Thursday, August 23, 2012

German Economic Hubris

[This was saved on the blog website as an unpublished draft. I let it surface today, Aug. 23]

Various European countries are having crises not just one country. The WSJ reports that maybe even Germany. Wow. Even "honest" frugal Germany. Heavens! What next? If even "innocent" self-righteous G. is having problems then maybe everyone is. Maybe everyone is 'only human.'
     My view is that capitalism is a system of reciprocity, and if this is the case then capitalism is not a system of mere egotism. My view is that the acts of capitalism are therefore less private or "self"-oriented than is usually indicated. The problem is basically ideological, not rational. So, you will notice how they (practically everybody, certainly the mainstream and many of the elite) always try to tell us that capitalism is about something like "self" or "private property." Do they not say this? Is there anyway to oppose or resist such prevalent ideological conditioning? Or is 'the big lie' impossible to fight against.
     For example, why not say that capitalism is about interconnection? That works too, doesn't it? Logically, that would work just as well. The best case that capitalism has an inherent nature of reciprocity would be to picture an the actual world situation. ("Imagine," if you are J.L, musical hero, a picture of the world.) See the world, then. See the picture of the world. In accord with such a picture, every individual (note here that an alternative would be "individual country") ought to depend on others. This is actually the truth: capitalism has always been reciprocal; we just don't know it. We do not picture it that way. When we observe, without our old ideological blinders, we now notice that the capitalistic players (as a general rule) do not (ought not) retreat into 'privacy.' But they also prefer ideological misinterpretations of reality, so that, in the real world of thought practice and ideas, they achieve another wish that they have, which is to avoid acknowledging the interdependence that is actually inherent in the capitalistic system. And should they be so extreme so as to actually retreat into a real, as well as an ideological, private place, even if they do, even if we consider that they did retreat into privacy, those individuals represent only themselves. It is a big world out there, and they do not thereby change the nature of capitalism. My view here, you see, is that, without interdependence, no capitalism. however, that is what they are trying not to face, or admit.
     Private property is there; I am not trying to say that no such thing exists. It does not exist. It is an element of the overall reality we live in. But it just does not explain the success of capitalism. You can say that private property is important. It is certainly important in society; it is important in capitalist society. Individuals do exist. I am not saying they do not exist. But to try to explain capitalism as "individual profit-seeking" or something is not terribly fulfilling (to me), and it causes us to lose sight of an important aspect of it, which is interpedendence and sociality. Instead, we could and should introduce a new emphasis on these particular aspects. So, that's my "news" for you about capitalism and ideology. The news: capitalism is sociality. 
     So, I would say  that individuals alone do not explain capitalism. I agree that we ought to admit that they are there but this emphasis on "the individual" is not really so helpful. It is not sufficient, you need something else. If, by "capitalism," we mean the general type of society we have, in some of the countries of the world, then life in those countries is capitalistic, yes, but that does not imply individualistic.
      There is the fact that many persons want it to be individualistic. But this type of society that we have in these countries is not particularly individualistic: it is capitalistic.
     And the "something else" we need to understand these types of capitalistic societies as lies at the heart of  reciprocity in capitalism. There is a lot more to be said about this reciprocity. No one should be excused from it -- no not even Ms. Merkel is excused, merely because they do not get it.

The deepest manifestation of such reciprocity, the most important manifestation that we seek to explain or appreciate is not the actual trading event (which are rather boring in themselves). It is a 'sociality' (if I may use this as a legitimate word that I like to say), a reciprocity that bleeds out irresistibly into the fabric of things and becomes a part of society, the heart of the society, what keeps all of us going. (It isn't the individuality that keeps us going.) All attempts to repudiate that fly in the face of this social reality. However, the trading event itself can be called a mere individual act. I do not have a disagreement with that, but there are an enormous number of trading events; we are not talking about just one. Thus, it is true that one does not make a deep social bond with the butcher, when you buy a piece of meat, or with the vegetable man when you but a piece of lettuce from the veggie areas of the economy-----if you are a vegetarian. Individual acts of exchange do not seem to be at the core of what I am talking about here as reciprocal (social). No, it is the society, not the individual that I am talking about ---- and capitalism is social, dammit, they just aren't telling us the truth. The truth is that capitalism enters world history in a sense that is always reciprocal----a capitalist society. It is interdependent; human society is reciprocal in any case! Capitalism is an element in that, and reflects it. That will always be the case until we have a form other than capitalism.
     By nature society is reciprocal. That is the meaning of "social," a term in the language. Thus, we have to introduce the term "society" when we introduce the term "economics." What 'they' did ideologically was just the opposite. They chose the opposite way to do things. Rather, I would suggest that we now put those two (meaning, society and economics) together----they need to go together. It gets a bit complex here, with this stuff about "ideology." For me, this is quite difficult, and I think others share this opinion. But, at any rate, we can discover a new way of seeing, in regard to the subject matter that falls under the category of economics, and that means a new way of seeing where we see that "capitalism" means "social interdependence" not "individuality." So, I guess there is a kind of choice there and I am trying to link capitalism with society, not with individuality or individualism or any of the other similar terms or cast of ambivalent terms ('entrepreneur'), which in turn allows us to cast capitalism as significantly "social." It's a very different and I suppose, new way of looking at this. (A definite point of view.)

    [older material follows that has not yet been re-written]: Let us now carry on in the lively tradition of the fine rhetorician Donald Rumsfeld (who insists on remaining gendered as a male). Let's say, then, that capitalism is "embedded" within a particular society (today that would read: embedded within the global society). Capitalism is economics. It is also social, and located in the context of a society. (Of course we do not actually know where the "Location of Culture" is...Bhabha!!)
     Put differently: capitalism needs to integrate with society. There is nothing wrong with that. Society and capitalism can live together. We do not have to see capitalism as individualistic. But were it not so framed it goes sour. It is no longer humane. Those are my views.
     Here, I have a habit of using the following example: If the whole matter is that of a picture in a frame society is like the frame, slightly larger than capitalism. The frame has to be a biit larger than the picture. The two complement one another, but also the frame is slightly larger.
     In this view, "capitalism" and "society" are fairly close to each other. (It also depends on whether we choose to look at it like that, or adopt some other ideology!) Now I see capitalism as a humane system ---- a system with some potential that should be worked with, not destroyed, and what we see is that only if our society displays the quality of reciprocity does our capitalism have a chance.
    That's why capitalism did so well in the US. The society let it embed and framed it. It happened that way also in Venice (you could say that's going back a ways, but I figure it may be relevant as Venice is called one of the central capitalist cities, by Braudel [Fernand B.]). Later, there were cities in Holland, there was the city of London, and, finally, famous New York, N.Y. No doubt you can go there. Go to New York City. You'll see this. You are going to see capitalism surrounded by a society ---- and not separate from it.
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When Merkel says her capitalism is her concern, hers alone, what a sick and lonely song. And what an old tune, really. It is an old song; It's an old story. And what is it?----it is plaintive and it is pathetic. My property. Leave me alone. I am not linked to you.

I think otherwise. I think maybe we are linked, after all. Good night, as ____  said, and Good luck.