foucault at eden.rutgers.edu
Tue Dec 27 05:54:32 MST 1994
New to this group, and possibly unfamiliar with the precise terms of
the discussion, I'll throw in two cents anyway.
I have found that separation of oppression and domination is an
unsatisfactory approach. I have resolved it for myself by embracing first,
Marx's idea of the "secular fall of man". This gives a simple framework of
domination being the mechanism by which oppression (exploitation) begins. I
then look at Veblen's observations on capitalist culture and the myth of
scarcity to find the "meritocracy" lie as the natural cultural outgrowth of
the Marxian dialectic. I find that feminist work ties the two together as it
shows the mechanisms of a domination culture as a "meritocratic" culture.
In this way, oppression and domination start simultaneously (men's
work and women's work, probably, back in the early agricultural days), and go
through their hideous historical augmentations, until we come to hte
capitalist age. Here, where capital and the flow of capital on the basis of
the market rather than assumed excess demand are the kingmakers,
cultural domination through the myth of that "meritocracy" natural in
a mythical "economics of scarcity" are the last political hope for
The value of the worker as a mindless cog in an assembly line
is, in fact an ancient rather than a modern concept. Actually, more
of the oppressor's assets are invested in each worker now than before.
That requires of the culture an ideology to dominate the worker.
Meritocracy is that ideology. Meritocracy is the fundamental ideology
of racism and sexism. Meritocracy is explained by the scarcity
capitalists weave in the air.
The fundamental logic of unionism and collectivism in general
denies meritocracy. The true logic of an economy - to make everybody
rich - and the reality of the modern industrial economy (that has
dominated nature to the extent that competition for resources is of
little importance) deny the myth of scarcity. Both together create an
environment where the preponderant importance of human effort in the
productive force and the necessity of democracy to secure that effort
(from each member of society for the others) flies in the face of
The practical result is the need for every American to insist
on democracy on the basis of the "you ain't no better'n me". This
creates a culture where domination on the basis of "merit" is
Groups discriminated against can only achieve "legal" equality
through this logic because their arguments do not confront the greater
logic of ALL meritocracy. Since meritocracy is fundamentally an
economically based concept, it must be challenged economically.
Naturally competition will persist. The only remedy is to
limit that competition to arenas impacted maximally by truly
democratic institutions. I'll use professional sports as a sort of
worst case. Professional athletes are exploited by team owners, and
viscious chauvinisms pervade it. However, the fact that the market
for individual athletes' work product is so great, the market (a
reasonably democratic institution in this case) protects them quite a
little bit. Ugly black men with bad dispositions can compete in this
market despite bigotry because the terms and conditions of the
competition in the industry are scrutinized by fans hungry for phenoms
to push the home team over the top. I'll stop here so that an
argument about the Phoenix Suns doesn't ensue.
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