Sunday, April 6, 2014

Capitalism's Changes

Persons are telling us about how great “capitalism” is. We hear that a lot, but let us also ask what it is they mean by “capitalism.” Capitalism changes, and the present form of capitalism is not the form of capitalism at, for example, some particular time, such as the middle of the 19th century. At that time, the system was still developing. It certainly had not reached the level that it has now. (Capitalism won't reach any higher level. It will not "grow" anymore, if by that we mean reach a higher level, in the real sense. That is why we need reform, to continue with any real sense of progress.) Comparing the old and the new, or for that matter any two stretches from within our subjective impression of "capitalist time," capitalism's status is probably going to have some significant differences. When we think that it is all the same, that is a big a mistake we are making. It is better to understand capitalism as changing over time, we cannot think that every period is the same. Now, in any of the old time slices, the system, and also the social structure (that's relevant in my view), was growing--and changing--and in a specific sense.
     This in the sense of space: the sense that it had much virgin space, there was a large area yet to be converted. These were spaces in which to attempt new growth and this relates to society and to the way in which one makes one’s way through life, since one does so in some particular fashion. Therefore,  there is no one "capitalist way." For example, earlier one may find success by having any one of a variety of skills; but more recently something has changed: more recently, one makes one's way simply playing money games. (Obviously I myself do not think that that is very healthy.) Also, these kinds of games have previously always been a topic of derision, which tells you something. Nowadays, nobody says anything. They act like that is just the way the world works.

     On this subject, millionaires used to be mildly amusing. The board game “Monopoly” was invented in their honor, as a commentary on the existence of the millionaires, and the world they helped to create—the reality is that there was wealth to be accumulated. And wealth was accumulated, through capitalistic development, production. Today these persons may well be seen as figures of grave concern and possibly (they are) speeding us to world destruction.
     At fault? I would bring your attention back to the single-minded emphasis on unilateral capitalism as if there is one single thing. This might be described as an emphasis on "capitalism" as something that worked before, and “ought to” work now, just as well as before!—all one need do is lower taxes. Now, that is not necessarily true. So, I would concede that while capitalism does continue to make profits, "old" and "the new" are different. The "modern" is usually a kind of summation or abstraction, whereas the older regime has many specific details, even ornamentation. Of course, what is going on is extremely complicated and the truth is that everyone just claims to know. We never admit to not-knowing. 

     If you say “capitalism,” I need to ask you to tell me which one. Is it the quaint, old version stolidly opposed by the Left? Could you call that the good old days, I wonder? Not really, but that one was full of space to grow—and to struggle, strangely enough. And that one had opposition! In fact, at the time of that particular version, which we might call in a very special way the "old" version of capitalism, opportunities existed to fill in all those spaces. This was space that had been heretofore untouched. To touch such a space for the first time could be astonishingly inhuman, which we see in the literary work of Upton Sinclair. He illustrated the astonishing inhumanity men are capable of: “The Jungle.” Sinclair was very dedicated to exposing this side of capitalism.
     The process is that after the creation of the first new businesses, these businesses often opened up further spaces, and this process has continued (but only up until very recently). At some point that will stop working. And maybe it already has stopped working. The “old” capitalism was still recognizable in the 1950s, although it had at that time an appearance (appearances and rhetoric again) of being a monolith, a gray, hulking sort of thing. Or you may mean the capitalism of today, a system that has already grown very much indeed-—and now expresses and manifests a world-owning “globalization” phase. We are told this is just another form of capitalism.
     It has accomplished so much success: so much growth that it is “creatively destroying” itself. There is no territory left that has not been visited by those seeking to make money off of that space or that territory's "resources." There is scarcely any ground left to be trod in this world, nowhere that has not felt the impress of the system of capitalismcapitalist shoe print and footfall. Note that there's a big difference between footprint and shoe print.
     And yet, for those who tout the system, like Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, the old shoeprint is always the same. This is ideology.