“What is the basis of capitalism”

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diamantis
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Feb 2 2011 08:25
“What is the basis of capitalism”

The basis of capitalism, is the abstract, vague, ambiguous and therefore unnatural, pretentious, artificial of the correspondence between bank accounts and cards and money, and then that between money and precious metals (especially gold), which creates the autonomy of capitalism as it leads in a hypnotic, consuming behaviour.

Postsocratic
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Feb 2 2011 11:40

Well that settles that then...

I would argue there is no such thing as "capitalism" but "capitalisms", the contingent formations of which need to be taken into account.

Spikymike
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Feb 2 2011 12:03

Postsocratic,

I defended one of your earlier 'off the cuff' posts on another thread but if you want to encourage any useful discussion you will have to actually present an argument not just post one-liners like this, although the original post was equally unhelpful I suppose.

I disagree with your 'statement' but I am not going to take the 'bait' unless you put forward some proper arguments to substantiate it.

Postsocratic
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Feb 2 2011 19:43

A lot of what "diamantis" cites as characteristic of capitalist economies I have little problem with; if I were to draw out a single theme from the above it would be the "myth of value" - of course whether "diamantis" would agree with that central theme is another matter.

When I claim that there are contingent forms of capitalism what I am wanting to invoke is both a critique, but not dismissal, of classical Marxism and a recognition that any essential features of a capitalist economy may manifest differently according to other elements.

Take, for example, the current (global) economic situation, which in certain readings is a result of financial economy (stock-markets; hedge-funds), not merely extraction of surplus-value.

RedHughs
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Feb 2 2011 21:20

Roughly, I would say that the basis of capitalism is the wage-labor relation - the situation where the vast majority of people must sell their labor power to the highest bidder - where the vast majority of people are mere resources within the dominant order.

This isn't an axiomatic basis or simplistic litmus test however. Capitalism is both a self-maintaining feed back system and a historical system. It is not like a clockwork mechanism but like a river flowing to the sea - it can and does change course and still be the same river.

The existence of capitalist property relations has gone hand-in-hand with the wage-labor relations but both these relations have "dialectical contradictions" which have only strengthened overall capitalist system. Colonial slavery systems, state-ownership, monopolistic control and large-scale-individual-entrepreneurhood all seem outside "axiomatic" capitalism but clearly strengthen or have strengthened capitalism as a world-system.

Anyway, the fetishcizing of credit and banks as "capitalism" has a long, ugly history. It seems like a natural "individualistic" or "petite bourgeois" reaction to capitalism in crisis. The infamous Glen Beck pulls this stuff up a lot.

In any case; for your information, the American Robber Barons of the 19th century operated quite well under the gold standard and were the epitome of capitalists. Modern capitalism couldn't operate like that but that's a different question.

petey
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Feb 2 2011 21:34
RedHughs wrote:
the American Robber Barons of the 19th century operated quite well under the gold standard and were the epitome of capitalists.

an-caps frequently argue that the removal of the state and its corporation-fostering laws from the market will result in more empowered economic actors, by which they mean the labor-power-sellers. they seem blind to what redhughes mentions here. (not terribly important in this thread but i wanted to highlight this as it formed a moment in my political development.)

Postsocratic
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Feb 2 2011 23:12

The idea that wage-labour is the basis of capitalism risks turning "labour" into a transcendental, or at the very least transhistorical category. What constitutes "labour", and indeed the very way in which it is sold, are themselves contingent; take, for example, the decline of manufacturing industries (material labour) in Britain.

I remain unconvinced that I actually understand what it means for something to be "dialectical", but something that I find spurious are claims that, for example, colonial-slavery are just "blips" in an otherwise "normal" running of capitalism. But maybe I have misunderstood "dialectical contradictions".

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devoration1
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Feb 3 2011 07:16
Quote:
I remain unconvinced that I actually understand what it means for something to be "dialectical", but something that I find spurious are claims that, for example, colonial-slavery are just "blips" in an otherwise "normal" running of capitalism. But maybe I have misunderstood "dialectical contradictions".

Meaning there are opposing modus operandi of different modes of production operating at once- the operation of a slave trade and slave economy within capitalism. Or the largescale existence of small traders, artisans, shopkeepers, the 'Small Businessman'- which, like slavery, goes against the 'logic' of capitalism (to incorporate areas operating under other modes of production; to turn peasants, small businessmen, artisans, slaves, etc into proletarians or a few into bourgeoisie, and to turn small individual businesses into large, centralized trusts/corporations/monopolies/something bigger).

They aren't "blips" but phenomenon which do not make sense according to a logical understanding of capitalist social relations and production- hence 'dialectical contradictions'.

That's how I read it anyway. RedHughs can confirm whether or not I just butchered or completely misunderstood what he was trying to say.

Postsocratic
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Feb 3 2011 12:57

If such phenomenon are part of a logical understanding in what way are they "contradictions"?