Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Social Phenomenon, Not an Individual One

There was a time before capitalism (before capitalism was the dominant system it was just a minor, regional tendency in a few places). Today, everything seems oriented to capitalism, but, as Ha Joon Chang probably knows, capitalism came from somewhere. It is no sin to be historical in one's approach.

And there were people back then, too. It would be extermely foolish to regard those who were facing the oncoming social change of capitalism not as people but as somehow only individuals. Did this historical capitalist penetration take place on an individual level? I am not aware that anybody does think so, but it helps us understand that there is a dominant ideology going on.

It seems clear to me that capitalistic penetration of life did not take place, necessarily, on an individual level. Rather I think it is a social phenomenon, and I think it is social from start to finish. All social ---- not individual. That capitalism is "individual" is best understood as the tale that they are telling, or the lie that they are telling. How in fact could any historical phenomenon be called individual rather than social? That does not seem to make any sense but their reaction is to take the history out. Therefore, much economics today is not historical. (Notice that in the last sentence "Economics" means the field, not the thing.)

That is why someone notes of the body of workd that economist Ha Joon Chang has created that it is historical, whereas most other economics today (again: as a discipline, not as a thing) is not historical. Chang, naturally enough, is the one exception.

In my opinion capitalist penetration did not take place on an individual level, which you would expect me to say, since I think what we have always missed is that economics/capitalism is social. Even the sentence "capitalism is social" sounds funny, doesn't it? I wonder why. This is what we need to understand. Whenever capitalism is on its way to becoming a real force, for example, we can see that it always shares the wealth. Alright, it might take a while sometimes (Sandra Halperin speaks about this) but it does spread out -- the wealth -- into the entire society. The rule, then, is that wherever capitalism works, it shares wealth in general. So, that must have something to do with the nature of capitalism itself.

Capitalism is a social phenomenon, but they needed to frame it as individual. They create a whole philosophy for that. In my view? I don't see capitalism as just something that just happened to a few individuals here or there.

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