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The Ism’s

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There has been much said and written about capitalism, imperialism, feminism, socialism, communism, and all the other “isms”.

Some of the “isms” have been crammed down the throats of people who were forced to accept the given philosophy or die. It was the administrators of them, not the philosophy itself which was evil.

But it never ceases to amaze me how “capitalism” has become the altar on which all things “bad” are laid. It is forced on no one. It is not, on its face, oppressive. It is an economic philosophy which gives every player the chance to play.

Capitalism is free enterprise. Free enterprise only works under one scenario. It gives the people what they want. Capitalism is not a mystery…it is PEOPLE who seek to make money from others who want what they have to sell. It is, more often than not, a RESULT of what the people want, rather than an escort to get them there.

Capitalism is often touted as the work of the devil; that products are so seductively put a on the market that the masses are duped into buying into it. Some claim that the music moguls put the money out there to publish and sell that which the self-perceived oppressed, angry, violent, ganster devil worshipers want. The music powersthatbe would publish ME if it would sell. It may be bad judgment, but it is capitalism at its best.

The “capitalist” is a person who sees a need, a human condition, or a void in the marketplace, and fills it. It is not heinous or subversive, or anything to be attacked or feared. Capitalism has been the benefactor of most of the things we now hold dear. It is the mother of technology, it is the father of research and development, and it is the child of freedom. The fact that there are those who monetarily benefit does not make it something to deride. Do some people with money and power abuse it? Of course they do, but find me something, anything that has no component or hint of abuse. It doesn’t exist.

We live in a world where PEOPLE dictate what they want, and PEOPLE dictate what they get. It is the responsibility of the people to speak out and rise up and say NO, to withhold their disposable income, and to rebuff that which would make us less in favor of that which would make us more.

One cannot legislate thought. Because I don’t like something, doesn’t make it censorable. I am not a huge fan of many things which are “out in the world”, but they, as much as I, have a right to be out there. Where I think the line comes is as fine as a gossamer thread.

When something “incites” people to unacceptable behavior, then it crosses the line from that which is free, to that which is destructive. Until a clear line can be drawn, we are forced, as human beings who support freedom of expression and philosophy, to leave it up to the individual to make a choice.

To lay the claim of the devil at “capitalism”, or democracy, or Islam, or even war is deluded. The devil works in far more subtle ways. Only people who are like minded against that which would erode human dignity can defeat it. But they have a wide row to hoe. It isn’t restricted to any one industry, the media, or the self-proclaimed televangelists who sneak off to do the deed with a mistress between tapings. The devil is where you find him. (that is, if one is so predisposed to believe in him). If not, then equate the devil with that which would make us less than we should be.

Socialism, although a hard concept to swallow for those of us raised with a capitalist philosophy, is a hard pill. It’s philosophy, like communisim, kills incentive, breed laziness, and does a disservice to the journey we are here for. But there are some aspects of socialism (and even communism), which, in their purest philosophical form, are not evil. Feminism is the subject of another piece 🙂 It took up too much room in this one.

Most “isms” in their purest form are not bad things. People who abuse them make them bad. Countries have risen and fallen, not on philosophies, but on rigidity, which killed the human spirit, retarded research and technology, gave man no hope of bettering himself, and bred despair. This capitalist country, for all its faults, isn’t rigid. It blends many of the isms which is why it has thrived and will continue to do so.

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About Claire

  • Java

    I am just saying, capitalism is not the way to go. Neither is communism! Every type of political system has a flaw, but capitalism is a source of evil because it does present equal fairness for lower class families. Capitalism ALSO does not believe in sharing whatsoever, even though I must say that communism is far too extreme to have that much to share. So frankly, I don’t believe in capitalism or communism for large populations like the US, China, Russia, etc. Please do not think I have anything against you, it is just I do not like what you believe in. Thank you.

  • Bloody Brit

    You americans have not got a clue, The reason foreigners who come to your country seem to love it so much is that they can have so much and they no longer have to think of they’re starving neighbour, your country sucks and so does mine,
    A quote from your president suffices,
    “I am a war president,I make decisions in the oval office with war on my mind”

  • andy marsh

    The reinforcements have arrived!!!

    Good to see you, Mark!!!

  • Bob A. Booey: “You old fool.”

    Bob A Booey: “I give up. You’re all mentally ill.”

    Shark: “Her stuff consistently sounds like ‘Philosophy for Dummies’ — which is should be both admirable and very popular.”

    Way to go, “Baba Booey” and Shark … I’d love to know what drugs you take to even dare to accuse us of lobbing ad hominems and us of bigotry … yeah right. As I once told Andy, you both live to unhitch your trousers and crap all over the forums to conservative entries.

  • Hal P.: “A tip, MEM: if you see that you’ve started itals, quickly do another comment that starts with the closing tag for tag you used.”

    Well, thanks for the 4-1-1, Hal! I owe you.

  • Claire

    BAB, Andy, Shark, Bob21, (I think I thanked everyone else…if I missed you, it wasn’t intentional) I really do want to take time to thank you all for responding, and taking such an interest in the subject. It’s always gratifying to be so warmly welcomed…

    Shark..I’d be careful about kissing BAB’s ass tho…:)


  • Shark

    Bob A. Booey, excellent response to Claire’s straw man / Hallmark card to ‘capitalism’. Her stuff consistently sounds like “Philosophy for Dummies” — which is should be both admirable and very popular.

    And FYI: not every reader is a slobbering motard — despite some current evidence to the contrary.

    Anyway, I’d kiss yer nerdy ass for your above essays and all the work, thought, and typing that went into ’em, but I don’t wanna strike a nerve while yer on a roll.

  • andy marsh

    ok Bob21…I agree…I’ll even agree that I’m an asshole, sometimes.

    Old fool??? That hurt my feelings!!! I’m not that fucking old!!! I don’t have any grandkids!!!

    I will admit that I can’t follow along in the music blogs though!!!!

  • bob2112

    Claire, once again you dug deep & hit emotional paydirt.

    OK little children, play nice. It’s only a thread based on an opinion. You’ve all had your turn chopping it to pieces. You all, but Claire, have displayed levels of disrespect for one another(Especially the lack of consensus of anything I say.)

    So, Nerds, let us unite in the one thing we can agree upon: “Opinions are like assholes. Everyone is one!”

  • andy marsh

    You young overeducated moron!

    You really think I give a shit if you “honor” my service to this country??? My family and my friends and my God honor my service to this country.

    That’s exactly why I did it…so young mouths like your can continue to spew the shit you spew!!!

  • Nice comment, BHW. Thanks for actually thinking about the topic 🙂

    Your characterization of neoliberalism is pretty accurate. I think people get confused about the word “liberalism,” especially when Bush misuses the word on the stump (as he did yesterday) and adds an -ism to his criticisms of Kerry. Neoliberalism is the definition of the economic order we’ve been exporting around the globe in recent history — both tax-and-spend liberals and Texas conservatives are supporters of the neoliberal order.

    Sweatshops are a great example about how CHOICES aren’t always so free in other parts of the world and how coercion and exploitation are often the necessary underside of the rosy view we have of capitalism in the West.

    I welcome any other constructive engagement, but I have to pass out now.

    That is all.

  • You old fool.

    Learn to use some punctuation before you quote a writer you’ve only heard of just today about writing. I don’t know what’s worse, your rambling, run-on sentences and abuse of ellipses or the fact that you have NO concept about what you just quoted even means.

    Do you not GET irony at all?

    “You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. The [sic] will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent”

    So whose speech in this discussion is more reminscent of succint groupthink and ready-made groupspeech? The thoughtless shouldn’t quote passages about thought and the role of language in inhibiting thought.

    Wait … I almost forgot. USN 20 years right? I’d honor your service gladly if there were any evidence you’d built character through it.

    That is all.

  • andy marsh

    B A B…thought you might want to try this from Orwells writings… specifically the part about making it shorter!!!

    A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:
    What am I trying to say?
    What words will express it?
    What image or idiom will make it clearer?
    Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

    And he will probably ask himself two more:
    Could I put it more shortly?
    Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

    But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. The will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself.

  • I give up. You’re all mentally ill.

    Enjoy your bizarre personal attacks and even more bizarre internet “bonding.” Why waste time talking about ideas when you could spend time kissing each other’s nerdy asses or speculating about who might possibly disagree with you and how it must be personal?

    I’m not one of your internet “friends” or “enemies,” I have no interest in or knowledge of who you are or what your motivations are for your bad arguments. I really don’t care. Try reading a book for once and not gleaning all your limited knowledge of the world from websites.

    I find the topic important, but I’ll leave it to any rational reader of this discussion who’s ill-equipped, immature and evasive.

    Claire: you’re reaching for anything you can get. You get so defensive about your inability to discuss this topic that you reach for your resume, which I’m sure I wouldn’t be impressed by if your style of writing and argument is any indication of your academic or professional success. Yes, I’m younger than you (that’s all you can reach for about me), but I’m also more talented and accomplished. Was that the personal resume game you were looking for? And yes, I’m a better capitalist than you because I have more earning potential and I’m smarter, more fashionable and better-looking too. Plus, I grew up rich and I’m all man (American capitalism doesn’t have a problem with 76 cents on the dollar, does it?). That what you wanted? I don’t understand your insecurity and desire to get into ad hominem attacks. It’s obsessive.

    I don’t care about you. I responded to your poor ideas and you freaked out.
    Notice how all my discussion was ABOUT capitalism. All of YOUR discussions, Claire and Andy, were somehow about ME.

    Andy: pray tell, what ideas did I cut and paste? Cut and paste the exact segments of those websites, with URLs, that you claim I plagiarized. Go ahead, old man. Yes, I quoted the paragraph he wrote about capitalism, which I did read online, and I attribute it to him. That’s it for Orwell. The rest are ideas I’ve written about and thought about which I felt were relevant to this topic.

    “Liberal-minded professors?” Have you been to a university lately, or ever? I’m sure you’d object to your grandkids studying the “liberal arts.” Your anti-intellectualism is positively, well, Orwellian. Read about that on those websites — I’m glad to contribute to your education, even if you all insist on being uneducable and irrational.

    I don’t really know how to respond to the hatred you people spew.

    You have educated me about one thing, though: no talking about big ideas on BlogCritics. Leave it to the shallow posts on big ideas by people who think George W Bush is a theorist of capital. I’m now aware that you’re uneducable. Thanks. Carry on.

    That is all.

  • bhw

    neoliberalism encourages coercion to establish capitalism…and this coercion…would be in the form of what…say TAXES???

    Andy, maybe Booey will give more details because he’s probably a lot better at explaining it than I am, but neoliberalism is NOT American [aka “tax-and-spend”] liberalism. It’s an economic philosophy that American conservatives espouse: unfettered globalization of capitalism/trade.

    As far as capitalism or any other “ism” being pure, that’s quite and idealistic stance and can only be based on the theoretical form of the “ism” and not on any practical application. It turns out that capitalism is not rendered impure by human frailty; it’s flawed on its own.

    For example, it tends to result in the poor becoming poorer and the rich becoming richer, across the globe. [And even here in the good ol’ US of A]. It’s primary flaw, as Marx pointed out, is that it’s exploitative: in order for companies [and nations built on capitalism] to compete and survive, capitalists exploit natural resources and human resources. That’s what helped fuel imperialism: we want that poor country’s resources in order to make our own country richer, so we’ll just go take what we want.

    And that’s why Nike has sweatshops in third world countries and why other companies like it use child labor. That’s exploitation, and Nike didn’t hesitate for a moment to take part in it, not to eek out a meager living for its employees, but to pay some of them tens of millions of dollars. That’s the nature of the capitalist beast, and I really can’t see what’s so pure about it.

  • bob2112

    I used to think I was a pretty radical person in my youth. One day I thought, are there really anything but capitalists in America? Then it occurred to me, if you are not homeless by choice, making your own clothes, growing your own food on land no one owns, driving a car you built out of free scraps fueled by something you make for free, disposing of their waste in something other than public sewer systems, using water supplied by nature heated somehow with solar energy (Panels you built yourself with free tools powered by bicycle parts you would also have to find.)

    I then asked how did these neo-hippie kids get to the protest? Aren’t these guys trashing the Starbucks & Nike Town all the way here from Eugene, OR? They must have walked. Even if they did walk up here, did they carry enough homegrown food & water for the 150-mile trip?

    Claire, this is were we come together!

  • andy marsh

    after checking a couple of Orwell websites…I see where you cut and pasted all your ideas bob…nice individual thinking on your part…
    maybe you need to try a couple of professors that aren’t so liberal minded…or can they actually be found in this country??

  • andy marsh

    I think she’s saying she doesn’t think it’s fair to get in a battle of wits with an unarmed man!!!

    I love it!!!

  • Claire

    Bob, from your statement:

    …Since you good capitalists like to talk about freedom and liberty so much…”

    It is obvious you are not one, nor do you intend to become one, and are, in fact baiting me for whatever reasons you may have. It’s delightful however, that you thought the topic worthwhile enough to keep repeatedly commenting on such a lazy, pollyanna’ish opinion piece.

    Like I said, I’ll exchange resumes with you. I’ve read your posts on others work; you never get to debate, you are too busy hearing your self speak. You have claimed in another post (to someone else) that you are young. With maturity, you will learn, and grow, there is no doubt in my mind…

    But I appreciate your comments, your continued presence, and what you think is debate, which is not. I don’t take advantage of those ill-equipped to discuss a subject. You are rambling, baiting, and I think I know you from another website. I don’t take the bait there, and won’t here….

    I have been nothing less than polite to you. If you don’t like my work, or think it is lazy and ill thought out (as I said, its not a doctoral thesis, but a short opinion piece of the purity of most isms until people corrupt them) then why do you keep coming back? That question was rhetorical, no need to answer. 🙂


  • I’m still waiting on your point too, Claire. No jokes, no being jerky. In all honesty, I don’t know what your point was. You’re absolutely right that I missed your point connecting the following:

    “Freedom breeds capitalism. Capitalism feeds on freedom to thrive.”

    Fill me in and educate me because I don’t understand the point. I’m not playing dumb or baiting you. I just don’t know what argument you’re making for that. Thanks.

  • Andy, your point about taxation is both inane and irrelevant. Way to add nothing. Taxation isn’t a moral wrong. Yes, it’s coercive, but the point you miss is that modern capitalism requires the nation-state structure and yes, taxation, in order to fund the militaries and police that make industrial capitalism possible, both globally and at home. If taxation’s the greatest evil, neo-liberal capitalism is guilty of that evil. It’s true that social democracies in Europe tax more, but true socialism (which is an admitted impossibility and hard to conceive of in reality) wouldn’t have taxation at all because people would have collective access to resources. Taxation implies property rights and vice versa — as long as you have private property, you’ll need to be coerced into taxation. The Marxist argument would be that without private property, coercive taxation disappears. What you call capitalism today couldn’t exist without both coercive taxation and coercion in general. Simple enough for you?

    I look forward to your next meaningless comment and “LOL.” I agree with Claire. You’re a scholar and a gentleman, truly.

    Since you good capitalists like to talk about freedom and liberty so much, here’s a quote from George Orwell, a writer universally acknowledged as knowing something about such things:

    “Capitalism, as such, has no room in it for any human relationship; it has no law except that profits must always be made. Not much more than a century ago, children as young as six were bought up and worked to death in the mines and cotton mills, more ruthlessly than we should now work a donkey. This was not more cruel than the Spanish Inquisition, but it was more inhuman, in that the men who worked those children to death thought of them as mere units of labour, things, whereas the Spanish Inquisitor would have thought of them as souls. According to the capitalist ethic there is absolutely nothing wrong in turning a man out to starve after he has served you for forty years; on the contrary, it may be ‘sound business,’ a necessary retrenchment which is part of your duty to your shareholders. It is true that capitalism has been tamed and modified and has developed certain virtues of its own … but I think it must be admitted that it is inherently evil and that as a result of it human life has deteriorated in certain ways.”

    — George Orwell, “Will Freedom Die With Capitalism?”

    Are you right-wingers going to call Orwell a Commie and dismiss his words too? If George W Bush is your favorite thinker, cast your vote for him and then please do tell me that you read and understood 1984 in high school.

    Keep in mind, I am not a Marxist. I am probably a good capitalist, by definition of my consumption and work behaviors in a capitalist society. I just think it’s childish for any self-respecting intellectual to be oblivious to some of the moral and social problems of capitalism. Capitalism may in fact be a necessary evil for today’s society (especially in our country), but ignorance about its history and development only makes it harder to avoid some of its pitfalls.

    Claire: I think you mistake actual debate and engagement with ideas as rudeness since you’re not accustomed to such things here. I respect you for engaging such a big, deep topic, I just think you were lazy about it and even lazier in being able to defend your position. “Eh whatever … everyone’s entitled to an opinion” and petty comments about personal demeanor only prove my point about how capitalism makes all public discussion apolitical and reduces even the most central issues of society to mere tastes, like the choice between Coke and Pepsi.

    Anyone not scared to take on this issue? It’s quite obvious I’m not that smart. I welcome my liberal friends who prefer to talk about more concrete things like campaign speeches and legal cases to try out the macro discussions as well.

    That is all.

  • andy marsh

    let’s see…it goes like this…I have to make more money to cover the taxes I’m paying cause I’m making more money so I’m paying more taxes…..and the circle continues on and on and on…I’ve created perpetual motion…I’m a freaking GENIUS!!!!

  • Claire

    Andy, good point! And even though we disagree on many things, you have debated like a gentleman, which gives you the right to call me anything you like…LOLOL…too funny….


  • What was the point, honey? Fill me in. Please.

    P.S. — The New Testament is the greatest socialist manifesto ever written. I’m serious. And I’m not a socialist. I’m amazed at the utter lack of cognitive dissonance in today’s conservative worldview about religion and ethics, which is entirely functional and secondary to politics.

    That is all.

  • Claire

    Bob…See above.


  • andy marsh

    neoliberalism encourages coercion to establish capitalism…and this coercion…would be in the form of what…say TAXES??? and some how that’s a good thing??? using 4 syllable words doesnt make your argument any more sound!!!

  • I amend this statement:

    “Capitalism is self-perpetuating — our choices and politics really can’t change it.”

    We can’t change the injustices of the market unless we recognize our complicity in them and the role of our economic behaviors and the almight Market itself in producing them.

    Of course, our choices and political activism can change everything and anything. Capitalism’s just uniquely good at making it seem like we have no way to resist or no-one to fight.

    That is all.

  • Claire Robinson

    Bob, this was not a doctoral thesis, but a short opinion piece on which you have obviously missed the point.

    Disagree as much as you like, but DON’T call me honey. That is reserved for people who are gracious and debate with style.

    That is all.


  • “Freedom breeds capitalism. Capitalism feeds on freedom to thrive.”

    Beyond some general ideological sentiment or some vague optimism, what’s your evidence for this claim? Because it’d be a central thesis in the entire history of Western society. If you can defend this claim specifically, I’ll hire you without looking at your resume, because you’ll have explained all of modernity where everyone else has failed.

    Democracy and capitalism have no necessary causation or relation. The social democracies of Europe today are among the most peaceful, tolerant, progressive, diverse places in the world — but even I might have a problem too with their 80%+ tax rates. Democratic socialism exists. The reason the Soviet Union wasn’t democratic wasn’t because it was socialist — it wasn’t, actually, because it concentrated wealth in the hands of political leaders and was impossibly corrupt in oppressing peasants. The Soviet model was anti-democratic because it was authoritarian and because countries like Russia and China have never had histories of democracy at all. I’m not going to get into the countless examples of capitalist nations in the world that aren’t functionally democratic — look at the tragedy of much of Latin America in the wake of the (often forceful) transition to neoliberalism there or South Africa during apartheid or even the imperial regimes of history in Asia and Africa.
    Go to Singapore and tell me that authoritarianism can’t work with capitalism and that freedom necessarily follows. Hell, China, in strict terms, is a largely capitalist society today and they’re as authoritarian as ever.

    The entire history of modernity shows that capitalism had to be first established in un-free conditions, under coercive circumstances. So that part of your equation is patently false, that capitalism flows from freedom as if it were liberty’s embryo. Capitalism was instituted by force and had to start with anti-democratic measures to get founded. You’re right, of course, that democracy helps keep capitalism functional and acceptable once it has been founded since people are so willing (as you are) to assume necessary correlation. In one respect, you’re right, that NEOLIBERAL democracy is one very specific form of democracy that encourages coercion to establish capitalism — in that respect, they are necessarily linked. But this isn’t the poetic, free-flowing, God-given democracy that loves freedom above all else that you’re referring to.

    Using lots of happy buzzwords like “freedom,” and explicitly referring to God and “the devil” doesn’t make your claims true, honey.

    Capitalism isn’t freedom, and to think so makes you LAZY. Freedom is something we need to work to achieve regardless of what kind of economic and political institutions we live under. Freedom is a moral imperative that is NOT guaranteed by our Presidents, our religions, our economic ideologies, and certainly not by the brand of soda we buy.

    I appreciate your gracious discussion, but your point of view is lazy and sloppy on all these points.

    That is all.

  • A tip, MEM: if you see that you’ve started itals, quickly do another comment that starts with the closing tag for tag you used.

    This could be /i or /em, depending on which you used.

    Anyone else can do it, too.

    (And I hope it works this time – it did the last time I tried it 🙂

  • andy marsh

    I’m sorry, but damn man…what the fuck are you saying???

  • Claire

    Bob (Booey)…you are entitled to your comment and your opinion…I’m glad you took the time to read my Pollyana’ish crap, and respond…thats what opinion is all about.

    I never said that democracy (or a democratic republic) went hand in hand, although they do. There aren’t a lot of entreprenuers in countries which have been socialist or communist, but hey, ya never know. Freedom breeds capitalism. Capitalism feeds on freedom to thrive.

    But, as always, I appreciate your thoughts, and as much as I may disagree with you, you won’t be the first, or the last 🙂

    I think the “Claire lovefest” comment (along with the Pollyanna’ish comment) was not worthy of you, but then, you can’t please all the people all the time, right?

    I’ll be happy to exchange resumes….:)



  • I hate to rain in on the Claire lovefest, but this is crap. Pollyannaish crap.

    First, there’s no necessary connection between capitalism and freedom or capitalism and democracy. That’s an ideological conflation you’ve sort of been fed, without evidence. Bush makes great work out of this association in his speeches today about the new neoliberal order and neo-conservative project of quasi-religious “freedom on the march.” That political reality today demonstrates that state capitalism isn’t possible without coercion and military might — Bush himself associates freedom with aggression in that metaphor.

    There have been countless examples of capitalist societies that have excluded vast segments of their populations from full legal rights or participation in their economic systems and suppressed civil liberties. Yes, the record of Eastern authoritarianism (which was not socialism by any careful examination of terms) was abominable in these respects — these countries have also generally abominable histories of authoritarianism and political violence long before Marx and Lenin.

    If you have any background in social history, you’d realize that it’s a fact that capitalism is a relatively recent social formation unique to modernity and specifically made possible by two events: 1) the development of the modern industrial nation-state, complete with the development of national militaries and police forces to enforce territorial borders and civic behavior, and 2) the development of global trade and resource acquisition through global colonialism and imperialism. This isn’t a radical claim: any historian or sociologist, liberal or conservative, would acknowledge these points as true.

    The point I’m making isn’t that this history automatically disqualifies our current social arrangement of capitalism or makes it inherently evil, it’s that it’s silly and childish to assume that capitalism was somehow “always here” or is some natural human condition that’s a gift from the Gods that we’ve discovered as a higher form of life. Capitalism, undoubtedly, is one of the most stunning successes in social organization in human history, and you’re absolutely right that it occasioned an unprecedented, aggressive technological outlook on the world that has produced the very computers we’re using to communicate about capitalism right now.

    It has also produced significantly more inequality across the globe; created large, coercive nation-state structures
    in order to enforce conditions amenable to markets; created the possibility of instability and competition that has and will continue to make global wars possible; and had several unpleasant by-products such as racism. Racism didn’t exist before capitalism — by this, I mean the social phenomenon of racism, that unique amalgamation of pseudo-scientific biology, group association by these supposedly biological traits (like skin color), nationality, and class. There’s no question that there were nationalisms and tribal conflicts from time immemorial, before race as a concept ever existed. But the concept of race and the commodification of difference in modern imperialism and slavery were motivated by different, global concerns primarily centered around access to resources. Yes, this process intersected with a whole superstructure of religious and cultural ideas about “civilizing missions” but what makes modern racism distinctive is that it was not based on primarily moral considerations, despite what we all recognize as its profound immorality today. The engine behind the modern conception of race and racism is capitalism. In fact, in America, the primary form of class exploitation in America has and will continue to be racism in the marketplace and public sphere.

    So I’ve probably lost my conservative white commentators already because I brought up the invention of race and racism. Here’s the part you can relate to: I think capitalism is an absolutely pervasive reality of modern society. I think it’s naive to think we’re close to moving beyond capitalism anytime soon and I even agree with Fukayama in some respects that capitalism has sort of killed politics and ideology and made it appear (at least) that the big worldview conflicts of history have now been settled. Where Fukayama’s wrong is that he valorizes capitalism without realizing it IS an ideology in and of itself — it’s a mark of its power and influence that we forget this. The great irony about capitalism, as even conservative thinkers like Fukayama point out, is that despite all its technological innovations and advancements in our lifestyles, it is profoundly anti-intellectual and inimical to new ideas, art, political thought, and freedom.

    The “marketplace of ideas” is an oxymoron because the first part of that equation overdetermines the second: ideas become commodities and commodities become our “ideas” to the point where they’re barely recognizable as intellectually cogent ideas at all. For all of Marx’s faults, this was one of his central points: our art and our ideas are usually superstructural and reflect our economic system and its beliefs. American pop culture is a perfect example of this: all our movies, advertising, and cinema (hell, the entire 1960s counterculture) offers the prospect of radical individualism through consumption of mass-market products and images — “rebellion” at the supermarket and at the shopping mall. These are the terms of our current possibilities for identity and dissent and consumer culture does a phenomenal job of blurring the lines between public and private and co-opting subcultures and selling them back to willing consumers in the heartland. Capitalism has made us incapable of individualism even as it preaches an individualist credo — corporations, after all, are an almost perfect manifestation of ordered, collective behavior and production. The great irony about people who claim capitalism as individual liberty is that they fail to realize that it is essentially a system and technology of collective organization, one far more efficient than Soviet authoritarianism was, hence our winning the Cold War. Capitalism is BETTER at ordering human lives and motivating people toward social, other-directed behavior because it obscures the fact that its social goals are murky with the impression that people are constantly choosing. Yet despite this appearance of choice, market structures remain remarkably similar, workers find themselves pushed into very specific roles and tasks, and even creative entrepreneurs (for the most part) find themselves catering to very specific, predictable segments of industry and public taste. The products may change, but the social organization remains largely the same, along with the distribution of wealth.

    Hence the illusion of the middle class: most social scientists worth their diplomas will tell you that this is as much a POLITICAL and CULTURAL myth as anything. In traditional sociological terms, the middle class was an owner class, something akin to the petit bourgeoisie. That’s NOT what we find in today’s economy for most people who CALL themselves middle-class. Most people who consider themselves middle-class today are in fact workers, people who draw paychecks from employers and are subject to great insecurity if they were to lose those paychecks. This includes professionals like lawyers, accountants, and doctors and even small businessmen and businesswomen who can’t rely on inherited wealth or estates and have to hustle on the ground to sell products of their own making. By any reasonable definition, this is the working class. One of the great political skills of the past 50 years in American politics is the invention of a middle class that allowed suburban white Americans to distance themselves from the poor and minorities to become a voting bloc — this became especially prominent with the law-and-order movement of the 1960s and with Nixon, Goldwater, Reagan, and yes, even Clinton. In previous eras of politics, Americans had no illusions about which class they stood with during the JP Morgan/Rockefeller era of monopolies or during the Great Depression.

    Regardless of your politics, there’s a reality that there is an owner class in our society that owns over 85% of the wealth in this country and, more importantly, controls the means to produce that wealth. And I’ll GUARANTEE you that none of you reading this belong to that owner class, despite all your ambitions and aspirations. Chances are, none of you will ever belong to that class, much of which is built on accumulated wealth over generations. Working for a corporation makes you a WORKER, not a part of that owner class. You don’t control your own work any more than a factory worker does — your creativity and labor is in service of the company’s interests, not your own.

    It’s also a reality above and beyond politics that America in and of itself is an owner class globally. We, along with Western European nations, control a vast majority of the wealth and resources on the planet despite being a tiny fraction of the global population. This is something we can be proud of, but it’s also something that we need to be morally responsible for. And it’s no coincidence that the West rose to such prominence with the development of military technology and global capitalism during the era of imperalism and colonialism. We didn’t come to prominence because our ideas were so much more inspiring, lyrical and beautiful — we came to power because of willfull actions to create structural dominance.

    So … where does that leave us? There’s no question capitalism has raised the standard of living for those lucky enough to enjoy its fruits, even as we see that it creates vast inequalities even within those societies. It also creates a vast reservoir of workers and an entire working class (including all reading this) that history has never seen before, operating under the false idea that their work and labor profits themselves and their interests as much or more than it does their employers and owners. Capitalism makes your lives more insecure — you’ll undoubtedly change jobs many times, get fired, laid off, face hard times, etc.

    I don’t forsee anything beyond capitalism and I like to shop and buy nice things as much as the next metrosexual. I don’t really know what a “fairer” capitalism would look like — I think that’s sort of an impossibility by the very nature of the state-sponsored, multi-national market.

    Capitalism is self-perpetuating — our choices and politics really can’t change it. In this way, it’s far MORE rigid a social arrangement than any centrally-planned Soviet government was (I mean, you knew who to resist there, right?) and more survivable as well. Weber called it an “iron cage,” not because it’s so overty oppressive, but quite the opposite: because we imbue capitalism and its arrangements with moral language and psychological notions of duty (as Claire does) and fail to realize how it circumscribes our life choices even as it affords us greater choices in what we consume.

    Claire mentions free speech and censorship, for example. Markets don’t care a lick about your free speech — speech and culture is only valuable in so much as it’s saleable, and radical or overtly political speech isn’t conducive and functional to consumption. Markets don’t protect speech. To the contrary, they shut it out in favor of commercial speech and advertising. Capitalism doesn’t necessarily legislate thought through force (although it depends on force to maintain its order), but it limits your field of vision for thought about what society could look like. In fact, consumption and capitalism prioritize technique and production over thought; in this way, they legislate AGAINST thought. The market “needs” you speak of aren’t inherent to human existence or fundamental, existential necessities, they’re often invented and sold back to us. We come to think we need lots of things we don’t in order to feel like we have status and identity.

    So you’re left with a moral muteness and vague ambivalence, only to consume. And that, my friends, is why capitalism wins. It’s no uphill battle — we’re all good capitalists now.

    That is all.

  • Claire

    Damn I have to start previewing my posts…i leave out words because i type fast and am multitasking…

    Bob, I TOLD you, you have graduated from being an Anarchist to being a liberal…not a huge leap, but an improvement…

    The only candidate who might do that is W, Bob. Kerry sure won’t. But I swore I wouldn’t politic on this thread…(ok, well, I wouldn’t politic much)…

    We weren’t saddled with Eden..we were saddled with a level playing field instead of paradise…equal opportunity for Lucifer to do his worst, with good win out….it was in the plan, its just explained that way so people had a grasp of the concept.

    As always, I enjoy your comments…


    P.S. Mark, are our comments coming out in italics because you didn’t code to end yours? Not that it matters…I’ve always loved italics…they have style..:)


  • Claire

    Mark, you are wise and discerning man. I very much appreciate having an ally in this uphill battle…

    I’m unwilling to put anything in the hands of the government. They make everything a federal case (pun intended), and most of what would go to help the sick would go into administration costs…like everything else…I just don’t the answer on healthcare…

    I do know the answer to this one. Capitalism is a good thing. I admit to pride in being a capitalist pig.

    Your comment is appreciated, as always…


  • bob2112

    What about good ol’ Anarchism? My forte. ‘None of the above’, the Candidate. Disillusion of the infrastructure, the Congress, the Executive, the Judicial, the law! Nature taking it all back from men & women who do not deserve the ‘Eden’ God blessed them with.

    What it would take for this politically free paradise to bloom? One nation willing to use a nuclear weapon on another. Pray it never happens.

    Americans, it is too late for Claire to “cross the street…the die is cast.” However, those of you with a choice left to make, make the one that will put in place a government that may be more likely to listen to the people it works for, remove the traditional blinders, & advocate peaceful solutions first & foremost. Thank you all.

  • Claire

    Andy, thank you for such a good question! Perhaps it is because they have lived under an oppressive rule they have something against which to contrast the freedoms they find here….

    But it is also those who would kill us who are wearing polo shirts, nikes, and levi’s….go figure?


  • Another great entry, Claire.

    “To lay the claim of the devil at ‘capitalism’, or democracy, or Islam, or even war is deluded.”

    Y’know?! But still they try to convince us, the Noam Chomsky/Ralph Nader-styled hard Left, that the reason we were attacked on 9/11 was because of the envy created by economic disparity in the Middle East.

    “Socialism, although a hard concept to swallow for those of us raised with a capitalist philosophy, is a hard pill.”

    Which is exactly why I’m unwilling to accept putting health care, by itself 13% of the economy (if my figures are still correct) in the hands of the government!

  • andy marsh

    Back in the day(again) I was fortunate enough to meet a man that had defected from Czhechoslovakia. He had nothing good to say about the place from which he had escaped, but man, he sure loved America!
    Why is it that the people that seem to love my country so much are the ones that weren’t even born here?