly admirable, but it is poorly put to use for it's potential to satisfy human needs/wants because it's necessarily for profit.
The scarcity of the modern world is not one of natural limitation of production as it was under feudalism, it's an artificial/social one, a point which Marx is said to have shown in his critique. Because if capitalism were simply the best system of organizing resources. Then a critique of it being overcome would be difficult and it would make sense to put faith more in technology or something perhaps.
But the homeless, starving and sick aren't dying strictly for what society lacks but because of what they are deprived of.
#14860093
Wait! It can work! It has, and it is.

Under feudalism, toward the end, serfs often became so discouraged about faming for the lord that they would run away. They would run to the city and look for opportunities to do work in exchange for food, shelter, etc. Those with skills, like blacksmiths, would open a shop and trade work for what they needed. Bit by bit the trend grew and was refined. This was the birth of capitalism.

Today, socialism is being established in a similar way. Workers find opportunities to collectively own and run co-ops. There is a network of supports, new legislation, and a body of knowledge that is developing. Study into the Mondragon Corporation in Spain. It is 60 years old, has about 80,000 workers in 4 countries, has its own university and bank, and each worker has one vote on company matters. No one else has any vote. Workers hire and fire the CEO and Board members. And the highest-paid top executive earns no more than 8.5 times what the lowest-paid worker earns according to the rules laid out in the Articles of Incorporation.

Bill S.1082 was recently submitted in the Senate and bill HR.2357 in the House to promote and incentivize worker-owned coops. There is little resistance to this because the right sees it as the formation of a corporation. And there are already over 1,000 such worker-owned co-ops in the USA today. And like in the beginning days of capitalism, most of these new businesses are small with the exception of Mondragon.

So how does this fit into Marxism? Marx said that the economy of a country is the foundation from which all else, -culture, politics, judicial system, the body of laws, -everything, springs. They rise in service to the foundation. So when the state is seized in violent revolution, it is attempting to reverse Marx's analysis, saying that the economy will spring from the political machine. But when worker co-ops are established, it is forming socialist economy right here, right now. And as it catches on, sympathetic politicians will emerge and more legislation will be developed to support and incentivize the effort. The new state will form gradually as the new economy forms gradually, and that state will develop in service to the economic base that is developing, much as it did as capitalism emerged.
#14860320
Evolutionary socialism is possible to create. The trouble with evolutionary socialism is maintaining it, since the capitalists will come and kill you. This happened in Chile with Salvador Allende, while in Cuba, Castro used violence to safeguard the revolution. Because of this, it seems obvious that violence is necessary for socialism, or at least the threat of it is, even if violence is not needed to create socialism. It requires arming the entire populace, or at least enough of it to make it impossible for foreign governments to instigate some sort of counter revolutionary movement. This, in turn, requires widespread and (if necessary) militant support of socialism.

In modern western countries, there is no widespread socialist movement, revolutionary or otherwise. Also, the conditions that would lead to revolution are not present anywhere in the developed west. So people who argue that violence is the only possible option have restricted their options to the point that they are no longer envisioning real plans that can actually move things forward.

The way I see it, any action directly threatening the capitalist system will be met with overwhelming violent resistance. On the other hand, any action that is not seen as directly threatening will be ignored.

Putting these two facts together, we can logically conclude that socialists must focus on indirect actions that will put us in a better position in the future and promote widespread support for socialism.

Neither revolutionary socialism nor evolutionary socialism is inherently better. Both are required for creating actual communism. The choice of which to use depends on hostorical and material conditions.
#14860324
I watched the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union. Knew and worked with many ex-communists. Even knew a guy who had been a party spy and informant. There was always 1 thing they all had in common. Self-serving greed. The idea that people can operate for the betterment of a society, without any personal benefit, is horse-chips. Greed killed the Soviet Union, and it'll eventually kill Capitalism too.
#14860360
I think that characterization of the origins of say capitalism in England is a pretty light handed way of summarizing it, that lacks the characteristics of primitive accumulation which actually displaced those agricultural workers via enclosing.
To which a surplus of such workers is a necessary condition but not a sufficient one for capitalism.

Marx does emphasize that in resisting capitalism, a solidarity is necessarily developed.
http://isj.org.uk/marxism-and-ethics/
"When communist workmen gather together, their immediate aim is instruction, propaganda, etc. But at the same time, they acquire a new need—the need for society—and what appears as a means has become an end. This practical development can be most strikingly observed in the gatherings of French socialist workers. Smoking, eating, and drinking, etc, are no longer means of creating links between people. Company, association, conversation, which in turn has society as its goal, is enough for them. The brotherhood of man is not a hollow phrase, it is a reality, and the nobility of man shines forth upon us from their work worn figures.91"

By forming and being active within trade unions and working class political parties, workers create institutions through which they change themselves. Working together in such institutions becomes a day to day practice that both presupposes the need for solidarity and engenders a spirit of solidarity within the working class. The virtues or character traits that are thus promoted stand in direct opposition to the competitive individualism of the capitalist marketplace.


But he is critical of Co-ops in terms that they do not undermine the law of value of the capitalist market.
http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/10867/1/VWills_ETD_2011.pdf
Marx has no shortage of arguments for why it is Utopian to propose that commodity exchange could be the economic basis for what Mill would recognize as more just relations of distribution. “Co-operative enterprises,” producing and exchanging commodities within a market economy, it must be said, are capitalist firms, and if they are to survive at all, they must operate in ways that are determined by the same economic laws of competition and supply and demand that, as Marx devotes so much attention to arguing, have had and continue to have a destructive social effect which must be overcome. This is the point of Marx’s numerous critiques of the capitalist Robert Owen and the production of workers’ co-operative enterprises as a way to be rid of the negative aspects of capitalism. It is not as though Marx were unaware that this was being proposed125; but he is less than sanguine about the prospects because of cases like this one:

Equitable Labour Exchange Bazaars or Offices (the name is given in English in the German original) were founded by the workers' co-operative societies in various towns of England in 1832. This movement was headed by Robert Owen, who founded such a bazaar in London. The products of labour at these bazaars were exchanged for a kind of paper "money" issued as labour "tickets", a working hour being the unit. These bazaars were an attempt by the Utopians to organise exchange without money in the conditions of capitalist commodity production and soon proved to be a failure. (MECW 8:135)

Co-operative enterprises within a system of capitalist commodity production have been attempted, but they have remained small experiments and have not shown themselves to be likely candidates as roads to socialism. What J. S. Mill leaves fixed, even by Cohen’s lights, are features of the capitalist mode of production which Marx argues must be abolished if a rational distribution of goods is to be achieved.

So perhaps the benefit of co-ops could be argued in terms of the activity of workers creating solidarity, but this in itself doesn't lead to an emergent socialist society but still needs to be pushed further.
The way to socialism is to make overcome the alienated form of labor, where labor becomes directly social.
Anything that doesn't undermine this will necessarily fail to realize socialism as far as I can tell.
#14860369
I've always found the alienation from labor thing the least compelling part of Marxism. It's just idle chatter about feelings towards whatever it is that you do in the economy. Two people in exactly the same labor situation can have directly opposite feelings about their relationships to their labors and both would be just as true.

Someone believing or feeling that their labor is external to themselves isn't something that is really true or false.

I also don't see why it is moral or immoral one way or another. People can find personal meaning in life from just about anything and I see no reason why it must or should be from their labor in the economy. And I also don't see why it can't be from their labor in a capitalist economy.

Either way the labor, the value of the product, your relationship to it, and your enjoyment or lack thereof is all an abstraction anyway. Adding or removing layers of abstraction between the laborer, product, and consumer don't seem to change anything meaningful to me.
#14860413
mikema63 wrote:I've always found the alienation from labor thing the least compelling part of Marxism. It's just idle chatter about feelings towards whatever it is that you do in the economy. Two people in exactly the same labor situation can have directly opposite feelings about their relationships to their labors and both would be just as true.

Someone believing or feeling that their labor is external to themselves isn't something that is really true or false.

I also don't see why it is moral or immoral one way or another. People can find personal meaning in life from just about anything and I see no reason why it must or should be from their labor in the economy. And I also don't see why it can't be from their labor in a capitalist economy.

Either way the labor, the value of the product, your relationship to it, and your enjoyment or lack thereof is all an abstraction anyway. Adding or removing layers of abstraction between the laborer, product, and consumer don't seem to change anything meaningful to me.

I don't think Marx's sense of alienation is reducible to the 'eugh work sucks', as it doesn't dissipate because someone likes their work. The alienation he theorizes seems more inherent to our relations than merely feelings, though feelings can of course be involved in the experiencing of such alienation.
Which I think ties in well with your assertion of finding personal meaning which seems to be the response I perceive from existentialists.

And I think to approach it that first need to engage with Marx's sense of human nature and the idea of how that which is ill fitted to the nature of a thing is wrong (a kind of naturalistic morality/Marx adopts a kind of Epicurean morality I think). Is likely don't have such a view, as Marx is rather hostile to those that would emphasize the ascetic sentiment in regards to us as real existing beings that as human beings have real needs and wants which aren't to be greedily satisfied but is morally just to fulfill such needs to which capitalism fails to satisfy the true potential of our human nature.
http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/10867/1/VWills_ETD_2011.pdf
2.2 Alienation
Alienation, in its most basic form, is a condition in which human existence takes on a character that is at odds with human nature. Otherwise put, in alienation, human appearance is not reconciled with human essence. Although human beings are essentially social beings who produce their own existence through conscious, purposive activity in the labor process, when human beings are alienated from their essence, this process in which they consciously and purposively direct and produce their own existence is frustrated. Human beings' products— material, social, and intellectual—take on a foreign and hostile character. Instead of furthering human aims, in alienation, human aims are thwarted by their own products. The products seem to exist independently, as though their emergence and development were not determined by human activity. The fact that these things have been produced through human activity, and can be controlled and directed through that activity, is partly or entirely obscured.
...
While Marx describes a subjective experience of alienation in labor under capitalism, it is important to emphasize that alienation is not merely subjective. It is an objective relationship between human beings and their essential nature as social beings who produce their own existence through the labor process. In alienation, this relationship is inverted and disturbed. The worker's subjective experience of alienation from his own essence as a conscious and freely active being is born out of the real condition in which his activity is not his own.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/fromm/works/1961/man/ch04.htm
Corresponding to his concept of the wealthy man is Marx's view of the difference between the sense of having and the sense of being. "Private property," he says, "has made us so stupid and partial that an object is only ours when we have it, when it exists for us as capital or when it is directly eaten, drunk, worn, inhabited, etc., in short, utilized in some way. Although private property itself only conceives these various forms of possession as means of life, and the life for which they serve as means is the life of private property -- labor and creation of capital. Thus all the physical and intellectual senses have been replaced by the simple alienation of all these senses; the sense of having. The human being had to be reduced to this absolute poverty in order to be able to give birth to all his inner wealth." [50]

Marx recognized that the science of capitalistic economy, despite its worldly and pleasure-seeking appearance, "is a truly moral science, the most moral of all sciences. Its principal thesis is the renunciation of life and of human needs. The less you eat, drink, buy books, go to the theatre or to balls, or to the public house [ Br., pub], and the less you think, love, theorize, sing, paint, fence, etc., the more you will be able to save and the greater will become your treasure which neither moth nor rust will corrupt -- your capital. The less you are, the less you express your life, the more you have, the greater is your alienated life and the greater is the saving of your alienated being. Everything which the economist takes from you in the way of life and humanity, he restores to you in the form of money and wealth. And everything which you are unable to do, your money can do for you; it can eat, drink, go to the ball and to the theatre. It can acquire art, learning, historical treasures, political power; and it can travel. It can appropriate all these things for you, can purchase everything; it is the true opulence. But although it can do all this, it only desires to create itself, and to buy itself, for everything else is subservient to it. When one owns the master, one also owns the servant, and one has no need of the master's servant. Thus all passions and activities must be submerged in avarice. The worker must have just what is necessary for him to want to live, and he must want to live only in order to have this." [51]

A longer passage but a great fucking book, I strongly recommend. About 200+ pages, but does a nice run down of political economists such as Adam Smith, David Ricardo in conjunction with Marx. Then goes onto the marginalist 'revolution' which took a different preoccupation to the political economists and became highly abstracted from the real world and become but a idealization of the capitalist economy for which the real existing economy was to be compared to. Then goes into sociology of how it emerged out of the restriction of the economy to being a 'science' fo economics and not able to infer any political or moral points, which sociology had to pick up. To which it needed to be situated in such a way that it complimented economics as its own discpline and how Max Webber and others produced dualities/contradictions in trying to reconcile a sense of capitalism as rational with the destructive trends observed 'along' with capitalism.
http://libcom.org/files/marx,%20marginalism%20and%20modern%20sociology%20-%20clarke.pdf
See 'Alienated labour and the critique of money' for great elaboration.
Alienation is not simply an ideological or psychological phenomenon, through which the power of private property is concealed behind the things which are the substance of that property, to be overcome by the acquisition of a true consciousness of class exploitation. In a capitalist society things really do have the power attributed to them by the alienated consciousness. What has to be understood is not who is hidden behind the mask of the commodity, but how commodities acquire social powers as the alienated power of social labour. This is why it is only on the basis of the analysis of the commodity-form that it is possible to understand the more developed forms of private property, in particular money and capital.

Yet to read it myself, but I hear this is a pivotal paper in that it's here that Marx seems to first speak of non-alienated labor. But useful in seeing some of his points in regards to alienation.
Comments on James Mill


To which I think one should note the immorality of the system that necessarily drives deprivation, since it's rise capitalism has maintained the existence of such abundance and simultaneously intense poverty.
Though this is a distinction in view really, as the poverty of the world is seen as inevitable even though we do not exist in times of natural scarcity but instead artificial scarcity of the market that meets profit before human need.
https://www.nyu.edu/projects/ollman/docs/why_exams.php
The psychologist, Bill Livant, has remarked, "When a liberal sees a beggar, he says the system isn't working. When a Marxist does, he says it is".

We imbue commodities with a power that is in fact our own int he same way people imbue God with their own qualities and forget he is a creation of ourselves in our own image as opposed to creator of us. Money, or commodities function in a similar alienation of consciousness (as Marx used Feuerbach's critique of Christianity, I think in his idea of commodity fetishism).
The wealth of humanity is seen in commodities, it becomes a property of things, to which we are alienated from.
This applies to everyone, it's not just the worker, the capitalists class is just as alienated and dumbfounded by capitalism, they don't run the show. They feel just as run by the markets as workers though their experience of alienation does differ due to their relation.
It's not just my job sucks but the very nature of humans is for many people reduced to that of an animal, bare subsistence.
http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/10867/1/VWills_ETD_2011.pdf
Labor, Marx thinks, is in reality the essence of free human activity and a process through which human nature can be fully realized. However, under capitalism, labor is so odious that the worker performs labor only because through the sale of his labor-power he can satisfy his private needs. Insofar as the worker's labor-power is not his own, and belongs to a foreign power (the capitalist), labor appears as a denial and a sacrifice of the worker's existence, and as something to be studiously avoided whenever possible.

Because labor takes on such an unattractive character, instead of recognizing the labor process as the essence of human activity, workers feel that they are truly themselves and truly human only when they are at leisure or satisfying those needs which they have in common with animals.

As a result, therefore, man (the worker) only feels himself freely active in his animal functions – eating, drinking, procreating, or at most in his dwelling and in dressing-up, etc.; and in his human functions he no longer feels himself to be anything but an animal. What is animal becomes human and what is human becomes animal.
Certainly eating, drinking, procreating, etc., are also genuinely human functions. But taken abstractly, separated from the sphere of all other human activity and turned into sole and ultimate ends, they are animal functions. (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, MECW 3:275)

In the Introduction to this study, I discussed the distinction between natural being and social being. Insofar as humans are natural, biological beings, they have their natural needs more or less in common with other mammals. Their biological make-up is such that in order for the human species to persist and to flourish, human beings must have their biological needs for food, water, housing, and so on, satisfied, and they must continue to propagate themselves as a species through sexual reproduction. Human beings are distinct from other natural beings, however, in that they satisfy these natural needs socially, through the labor process. Human beings, through socially mediated labor, intervene consciously and purposively into their environments in order to satisfy their natural needs and in so doing, transform both their environments and themselves, produce new forms of social interaction, and develop new powers and in turn, new social, historically arisen needs. They produce themselves not merely as natural, but also as social beings. In unalienated labor, human beings recognize this continual process of satisfying social, historically arisen needs and developing new powers as an end in itself, the realization of human beings' essential nature as natural and social beings who satisfy their needs through labor.

The above description reminding me of this article.
This Is Why Poor People’s Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense

We are ruled by commodities instead of ruling them consciously ourselves, and its through this irrationality that we have so much yet so many have so little. It's why there are human needs which could be addressed but aren't. Why many have an incredibly reduced existence. The alienation is an expression of the inhumanity of the capitalist system to the nature of humans, it must go less we erase ourselves.
We emphasize the exchange value of things over their use-value, because capitalism is abstract in a real sense not in a subjective sense. Many literally ignore the reality, the commodity fetishism I've seen in people dismissing discussing things because all things are merely exchanges of money for services and products and so what's so wrong with one type of labor over another. This is the sort of thinking people take as reality and internalize the inhumanity of the capitalist economy and value little beyond it because in a very real sense this is the characteristic of their existence.
And the statement about it all just being an abstraction (which reminds me of my distaste for British empiricists that treat subjectivity as if it were superfluous and then posits a inadequate epistemology (theory of correspondence/reality as mirror)) epitomizes what I think is wrong with many of us today, we are walking dead. Our being is instead within commodities, nothing means anything except the money relation.
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch01.htm
capitalism has...
has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation.

Nothing matters in capitalism except it's own function.

But back on point, in the end, you don't escape alienation through wishy thinking. Rather it's inherent to the state of our societies and how they function. It exists in spite of any subjectivity, it's part of our relations/reality.
#14860437
I'm going to just do some general thoughts here.

But back on point, in the end, you don't escape alienation through wishy thinking. Rather it's inherent to the state of our societies and how they function. It exists in spite of any subjectivity, it's part of our relations/reality.


My main point is that the relationship you have with your labor is abstract in any case. Marx is offering up a difference that doesn't really matter one way or another in any apparently fundamental way here except that the feelings of the laborer towards their labor is impacted.

Arguments that different methods of labor would be better in various ways, or have better outcomes, or better power dynamics, or whatever else I get but this vague concept of abstract alienation from an abstract relationship between a laborer, labor, commodity, and consumer within the framework of our abstract relationship to society at large simply is to "philosophical" (for lack of a better word to describe my sense of it) to be compelling.

I feel the same way about this that I do reading the allegory of the cave or some such airy speculation about forms or whatever, it seems to be speculation past a point I'm willing to follow without supporting evidence.

The reason I have to reduce it to peoples actual feelings about stuff is that beyond that it simply doesn't matter to me, anymore than it would matter to me if there was a perfect abstract form for labor that we are all failing to live up to.

Which I think ties in well with your assertion of finding personal meaning which seems to be the response I perceive from existentialists.


I quite like the existentialists, it ties into my worldview pretty well generally.

We imbue commodities with a power that is in fact our own int he same way people imbue God with their own qualities and forget he is a creation of ourselves in our own image as opposed to creator of us. Money, or commodities function in a similar alienation of consciousness (as Marx used Feuerbach's critique of Christianity, I think in his idea of commodity fetishism).


The issue here is that power in this sense doesn't come from an individual it comes from us collectively. We didn't forget that money has power it has power because society does, but this too is an abstraction. If we all stopped "imbuing" society with power it would collapse, but we can't and it wont because we are fundamentally social animals constrained by our own biology and psychology.

We aren't rational creatures tricked into fetishisticly imbuing power onto object, we are irrational animals who survive by collectively hallucinating meaning and order on a pointless existence and universe.

The wealth of humanity is seen in commodities, it becomes a property of things, to which we are alienated from.


Wealth doesn't exist outside of human fetisization of things with value, and value is a collective hallucination of humanity. We have no more objective value than a rock floating in the void between galaxies.

This applies to everyone, it's not just the worker, the capitalists class is just as alienated and dumbfounded by capitalism, they don't run the show. They feel just as run by the markets as workers though their experience of alienation does differ due to their relation.

Society is and will always be larger than any person. Communism doesn't solve this. No matter how we organize production everyone will always feel like they are a cog in a vast an innexplicable system because we are all cogs in our vast shared hallucinations about reality.

It's not just my job sucks but the very nature of humans is for many people reduced to that of an animal, bare subsistence


That's what we are fundamentally though. A human being stripped of all the abstraction we and society imbue ourselves with are just animals getting by and procreating because the historical forces of earth caused replicating chemical reactions to start having delusions of grandeur. Capitalism, communism, socialism, fuedalism, tribalism, and whatever else are just systems of abstractions we've layered onto the bare truth of what we are. Disposable Somatic cells protecting our reproductive bits.

We are ruled by commodities instead of ruling them consciously ourselves, and its through this irrationality that we have so much yet so many have so little.


We aren't ruled by commodities, we are ruled by society. Society in one case imbues commodities and production with a certain value. Societies in another case imbue power onto the aristocracy. In another onto the bureaucracy. Onto another the syndicate.

We are always ruled by our relationship with the rest of society which is mediated through our economies and access to material goods yes, but by no means is some shift in our methods of production and allocation of resources represent conscious control over commodities. We are all still caught in the web of control of society regardless.

We emphasize the exchange value of things over their use-value, because capitalism is abstract in a real sense not in a subjective sense. Many literally ignore the reality, the commodity fetishism I've seen in people dismissing discussing things because all things are merely exchanges of money for services and products and so what's so wrong with one type of labor over another. This is the sort of thinking people take as reality and internalize the inhumanity of the capitalist economy and value little beyond it because in a very real sense this is the characteristic of their existence.


Use value is just as abstract a thing as exchange value. Someone or some group of people say what use value is, it doesn't exist outside of society. It's contingent on a bunch of different socially valued things in the web of values and abstractions created by society with no clear beginning or end. Unless everything is reduced to the ends of our bare human subsistence as animals there is nothing to hinge use value on that makes it compellingly more or less real than exchange value. Indeed even then there isn't really any fundamental reason for our continued existence to be a value except that we irrationally want it because we just do.

Nothing matters in capitalism except it's own function.


Nothing matters to humanity except what we pretend matters. We are animals compelled by the uncaring and unforgiving blind drive of biology beyond our control. Forever.

But back on point, in the end, you don't escape alienation through wishy thinking. Rather it's inherent to the state of our societies and how they function. It exists in spite of any subjectivity, it's part of our relations/reality.


It's subjectivity all the way down.
#14860475
Wellsy wrote:"Marx has no shortage of arguments for why it is Utopian to propose that commodity exchange could be the economic basis for what Mill would recognize as more just relations of distribution. “Co-operative enterprises,” producing and exchanging commodities within a market economy, it must be said, are capitalist firms, and if they are to survive at all, they must operate in ways that are determined by the same economic laws of competition and supply and demand that, as Marx devotes so much attention to arguing, have had and continue to have a destructive social effect which must be overcome. This is the point of Marx’s numerous critiques of the capitalist Robert Owen and the production of workers’ co-operative enterprises as a way to be rid of the negative aspects of capitalism. It is not as though Marx were unaware that this was being proposed125; but he is less than sanguine about the prospects because of cases like this one:

Equitable Labour Exchange Bazaars or Offices (the name is given in English in the German original) were founded by the workers' co-operative societies in various towns of England in 1832. This movement was headed by Robert Owen, who founded such a bazaar in London. The products of labour at these bazaars were exchanged for a kind of paper "money" issued as labour "tickets", a working hour being the unit. These bazaars were an attempt by the Utopians to organise exchange without money in the conditions of capitalist commodity production and soon proved to be a failure. (MECW 8:135)

Co-operative enterprises within a system of capitalist commodity production have been attempted, but they have remained small experiments and have not shown themselves to be likely candidates as roads to socialism. What J. S. Mill leaves fixed, even by Cohen’s lights, are features of the capitalist mode of production which Marx argues must be abolished if a rational distribution of goods is to be achieved."

I don't feel this applies today. First, co-ops today are not trading for other goods, and they are not trying to float their own "currency". They utilize the money/currency of their nation as any business does. But they are organized very differently to eliminate a profit motive. Members each typically own one share of company stock, and only one share. No one but members may own shares and those shares entitle the member to one vote per issue voted on. Shares are not marketable to the public but are bought and sold with the company, itself, being one of the two in the transaction. And as to size, review the many articles and videos available on Mondragon. One video shows their cutting-edge high tech solar panel manufacturing process. They are big enough to have their own university and their own bank and are the 7th largest business in Spain. So size need not be a problem.
#14860503
mikema63 wrote:I'm going to just do some general thoughts here.

My main point is that the relationship you have with your labor is abstract in any case. Marx is offering up a difference that doesn't really matter one way or another in any apparently fundamental way here except that the feelings of the laborer towards their labor is impacted.

Arguments that different methods of labor would be better in various ways, or have better outcomes, or better power dynamics, or whatever else I get but this vague concept of abstract alienation from an abstract relationship between a laborer, labor, commodity, and consumer within the framework of our abstract relationship to society at large simply is to "philosophical" (for lack of a better word to describe my sense of it) to be compelling.

I feel the same way about this that I do reading the allegory of the cave or some such airy speculation about forms or whatever, it seems to be speculation past a point I'm willing to follow without supporting evidence.

The reason I have to reduce it to peoples actual feelings about stuff is that beyond that it simply doesn't matter to me, anymore than it would matter to me if there was a perfect abstract form for labor that we are all failing to live up to.


Then, I don't think I can be compelling because Marx whilst able to be highly abstract is also rather concrete, he moves between the two and ends up with 'concrete abstractions'.
https://kapitalism101.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/abstraction-abstract-labor-and-ilyenkov/
If we are free to select one general feature over another we can radically change the concept of capital. If we choose only the ahistorical features we can make capital seem eternal. If abstraction is just seen as the identification of general features then we have no choice but to be arbitrary in our abstractions. But if abstraction is seen differently, as identifying the essential nature of an object, as identifying the “relation within which this thing is this thing” as Ilenkov puts it, then we can be scientific about our abstractions. When we make an abstraction we want to select that aspect of the object which identifies its essence. Since the essence of things is in their relation to other things, we want to identify the essential relations which govern the object, abstracting away other non-essential aspects.

It is through this that Marx is able to identify that the universal/essence of human nature is through labor, that all the particularities of human history are underpinned by labor.
To which some handy resources to see the criticism of 'old logic' and how Marx, as influenced by Hegelianism moves past its limitations.
https://www.marxists.org/archive/ilyenkov/works/articles/universal.htm
http://69.195.124.91/~brucieba/2014/04/16/ilyenkovs-dialectic-of-the-abstract-and-the-concrete-ii/
https://www.marxists.org/archive/ilyenkov/works/abstract/abstra1e.htm
Where as you seem to posit his view as superfluous and on equal terms with any abstraction (Plato's cave) where as from my understanding the great boon of Marx's means is that it isn't one sidedly abstract of empirical, as he rejects the duality.
Marx starts from the real existing world in it's chaotic form and seeks to investigate it in such a way as to identify essential relations, abstracting from them the inessential, he is able to identify real world relations dubbed as 'concrete abstractions'.
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch01.htm#loc3
If I were to begin with the population, this would be a chaotic conception of the whole, and I would then, by means of further determination, move analytically towards ever more simple concepts, from the imagined concrete towards ever thinner abstractions until I had arrived at the simplest determinations. From there the journey would have to be retraced until I had arrived at the population again, but this time not as the chaotic conception of a whole, but as a rich totality of many determinations and relations.

The fact that everyone abstracts is no basis on which to reject anything and I think merely avoids finding the distinctions between abstractions in making them equally absurd based on being abstractions rather than exploring what distinguishes one abstraction as more valid from another.
It seems as if you reject the sense in which alienation isn't a property strictly of the mind, but of reality.
And that you reduce it to feelings and seemingly superfluos makes me think you're limited by the same things as the British empiricists.
http://69.195.124.91/~brucieba/2014/04/13/ilyenkovs-dialectic-of-the-abstract-and-the-concrete-i/

I strongly suspect your philosophical assumptions entail the same 'silly' materialism from that day and age.
https://www.marxists.org/subject/marxmyths/jordan/article2.htm

This may not encompass your view entirely, but I do think it reasonable enough to boldly assert such overlap so you can react to this assertion, see how much of yourself you see within British empiricism the implications from it. I would suggest inquiring into the distinction between form and content and how the two are actually inseparable (https://www.marxists.org/archive/pilling/works/capital/pilling2.htm#Pill2), which I suspect overlaps with the British empiricist vs Continental rationalist debates/divide.

I quite like the existentialists, it ties into my worldview pretty well generally.

They have some interesting work but I worry that their solution to a sense of meaninglessness doesn't effectively resolve the issue. Though they were also a product of their times as much as their conditions.


The issue here is that power in this sense doesn't come from an individual it comes from us collectively. We didn't forget that money has power it has power because society does, but this too is an abstraction. If we all stopped "imbuing" society with power it would collapse, but we can't and it wont because we are fundamentally social animals constrained by our own biology and psychology.

We aren't rational creatures tricked into fetishisticly imbuing power onto object, we are irrational animals who survive by collectively hallucinating meaning and order on a pointless existence and universe.

Society wouldn't collapse if people come to disbelieve, this is a necessary but not sufficient condition.
It's a necessarily step but removing people's sense of value inherent within an object itself rather than constituted by social relations, would not suffice. It wouldn't collapse society, if only it were so easy to tear back the ideological veil and boom, problem solved. Except that part is just an obscurity but the obscurity has a very real existence, money does have value, just not inherently within itself. It is maintained no matter your beliefs as our beliefs do not constitute the nature of reality, as that reality of money's value is maintained objectively. I think your sense of the universe as meaningless, which in some sense I could agree with as reality is indifferent to us, but the alienation that prevails most intensely under capitalism isn't something inherent to reality but historically particular. Of course we are required to insert meaning but its very real, just as an alienated god was very real during feudalism. The task though is that if one overcomes capitalism and its alienated forms of labor, we would presumably have actually overcome alienation and made things directly conscious. Religion nor commodities would be imbued with many characteristics that obscure the real relations of people. The market directs out societies as opposed to us directing them, it isn't saying one can't rationally be aware of the relations between people, but that the real relations of peoples are necessarily obscured in our actual functioning of society.
https://kapitalism101.wordpress.com/2010/05/05/the-law-of-value-2-the-fetishism-of-commodities/
Now let’s look outside the workplace at the market. In the market things are different. The organization of work, the division of labor, doesn’t happen through direct social relations between people. In the market the products of labor confront each other as commodities with values. These interactions between things act back upon production. They are what send signals to producers to change their labor, to produce more, produce less, go out of business, expand business, etc.

Coal miners, bakers, carpenters and chefs don’t directly relate to each other as workers. Instead the products of their labor, coal, bread, cabinets and pasta, meet in the market and are exchanged with one another. The material relations between people become social relations between things. When we look at coal, bread, cabinets and pasta we don’t see the work that created them. We just see commodities standing in relation of value to each other. A pile of coal’s value is worth so many loaves of bread. A cabinet’s value is worth so much pasta. The value, the social power of the object, appears to be a property of the object itself, not a result of the relation between workers.
...
We are atomized individuals wandering through a world of objects that we consume. When we buy a commodity we are just having an experience between ourselves and the commodity. We are blind to the social relations behind these interactions. Even if we consciously know that there is a network of social relations being coordinated through this world of commodities, we have no way of experiencing these relations directly because… they are not direct relations. We can only have an isolated intellectual knowledge of these social relations, not a direct relation. Every economic relation is mediated by an object called a commodity.

This process whereby the social relations between people take the form of relations between things Marx calls “reification”. Reification helps explain why it is that in a capitalist society things appear to take on the characteristics of people. Inanimate objects spring to life endowed with a “value” that seems to come from the object itself. We say a book is worth 20 dollars, a sweater worth 25 dollars. But this value doesn’t come from the sweater itself. You can’t cut open the sweater and find $25 inside. This $25 is an expression of the relation between this sweater and all of the other commodities in the market. And these commodities are just the material forms of a social labor process coordinated through market exchange. It is because people organize their labor through the market that value exists.

The illusion that value comes from the commodity itself and not from the social relations behind it is a “fetish”. A capitalist society is full of such illusions. Money appears to have god-like qualities, yet this is only so because it is an object which is used to express the value of all other commodities. Profit appears to spring out of exchange itself, yet Marx worked hard to explain how profit actually originates in production through the unequal relations between capital and labor in the workplace. Rent appears to grow out of the soil, yet Marx was adamant that rent actually comes from the appropriation of value created by labor. We see these fetishistic ideas in modern day mainstream economic theory in the idea that value comes from the subjective experience between a consumer and a commodity, and that capital creates value by itself.


https://www.cla.purdue.edu/english/theory/marxism/modules/marxfetishism.html

Our very notions of how our society runs is a testament to the maintenance of the illusion, which even in being explained doesn't disturb it in the slightest, the system and society still go on because it requires action to change the state of the world, not belief and contemplation.

As you might see in the above quote, the idea that the value of things is subjective is part of the idea of commodity fetishism. Which now that i think about it might explain why you seem to think society is so precarious, that if we didn't hallucinate the value the system would collapse. Except that value of objects isn't determined by subjective valuing of things and you would be good to look at Marxist critiques of economics to see how they make the abstract idealizations to hide the reality of capitalist relations and it's function.
The criticism being not for the use of abstractions but keeping them at the level of being highly abstract and not brought back into real world relations and also idealizations in presupposing things that are informed by real world relations but in a way that universalizes the particulars of a person under capitalism.
Actually, skip all this, I make another recommendation to read that Simon Clarke book.
Here's a summary of it: https://kapitalism101.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/marginal-futility-reflections-on-simon-clarkes-marx-marginalism-and-modern-sociology/
But might need to do some background stuff to get familiar with some of the assumptions/beliefs of Marxists.

Society is and will always be larger than any person. Communism doesn't solve this. No matter how we organize production everyone will always feel like they are a cog in a vast an innexplicable system because we are all cogs in our vast shared hallucinations about reality.

It is bigger than any one person, but size isn't the problem.
And perhaps your sense of hopelessness of changing things might be based on the pessimism of the failed Russian revolution.
http://libcom.org/files/marx,%20marginalism%20and%20modern%20sociology%20-%20clarke.pdf
However socialism, far from resolving the contradiction between the formal rationality and the substantive irrationality of modern society, threatens to develop this contradiction to its ultimate limits in supplanting the dominance of economic rationality by the dominance of bureaucratic rationality, sacrificing the economic rationality and relative political freedom of capitalism for the ultimate nightmare of a totalitarian bureaucratic tyranny

This being a summary of the socialist countries of the 20th century that didn't resolve alienation of labor and in practiced treated the issue as one of simply political change rather than a fundamentally economic one. Which was in part due to the backwardness of such countries and the failure to realize 'permanent revolution' across Europe.


That's what we are fundamentally though. A human being stripped of all the abstraction we and society imbue ourselves with are just animals getting by and procreating because the historical forces of earth caused replicating chemical reactions to start having delusions of grandeur. Capitalism, communism, socialism, fuedalism, tribalism, and whatever else are just systems of abstractions we've layered onto the bare truth of what we are. Disposable Somatic cells protecting our reproductive bits.

:eek:
Such reductionism, I think I really was on the money with the point about british empiricism and likely 'silly' materialism. Really Mike, have another Crack at Marx, it might be good for your psychological well being because this is just depressing to read :D
Because human nature isn't reducible to biological processes, what is neglected in this is what is picked up by active idealism. What is largely ignored is the social consciousness of humans that distinguishes them from an animal, one in which the contents is formed in conjunction with society.
https://www.marxists.org/archive/ilyenkov/works/ideal/ideal.htm

Marxism isn't reductionistic, and earlier I linked something where a fella goes on about Marx's Naturalism to exemplify how whilst Marx mentions being a materialist, is wasn't in the sense of many other materialist thinkers. And it might help offer the alternative perspective that is novel to the materialist vs idealist divide. Superior I believe.
One is unable to explain society if one resorted to describing biological mechanisms and speculated their correlation to observed activity. And such to say something comparable to say, love is just chemical reactions is to necessarily simply ignore observations and restrict what one considers the truth of things to a scale that is unable to explain the observable complexity of human society.
Sure there is biological drives, but man is not simply his drives, his drives are mediated socially and through his consciousness. But if humanity is to be reduced to the state of mere biological animal, then I guess it is difficult to see much of the poverty not just in basic needs but in ideas of human flourishing in the ideal of people cultivating themselves through an education of liberal arts or something.

We aren't ruled by commodities, we are ruled by society. Society in one case imbues commodities and production with a certain value. Societies in another case imbue power onto the aristocracy. In another onto the bureaucracy. Onto another the syndicate.

We are always ruled by our relationship with the rest of society which is mediated through our economies and access to material goods yes, but by no means is some shift in our methods of production and allocation of resources represent conscious control over commodities. We are all still caught in the web of control of society regardless.

Indeed, no single individual has such immense control but its also the case that we are being directed by markets in a way that is antagonistic to humans and they actual wants and this is treated a force of nature itself rather than something we can intervene in and change. The conscious part being that collectively humans can direct their labor and products to desired ends, rather than having humans directed by commodities and profitable ends irregardless of its consequences.
It is society that is beholden the the economy more than the economy to society, the evidence being the entire history of capitalism displacing all ways for its profit seeking.
Society couldn't with stand a strong capitalist class which then in its pursuit of profit largely transformed society to one defined by its market relations.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Transformation_(book)
Though I get from your perspective since value is simply subjective that its not markets that dictate.

Use value is just as abstract a thing as exchange value. Someone or some group of people say what use value is, it doesn't exist outside of society. It's contingent on a bunch of different socially valued things in the web of values and abstractions created by society with no clear beginning or end. Unless everything is reduced to the ends of our bare human subsistence as animals there is nothing to hinge use value on that makes it compellingly more or less real than exchange value. Indeed even then there isn't really any fundamental reason for our continued existence to be a value except that we irrationally want it because we just do.

Indeed, the use-value of a thing doesn't exist outside of society but I don't get this claim of mere abstractino, it sounds as if you would render all thought simply meaningless which would mean you have nothing to say because its all just abstraction.
But regardless of what you do or don't believe, a hammer isn't useless because the concept of use value exists a a concept. Which I think again, your sense of it just being an abstraction seems to be an emphasis on empirical entities as real and true things and not seeing how certain abstractions can correspond to real things about reality even if they don't have a referent in terms of an empirical object.
I imagine the difference again being an emphasis on relations between things in the real world.
http://eesenor.blogspot.com.au/2015/09/capitalism-marxism-nominalism.html
Now, Capitalism is plainly a Nominalist system, in which any group is no more than an association of members. But, despite its focus on groups, especially on Class, Marxism never abandons Nominalism, distinguished from Capitalism by conceiving individuals as related dialectically, rather than associatively.



Except what is valued doesn't emerge from nothing, but from the real world and it's relation. But before can get to that, would need to go through the task of seeing the materiality of consciousness.
https://isfp.co.uk/russian_thinkers/evald_ilyenkov.html

and the matter of how activity mediates the a passive materialism and active idealism to get the sense of how man transforms the world and is transformed by it also.
perhaps another Ilyenov would be good in his criticism of abstract labor for education not sufficing when a real concrete activity is required to learn about things, not their representations that lack their real world qualities.
https://www.marxists.org/archive/ilyenkov/works/activity/index.htm

Nothing matters to humanity except what we pretend matters. We are animals compelled by the uncaring and unforgiving blind drive of biology beyond our control. Forever.

Your view of humans is in poverty Mikey, humans whilst clearly being natural beings aren't reducible to that of animals for the reality of our consciousness. Which I think is perplexing to the materialism and empiricism I speculate in your world view.
Which is why...
It's subjectivity all the way down.

You need to get into some Marxist philosophy Mikey.
I suspect it might yet be the means for you to see the holy gospel of Marx ;)

Senter wrote:I don't feel this applies today. First, co-ops today are not trading for other goods, and they are not trying to float their own "currency". They utilize the money/currency of their nation as any business does. But they are organized very differently to eliminate a profit motive. Members each typically own one share of company stock, and only one share. No one but members may own shares and those shares entitle the member to one vote per issue voted on. Shares are not marketable to the public but are bought and sold with the company, itself, being one of the two in the transaction. And as to size, review the many articles and videos available on Mondragon. One video shows their cutting-edge high tech solar panel manufacturing process. They are big enough to have their own university and their own bank and are the 7th largest business in Spain. So size need not be a problem.

Just where do you think the profit motive is derived? Because I worry that you think there is just some inherent greed in capitalists rather than it being a necessity of markets to pursue profit less a company go under.
Companies like Mondragon are cool and all but I don't see how a co-op disrupts the law of value and somehow has them exist outside the same market forces that compel capitalists to seek profit and be competitive.
To get where I'm coming from, this might help.
https://kapitalism101.wordpress.com/2008/10/16/falling-rate-of-profit/
which if you don't share the same beliefs then it's understandable then why we might disagree in regards to the implications of co-ops leading to socialism.
#14860569
The fact is that some people do think differently about their relationship to work than how Marx said they should feel but those people are mentally ill. Some people think they are Napoleon or they think the sky is red not blue, or they think a whole range of mad stuff. We don't humour them we institutionalise them and they should be treated in exactly the same way in this case. Their delusions in no way invalidate the perfect science discovered by Marx.
#14860581
Wellsy wrote: Just where do you think the profit motive is derived? Because I worry that you think there is just some inherent greed in capitalists rather than it being a necessity of markets to pursue profit less a company go under.

No, you're right. Though we speak of greed, the mechanics of capitalism are sufficient for producing maximum profit. Imagine 3 companies each manufacturing PVC pipe. Each company must keep their stock prices up or they suffer financial difficulties and ultimately could fail. So they must keep stock prices high by keeping earnings high. They must increase the value of the company in various ways or one of the other 2 will out-do them and put them out of business. Competition requires increasing earnings and profits. And the Supreme Court has said that the first obligation of a corporation is to maximize profits. And that also translates into bigger compensation packages for the top executives and Board members.


Companies like Mondragon are cool and all but I don't see how a co-op disrupts the law of value and somehow has them exist outside the same market forces that compel capitalists to seek profit and be competitive.

Since they are run by the workers, the workers watch out for the workers and profits are not held as primary. People are. Example: in 60 years of operation, Mondragon has never laid off any members due to economic declines, recession, or other financial hardships. The member-workers have always voted to take cuts in pay so as to keep everyone employed once retained earnings ran out. When Fagor, the original "subsidiary" of Mondragon, failed due to market pressures, Mondragon found alternate employment for every worker at other branches.

Profits are not primary because they are not private "owner" profits. They belong to all the members and distributed according to the Articles of Incorporation based on a worker's earnings. And the members vote on how much of the retained earnings to keep as company assets for expansion, maintenance, and future needs, and how much to put aside for workers' "rainy day fund", and how much to distribute as "bonuses".

And BTW, employee-owned businesses have higher productivity, morale, sales and wages, according to analysts. Rutgers University, which has studied the topic extensively, has found that employee ownership boosted company productivity by an average of 4 percent, while profits went up 14 percent.

https://vtdigger.org/2017/05/17/senators-look-take-vermont-worker-owner-effort-nationwide/

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