the meaning of "objectivism"?

hfspc002 at huey.csun.edu hfspc002 at huey.csun.edu
Wed Aug 31 14:22:06 MDT 1994


Before beginning to address the post below I want to mark my agreement with
Chris N.'s post on this matter.  Before we begin talking a lot of nonsense
on this list, and we may very well do so anyway, we really should take a
moment to actually sit down and read a bit of Marx.  It may be comforting
and emotionally satisfying to listen to audiotapes published by
Laissez-faire press and conclude that our vigorous belief in the triumph of
reason will guide us through a rigorous critique of something that we have
not even attempted to read, but we should not be self-deluded into
believing that our "critique" will be anything other than an embarassing
foray into matters we know nothing about.  Imagine, for example, me joining
an Ayn Rand list and launching a vitriolic attack against _The Romantic
Manifesto_ based on the abridged version of a synopsis published in
Ellsworth M. Toohey's _Altruism:  The Unknown Ideal_....  Or based on
something I heard on Rush Limbaugh for that matter.  I assume that I would
be quite correctly ignored or laughed out of the forum.

(Why then do I take the following "seriously"?  Perhaps I don't; as Derrida
has persuasively argued, the line separating the "serious" from the
"nonserious" is thin indeed, and perhaps that which seems nonserious is the
most serious of all.  Having ignored Grossman's posts for some time except
to inject "nonserious" replies, I now attempt a "serious" reply in order to
attempt to show why his post cannot be taken seriously....)

In any case, I respond to some of Grossman's "arguments" below:

> castes are stable; classes, in capitalism, are unstable. Around 1900, in
> a  much more capitalist economy, it was common enough for businessmen to
> leave  their businesses to incompetent sons so that "shirtsleeves to >
shirtsleeeves in three generations" was a cliche.

What is Grossman talking about here?  Is he being "serious"?  Am I the only
one that doesn't "get" the joke?  (I recall that Grossman's position on
humor, perhaps following _the Romantic Manifesto_, is that humor must be
based on "truth" so that making fun of objectivists wasn't amusing but
making fun of democrats, anarchists, etc., was funny....I'm not sure I
understood it then either but here I am trying to look for the "truth" that
makes this cliche humorous.  If his point is that classes *change*, or that
the 10% of the population that controls the 90% of the world's resources is
a different 10% today than it was in 1900, well, I couldn't disagree more.
Are the descendants of the Rockefellers poor in 1994?  Going back further,
do the descendants of the Hapsburgs control less of the world than they
used to?  But still, let us learn something from Grossman.... capitalism
("pure," whatever that is, or "corrupted," as Grossman seems to believe it
is in the latter part of the 20th century) is flexible and unstable.  And
its instability has been precisely the mechanism for its continuity.  This
is the point Felix Guattari made in _Molecular Revolution_ and in
_Anti-Oedipus_, and it follows directly from Marxian economics:  capitalism
is a liberatory mechanism in its decoding of the economic terrain to
translate everything into the "general equivalent," which is money.

While on the topic of money, let us listen to Ayn Rand for a moment,
because we can perhaps learn something even from her.  ("I'll even admit
that there may be some things which I can learn from you";"now we're
cookin'").  Rand, speaking through Francisco d'Arconia:  "When you accept
money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you
will exchange it for the product of the effort of others.  It is not the
moochers or the looters who give value to money.  Not an ocean of tears nor
all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your
wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow.  Those pieces of
paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor -- your claim upon
the energy of the men who produce.  Your wallet is your statement of hope
that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default
on that moral principle which is the root of money.  Is that what you
consider evil?"

(From _Atlas Shrugged_.  Forgive me, by the way, for citing from Rand's
fiction rather than her more properly "serious" nonfiction essays {what is
the line between fiction and nonfiction but a line between the "serious"
and the "nonserious," between the "true" and the "false," after all?} such
as those collected in _the Romantic Manifesto_, _The Virtue of
Selfishness_, _Philosophy:  Who Needs It_, or _The New Left_, each of which
I have found to be overly pedantic and much less rigorously argued than the
impassioned monologues peppered throughout _Atlas Shrugged_ and _the
Fountainhead_.  Though her fiction is no doubt overly pedantic as well, at
least it is well-reasoned pedantry.)

Back to the passage -- money, for D'Arconia, is a medium of exchange.  A
commodity, to be sure ("should have been gold"), but a commodity that sits
outside of the circuit of exchange in order that it may be exchanged for
any other commodity in proportional "values." One may, if one likes,
exchange one pint of milk for one widget, if one finds an individual
willing to exchange the widget for the pint of milk.  If person A produced
the pint of milk, she may exchange that pint with person B who produced the
widget.  This involves a social relationship between person A and person B.
But let us stipulate that person A has no way of finding person B, the
producer of widgets.  Now, person A wants a widget really bad.  In fact,
let us imagine that Person A has a terminal disease that _requires_ her
possession of a widget for her very survival (in other words, let us make
the widget a _material condition_ of person A's very existence).  Person B,
in turn, cannot survive without milk.  Instead of postulating a barter
economy where Person A must find person B at the market and exchange the
widget for the milk, the brilliance of the money-commodity is that it
allows person B to put the widget on the open market, mediated through a
general equivalent, a third commodity, the money commodity, so that person
A can sell her milk for $3 and then go to the widget shop (Radio Shack?)
and buy a widget for $3 WITHOUT EVER MEETING PERSON B.

Now, according to d'Arconia, what has just happened here?  the money
commodity (whether gold or pieces of paper with little plastic strips
inside of it) has mediated a social relationship between person A and
person B.  The value given to money, d'Arconia correctly notes, is not
given to money by "the moochers or the looters."  Not at all -- that money
represents "your claim upon the energy of the men who produce."  Or, as
someone else pointed out ninety years before the publication of _Atlas
Shrugged_, money represents "congealed labor-power."  That money represents
a social relationship between people -- the production and consumption of
the fruits of human labor.

So, what in this passage is different from anything in _Capital_?  Remember
that in Marx, "value" itself never appears as such.  (And by the way Rand
says nothing more nor less than this when she defines "value" in the
opening of _The Virtue of Selfishness_).  What something is _worth_ is
determined by _social relations_ between human beings.  These social
relations are established in a mode of production which produces value as a
structural possibility for exchange.  The commodity is the _visible_ form
of value, its reified representation.  The magic of the money-commodity is
its ability to transform human relations in a manner that allows one
person's effort to be recognized in a commodity and realized in the process
of exchange.

Money, d'Anconia extolls, "rests on the axiom that every man is the owner
of his mind and his effort."  Unfortunately, this is the principle behind
money that has been concealed through what Marx called the "fetishism" of
the money commodity.  For when we peel off a twenty dollar bill from our
fat wad, we do not usually think of the effort and labor that went into the
production of the commodities that that twenty-spot represents.  In fact,
if you ask T.C. Pits (The Celebrated Person-in-the-street) how much a
twenty-dollar bill is _worth_, she will probably say that it is worth
twenty dollars.  This is of course circular.  In fact, the twenty dollar
bill's worth is determined only by what it is good for -- its "value," that
slight, contentless thing that is determined in social relationships.  If
we use it to buy a copy of George Walsh's cassettes then that determines
its worth.  If we use it to snort methamphetamine through and then burn it,
then that determines its worth.  The transformation of a mere object (a
piece of paper, a lump of gold, or a piece of wood) into a commodity is a
mystical process in that a mere _thing_ is transformed into a
representation of human interaction.  Marx:  "A commodity appears at first
sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing.  But its analysis brings out
that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and
theological niceities....  the table continues to be wood, an ordinary,
sensuous thing.  But as soon as it emerges as a commodity, it changes into
a thing which transcends sensuousness.  It not only stands with its feet on
the ground, but, in relation to all other commodities, it stands on its
head, and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more
wonderful than if it were to begin dancing of its own free will."
(_Capital I_).  "Fetishism" in the religious sense occurs when an idol is
misrecognized as a literal embodiment of the power it is supposed to
symbolize.  The fetish (idol) _becomes_ the power that the fetish-maker has
imbued it with.  Before the fetish is misrecognized, the fetish stands for
a social power; after the misrecognition the fetish takes on a power of its
own and is mystically transformed.  The fetish-maker forgets that she is
the one who first invested the fetish with its value.  Similarly, the
money- commodity has been invested with its value through human exchange
relationships.  The problem is not with money per se, but with the
misrecognition of money as a value in itself, as something that can be
accumulated.

(Likewise, the problem is not capital per se but capitalism, the system
that manages capital in such a way that those who _produce_ the wealth --
d'Arconia's "men who will not default on the moral principle which is the
root of money" -- are not the ones who _accumulate_ the wealth.
"Socialism," then, would be a mode of production which would allow those
who produce the wealth {those who labor, intellectually or physically, and
I add that not to equate the academic with the plumber but rather to affirm
Rand's position that intellectual labor is often as productive as physical
labor, as in the invention of the steam engine or the plans for its use} to
benefit from the fruits of their labor -- a system that would recognize
that the wealth itself is the representation of social power and not
confuse the representation of social power with power itself.  Not to
confuse money with the value of money, not to confuse capital with the
value of capital).

The key here is that the money form "conceals the social character of
private labor and the social relations between individual workers, by
making those relations appear as relations between material objects,
instead of revealing them plainly."  (_Capital I_).  In other words, THE
COMMODITY MAKES WHAT ARE ACTUALLY RELATIONS AMONG PEOPLE SEEM LIKE
RELATIONS AMONG THINGS.

<Grossman:> As I said and you have ignored, Marxism is a perceptual
economics in which only immediate, concrete, physical action is considered
productive. The conceptual mentality of capitalism is as alien here as a
man from Mars. Capitalist production is (individually) rational,
long-range, indirect, abstract, and division-of-labor. My cat perceives my
hands moving, perceives sounds, perceives light and dark patterns on the
bright thing in front of him but he does not have a conceptual faculty to
identify the use of a computer. This is the limit of the knowledge of
children, the insane, criminals, primitive savages, and Marxists about a
capitalist economy. Marxists have a conceptual faculty but Kant taught them
it was evil and impotent and not under their individual control. <end
quote>

Well, I'm not sure where any of this comes from.  Is this a "joke" again?
If so, what "truth" is it based on?  I know few Marxists who believe that
"only immediate, concrete, physical action is considered productive."  I
really don't know anyone who would say that, for example, the blueprints
for a building produce nothing other than a piece of paper with lots of
pretty lines on it.  Additionally, I'm not sure why Kant taught us that our
conceptual faculty is "evil and impotent."  (Perhaps this is in the little
known fourth Critique, reproduced in the even lesser known twelfth thesis
on Feuerbach?)  I'm also not sure why "criminals" and "primitive savages"
can't use computers, nor why this has anything to do with Marxism even if
it were true.

<Grossman:>Marxism is Rousseauean, hippie primitivism, the absurd claim
that production (for survival) is automatic so we should work to merely
express our "individual" part of some alleged social consciousness. <end>

Simply wrong.  Skipping the ad hominems (what the hell is "hippie
primitivism" and why is it bad?), the reason work is social has nothing to
do with some mystical idea about our "alleged" social consciousness.  Our
social consciousness is as real as the bread we eat and the computers wqe
type on.  You don't think so, try to grow your own wheat, bake your own
bread, kill whatever meat you dine on, and send email over the computer you
built yourself without relying on the international division of labor to
exploit workers in third world countries (and here at home) who grow
silicone, manufacture transistors, mold plastic, etc., etc., ad nauseam.
The human being is a social creature and has real social needs, and h/er
labor is social by nature, not by some trick of mysticism or some belief in
the social "consciousness."  This is not a new idea; Ayn Rand's hero
Aristotle (of "A=A" fame) pointed it out when he tried to distinguish
between human beings and animals.

<Work as play! This part of Marxism is apparently small relative to
criticism of capitalism, but its basic. >

You must be thinking of Marx's nephew Paul Lafargue (_The Right to be
Lazy_).  I don't think Marx ever said that work was play.  And I doubt
anybody who works in a factory producing 486 chips thinks that it is play,
and I doubt even further that she thinks she is being playful by thinking
that at the very least she should be able to afford a computer built around
the chip she produced.

<Marxism is the theft of capitalist wealth to (temporarily) suppport a
mindless, tribal society in the fashion of hippies surviving off of
capitalism.>

What are you talking about?  It seems you are invoking what d'Anconia
called the "moochers" and "looters" to describe Marxists, but I really
don't understand how one is stealing capitalist wealth (or any wealth for
that matter) by reading Marx or even (horror of horrors) agreeing with him
from time to time.  Yet the theft of wealth occurs every day when, for
example, a self-identified "capitalist hippie" sells a tie-dyed print
bedsheet for $300 that was made in India by women working for the
equivalent of $2/week.  Or when Microsoft corporation steals the ingenuity
of its programmers to make huge profits off of their creations without even
a byline for the people who wrote the majority of the code.  Etc.  These
aren't even the most obvious examples; this is only the tip of the iceberg
of exploitation in the capitalist economy.

<Its either capitalism or primitivism, not primitivism supported by
capitalist wealth. A wealthy, scientific-industrial economy is supported by
the values of realism, independent judgement,and selfishness, however
implicit or explicit these may be. After socialist hippies steal the wealth
and individual freedom of those skilled and motivated in running an
advanced economy, there will be no more and the socialist hippies will die
waiting for "society" to save them. Reason is volitional, not social.>

Reason can be both, my friend.  Everything is social.  We cannot escape the
social, no matter how hard we try (and all this talk of individualism vs.
the social, by the way, reminds me more of hippies than anything Marx has
ever said; perhaps that is because I grew up in the seventies and not the
sixties.... the "hippies" in the seventies were busy trying to beat it into
the eighties and even the ones without a pot to piss in can be found at
Rainbow gatherings preaching the wonders of individualism and the fascism
of "collectivism," whatever that is.).  As soon as we learn to speak, we
have already entered into and been written by the social in ways that
overdetermine everything we do.  Language is not the creation of a heroic
individual; it is a social tool that we all enter into in order to survive.
You don't believe me?  Go without talking to anyone for a year or two.
(And that means no email either, which is certainly a social tool).

And what is this choice between capitalism and primitivism?  What is so
primitive about a society (purely theoretical at this stage, perhaps that
is the hippie myth to which you refer) in which those who actually produced
the wealth were the ones who profited from it?

> Your references to "selflessness" are ambiguous.  I advocate building > a
classless society primarily because I'm selfish.

<Marx's species-being is mystical nonsense. Only individuals are real.
Society is an abstraction. Your alleged selfishness is that of a social
unit expressing his particular social consciousness. It is not the
selfishness of a rational animal (not a social animal) whose actions either
further or threaten his individual, non-social,survival.>

What is Marx's "species-being"?  Did I miss that somewhere in the
Eighteenth Brumiere?  Society is an abstraction -- that I can agree with.
But it is a necessary abstraction, just like the individual, which is
_also_ an abstraction.  A rational animal _is_ a social animal because the
very facility of reason or rationality is a social creation which makes NO
SENSE without the existence of and interaction with OTHER individuals.

< Your alleged selfishness is logically dependent upon a context of
rejecting individual selfishness for social approval for sociallly
subjective values, ie, your alleged selfishness is not that of an
individual, with volitional reason, surviving in objective reality but that
of a tribal savage sacrificing, tho in his own psuedo- individualist way,
his individual life and individual happiness, to society. Its the
pseudo-selfishness of a drug addict who acts, not for survival, but to
evade the need for independent values and action. Marx is a SECULAR
DISCONTENT OF THE MODERN WORLD, afraid of the loss of social control over
his life because he chooses to hate the need for individual thought and
action. Marx accepted the death of God but retained the religious morality
of selflessness and thus hated the modern world of, above all, individual
achievement.>

Please cite the texts in which Marx states his hatred of any of these
things.  Who is talking about social approval?  Most of this passage is
pure ad hominem, without any analysis of what is being talked about.  What
is a "tribal savage" and how does a Marxist analysis ask an individual to
"sacrifice" individual life and happiness to "society"?  The problem is
that the individual life and happiness of the average worker has been
sacrificed to the happiness of those who profit off of his work.  This is
not selfishness on the part of those who produce but exploitation by those
who don't.

<"[Secular discontents of the modern world, including Marx, want] a heaven
here on earth wherein all wants were automatically taken care of,a world of
warm, loving relationships in which each person was valued for his
intentions [Rousseau, Kant], wholly apart from what he delivered." [George
Walsh, _Marxism_, cassettes, Laissez Faire Books, NYC]>

Yeah sure, don't we all.  It is nice that George Walsh is privy to Marx's
secret desires.  I prefer to stick to what Marx actually wrote to make my
arguments here; though I certainly haven't read everything so if this
desire for heaven-on-earth is published someplace I'm not aware of I'm sure
that Mr. Grossman will correct my error.

>I don't like the > fact that it's impossible for most parents, including
myself, to feed > our children and simultaneously to save for their
education.  I don't > like the fact that I will have no pension to live on
in my old age > because I was unable to work for the same company for
thirty > consecutive years.  I don't like having to give ninety percent of
our > family income to the bank who holds the mortgage.  If everyone would
> be quite selfish, and really stick to it, we'd choose socialism.

<You prove my point better than I could. "I don't like" is your basic view
of the metaphysical nature of man, a nature which demands a basic reliance
upon independent judgement and action rather than the fallacy of social
omnipotence. Society cannot help those who refuse to make independent
judgements. There is no substitute for independent judgenment. Society is a
narcotic and has no magical power to provide the material and spiritual
values needed for individual survival and individual happiness.>

Who is refusing to make independent judgements?  I don't like a lot of
things too, that have nothing to do with human nature but with human
behavior.  "I don't like" is certainly an independent judgement.  "Society
cannot help" anyone; it is up to us to make society (that's a paraphrase of
the eleventh thesis on F, a bit out of context perhaps) which requires,
yes, "independent" judgement and action.  Society may be a narcotic but it
is a necessary one, much more integral and natural to human survival than,
say, advertising (the ultimate capitalist narcotic) or cigarettes.  As is
the "individual" -- a narcotic, an addictive myth that makes us (American
society) behave in odd ways ("collectivist ways" we might say) to get a
"fix" -- running in droves to Schwarzenegger or Stallone movies, for
example, or smoking Marlboros, to feel like we are participating in an
individualistic triumph....

> If you want to know about dialectics, study 20th century physics. >
Without any reference to Marx and Engels, read some Schrodinger and >
Heisenberg.  Try to find your "law of identity" in the "probability >
waves." >

<The mainstream of post-Kantian thought, philosophy, art, science, etc. is
corrupt and intellectually worthless. Kant split mind and reality and later
thinkers merely applied this to their specialities. Try to find Kantian
antimonies or Hegelian/Marxist dialectics in the metaphysics of identity.
Science is the creation of philoosphy and stands or falls with it. Bad
philosophy causes bad science. Even contradictions, by the metaphysics of
identity, _are_ contradictions. A is A. Of course, you can value
contradictions if you please and you can even guide your actions thereby.
But you are not free to avoid running into the metaphysics of identity.
Thats why socialism cannot create wealth but only steal it from
capitalism.>

Again, what the hell are you talking about?  Kant got it wrong so therefor
socialists steal from capitalists.....could you take us through this step
by step please?  Who values contradictions?  Value, remember, expresses a
social relation between producers of wealth.  Marx pointed out that the
contradictions of capitalism were covered over by its machinations -- what
were contradictions in reality appeared as noncontradictions, as if handed
down by tradition (recall the discussion of money -- the contradiction
between the social power and the object (paper gold whatever) is covered
over by a mysticism which equates the object with the social power it
wields).  A is A, but capitalist accumulation and the fetishism of the
commodity makes it appear as if A is NOT A....  Once we can accept that A
is not A we can attempt to make A equal to A again.  If we simply accept
things as they appear, in their ideal (their representation, in language or
wherever, which Rand argues is an ideal representation of a concrete
reality but not the concrete reality itself; see the _Romantic Manifesto_
and _Fountainhead_), we have strayed from the concrete, the material.

 >I wish I knew what the hell you are talking about.  Just because I
 >believe, while you don't believe, that the workers in every workplace
 >are more technically qualified to elect the managers than a group of
 >absentee stockholders are, and that the workers are more entitled to the
 >dividends, now I'm supposed to try to decipher your 9 uses of the
 >word "reality" and your 6 uses of "concrete"? > <This is the anti-reason,
perceptual mentality of Marxism (and of most of history). You limit
production to the immediate, concrete situation. But capitalist production
is long-range, abstract, conceptual. Knowing a specific machine operation
does not automatically provide the knowledge of anticipating and making
practical use of _constantly_ changing ideas, values, inventions, trades,
etc. of customers, suppliers, and competiters.>

True, but knowing the machines operation _is_ important.  Whereas _owning
stock in the machine_, which is what the issue is here, also does not
"automatically provide the knowledge of anticipating and making practical
use of _constantly_ changing ideas, values, inventions, trades, etc. of
customers, suppliers, and competiters."

<The failure of most new businesses to make consistent profits proves,
within a rational economics, that only a relatively few people can
profitably manage production in the long-run. The rest must be grateful to
these heroes of capitalism!>

Please, get real.  The failure of most new businesses means that the tiny
percentage that owns the machines and institutions of productions don't
have room for competition.  That, paraphrasing Lepore, the 10% of the
population that owns the 90% of the wealth really feels threatened by the
relatively few of the exploited who have figured out that they are being
exploited.  Take Radio Shack for instance.  There is no heroism involved in
being the only store in a strip mall in Coralville, Iowa that sells diodes
at 2PM on a Sunday.  Never mind the international division of labor
involved in the production of those diodes; lets talk "business" -- even if
I wanted to open a "new business" that would provide these diodes cheaper
and more reliably than the Rat Shack I wouldn't have a chance.  After all,
how often do people need to buy diodes?  The Rat Shack has a monopoly.  It
doesn't need to sell *any* diodes in Coralville to keep its store open; as
a national chain it can profit elsewhere and keep its Coralville store open
even if people in the community realized the benefits of buying diodes from
me instead of them.  AND it could continue to get away with cataloging the
names, addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, etc., of every
customer that walked through the door ("company policy") even though the
policy is unpopular and unreasonably intrusive to individuals (why the hell
does Rat Shack need my SSN just to sell me a diode?) because I would never
sell enough diodes to keep my store afloat whereas they would continue to
prosper even in the absence of a huge demand for diodes.  This has nothing
to do with ingenuity or heroism on Radio Shack's part.  (And it is really
unclear to me why a small company that gets bought out or driven out or
driven out by a huge monopoly should be "grateful" to the "heroes" that
bankrupted them).

<This gratitude is not submissiveness but respect from one
independent-minded person to another. Employers and employees are
essentially similar in being productive. THey differ in degree (not in
kind) of productive ability. Of course, in a hippie commune (ie, Marx's
communism), production is held down to the least competent so all will feel
equal. A high price for equality!>

Again, get real.  How many "hippie communes" have you visited recently.
"i.e., Marx's communism"????  What did Marx ever say about allowing
long-haired pot smokers to sleep on your couch for six months???  I missed
that; was that the thirteenth thesis?  "Employers and employees...differ in
degree (not in kind) of productive ability,"  Well, then, why the hell do
the employers make so much more and have so much more power?  What is the
"degree," precisely?  It ain't a bachelor's degree that's for sure (unless
its from USC or Harvard)....  Perhaps the necessary degree is a pedigree...
Seriously though (?!), I agree that the one who does the intellectual labor
necessary for the long-term management of an institution should reap the
benefits of that institution.  But when that person's labor consists only
in determining how to best exploit the labor of others I really don't think
the benefits should be that extensive.  Is Donald Trump a "hero" for
monopolizing gambling and getting his friends to pass legislation (is this
"socialism"?) that prevents Native American reservations from allowing
legal gambling on their land (what little is left of it) so that he has no
competition for the profits of legal gambling?  Are the native Americans
"primitive savages" for trying to compete in this arena?  Really,
capitalism has turned into its opposite, which is NOT socialism.  This
binary opposition prevents us from recognizing that socialism is an idea
that is dependent upon capital -- capital managed in a different way than
capitalists have managed it; socialism would be a system (and I'm not sure
that it has ever existed, certainly not in the former USSR, or the PRC, or
Cuba, Nicaragua, even Sweden) that would manage capital in such a way that
its existence as a SOCIAL REALITY was recognized.

<Capitalism is society ordered, not from itself, but primarily from the
metaphysical needs of individual human survival. Ie, how does the material
universe affect survival.  What is reality, regardless of conventional
values?>

Well, maybe, but then capitalism has never existed either.  You are
describing Marxism, in which the ideals and modes of production of society
(the models on which society functions) arise from the material conditions
of that society rather than the material conditions of society being
manipulated to coincide with some predetermined ideal (as in Hegelianism,
and as in present-day American individualism).

<Again, the secular discontents of the modern world, including Marx, want a
society in which individual thought and achievement is politically
incorrect; in which, in George Walsh's words, "God loved man with a warm
and comforting love." Marx merely substituted society.>

Where is this in Marx?  I remember William Bennett speaking on "political
correctness" saying that the phrase had been picked up from Marx.  If any
of the Marx readers on this list have identified where in Marx the phrase
appears I would really like to hear about it.  Marx never accused those who
achieved or thought independently of being "politically incorrect"; if some
Marxists do so today that is not Marx's doing nor is it the doing of anyone
else who happens to agree with Marx's economics or politics.  "Political
correctness" was invented by the right wing (or perhaps appropriated from
the left by the right) in an effort to discredit the very few achievements
of the civil rights and feminist movements of the sixties.  So the 60s
radicals got a few brilliant scholars tenured, and so even fewer of them
continue to argue for a radical restructuring of society.  This, for some
unknown reason, really threatened the "old guard" of the William Bennetts
and Skull and Bones bunch, so they had to invent a demon to bash, and it
was the "politically correct" -- i.e. young faculty members who retained
enough of their radicalism to continue to speak out against blatant
exploitation (by the "moochers" and "looters" mentioned above).

<Capitalism grows indirectly from the free will choices of individuals in
a society, if those choices are based upon the metaphysically first human
choice: to reason about reality. A rationally surviving individual knows
that other rational individuals provide knowledge and trade. So he wants a
society in which independent action is politically correct, in which the
initiation of force (which splits mind and action) is politically
incorrect.>

The true face of the "political correctness" media hype shows itself here;
the capitalist wants those that s/he categorizes as "splitting mind and
action" (??) to be seen as "politically incorrect," and does so by saying
they are part of the so-called "political correctness" movement.

> Aside from the assumption that it's form of "productive work" to >
inherit one's great-grandparent's wealth and deposit it with > stockbrokers

<As I repeatedly stress, discontents hate and dont even, sometimes,
recognize individual achievement. News reports are constantly filled with
descriptions of individual businessmen _creating new_ wealth but this is
impossible in the metaphysics of these discontents. >

Can you give an example?  Which news reports?  What individual businessmen?
True, some small businesses _do_ survive, and that is part of the reality
of flexible accumulation.  As I mentioned earlier, (about 2 hours ago??!!
Sorry about the long- windedness here) Guattari noted that the
revolutionary nature of capitalism is such that it allows much freedom for
change and dynamism -- but in that dynamism, something is covered over.
"The more things change, the more they stay the same."  The problem is that
the dynamic nature of capitalism allows exploitation (in very stagnant
forms) to continue to appear as "new" so that an ideology develops.  So
that poor third-world immigrants who make a few bucks in America by opening
their own business end up believing the entire myth of American
individualism ("pull yourself up by your bootstraps") and will defend the
CEO of Boeing as a "hero" who pulled himself up just like they did while
ignoring the material division of labor that continues to make it
impossible for their former countrymen and women to "pull themselves up,"
and continues to make it impossible for native Americans to "pull
themselves up" or blacks to "pull themselves up" etc etc....

(more garbage deleted; pure ad hominem about Marx and the "holy spirit")

>industrial institutions are, for all practical purposes, public
institutions >- only with the cooperative labor of millions of people can
they be >constructed and operated.

<They are private. Cooperative labor is unproductive unless led by
individual reason, even if hidden in subtle kinship relations in tribal
culture.>

What the hell is tribal about the international division of labor?  My
point is that even "private property" is social.  A belief that "those who
own the corporations are the most productive and intelligent" is pure
mysticism and nothing more.  The real "subtle kinship relations" that hide
"unproductive labor" are those that, for example, make my father continue
to feel loyalty to the "private" corporation that laid him off after 30
years of productive labor.  In other words, ideology.  The idea that "the
best and the brightest" are naturally going to end up in charge is the most
absurd kind of mysticism, giving up on human ingenuity in favor of the myth
that whatever happens happens because it should happen.  I won't use the
term "cowardice" to describe this situation (as Grossman has for situations
he clearly knows nothing about) but I think that it would be more
appropriate here than in the situations he attempts to address.

<Capital is created by volitional reason in individual achievement. Its
thus not metaphysical but man-made and temporary. Those who created capital
in the past might be unable in the future. Those unable to create capital
in the past might in the future.>

And that is precisely why those who _accumulate_ capital are most often
those who are afraid of the ones who _produce_ capital; in short, the
bosses have forgotten how to produce capital and are now afraid of their
own workers.  Let us see the CEO of GE change a lightbulb before branding
him a hero.

 <IBM was the leading computer company until Bill Gates created new wealth.
There is no metaphysical necessity to Gates being able to produce new
wealth in the future. But, in  capitalism, every day, some individuals will
be new capitalists and some old capitalists will be unable to compete. >

So why do all the new capitalist leaders look so much like the old ones?
(white, male, middle-upper class, American/European)?  I don't deny that
genius occasionally is rewarded in modern capitalist society.  But Bill
Gates is the exception, not the rule.  And Bill Gates consolidated his
"empire" by being able to monopolize information.  There are many computer
geniuses as brilliant as Bill Gates or more so.  And there are many who
have produced more.  But not all of them will achieve what Gates has
achieved economically (and politically, in terms of power).  Gates will
make 17 million dollars just for telling some DOS-ignorant CEO not to press
the NUM LOCK key when using FTP (OK, I'm exaggerating to make a point).
But the millions of other computer geniuses in this country and others will
be happy to get jobs as unacknowledged drones who write most of the code
that Gates profits from.  This is not to say that Gates is evil; I'm sure
he's a decent guy, but rather to say that structurally he is in a position
that most people won't occupy regardless of their intelligence, creativity,
or work ethic.

<Sometimes these old capitalists donate money to Marxist causes because
they, like Marxists and other discontents, want automatic social status
without having to earn it as individuals endlessly competing with other
creative individuals. THey want automatic, unearned,  moral self-respect. >

Or sometimes they run for office (e.g. G. Bush, oil tycoon) because they
"want automatic social status without having to earn it as individuals
endlessly competing with other creative individuals. THey want automatic,
unearned,  moral self-respect."  And they want the ability to back it up
with force, the "enemy of reason".

<philosophy to find and create fantasies of a metaphysical nipple. Just
suck hard enough and everything will be wonderful.>

Is that what the "giant sucking sound" is all about?

>    >    a mindless herd of self-destructive cowards.

 >I sometimes wonder why nearly all ad hominum remarks are made by
 capitalism advocates.

<You have it backwards. People who freely choose Marxism do so because they
already have chosen to be self-destructive cowards and need a
rationalization. I fully recognize that ideas are not reducible to
psychology. This is absurd, given the easily available Marxist literature,
the popular image of emotionally disturbed businessmen, the lack of Marxist
ideas in basic economics (recall Bohm-Bawerk and von Mises!), and Marx's
claim that ideas were reducible to the person's life situation (ie, class).
You should make this claim to uneducated people.>

Can someone tell me what he's talking about here?  Who said that this list
was "a mindless herd of self-destructive cowards"?  Who's making the ad
hominems here?

>One would think that they would take comfort > in the fact that their
ideal, the ownership of 90 percent of the > wealth by the wealthiest one
percent of the population, is now in > full bloom all around us.

<Do you want serious argument or not? I know of no pro-capitalist
intellectual who even suggests this.>

Who suggests what, that a minority of the population owns the majority of
resources?  If they don't say it, they're not unaware of it....  George
Kennan said it openly in 1948.  Theodore Roosevelt said it openly.  So did
Winston Churchill; so did Alexander Hamilton.  Are you denying it?  It's
not like this is a disputed point.  I know of no pro- OR anti-capitalist
intellectual who can credibly deny it.

<Serene? Revolutionary literature is filled with military images of
destruction and hatred of non-revolutionaries.  Read some Ayn Rand for
serene reflection. >

Well, I'm not unfamiliar with her work.  It's not serene.  Don't get me
wrong; she was a brilliant writer and I thoroughly enjoyed her work, even
considered myself an "objectivist" for a while, but she's not serene.  Look
at her characters in _Atlas_ or _Fountainhead_....either they are the
perfect embodiments of objectivist philosophy or they are twisted, depraved
"altruistic" cowards who will do anything to prevent a genius from
achieving his rightful rewards.  Her Atlantis is the embodiment of a
technologically sophisticated "hippie commune," right down to the
Joshua-Norton-style currency (anyone remember "Emperor" Joshua Norton?).
Sorry, Mr. Grossman, but the real world doesn't work this way.

Ben Attias


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