What is an ethic? What is an ethos? Cultures have sets of rules of course. The words ethos or ethic seem to indicate that there is a cultural code. Within a culture, everybody acts on a similar template, or ethos, but cultures differ. One person's own cultural code might be wrong in the hands of an outsider, in the hands of somebody else. My ethos fits my culture because I live in that culture. An ethos, then, is like a culture. One culture could disagree with another, but inside that one culture there is an ethos, something that each person who is properly a member of that culture more or less follows. Some, of course, articulate or exemplify their culture better than others do.
You have your ethos, I have mine. And everybody's happy. But are they?
The main problem today seems to be that, while a capitalistic ethos has conquered much of the world, it has not conquered everybody, and there are these holdouts, by which I mean the terrorists.
That is one problem, of course. There is the problem that capitalism has not unified the whole world. But the other problem is that it has.
There was this one university professor who came up with something called moral relativism: this is of course "the academic college professors' moral relativism theory," and it is a really stupid thing if ever there was one. There was one guy in particular responsible for this discussion, this "philosophy" I guess is what Deleuze would say. I read a book discussing this kind of relativism.
When I read about it, I thought it was so poor. I just thought it was one of the most daft things ever. I think what bothered me was that he just blatantly said that everything was relative. Capitalism might be a sort of global ethos right now, or way of life, at this stage in history.
That is all right with me, actually, but we need to add this caveat: if it is not a capitalism that respects difference, which is to say different views and the right of different cultures to have different views of life and approaches to life, then that is not a suitable capitalism.
Capitalism's great challenge is to live up to this promise, a promise of inclusion. Capitalism makes everybody the same, but it also has to "make" everybody (produce everybody) as different.
The promise of capitalism is its ethic; that is to say, the ethic of inclusion. Capitalism needs to include different sorts of person. It needs to respect differences in culture. In the very early days of American capitalism, and I have recently been thinking that it is the U. S. and nobody else that holds the rights or the patent on capitalism, it did respect these differences. Probably some explanation is in order.
I will just say a few things about it, briefly, as this is one of the areas I have thought a lot about. In those early days that I mentioned, there could be several generations in each of which the members of a family had their choice to go into the fast-lane of the developing capitalist system or stay out of it. Greider, for example, writes enchantingly (I don't know which book) of his grandfather, who refused to modernize the farm. He just did not do it. He kept the old horses or plows or whatever. In a capitalistic system that is developing slowly there are many places to jump in, many different occupations to try out. It has the kind of organic variety that we were talking about above, with respects to diverse cultures.