Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Exact change, from the barista


First, you tender the barista a 20- bill, in payment for a drink that cost you $2.51. So, maybe you pay for your drink with a twenty. If I get a $2.51 coffee drink at Starbucks and pay with a twenty the barista generally gives the exact right change, but that is actually contrary to my understanding of what the principle is that makes capitalism possible. So, the question is that of the principle, what capitalism needs, in order to exist. The tab was exactly $2.51. And she gave me exactly the correct change. Right down to the leetle pennies? There is something very depressing about it, really. That’s not the principle. The principle is that of an active person, living in society, trading. Trucking. Bartering.

There has to be a “margin,” there needs to be a fuzzy space. Human beings do not operate without. If capitalism were that clean, there would be no system. Such exactitude is not the principle of capitalism. It contains no vital principle.

We need to understand in an accurate way. What is to be comprehended is the need of this fuzzy zone. And what does the idea of a “fuzzy zone” have to do with? It has to do with human relations. If we say that two human persons are operating in relation to each other we do not mean a mechanical juxtaposition. Rather this is something that is constantly in adjustment, making adjustments of any and all kinds, up to the limit of human variability. You have the whole spectrum of a busy, modern society with its rich persons, poor persons, consumer, and producers. And the cheaters and hustlers, the legal persons and the “criminals”—this is the way it has always been and that is the truth whether economists and other such stalwarts of the establishment admit it or not.

This constant adjustment allows for fuzzy stuff, inaccuracy, and space. A shifting relation may not seem to be very precise or scientific but the other view misses when it comes to what is the principle. We do not get anything from extreme accuracy, in the precise neo-Classical sense. They are only empty diagrams.

The real principle is not that. But the real story is not so far away, either. The story is right there, but the story is found in the fuzz, not the precision calculation (e.g. of change at Starbucks). Where is the opportunity in that? There is no “margin,” there is no opportunity to get in there and do anything. Yes, your barista is following the dictates of logic. But that is not the principle.

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