Tag: postcapitalism

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: To Each According To His Need by working words

Those of us seeking a more fair, egalitarian and stable society often imagine a more-or-less utopian future.  Part of what we imagine may be expressed with the old quote “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”.  (Wikipedia tells us that while this quote is often associated with Karl Marx, it actually precedes him – going back at least to Louis Blanc in 1839.)

The concept has a moral and practical basis.  We wouldn’t want to live in a world with no sanitation workers, no janitorial work and nobody to do various other necessary jobs.  So, why should those who do these jobs have less of their needs met?  Suppose every adult could just as easily be the proverbial “rocket scientist” or “brain surgeon”.  Such a person might find some necessary but repetitive jobs even more wearing than most people do.  If there are non-rocket scientists who can work in factories, let the rocket scientists be happy they are rocket scientists and give the factory workers a generous standard of living.

And the concept apparently resonates with many people’s aspirations – they are able to imagine the quote coming from heroic figures.  Wikipedia tells us:

According to a survey conducted by the Museum of the American Revolution, “more than 50 percent of Americans wrongly attributed the quote “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” to either George Washington, Thomas Paine, or Barack Obama,

We still haven’t crossed beyond the realm of society dominated by big money.  Once we do, it will still take a while to reconfigure the economy and government, change habits and assumptions, and otherwise prepare for goals such as “to each according to his needs”.  In the final analysis, future society will use its decision-making processes to apply (or not apply) such a rule of distribution.  I’m not assuming I’ll be there to participate in finalizing how it’s done.  Still, we can try to shed some light on the question today.

The 1%ers and the future

(crossposted at DailyKos.com)

Yeah, I know, it’s 2012, and we are about to be deluged with a hailstorm of appeals to the Elmer Fudd Theory of Electoral Victory in the run-up to November’s elections.  Happy new year, everyone; I intend in this diary to summarize the likely events that can be seen as “coming down the pipeline” this year and in the years to come.

In the end, though, I would like to promote a vision of a different sort of society, a society which would start on its new path by recognizing that the future envisioned here is a product of the society as it currently is organized.  A society organized along different lines, then, would approach its future in a more conscious way.

The likely upshot of Election 2012 will be that the Great Progressive Mirage will once again disappear, to be replaced by “election run-up,” and that we will once again be stuck, post-election, with a world of 10% unemployment, 20% underemployment, and a Congress that is half filled by the 1%.

Meanwhile, we can expect more of what we received earlier as we head into 2012. Global warming, for instance, should at some point in the medium-term future cause crop failures and resultant famines.  The atmospheric accumulation of CO2 will also make the oceans too acidic for the formation of coral reefs (among the world’s most genetically diverse ecosystems) and will take a millennium or so to cycle naturally out of the atmosphere.  Peak oil will create an increasing drag on the world’s economy as fuel prices become more expensive and as the environmental costs of mining it increase.  The subsidy provisions of the PPACA will kick in, mandating that everyone buy a “Bronze Plan” or levying financial penalties upon us.  At some point a Republican President (or maybe even a Democratic one) will use the provision in the NDAA which allows Presidents powers of arbitrary and indefinite detention without trial.  The military industrial complex will continue to grow, as the US government continues to “prosecute” wars in a dozen countries with a secret empire of drone bases since the definition of the term “terrorist” is infinitely malleable and since, as Nick Turse points out, “The drone increasingly looks less like a winning weapon than a machine for generating opposition and enemies.”

College will continue to be a financial gamble, as students undergo increasing levels of student loan debt to pay for increasingly expensive college educations with increasingly limited job prospects for graduates.  The global economic growth rate will continue to decline, moreover, as the economy continues to be “financialized” further.

The poverty currently experienced by countries such as Greece will spread to other places in Europe as the Powers That Be in Europe continue to demand austerity planning to reduce government deficits.  At some point this may lead to the collapse of the Eurozone.

We can expect these things because our government and economy, as well as our collective vision of the future, are pretty much the domain of the 1%ers, whose main concern is in maintaining a system based on capital accumulation.  This is how they work: the 1%ers are the (cultural, bureaucratic, and economic) managers of a society in which the accumulation of exchange values drives the society as a whole.  

What matters to the 1%ers is that we continue to have a society in which “the economy,” as well as “the government,” continue to be the province of a relatively small group of people within the overall society.  And it works.  From William Domhoff:

Here are some dramatic facts that sum up how the wealth distribution became even more concentrated between 1983 and 2004, in good part due to the tax cuts for the wealthy and the defeat of labor unions: Of all the new financial wealth created by the American economy in that 21-year-period, fully 42% of it went to the top 1%. A whopping 94% went to the top 20%, which of course means that the bottom 80% received only 6% of all the new financial wealth generated in the United States during the ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s (Wolff, 2007).

The 1% are the primary beneficiaries of economic expansion, then.  The 1%ers are the managerial elites, the group that provides the expertise and the cultural “glue” to keep the system together as an accessory for its service to the 1%.  The 1%ers are the cultural vanguard of the 1%.  

There’s no conspiracy to be found here, however.  We swim in 1%er cultural norms as if we were fish in water.  Political action has to go through candidates, publicity through the mass media, mass action through money (everyone has to be paid, and even grassroots political movements have to be financed).  Business, through property law and monetary creation and government regulation and the tax code, is organized so that its main beneficiaries are for-profit corporations.  Our lives as participants of the system are encapsulated in the concept of the curriculum vitae (the “course of one’s life” in Latin), in which we list an accumulation of “things we did” and “experiences we had” to increase our exchange-value as workers.  All the 1%ers have to do, then, is to insure that a system rigged in favor of the 1% actually works for the 1%.   So where do we go from all this?  Look below the fold.

Imagining postcapitalism: Book review: Chris Hedges, “Death of the Liberal Class”

This is an improved rewrite of a previously-posted (elsewhere) review of Chris Hedges’ newest book, Death of the Liberal Class, which I am republishing as part of a discussion, occurring at DK4 and elsewhere, on “imagining postcapitalism.”  Hedges offers readers an important narrative to explain the disappearance of left politics rather than as suggestions for any sort of reality which we can bring about after the collapse of capitalism.  Hedges clearly suggests a solution; yet its perceived improbability leads Hedges to predict disaster.  In light of the continuing conformity of thought that characterizes this era (as I’ve discussed it in this diary), Hedges’ pessimism seems appropriate to the times.

Imagining postcapitalism: an introduction

This diary will argue the necessity of imagining a world after capitalism in this era.  This is so because the left, in America and elsewhere, currently finds itself in a cul-de-sac both of intellectual and of social proportions.  Centrally, I criticize the left for not using its imagination to fight what Antonio Gramsci called the “war of position.”  This will be part of a diary series, “Imagining postcapitalism,” which will be posted here and elsewhere, as the foundation for an online think-tank of sorts.  The “postcapitalism” group on DK4 will be one of a number of foci for this online think-tank.  Other contributors will be encouraged to post diaries as part of this series, to infuse a variety of perspectives into the project.

(crossposted at Orange)