Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 20, 2012

(note: this was revised on July 13, at 12:19 PM)

Who creates the society? Originally capitalism was a social phenomenon. It was not owned by a class, it was a cultural phenomenon slowly working its way to dominance in a particular society, such as France, England, the USA, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, wherever.
     At that juncture, the system is developing. It is in the initial developmental stage. The owners do not, contra Marx, control the system. Nor does the owners' class, although I doubt if any such thing exists. Those persons and classes control only their particular functions as owners of productive facilities. We need to understand it in a different way and I have to offer the idea that it is the people or the society — the cultural system --- that controls the economy. Capitalism, therefore, is necessarily social, and this is what we do not seem to have any appetite to  discuss. By common consent, the sociality has been hidden from us. The people control capitalism because societies are the basis for everything. It is societies that have classes. Two classes are the unfortunate bifurcation of a society, but together they are the society. Capitalism happens in society and is dependent on the society. This linkage between capitalism and society happens in a capiitalist way,  true. It may be a "weird" way, true. It is not a perfect system of society. That is definitely the case. The word "socialism" conjures or tries to suggest something else. The two words have different implications, but even in capitalism there is some social context to be noted, without which I do not feel I can make any sense of the phenomenon at all. I notice that both the right and the left, for their own reasons, miss this social context that capitalism occurs within, the right because sociality and social obligations are what crass, selfish members of society do not want to hear about in the first place, and even more generally what many whites do not feel comfortable with and would rather not discuss, and the left because they like cooperation and are all for having a bit of sociality, or at least claim to, before they lower the repression on you, yet they would not place the idea of sociality in the "enemy system" of accursed capitalism. They both missed the boat.
     This inherent sociality of capitalism accounts for why capitalism develops at the same time that democracy does.We can read Schumpeter on this. Again, we can read Sandra Halperin in regard to the confluence of both capitalism and democracy. It is "weird" because it happens in a unique way, thus there is no analogy to anything else, or pattern of similarity to be found but there is nevertheless the confluence of the capitalistic and the social. It is possible to learn to see this.

     I am saying that these developments that we call "capitalist" are also social developments; and that they involve the whole, or the society, and that once a society is capitalist it must transform. The whole thing is, therefore, social and cultural; and thus it makes sense to say that the people are a major part of it. It is specifically a cultural development (not merely an "economic" one in some absurdly limited sense).
     In Marxism, the story is that the "capitalist class" controls everything — not only the product but also the flow of capital, which I do not believe. And the capitalist class supposedly controls everything, such that nothing is going to be given to the general mass. That does not seem to be correct.
     Suggesting that there is this limitation on our concept of total owner control makes sense, because the "capitalists," in the sense of the owners (I think the word "capitalists" should mean the whole population), do not control the flow of capital, which is the point I just mentioned, above. They only pass capital through their hands, to others. And there is not true class there. The owners' control is therefore limited. They do not own the system. The ones who really owned the system, as it developed, were the people. Maybe that is the way we should see it. And now, today, it is this deep social connection that is becoming endangered, as fruitcake bankers, the last people you want in control, try to have it their way, and this is not very good for the system, which, as said, is a social system. So, this represents a whole new way of seeing things.

     The essential events are those of the persons living and working in such a developing capitalistic society, a society, probably a European one, that has been gradually developing what today we know as the capitalistic, or bourgeois, way of life, and this should happen as a part of a process that has deep roots in time or in history, and that has been developing for hundreds of years. Such a society is gradually "becoming capitalist." This is not happening in the Chinese example.
     So, it is a gradual, slow process, in which identifying values or characteristics of the society (or, with McCloskey, "virtues") are transferred from the pre-capitalist condition, or situation, to the capitalist one. The social elements all transfer. We need to ask what the outcome should be of all this?
     That is probably up to us, not "the markets."

     Note: the Schumpeter material is in his great trilogy of essays, what I consider a great book, on "capitalism, socialism, democracy" --- and the part I was referring to above is found in the "democracy" section. Sandra Halperin is an academic. She writes on the relation between war and the eventual, painful development of democracy in the west. Here's one you could read by her:

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