Alain de Benoist: A Critique of Liberal Ideology - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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#13352304
http://www.alaindebenoist.com/pdf/criti ... eology.pdf

Is there a general consensus on de Benoist being correct about what he's saying in this essay? Because to me he sounds like he's right on target. I'll lift some key quotes to entice you.

In “Critique of Liberal Ideology,” Alain de Benoist uses the term “liberalism” in the broad European sense of the term that applies not just to American liberalism but even more so to American libertarianism and mainstream conservatism, insofar as all three share a common history and common premises.


[...] the principle of equality and individuality—which initially functioned solely in the relationship with God and thus could still coexist with an organic and hierarchical principle structuring the social whole—was gradually brought down to earth, resulting in modern individualism, which represents its secular projection. “In order for modern individualism to be born,” writes Alain Renaut explicating the theses of Louis Dumont, it was necessary for the individualistic and universalist component of Christianity “to contaminate,” so to speak, modern life to such an extent that gradually its representations were unified, the initial dualism was erased, and “life in the world was reconceived as being able to conform completely to the supreme value”: at the end of this process, “the otherworldly individual became the modern worldly individual.” Organic society of the holist type then disappeared.


As for the market’s optimal operation, it requires that nothing obstruct the free circulation of men and goods, i.e., borders must be treated as unreal, which tends to dissolve common structures and values. Of course this does not mean that liberals can never defend collective identities. But they do so only in contradiction to their [own] principles.


Liberal freedom thus supposes that individuals can be abstracted from their origins, their environment, the context in which they live and where they exercise their choices, from everything, that is., that makes them who they are, and not someone else. It supposes, in other words, as John Rawls says, that the individual is always prior to his ends. Nothing, however, proves that the individual can apprehend himself as a subject free of any allegiance, free of any determinism. Moreover, nothing proves that in all circumstances he will prefer freedom over every other good. Such a conception by definition ignores commitments and attachment that owe nothing to rational calculation. It is a purely formal conception, that makes it impossible to understand what a real person is.


Liberal individualism tends everywhere to destroy direct sociability, which for a long time impeded the emergence of the modern individual and the collective identities that are associated with him. “Liberalism,” writes Pierre Rosanvallon, “to some extent makes the depersonalization of the world a condition of progress and freedom.”


Besides supporting the “mechanism” characteristic of liberal ideology, which is given a fundamental epistemological value, Marx himself adheres to a metaphysics of the individual, which led Michel Henry to see him as “one of the leading Christian thinkers of the Occident” (Michel Henry, Marx [Paris: Gallimard, 1991], vol. 2, 445). The reality of Marxist individualism, beyond its collectivist façade, was established by many authors, beginning with Louis Dumont. “Marx’s entire philosophy,” Pierre Rosanvallon writes, “can . . . be understood as an effort to enhance modern individualism. . . . The concept of class struggle itself has no meaning outside the framework of an individualistic representation of society. In a traditional society, by contrast, it has no significance” (Le libéralisme économique . Histoire de l'idée de marché , [Paris: Seuil, 1989] , 188- 89). Marx certainly challenged the fiction of Homo economicus that developed beginning in the eighteenth century, but only because the bourgeoisie used it to alienate the real individual and bind him to an existence narrowed to the sphere of self- interest alone. However, for Marx, self-interest is merely an expression of a separation between the individual and his life.


“The juggling act of the liberal ideology,” according to Caillé, “. . . resides in the identification of the legal state with the commercial state, its reduction to an emanation of the market. Consequently, the plea for the freedom of individuals to choose their own ends in reality turns into an obligation to have only commercial ends.


As a consequence of the market’s advent, “society,” as Karl Polanyi writes, “is managed as an auxiliary of the market. Instead of the economy being embedded in social relations, social relations are embedded in economic relations.


Sociology itself arose from real society’s resistance to political and institutional changes as well as those who invoked a “natural order” to denounce the formal and artificial character of the new mode of social regulation. For the first sociologists, the rise of individualism hatched a double fear: of “anomie” resulting from the disintegration of social bonds (Émile Durkheim) and of the “crowd” made up of atomized individuals suddenly brought together in an uncontrollable mass” (Gustave Le Bon or Gabriel Tarde, both of whom reduce the analysis of social facts to “psychology”).


While the nation- state supported and instituted the market, antagonism between liberalism and the “public sector” grew in tandem. Liberals never cease fulminating against the welfare state, without realizing that it is precisely the market’s extension that necessitates ever- increasing state intervention. The man whose labour is subject solely to the market’s play is indeed vulnerable, for his labor might find no takers or have no value. Modern individualism, moreover, destroyed the organic relations of proximity, which were above all relations of mutual aid and reciprocal solidarity, thus destroying old forms of social protection. While regulating supply and demand, the market does not regulate social relations, but on the contrary disorganizes them, if only because it does not take into account demands for which one cannot pay. The rise of the welfare state then becomes a necessity, since it is the only power able to correct the most glaring imbalances and attenuate the most obvious distresses.

This is why, as Karl Polanyi showed, every time liberalism appeared to triumph, it has been paradoxically assisted by the addition of official interventions necessitated by the damage to the social fabric caused by the logic of the market. “Without the relative social peace of the welfare state,” Alain Caillé observes, “the market order would have been swept away altogether.”


Liberal authors believe society can be based solely on individualism and market values. This is an illusion. Individualism has never been the sole foundation of social behaviour, and it never will be. There are also good reasons to think that individualism can appear only insofar as society remains to some extent holist. “Individualism,” writes Louis Dumont, “is unable to replace holism completely and reign over all society. . . . Moreover, it cannot function without holism contributing to its life in a variety of unperceived and surreptitious ways.”


The whole current crisis arises from the contradiction that is exacerbated between the ideal of the abstract universal man (with its corollary atomization and depersonalization of all social relationships) and the reality of the concrete man (for whom social ties continue to be founded on emotional ties and relations of proximity, along with their corollaries of cohesion, consensus, and reciprocal obligations).


Has he done a fantastic job here?
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By Potemkin
#13352515
Hammer, nail, head. BANG! :up:
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By Ash Faulkner
#13352579
Fantastic. And I love how communists and conservatives can all get together and lovingly agree on this - it's enough to make me well up with joy :p
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By Rei Murasame
#13352586
Yeah, it's almost a little eerie, both extremes of the spectrum dislike the Liberalism -- it's like some kind of sign that the criticism that Liberalism receives is indisputably warranted.

:cheers:
By Kman
#13352599
He sounds like a typical clueless intellectual snob.

Not gonna waste my time reading the work of a retard, I have more important things to do with my free time.

I will however rip apart his retarded logic in some of the quotes you provided Rei Murasame.

“The juggling act of the liberal ideology,” according to Caillé, “. . . resides in the identification of the legal state with the commercial state, its reduction to an emanation of the market. Consequently, the plea for the freedom of individuals to choose their own ends in reality turns into an obligation to have only commercial ends.”


Yeah so? work is a necessity for the continuation of life, typical commie talk that they want freedom from work because they are lazy cunts, its an impossible dream.

As a consequence of the market’s advent, “society,” as Karl Polanyi writes, “is managed as an auxiliary of the market. Instead of the economy being embedded in social relations, social relations are embedded in economic relations.”


**BEEP** WRONG, the market creates social relations and cohesion, it is the welfare state that seperates people from each other since it removes the neccesity of cooperation to achieve a decent standard of living. This effect can be seen in the welfare states of Europe which have had crashing birth rates since the introduction of the welfare state, this is partly to blame on the fact that being social is no longer a requirement in Europe, you can just abandon the community and survive alone on welfare checks.

As for the market’s optimal operation, it requires that nothing obstruct the free circulation of men and goods, i.e., borders must be treated as unreal, which tends to dissolve common structures and values. Of course this does not mean that liberals can never defend collective identities. But they do so only in contradiction to their [own] principles.


Perfect free trade will probably never be achieved but even when it is imperfect it still functions vastly better than protectionism that shelters domestic industry from competition and hence the demand for them to become efficient.
The whole bullshit about it disintegrating ''common structures and values'' is a load of hot air.

Liberal freedom thus supposes that individuals can be abstracted from their origins, their environment, the context in which they live and where they exercise their choices, from everything, that is., that makes them who they are, and not someone else.


So what he is saying is that libertarians deny the limitations reality puts on man-kind? haha what a load of bullshit.

It is a purely formal conception, that makes it impossible to understand what a real person is.


No it doesnt.

Liberal individualism tends everywhere to destroy direct sociability, which for a long time impeded the emergence of the modern individual and the collective identities that are associated with him. “Liberalism,” writes Pierre Rosanvallon, “to some extent makes the depersonalization of the world a condition of progress and freedom.”


No it creates social interaction via work places and interaction with customers etc... it is Communism that seperates people from each other.

Besides supporting the “mechanism” characteristic of liberal ideology, which is given a fundamental epistemological value, Marx himself adheres to a metaphysics of the individual, which led Michel Henry to see him as “one of the leading Christian thinkers of the Occident” (Michel Henry, Marx [Paris: Gallimard, 1991], vol. 2, 445). The reality of Marxist individualism, beyond its collectivist façade, was established by many authors, beginning with Louis Dumont. “Marx’s entire philosophy,” Pierre Rosanvallon writes, “can . . . be understood as an effort to enhance modern individualism. . . . The concept of class struggle itself has no meaning outside the framework of an individualistic representation of society. In a traditional society, by contrast, it has no significance” (Le libéralisme économique . Histoire de l'idée de marché , [Paris: Seuil, 1989] , 188- 89). Marx certainly challenged the fiction of Homo economicus that developed beginning in the eighteenth century, but only because the bourgeoisie used it to alienate the real individual and bind him to an existence narrowed to the sphere of self- interest alone. However, for Marx, self-interest is merely an expression of a separation between the individual and his life.


And here is the final proof of how retarded the author is, he calls Marx a champion of individualism and a ''Christian author'' :lol: haha gimme a break.
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By Rei Murasame
#13352642
Kman wrote:I will however rip apart his retarded logic in some of the quotes you provided Rei Murasame.

Well, I have to first warn you that you walked into huge problems, since Alain de Benoist is on the European New Right and not the far Left, and also you've been addressing social arguments with narrow economic responses (which is typical of Liberals...):

Kman wrote:Yeah so? work is a necessity for the continuation of life, typical commie talk that they want freedom from work because they are lazy cunts, its an impossible dream.

They/we aren't talking about freedom from work, they're/we're talking about the fact that they don't want the market to be able to dictate all the values in society.

Kman wrote:the market creates social relations and cohesion

It does what?

Kman wrote:it is the welfare state that seperates people from each other since it removes the neccesity of cooperation to achieve a decent standard of living.

But we are saying that the welfare state is a symptom of your ideology's application to society. Have you noticed that the Welfare state (by percentage GDP) is smaller in countries that don't do Liberalism and actually have more holistic ideologies? (eg, South Korea, Singapore, Japan) The reason for this is because the community and family support is there, and so less people have to resort to borrowing off the government.

Kman wrote:The whole bullshit about it disintegrating ''common structures and values'' is a load of hot air.

People often say this until they're up to their eyebrows in illegal immigrants and there's strife in the streets.

Kman wrote:So what he is saying is that libertarians deny the limitations reality puts on man-kind?

Yes.

Kman wrote:he calls Marx a champion of individualism and a ''Christian author'' haha gimme a break.

He's saying that Marx's existence is inadvertently a symptom of Liberalism and Christianity, whether Marx realised it himself or not, because Marx built on foundations that Liberals had actually laid for him - whether he realised it or not.

In other words, the strong implication is that had we not allowed Liberalism to do as it pleased, Marx would not have had any soil to grow in. This is also a key element in most of the tactics of the Right, that by denying the Left the soil it needs to grow and agitate, we can avert all the problems that come of it. That's why it's a good strategy to go after and curtail Liberalism and Christianity when we have the chances, in order to pre-emptively deprive the Left of the oxygen it needs.
By Kman
#13352645
Rei Murasame wrote:Well, I have to first warn you that you walked into huge problems, since Alain de Benoist is on the far Right and not the far Left, and also you've been addressing social arguments with narrow economic responses (which is typical of Liberals...):


On your arbitrary scale maybe, the one I follow I doubt he would be considered right wing since he seems to have an infatuation with the government meddling with society in all sorts of ways.

Rei Murasame wrote:In other words, the strong implication is that had we not allowed Liberalism to do as it pleased, Marx would not have had any soil to grow in. This is also a key element in most of the tactics of the Right, that by denying the Left the soil it needs to grow and agitate, we can avert all the problems that come of it. That's why it's a good strategy to go after and curtail Liberalism and Christianity when we have the chances, in order to pre-emptively deprive the Left of the oxygen it needs.


So if only we libertarians would stop following our principles, communism wouldnt exist ? I think that is completely wrong, I think it is the weakening of libertarians steadfastness that caused communism/socialism to rise.

What your basicly preaching is that libertarians should surrender to the enemy.
Last edited by Kman on 24 Mar 2010 17:30, edited 2 times in total.
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By Potemkin
#13352648
He's saying that Marx's existence is inadvertently a symptom of Liberalism and Christianity, whether Marx realised it himself or not, because Marx built on foundations that Liberals had actually laid for him - whether he realised it or not.

Actually, he did realise it - Marx based his economic analyses on classical liberalism; the labour theory of value, for example, he borrowed directly from Adam Smith. And read the opening pages of the Communist Manifesto for one of the most fulsome hymns of praise to liberal capitalism ever written.
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By Rei Murasame
#13352661
Kman wrote:On your arbitrary scale maybe

Mine isn't the arbitrary one here though. :eek:

Kman wrote:he seems to have an infatuation with the government meddling with society in all sorts of ways.

There was a quote that went something like, "Toryism has never shied away from considering the use of State power to achieve its ends". Basically the difference between Conservatives and Liberals is that Liberals seem to only seek economic ends that involve removing government involvement, wheras Conservatives have a whole bunch of objectives that aren't directly economic, and so we need to keep the State to pursue those objectives (many of which are indirectly economic anyway, so we do get our hands in society quite a bit).

Kman wrote:So if only we libertarians would stop following our principles, communism wouldnt exist ? I think that is completely wrong, I think it is the weakening of libertarians steadfastness that caused communism/socialism to rise.

Well, I think that it was because Liberals were able to take the reins away from Conservatives, that the Communists found both the opportunity and the rationale to exploit the social chaos that was created.

Kman wrote:What your basicly preaching is that libertarians should surrender to the enemy.

Well, depends - if there were ever a surrender (I don't think they'd really go quietly though), I'd hope they'd surrender to the Conservatives, and not to the Communists!
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By Fasces
#13352663
So if only we libertarians would stop following our principles, communism wouldnt exist ? I think that is completely wrong, I think it is the weakening of libertarians steadfastness that caused communism/socialism to rise.


Being a libertarian, and adopting libertarian values, requires a specific mindset that not all persons share. Regardless of the existence of a utopia, there will always be those who dissent and who do not share in your idea of what utopia is. The idea, then, that somehow orthodox implementation of liberal capitalism to the end would have somehow squashed this dissent is simply unfounded.

In addition, the author is completely right. Social relationships are superior to economic ones. Under what economic rationalization do birthday or holiday gifts factor? You cannot claim to be bribing your loved ones with every gift, can you? Economics, at best, limits social interaction, but is not the root of it. Human beings are ultimately social animals, and were so long before the development of a monetary system or anything resembling a market.
By Benjamin Noyles
#13352666
On your arbitrary scale maybe, the one I follow I doubt he would be considered right wing since he seems to have an infatuation with the government meddling with society in all sorts of ways.


Only a souless libertarian could view the world as a calculation of 'goverment meddling', what a baron and philisophically bankrupt ideology. This is why Liberalism failed, it is a moral cancer that does not have the energy to stand up to its own radical left. this is why people like Mark Stain are always moaning about multculturalism and social liberalism, yet history tells them they 'won' the struggle for ideology in history. This is why we need a new right, you have been useless to us.
By Kman
#13352682
Fasces wrote:Being a libertarian, and adopting libertarian values, requires a specific mindset that not all persons share. Regardless of the existence of a utopia, there will always be those who dissent and who do not share in your idea of what utopia is. The idea, then, that somehow orthodox implementation of liberal capitalism to the end would have somehow squashed this dissent is simply unfounded.


I didnt say it would squash dissent against free market capitalism, I said that libertarians surrendering to the commies/socialists of the world certainly wouldnt help advance the cause of capitalism and freedom.

Fasces wrote:In addition, the author is completely right. Social relationships are superior to economic ones. Under what economic rationalization do birthday or holiday gifts factor? You cannot claim to be bribing your loved ones with every gift, can you? Economics, at best, limits social interaction, but is not the root of it. Human beings are ultimately social animals, and were so long before the development of a monetary system or anything resembling a market.


How does having free market capitalism prevent you from holding birth days? oh thats right it doesnt..... seriously..... :knife:

Benjamin Noyles wrote:Only a souless libertarian could view the world as a calculation of 'goverment meddling', what a baron and philisophically bankrupt ideology. This is why Liberalism failed, it is a moral cancer that does not have the energy to stand up to its own radical left. this is why people like Mark Stain are always moaning about multculturalism and social liberalism, yet history tells them they 'won' the struggle for ideology in history. This is why we need a new right, you have been useless to us.


I think your confusing words here, when I say liberal then im talking about classical liberals, IE the way the word was used before progressive leftists with a big government agenda hijacked the word.

In regards to Mark Steyn then you have to remember that when he is whining about multiculturalism then he is complaining about it because its a cult of ignorance and because it is very intolerant of people that disagree with it, Mark Steyn is not an opponent of social freedom.
By Benjamin Noyles
#13352701
I think your confusing words here, when I say liberal then im talking about classical liberals, IE the way the word was used before progressive leftists with a big government agenda hijacked the word.

In regards to Mark Steyn then you have to remember that when he is whining about multiculturalism then he is complaining about it because its a cult of ignorance and because it is very intolerant of people that disagree with it, Mark Steyn is not an opponent of social freedom.


I know what I meant, and I think you pretty summed up my point for me. It is against my policy to feed trolls, and I suspect you are one but either way my answer is in your last post. Its pretty obvious.
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By Ash Faulkner
#13352702
Kman, fasces was making the point that there is more to man than economic relations, and that much of this is actually at odds with economic efficiency: the cultural value of birthdays for example, cannot be explained by recourse to economics alone.

And I really think you've failed to understand the article - probably because you didn't read it. The point is that man is a social animal, and to a great extent is formed by his context. This means that liberalism - which, in its largest sense, means simply the primacy of the individual in economic and cultural spheres, and the permittance of that individual to develop himself without any guidance or coercion provided he does not infringe on anybody else's physical capacity to do the same - is wrong. The way we behave influences others, and the way we are is a product of how we in turn were influenced. Of course as a matter of concrete fact, individuals exist, but conservatives understand the well-formed individual to be the result of a long process of socialisation and craft, and so is not the beginning of politics, but the end.

Without social pressure and interference, man will slip to its basest level. This is what fasces - and all others on the social right, from Aristotle to Hobbes to Burke - mean when they refer to man as a social animal. There is no such thing as a self-made man, romantic as that idea may be. We have a natural yearning to belong - it is what explains phenomena as various as fashion, family and fascism. Liberals (from classical to social to libertarians) do not deny this - no sensible person, no person that exists in the world, ever could. But what liberals do do is fail to take account for this in their political philosophy. They assume individuals are rational and egoist, when often they are neither. They fail to support the structures of society that produces happier people - which is quite often in contrast to the structures that make them free. People do not exist as atoms, and they want their state to recognise this - which is precisely why classical liberalism never lasts long in democratic states, why libertarian parties the world over are stuck permanently on the fringe, and why the most liberal state in history - the United States - is saturated with collectivist ideas, from racism to religion to the commercialist obsession with brands. A minimalist, morally neutral state is untenable, and it is unnatural: that is what this article is saying, and five minutes in the real world is all it takes to confirm this.
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By Potemkin
#13353451
I was surprised by the acuity of Benoist's analysis of liberalism. I wouldn't have expected such intellectual standards from a self-professed right-wing reactionary. I can easily understand how he managed to get some of his articles published in the Marxist journal Telos. However, where I part company with him is with regard to his apparent belief that history can be reversed, that the poison of liberalism can be put back into the bottle and an organic society led by an aristocracy can be restored. The reality is that history cannot be reversed. The spread of the liberal ideology was a natural and inevitable consequence of the development of the capitalist mode of production, and will exist so long as capitalism exists. Liberalism must therefore be sublated rather than reversed - as Hegel pointed out, historical progress is achieved by a process of continual sublation, in which previous modes of thought (Hegel) and modes of production (Marx) are transcended without being erased. Benoist is therefore doomed to be a Jeremiah, a voice crying out in the wilderness but unable to actually change anything or move society forward in any positive sense. This is the inevitable fate of all reactionaries; they can only delay but never reverse history.
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By Figlio di Moros
#13353568
Potemkin wrote:... Where I part company with him is with regard to his apparent belief that history can be reversed, that the poison of liberalism can be put back into the bottle and an organic society led by an aristocracy can be restored. The reality is that history cannot be reversed. The spread of the liberal ideology was a natural and inevitable consequence of the development of the capitalist mode of production, and will exist so long as capitalism exists.


Nobody denies this, but what we argue is what comes after. While capitalism is taken as the issue from a strictly economic perspective, the reality is that materialism would be a more accurate description. The materialistic worldview is a part of a larger degredation in itself, the degredation of purpose. Society as a whole inches ever nearer to cultural nihilism, and once we burn all that is precious on this earth we will have to face the stark abyss we've created.

Every society inevitably establishes a hierarchy in order to function; as liberalism destroys itself, the established plutarchy will be dragged with it. Part of this will be increased "democratization" and slowly removing the tools of economic power from the bourgeosie, but would exist in an individualist setting and not a collectivist one. Inevitably, a new aristocracy will have to take control of the reigns of society. With society as a whole staring into the abyss, the only two options are to dive in or cross it.
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By Potemkin
#13353618
Nobody denies this, but what we argue is what comes after. While capitalism is taken as the issue from a strictly economic perspective, the reality is that materialism would be a more accurate description. The materialistic worldview is a part of a larger degredation in itself, the degredation of purpose. Society as a whole inches ever nearer to cultural nihilism, and once we burn all that is precious on this earth we will have to face the stark abyss we've created.

Indeed. The one thing which is becoming increasingly obvious is that the present status quo, based on a capitalist mode of production and a liberal ideology, is not sustainable. At some point it will inevitably collapse, either because of its own internal contradictions or because it finally burns up the last of the Earth's natural resources, or renders the planet uninhabitable through pollution or climate change. Either humanity will become extinct or descend into a new barbarism which this time will never end, or else we must develop a sustainable economic and social system which can create a truly human society for the first time in history. The problem is not 'materialism' per se (we are, after all, material beings), but the destruction of all non-commercial values under the capitalist mode of production and its utterly amoral ideology - liberalism - which leads only to nihilism and complete moral and social bankruptcy.

Every society inevitably establishes a hierarchy in order to function; as liberalism destroys itself, the established plutarchy will be dragged with it. Part of this will be increased "democratization" and slowly removing the tools of economic power from the bourgeosie, but would exist in an individualist setting and not a collectivist one. Inevitably, a new aristocracy will have to take control of the reigns of society. With society as a whole staring into the abyss, the only two options are to dive in or cross it.

"We stand today ... before the awful proposition: either the triumph of imperialism and the destruction of all culture, and, as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration, a vast cemetery; or, the victory of socialism." - Rosa Luxemburg.

I would, however, dispute that the collapse of capitalism will take place in a purely individualist ideological climate. The recent bailout of the financial system is merely one example of the increasing necessity of collectivist and social solutions to the internal contradictions of the capitalist system. People are not stupid - they can see that the individual appetites of the bankers has led to a crisis which only collective action could solve (for now). They are drawing their own conclusions from this. This process of socialisation can only accelerate as and when capitalism nears its final crisis.
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By Cookie Monster
#13353649
But we won't most likely witness those times or even the final crisis. :(
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By Potemkin
#13353655
We are probably fortunate that we won't, Cookie Monster. I doubt that it'll be pretty. :hmm:
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By Cookie Monster
#13353663
The revolution and the post-revolutionary stage wont be pretty. I would like to have experienced the classless society, but most likely I am not fit for it in case it would occur within my lifespan :(
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