Sunday, May 24, 2015

(second version of a recent post)

Marx and Engels thought that the capitalist system was bound to fail. They believed that, definitely, it would do so. Of course, this is one of their most famous predictions! They also specified details of how that failure was to happen. Here the “proletariat” were involved. But this did not occur, or not so far and not in that precise way. It still may happen; there may be such a systemic failure. But, in any case, the situation is quite different. Whatever explanations there are, they need to account for this difference. The explanations marx and Engels adhered are somewhat, it is safe to say, insufficient.
     How are we to understand the miracle of capitalism? If we fail to understand what it is that is at the basis, or what the basis is, we won't be able to understand the capitalism which is the result. So, I want to take the position, here, that we need to know the basis: what the basis is. Otherwise you are going back to your old position which is one of no understanding. Capitalism is difficult to explain, and there are alternate explanations of “basis.” But, I think we need a basis... What follows is only one way to approach it ... a ... way.

     I contend that capitalism is based on such differences as may exist. There are actors, and these simply comprise the relevant population or society. In fact they are what are called economic actors or players. For example, rich and poor, owners and workers are "actors" in the economic system. These are persons who are different from one another, either individually or as different groups, since individuals may comprise any of various kinds of groups. As to difference: we witness that as time goes by there is the illusion of a leveling of the playing field. There at least seems to be such a leveling. Differences with regard to capitalistic society seem to be reducing. Regarding it as apparent, not real, is helpful. It corresponds to the Picketty narrative, of course. It helps us to remain open-minded. Thus do we investigate this real or apparent tendency that implies a movement towards reduction of difference. Thus, we are allowed to retain our skepticism. (Of course, if the whole "basis" really is difference, then eliminating the basis might also eliminate capitalism.)
     With that in mind, we may observe the way in which average citizens come to eventually realize that, due to society's glorious progress, they too can enter the field of play and be part of the great market, in a bigger way! Again: what is at stake is reality vs. illusion. This had actually been true for a long time---in some sense. But now we see! Now the public realized! That is one possible interpretation, among many. The markets opened up and everyone got the chance to prosper. But if the public did not know that they could do this, in what sense do I was it actually true? Add to this the observation that the United States of America is almost from the beginning based on giving people, citizens, more freedom and we see that it translates to the freedom to work where one pleases, at the career of one's choice, or start one's own business should one want to, or have the energy. But technically it's possible. Under what conditions can "anyone" "succeed in America"?
     The apparent leveling of the playing field does not mean the playing field is level and even more so it does not mean that capitalism proceeded from any such historical basis. What, then, is the real nature of the level playing field? What is the "level playing field principle"? So, here we can return to our basis idea that it is just the opposite, and what capitalism actually requires is difference.
     The situation today is better described as ambiguous. There is a level on which persons are newly seeing the way that capitalism can (Or, alternatively: capitalism apparently can) dissolve differences and thus all they need to do is be the proverbial “nice guys” and they get the proverbial, much-vaunted “good life.” That may be so, and certainly that is what “they” want you to believe. But at the same time, you could listen to what I am saying here. Coexisting with all the apparent “facts” is quite the opposite “fact,” which is the precise idea that capitalism happens only when the actors are different.
     How can both things be true? They could---if the nature of the situation is ambiguous one. So, the "basis" I am looking for is not only difference. It is also that of ambiguity. We see how complex capitalism is. It never led to a crash due the isolation of a class of "proletarians."

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Does capitalism level the playing field?

marx and Engels thought the capitalist system was bound to, definitely wouldfail. They also specified how it would do so. So, it was bound to fail, and is would, and it was to happen in a certain way. Their theories have not been supported by the history of the world up until now, and I am not the first writer to point this out. In other words, it has not happened, or not in the way that marx and Engels predicted it would, which does not mean it will still not happen. What such a catastrophic failure would look like is another matter. In any case, if it fails, the reality or real explanation for that one will ultimately have to be a bit different from marx and Engels, who, while they adhered strongly to certain explanations, it has been shown by fair Madame History that this must be somewhat wrong… After all, capitalism is still here.  And... what is the explanation?

     Now let me throw you a curve: How are we to understand the miracle of capitalism? We don't have to understand it negatively; we could also have a positive understanding. We should understand what is at the basis or what holds it up. If we fail to understand anything about what is at the basis, we won't be able to understand it. An understanding of the basis, which we could also call a "positive" understanding (of the miracle) is just what we need to know. Otherwise, we shall be back in the position of not understanding at all. We may not understand the whole thing or entire basis, since capitalism is difficult to explain in general. And there are alternate explanations, in any case. But I will suggest that not understanding at all is to be greatly feared. That is not desirable.

     The basis for the existence of large-scale capitalism, in a societal setting, is, I will suggest, difference. We know about, for example, all the different products. We know that you find a variety of different, competing products. There is also a difference in the actors, differences that exist amongst actorswhat are called the economic actors, or agents, or "players." For example, broad classifications of rich and poor, also owners and workers. Whether these distinctions are actually sustained over a long time is just the issue. These persons who are different from one another differ either individually or in groups (i.e. group A and group B). As time goes by, we witness the illusion of a leveling of the playing field. But why say "illusion"? Well, I am pointing out the apparent leveling, and saying that perhaps there is an apparent leveling only. There seems to be a certain leveling of differences, and this comes with regard to capitalistic society. Regarding it as apparent, not real, allows us to remain open-minded about it. At the same time that we investigate this tendency in the direction of reducing difference, we do not have to automatically accept its reality. We are simply trying to retain our skepticism, which may turn out to be helpful.
     With that in mind we can offer the observation that average citizens at some point do seem to realize what they had not fully realized heretofore, which is that they too can enter the field of market play. This had been true for a long time before, but not every member of the public comprehended it. The United States of America is based on freedom. It is, almost from the beginning, engaged in a fundamental process: it gives the citizens more freedom. (You can say "The People" if that feels better to you!) In practice this really translates into freedom to work where one pleases, and other economic sorts of things. You may go into whatever career or job you want, or one may start one's own business, should you want to---and have the energy.
     But this apparent leveling of the playing field does not mean the playing field is level, and, more so, much more so, it certainly could not mean that capitalism has proceeded, historically, in this way. Thus, the basis is both the basis of a level playing field and, at the same time, not. There room for an open discussion of this "level playing field principle." So, here, we return to our 'basis' idea, for we stated just the opposite.

     To frame the situation as it is today, I would like to point out that there is an element in capitalism of the ambiguous. There is a level on which persons are newly seeing the way that capitalism can (alternatively: that capitalism apparently can) dissolve differences. It may seem to be every day  the case that more and more all you need to do is be the proverbial “nice guy.” They get the proverbial, much-ballyhooed “good life.” That may be so, and certainly that is what “they” want you to believe. But all the same: coexisting with that “fact,” that one is free to participate in the glorious capitalistic life, one is free to listen to what I am telling you and understand also just the opposite “fact,” which is a precise idea that capitalism occurs only when the actors are different. How can both things be true? They can, if capitalism proceeds on a basis of (not only difference, but) ambiguity.

Choice of brand distinguished from choice of product.

Giving customers the opportunity to engage and interact with a product or service is the most powerful way to win brand loyalty. AgencyEA strategically engages consumers in their natural environments to establish deep brand connections. From mobile tours and product launches to local activations and product sampling, our B-to-C engagement solutions communicate brand attributes at every touch point. - See more at:

Every sentence has the word "brand" in it. But I would prefer to see the products disaggregated, so to speak. Not so unlike many others, I would describe the major point of capitalism as free markets and also the "freedom to choose." But this quote above actually illustrates a practice that is not so good for capitalism. This means "EA" (an agency) is a capitalist business working against capitalism.
     But that should come as no surprise: Persons need to earn a living, right? If they do, and if they operate within capitalism -- and to some degree they have to operate within the world they live in, which is capitalism -- they may do it as they like. There is no rule that says they have to do so in a way that corresponds to capitalism or in a way that, in a sense, does not correspond to the host system. So they can act as they wish. But in any case, the intent of the "EA" agency may not be in accord with the best interests of an economic system validly getting its vitality from real choice.
     This is the simple reason, which can be easily enough grasped. If it were a market system, it should allow the consumers the choices they need. Should they want to choose by product, rather than brand, should they be able to? Here is an agency working for the whole brand. Does this maximize consumer/customer choice? Whereas consumers should have choice of products, this company (agency) wants to produce a choice of brand.
     This is found by just reading the agency's language: In the first sentence: "brand loyalty" ; In the second: "brand connections" ; In the third there are all kinds of exotic concepts like "tours," "launches," "activations," and "sampling" in order to engage "C," which may indicate customers (or consumers). But engage them how? They are being directed to the whole brand, obviously and that seems not at all the same as being directed to a product.

This does not mean the "EA" agency will be successful at limited our choices to brands, only that this is where they seem to be going--this is the intent of the business, their policy. It does not seem to me to be in line with the fundamental vitality of capitalism, or, in other words, capitalism's best interests.
What the public, or "C" actually need is free choice of products. "Brand" is one step removed from the best interests of consumers in a dynamic (or "actual") free market system.

(readers should also see Iyengar's excellent book on this, and on all matters regarding "choice," apparently, called "The Art of Choosing," published by the "12" imprint of Hatchette Publisher)