26 February, 2010

Per Spencer's response #10 to Marxism

My response in explanation was too long, so here it is reproduced:

Oh Spence, there you go assuming I'm some pie-in-the-sky Marxist.

I guess I have to venture some response along the lines of Marxism that I have begun--with the caveat that I don't actually buy all these arguments.

Response 1: Like I said, I don't think that living standards haven't increased. Neither would I argue that people are reporting more happiness. The stock response, I suppose, is that they have no basis of comparison for true happiness. They have been born and bred into a system with teaches them first to distinguish leisure and work times, and then takes over leisure time with the myriad tasks of participating in society--as ordered by capitalism. Work becomes drudgery, and the people are unable to form meaningful human relationships, but rather are engaged with one another only through the things they have. Fetishism, Marx would say.

Still, there is value to happiness as the measure of human existence. What people under capitalism experience is a dim shadow of happiness--only that which can be derived from the use value of some object or another, and its comparison to other objects--that is nothing compared to the person existing in full relationship with their society and producing for themselves.

As for the increases you are citing, I need not worry myself about them. Marxism is not a regression into some pastoral wonderland where no one outlives the usefulness of their teeth and babies are considered with as much regard as goldfish. All of those advances were made--I'll even give you this one--under capitalistic systems, already firmly in place by the 19th century. What I am concerned with is completing the process (and here I may overstep myself because it has been said of the Marxist that 'it is not for him to solve, only to critique') and giving man the freedom and happiness which is truly his lot in life, denied him by enslavement to the various commodities and their relations around him.

Response 2: Of course its vague. Also, I'm not sure that it's meant to illustrate anything besides the fact that from within the system we are looking at--capitalism--it is impossible to look at some parts of life as "non-capitalistic," such as "having a good time with friends," i.e. leisure. With what do we amuse ourselves during this so-called leisure time? Buying things. Consuming things. Failing to relate on a truly human level to other individuals through the hazy yet impenetrable curtain of the commodity. Basically, it goes back to the measure of happiness and freedom that people experience--or rather are unable to experience--under capitalism.

Response 3: Exploitation: 1. The act of using something for any purpose; to use. 2. The act of using something in an unjust or cruel manner.

Both of these definitions apply to my argument. Objects in themselves have a use to humans. Steel: building, weapons, tools. Even gold: ornamentation, electronics (notice I didn't say money). A capitalist society abstracts the use of objects from the people who produce them--extracting from them (I will soon say exploiting them for) their labor. You don't produce things to use them yourself. The goal of capitalism to is earn capital gains off an investment. We make things for an abstract market, sometimes too much, sometimes too litte. When a person is not being allowed to apply their labor to producing the needs of their own lives and those of their families, you could argue that they are being exploited ( as in '1' and also '2') for their labor--for some else's ends(i.e. monetary gain).

A person's work--their labor of time and creativity--is most rightly applied to the needs of their life and of that of their family. I start with this as a basic assumption--basically survival of the fittest in nature, you might say. What happens under capitalism is that people are forced to work for money with which to supply their needs (ah, the uber-commodity), and accumulation is substituted as the ultimate end for human existence, in place of a free, happy, and social existence.

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