Tag Archives: capitalism

Understanding Liberalism and Conservativism

I think it’s important to distinguish between liberal/conservative economics that pertain to how tax, management of property and trade works, then liberal/conservative politics that pertain to civil rights, law and social ideals etc, although the two can interweve with each other.

Case in point – neoliberalism.

Certain conservatives and liberals in the UK and for that matter, republicans and democrats in the USA practice neoliberal economics. Neoliberalism is very similar to classical liberalism, except it accomodates the new financialised world we live in today. Liberalism comes from the political economy philosophers like John Locke, Jean Jaques Roussaeu, David Hume and Adam Smith and it emerged with capitalism, offering a form of economics that could undermine the Feudal structures of the middle ages.

Basic particulars

Classical liberals/neo-liberals enforce negative rights in exchange for lower taxes[1], arguing that trade is not something the state should interfere with too much and that a more social liberal view of ‘high tax and positive rights’ would be too draining on the economy to sustain (known as the slim state[2]). They also advocate protection of private property from the state (one of the only functions of the state it does agree with), which is to be extended to military intervention overseas. The difference between classical and neo-liberalism is financialisation. As taxes are low or they were too high for certain demographics and they are forced or choose to leave the jurisdiction, this forces governments into debt in order to compensate, once the state can no longer acquire taxes from it’s citizens and can not pay back the loans to the banks that lend the money, the state is acquired by private interests.[3]

Debt Markets

Neoliberal economics run states like a firm, instead of based on principles like solidarity (positive rights to vote, education for all, healthcare and pensions), it instead operates to nationalise the debt and for the occupants of the state to repay that debt. It also advocates de-regulation of finance and trade agreements.[4] Debt, unlike taxes, can be sold and traded on the stock market. The private interests usually impose what is called ‘austerity'[5], which involves massive cut backs on funding public services. They open up the market in the state to private interests outside of the border of the state, selling off land and property that is then re-built under the guise of improvement and opportunity, but in reality it’s to boost the value of property in the area that can be sold to foreign interests. The effect of this is that no one on a lower-middle class wage can possibly afford to live in the area, they may be able to rent at best from a landlord with no social housing avaiable.[6]

Left or Right?

There are a number of other problems that I wont go into here, such as the privatisation of health care for the public as well as schools, outsourcing of trade and the crushing of labour unions[7]. The main thing to understand, is that ‘liberalism’ actually seems more like what we conventionally understand to be conservative, this is why Hillary Clinton was no longer trusted in the recent election[8], as she was pretty much in the same ideological view of Reagan. Neo-liberalism in it’s current form started in the 70’s under Thatcher and Reagan (Reaganomics), they were inspired by General Pinochet in Chile who had his ‘Chicago boys’ at his side, who helped him transform the state into a neo-liberal state.[9]

Intersectionality

Neo-liberalism boasts at being the cutting edge of progress, declaring an end to prejudice and hardship, claiming that everything is up for grabs, that inequality is a virtue and everyone gets what they deserve. The way they deal with economic problems is through austerity, making it practically impossible for low wage workers to resist their ruthless form of capitalism. It creates foundations for conceptions of inequality.
[10]

Social Liberalism, Socialism

Social liberalism seeks to at least offer welfare through higher taxation (high tax/positive rights), but given how many governments have conflicting interests with neo-liberals, I seriously doubt whether anything would change, the same goes for Marxist socialism. Somehow the leaders are supposed to be immune from corruption, but in reality they end up exploiting the masses like the worst of capitalists. Case in point, Lenin and Stalin.

Military Intervention

After all, no one wants to pay high taxes right? This is why military intervention comes into play and why liberals and conservatives don’t seem to differ much when it comes to war overseas. A state can justify a rise in tax for war, but not for social projects like building hospitals, funding pensions etc. The welfare state was created using money from oil in Iran (in Britain anyway) and that money helped to build the National Health Service.[11]

Global Division of Labour

Even though we call a state socialist, it has a combined link with capitalism. Cheap oil is a dream of the past, growth is impossible as China gets more and more powerful and this is why we see the problems we see today since the 2008 crash. It wasn’t just the bankers and speculators that were the problem, it’s about a fundamental shift in power to China and India. They have workers on $1.76 [12] per hour,while workers in Germany with all compensation costs like holiday pay and sickness etc, earn around $40.00 per hour! [13]

Protectionism and Outsourcing

The new forms of conservatism seem to be looking at more protectionist solutions, i.e.high import tarrifs from foriegn trade in order to preserve domestic industry and trade[14]. The problem is that of collective action, if you set your tarrifs high and expect others to let you export free of charge or at low tarrifs, think again! Protectionism didn’t work because everyone will do the same thing. The end result is trade death and the economy stops. Protectionism also has the problem of outsourcing to deal with. Manufacturing in the West has declined, but risen dramatically in the East through outsourcing. The West has a growing market of finance, in 2012, around 7,000,000 people worked in finance in the UK, while another 7,000,000 worked in the services industry, for example, baristas, food, dog-walking, strippers and cleaning. Manufacturing in the Uk was around 4,000,000 in 1997 but is now less than 2,000,000. There is nothing to protect as the wealthy make their fortunes by outsourcing to China and India.[15]

Liberalism and Conservatism in the Social and General Sense

Social issues concerning rights that are labelled as conservative or liberal, are perhaps easier to point out in the general definitions. Conservatives tend to be more about preserving tradtions and liberals tend to advocate equal opportunities for all, regardless of background, creed etc. Pressure politics is all we have left that even closely resembles democracy, but the problem is that while one group pushes and agenda to push through legislation in their favour for one particular cause, they leave other causes out to rot. For example, a pressure group seeking to get more funding for cancer research is more likely to have precendence over say, mental health.[16]

Police State

I personally see a difference between policing and governing – a state that is retrictive tends to be a police state,which we definitely live in today. Where as a government is set up to manage the affairs of millions of people in a variety of forms like democracy. I personally am an anarchist, so I don’t like anything that leads to domination of any kind. The way in which economics and politics overlap is due to the management of property. Civil rights come after the protection of property and capital.

Anyway, I have lots more information on this topic. I thought I would share it here as I was surpised at the actual economic meaning of liberal, which differs vastly from the usual meaning. In this day in age, no one can tell left from right anymore.

Sources:
[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_…re_beliefs – paragraph 8 – For society to guarantee positive rights requires taxation over and above the minimum needed to enforce negative rights.
[2] Classical liberals argued for what they called a “slim state”, limited to the following functions:

A Decentralized Federal Government to protect individual rights and to provide services otherwise could not be provided in a free market.
A common National Defense to provide protection against foreign invaders.
A Constitutional Democratic-Republican Government that guarantees and protects every individual’s God-given rights.
Laws to provide protection for citizens from wrongs committed against them by other citizens, which included protection of private property, enforcement of contracts and common law.
Federal public works that included a stable currency, standard weights and measures, and support of roads, canals, harbors, railways, communications and postal.
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of…cal_crisis
[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decline_of…eagall_Act
[5] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10162176
[6] http://england.shelter.org.uk/campaigns_…ing_crisis
[7] http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/priv…iative.asp
[8] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfre…ricas-fate
[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism#Origins During the military rule under Augusto Pinochet (1973–1990) in Chile, opposition scholars took up the expression to describe the economic reforms implemented there and its proponents (the “Chicago Boys”).
[10] http://www.palgraveconnect.com/pc/doifin…95279.0007
[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1953_Irani…’%C3%A9tat
[12] http://www.bls.gov/fls/china.htm
[13] http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ichcc.pdf
[14] http://www.nationalreview.com/article/43…et-economy
[15] http://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/economicou…2015-05-28 Note: the figures I have used come from Graham Turner and the Office for national statistics.
[16] Pressure politics: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/pais/p…ntrush.pdf – see page 3 – it is relatively easy to attract media attention for an emotional campaign demanding that patients suffering from a potentially terminal illness, such as breast cancer, should be given an unproven treatment. Funds then have to be found from elsewhere in the NHS budget, possibly from conditions that attract less sympathy, such as mental health. Moreover, it would appear that campaigns by patient groups can be used by pharmaceutical companies who wish to promote sales of a particular drug.

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Incorporation | You are the world around you |

What is incorporation?

We all like to believe that we are original and autonomous individuals, soveriegn individuals that are authentic. This is an impossible occurence and the concept of incorporation describes the process of our ‘thrown-ness’ into existence. It’s sometimes referred to as a ‘ready-to-hand’; ‘present-at-hand’ or ‘readymade’ quality that affects our ontical-ontology in existence. We are born into a world of history and talking about incorporation is a study of historology (history of being) and historciality (ontical history of a being). Incorporation is a process we can’t avoid, it is a heteronomous will, a determinism of our being in being.

To incorporate something means to take it from the world around you and then make it part of your own body.

For example, when we ingest food we extract nutrients from it and some of these nutrients are transformed into cells in our bodies. In a similar sense, we are educated in society and we pick up ideas, beliefs, norms and practices from other people around us and then make them ‘our own’.

Parasitic and Symbiotic

From the example of ingestion and nutrients in the body, incorporation is not strictly harmful in and of itself. Some forms of incorporation are symbiotic, which means that two bodies co-exist in a way that is beneficial for both bodies. For example, there is bacteria in our bodies that helps to break down food and remove harmful toxins, without them we would not be able to survive. A tic however, which feeds off our blood, is a parasite. The tic needs me to live, but I can live without the tic.

Some of these ideas are dug in very deep in our subconscious and may seem like instincts, they become emotional, unconscious and unthinking, ‘physical’ reflexes and ‘gut feelings’, or knee-jerk reactions. This is usually apparent when what we have incorporated is challenged or violated and a cognitive dissonance occurs.

There are four main processes of incorporation – mimesis, performativity, normativity and the formation of subjects.

Mimesis

Human beings have a strong and largely unconscious tendency to imitate each other, especially from what they consider to be ‘role models’. Some philosophers and psychologists use the Greek term mimesis to describe this phenomenon. Children start to imitate the people around them within hours of them being born, starting with facial expressions. After a few months, it gets more complex and they copy and repeat practices and routines that they are shown.

Mimesis or ’embodied unconscious imitation’ is a very early and powerful way in which we incorporate values, desires and actions of those near to us. The drive is for power – we have an unconscious desire to have more and more control over our bodies and we copy routines and practices, ideas and values from others in order to get the ball rolling. This doesn’t stop after childhood however, it continues through the rest of our lives.

There are even earlier ‘transmission processes’ for appetites that are passed on while we are in the womb, what our mothers eat determines what our tastes are.

Mimesis can sometimes be referred to as a ‘herd instinct’, ‘chameleon effect’ and subconscious ‘priming’.

Performativity

One way in which we incorporate values, norms and practices is by repeatedly performing and practicing them. When we learn a new song or dance, we start off awkward and rigid, but eventually through practice and repitition, the moves and sounds flow more naturally until it is like a ‘second nature’.

Developmental Psychologists studied how children learn ‘scripts’, or repeated patterns of social interaction. There are determined scripts for bedtime and dinnertime, or ‘going to the park’. Like a theatre script, it can include a typical sequence of events or scenes and can feature and number of roles (mummy, baby etc).

Built into it are expectations of what happens next, desires and emotions about what is happening and values, of right and wrong actions and responses. Basic structures of human memory seem to favour learning through scripts. Infants have little memory for particular objects and one-off events, buthave strong memory for repeated sequences.

Like mimesis, script learning is not something that stops when we grow up, it continues throughout our adult lives too.

Normativity

Norms and practices – also interpretations, values, desires, or even whole scripts combining a number of these – that people in a group feel to be normal or expected and to be right. Norms are supported through rewards and punished through sanctions.

Norms are unofficial rules, often unwritten that are enforced by nieghbours, informal groups, as opposed to laws, which are more formal rules that are enforced by the state or other ‘specialist’ agent. We don’t have to make the distinction here, some official laws work like norms, if they are accepted as right and normal.

Many norms are implicit, rarely put into words, perhaps even entirely unconscious. Many Developmental Psychologists think children start to learn norms before they can speak. They are ‘moral feelings’ that we learn and then later rationalise into ‘moral concepts’. So they are largely unconscious and can go unquestioned, even when we consciously rationalise and justify them.

It’s another aspect of the ‘herd instinct’ – that we cling to groups seeking approval and belonging.

Enforcement

The traditional way of training people into a groups’ norms is through humiliation and violence for norm-breakers. By contrast, rewards of status for conformity.

Note how norms involve a number of different people in different roles, they depend on the type of encounter. The norms, or what you are expected to do in certain situations – and want, and value, and expect, how you are supposed to interpret the world, will be different depending on how you are identified, what role you are expected to play.

Subjects

Humans become subjects – who can reflect on themselves and their actions, make conscious plans and projects over time. We can become self-governing or self-policing. For example, I measure myself by what I ‘should be’, strive to become more like the ideal and feel inadequate or guilty if I fail.

This is a paradox of subjectivity – while we seem ‘free’ to make and re-make ourselves in new ways, persuing our chosen projects, what we choose doesn’t come from a pure source ‘inside of us’: we have incorporated these choices, too, from the cultures around us.

You might be a strong, commited and independent subject, but the ideal you aim for comes right off the shelf of norms and stereotypes, let’s say from capitalism, or patriarchy for instance – ruthless money maker, model worker, family guy, housewife, object of desire, gangster, consumer, or playboy.

Subjectivation

Thinking about and working on yourself as an individual is an important form of social domination in modern life. Think about how we are sold ‘aspirational lifestyles’ or the need for ‘self improvement’ to name a couple of examples.

Self-transformation

Mimesis, performativity, normativity and subject becoming don’t mean that the subject is ‘doomed’ to cultural slavery. Having ‘care of the self’ is a vital starting point for developing new cultures and forms of life, freer ways of living. But just being a ‘soveriegn individual’ is not all there is to being free. Subjectivation, or techniques of the self can be used in a number of ways, they can be used to defend or reinforce forms of life dug deep into our bodies (such as capitalism and patriarchy), or they can be used to destroy and overcome them.

Summary

  • We incorporate values, desires and practices of the cultures around us through a range of processes
  • Some of these processes are deeply unconscious, they work on us even when we are not aware of them and without conscious effort on our part
  • These unconscious incorporation processes start in early childhood and continue throughout our adult lives
  • This doesn’t mean we are unthinking slaves of the cultures around us where we grow up and live. We can learn to understand these processes that shape us and use our self-consciousness to help transform our ways of life.

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What is Capitalism and how can we Destroy it? New Series!

Reference Guide to Capitalism

Continue reading What is Capitalism and how can we Destroy it? New Series!

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