[Marxism] Fwd: Ed George's Question

Shane Mage shmage at pipeline.com
Wed Feb 6 14:00:45 MST 2013


On Feb 6, 2013, at 2:34 PM, Ralph Johansen wrote:
>
> Shane Mage wrote
>
> On Feb 6, 2013, at 6:47 AM, Ed George wrote:
>
>
> "Me: Capitalists introduce technical change because it allows them  
> (the innovators) to realise an above average rate of profit (at  
> least for a period of time). Other capitalists are forced to adopt  
> new techniques (through competition) to avoid being priced out of  
> the market. My question is: why are capitalists *necessarily* driven  
> to pursue surplus-profits? That they are is an observable fact; but  
> why are they?"
>
>
> The answer is insecurity. In the competitive-capitalism model used  
> by Marx (well reflecting the institutional framework of that epoch's  
> capitalism) productivity-raising technological change allows its  
> adopter to undersell the others and drive the weaker ones out of the  
> market.
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> I looked quickly at this exchange. I sense that the point ignored  
> which causes this circular discussion may be that the origins, as v  
> the operative functions and mechanisms, of the system called  
> capitalism are not front and center.

It is a profound methodological mistake to  believe that the  
historical origins of a system automatically help to explain current  
behavior within the system. The origins are  (in the case of  
capitalism) thousands of years old and--more important--totally  
outside the consciousness of the actors whose behavior is to be  
explained (an originating event can remain within the active  
collective unconscious of a people for a long time--as in the  
historical cosmic catastrophes whose cultural echoes among the meso- 
American peoples survived for millennia in the religious practice of  
mass human sacrifice--but explanation of current religious practices  
among the descendants of the Olmec, Maya, Toltec and Aztec peoples can  
scarcely be helped by invocation of those catastrophes).  There must  
be some clear way in which the origins of a practice survive in the  
collective unconscious of a people (as in the ritualistic words with  
which Jews unconsciously reinforce the memory of such a catastrophe as  
experienced in the time of Moses) before they can explain anything at  
all about people's current behavior.


> Shane Mage

"Thunderbolt steers all things." Herakleitos of Ephesos, fr. 64








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