Living in a Capitalist Society

41 posts / 0 new
Last post
31okiL's picture
31okiL
Offline
Joined: 6-07-10
Sep 20 2010 14:13
Living in a Capitalist Society

Living in a capitalist society, more often than not,I have to buy goods from stores such as Walmart and from companies such as Nike, that support activities such as wars and sweat shops.

My question is, being ana anarchist, how do I maintain a good consience buying from such corporations, instead of going out of my way to buy from independent stores?

Chilli Sauce's picture
Chilli Sauce
Offline
Joined: 5-10-07
Sep 20 2010 21:06

Yeah man, that's the problem with boycott politics, exploitation doesn't just occur in sweatshops and multinational corporations. It's a social relationship embodied in every commodity we buy and produce (regardless of whether it's from an independent shop, a co-op, or 'social enterprise,). And besides, the majority of the working class struggle to pay rent and bills, I don't think it's the place of anarchists to encourage them to be 'ethical consumers'.

The trick is to organize at the point of production where we, as workers and anarchists, exert the most power to ultimately change the social relationship that is capitalism. Everything else (with the exception of obvious class struggles like rent strikes) is just a distraction.

30bananasaday
Offline
Joined: 19-12-09
Sep 22 2010 10:29

so there is absolutely no relevant difference between supporting a company which actively breaks up trade unions and murders trade unionists, and one which is guided by some sort of ethical philosophy?

the idea that, since exploitation is a "social relationship embodied in every commodity we buy and produce", the practices of all companies are absolutely morally equivalent is surely absurd.

ncwob does your post not take an extremely elitist, didactic position? you seem to think that ethical consumerism has relevance only insofar as it is something which one can encourage others to do.

if we organise and, through struggle, start to gain more power, it appears silly to continue buying drinks from, and thereby financing, a company which uses extreme violence to make sure that its workers, over in columbia, cannot do the same. sure, its not anyone position to tell others not to buy the drink, just as it is no-one's positions to tell anyone what to do. but, the question is, aside from your didactic stance here, do you really want to be financing the violent breaking up of trade unions?

sure, you might claim that one person not buying coke will achieve nothing. yet you also speak of your goal of "ultimately chang[ing] the social relationship that is capitalism". could one not see this, given the utter lack of proletarian class consciounsness in the power-rich 'western' states, as a similarly forlorn hope? i'm not saying don't bother, but in countries with populations of many millions of people, the levels of class-struggle action are so miniscule as to barely be noticeable. to cling to the idea the society can be radically transformed in an emancipatory fashion if people suddenly adopt now ideas which have been around for hundreds of years does possess a certain absurd quality.

i don't know what zizek means by 'first as tragedy, then as farce', since I havent read the book. but it seems to me that the bolsheviks, the spanish revolution, and what have you in the twentieth century, that was all very tragic. to remain in the same paradigm of class-struggle organisation and speak of the ultimate transformation of capitalism, in the current day, that is farcical.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Offline
Joined: 9-02-06
Sep 22 2010 11:26
30bananasaday wrote:
so there is absolutely no relevant difference between supporting a company which actively breaks up trade unions and murders trade unionists, and one which is guided by some sort of ethical philosophy?

All companies still exploit workers. Ethical companies carry out the same exploitation and when it comes to 'independent stores' then you're not talking about any qualitative difference except in capacity. You can see a reasonably funny version of this in a South Park episode (something walmart this way comes)

Quote:
if we organise and, through struggle, start to gain more power, it appears silly to continue buying drinks from, and thereby financing, a company which uses extreme violence to make sure that its workers, over in columbia, cannot do the same. sure, its not anyone position to tell others not to buy the drink, just as it is no-one's positions to tell anyone what to do. but, the question is, aside from your didactic stance here, do you really want to be financing the violent breaking up of trade unions?

The local coca-cola plant near me is striking and someone said that we should not support the strike on these grounds, completely missing the irony.

Quote:
i don't know what zizek means by 'first as tragedy, then as farce', since I havent read the book.

Marx, I believe.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Sep 22 2010 12:20

A specific, collective, time-bound boycott of a particular firm could be a tactic in an industrial dispute. A general, personal, ongoing boycott of 'bad' companies has no effect on anything. 'Bad' companies are those which are successful, just like 'bad' states are those which have the power to impose themselves on others. Corporate entities are amoral, there's no use tying ourselves in guilty knots trying to moralise the amoral world of commodities that's forced on us.

30bananasaday
Offline
Joined: 19-12-09
Sep 22 2010 13:49

So it's all exactly the same? there is no difference whatsoever even if some companies are murdering trade unionists?

jef costello:

Quote:
All companies still exploit workers. Ethical companies carry out the same exploitation and when it comes to 'independent stores' then you're not talking about any qualitative difference except in capacity. You can see a reasonably funny version of this in a South Park episode (something walmart this way comes)

i've seen the episode. not bad but the point it makes is simplistic and a great generalisation. surely if some companies murder trade unionists and others do not, one cannot claim that there is no "qualitative difference except in capacity". my faith in the instrinsic goodness of human beings is not so totally absent that i think that any business owner would murder trade unionists if he or she could get away with it. i presume that you do indeed think that they all would.

I know that it's dangerous to start villainising specific companies and individuals, but it seems to me that your position constitutes a kind of deliberate blindness to the empirical realities of different companies. the world is a very divergent and chaotic thing, despite the equivalising force of capital. while many on this forum are comitted to working towards a more egalitarian and happier world, some - mostly, not on this forum - enjoy chaos and destruction, and some are concerned solely with self-interest.

joesph kay:

Quote:
Corporate entities are amoral, there's no use tying ourselves in guilty knots trying to moralise the amoral world of commodities that's forced on us.

joesph kay, I have the utmost respect for you based on the posts of yours i have read, but this is frankly absurd. how can you say something such as "corporate entities are amoral"? how can you state that?

if we imagine a business owned by one person who manages and also runs the business on a day to day level, we have imagined one example of a corporate entity. how is it that the classification of this as a corporate entity automatically entails that this person is guided only by the priniciple of profit maximisation? the person is compelled to make a profit in order to maintain, but not to maximise profit.

some people, as we know, regularly carry out volunteer work, either because it is good, or because it makes them feel good. either way, they could be spending that time doing paid work, or looking for paid work, but they choose not to because they prioritise the moral issues or the good feeling linked to the volunteer work more highly than a bit of extra money.

if we apply this logic to the example of the single business owner, we can see that there is no need to assume that, in every instance, the business owner will prioritise profit maximisation over all other considerations.

we cannot simply say that we are faced "an amoral world of commodities", as you, joesph kay, do, and argue that we can simply transplant in a new, moral world. this is a total disavowal of personal responsibility. it is dogmatic. the world is a divergent thing and we need to harness the good things in it and get rid of the bad ones, even if some of the obviously good things happening in the world still employ people in an 'exploitative relationship.'

do you think that a job in a sweatshop, working 15-hour shifts in fuck knows how bad conditions, is the same as someone who is paid to work in a local pub where they know all the customers and spend all day chatting and laughing away, having a couple of pints in the evening whilst pulling the pints for others.......because both jobs are exploitation, both are alienated labour?

30bananasaday
Offline
Joined: 19-12-09
Sep 22 2010 13:56
Joesph Kay wrote:
A general, personal, ongoing boycott of 'bad' companies has no effect on anything.

Wait a minute. You're a class-struggle anarchist seeking the abolition of capitalism. For you, until we abolish capital and the state, everything is fucked...........and you are criticising ethical boycotts because they don't achieve anything?

What, pray tell, does achieve something? Writing and distributing pamplets and having meetings? People have been doing that for over a hundred years and the proletariat has simply grown less and less interested. Is that all about to change?

PartyBucket's picture
PartyBucket
Offline
Joined: 23-03-08
Sep 22 2010 15:34
30bananasaday wrote:
some people, as we know, regularly carry out volunteer work, either because it is good, or because it makes them feel good. either way, they could be spending that time doing paid work, or looking for paid work, but they choose not to because they prioritise the moral issues or the good feeling linked to the volunteer work more highly than a bit of extra money.

Exactly. Its the same reason people do 'conscience consumerism'. For that fuzzy feeling inside....or smugness as some might call it. And, if you're including people 'doing anarchy' within volunteer work, then Id hope they have better reasons for doing it than self gratification.

30bananasaday wrote:
if we apply this logic to the example of the single business owner, we can see that there is no need to assume that, in every instance, the business owner will prioritise profit maximisation over all other considerations.

See the 'dont understand anarchism' thread for some thoughts on the cool small business person.

30bananasaday wrote:
do you think that a job in a sweatshop, working 15-hour shifts in fuck knows how bad conditions, is the same as someone who is paid to work in a local pub where they know all the customers and spend all day chatting and laughing away, having a couple of pints in the evening whilst pulling the pints for others.......because both jobs are exploitation, both are alienated labour?

You would win the thread if it was called 'Would You Rather Work In A Sweatshop Or A Pub?', but its not, its about 'ethical consumption'.
Obviously a boycott is in order where, for example, the workers at a particular company are in dispute and have called for solidarity boycotts/blacking.
Making a personal decision to boycott X, Y or Z because you decide they are 'bad', is pointless beyond salving your own conscience.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Sep 22 2010 15:43
30bananasaday wrote:
Wait a minute. You're a class-struggle anarchist seeking the abolition of capitalism. For you, until we abolish capital and the state, everything is fucked...........and you are criticising ethical boycotts because they don't achieve anything?

What, pray tell, does achieve something? Writing and distributing pamplets and having meetings? People have been doing that for over a hundred years and the proletariat has simply grown less and less interested. Is that all about to change?

wind your neck in, jesus. this is like a compilation of evasive clichés; straw men, outrage, 'you don't even do anything!!111'. if you're interested in serious discussion and not histrionics, re-read my post and notice how nowhere did i write that sweatshop labour and repression of union activists will be stopped by writing pamphlets and holding meetings.

30bananasaday wrote:
oesph kay, I have the utmost respect for you based on the posts of yours i have read, but this is frankly absurd. how can you say something such as "corporate entities are amoral"? how can you state that?

you see this is what happens when you substitute moral outrage for argument. the point is corporate entities are legal persons but they aren't capable of moral behavior. they have to behave like sociopaths to exist. if one firm squirms at the thought of murdering union activists, and such behaviour can be engaged in without significant material detriment, then they'll be leapfrogged by a more ruthless capitalist outfit. hence "'Bad' companies are those which are successful".

30bananasaday wrote:
some people, as we know, regularly carry out volunteer work, either because it is good, or because it makes them feel good. either way, they could be spending that time doing paid work, or looking for paid work, but they choose not to because they prioritise the moral issues or the good feeling linked to the volunteer work more highly than a bit of extra money.

if we apply this logic to the example of the single business owner, we can see that there is no need to assume that, in every instance, the business owner will prioritise profit maximisation over all other considerations.

this is a non-sequiter. a firm of one is still a firm, not an individual. yes, petit-bourgeois proprietors can choose to forgoe profit for moral ends, but only within the limits of financial survival. those limits are often very tight, hence the liberal having a cry every time a local store goes to the wall to be replaced by a Tescos. in fact in my experience, small businesses are the most ruthless, by necessity.

30bananasaday wrote:
we cannot simply say that we are faced "an amoral world of commodities", as you, joesph kay, do, and argue that we can simply transplant in a new, moral world.

straw man.

30bananasaday wrote:
this is a total disavowal of personal responsibility. it is dogmatic.

outrage and insults ≠ argument.

30bananasaday wrote:
the world is a divergent thing and we need to harness the good things in it and get rid of the bad ones, even if some of the obviously good things happening in the world still employ people in an 'exploitative relationship.'

and personal consumption decisions have nothing to do with this.

30bananasaday wrote:
do you think that a job in a sweatshop, working 15-hour shifts in fuck knows how bad conditions, is the same as someone who is paid to work in a local pub where they know all the customers and spend all day chatting and laughing away, having a couple of pints in the evening whilst pulling the pints for others.......because both jobs are exploitation, both are alienated labour?

the point is personal consumption decisions make no difference to anything. Chinese sweatshops exist because centuries of struggle in Europe have made industrial capital flow to areas of low wages in order to maximise accumulation. buying fair trade hemp sandals instead of nikes has no impact whatsoever on that dynamic. and to be honest, while few western jobs are as destructive to the worker as sweated labour, i think you're romanticising good western jobs a tad. depression and suicide rates are high for a reason.

Chilli Sauce's picture
Chilli Sauce
Offline
Joined: 5-10-07
Sep 22 2010 16:53

Jeez the totality by which thirty bananas has been refuted is making me a bit parched. I think I'm going to buy a coke wink

Also, while we're on it, fuck the trade unions. Workers in struggle and worker organization is great, but my trade union consistently holds back struggle. I plan to break the union if and whenever possible.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Offline
Joined: 9-02-06
Sep 22 2010 17:04
30bananasaday wrote:
jef costello wrote:
All companies still exploit workers. Ethical companies carry out the same exploitation and when it comes to 'independent stores' then you're not talking about any qualitative difference except in capacity. You can see a reasonably funny version of this in a South Park episode (something walmart this way comes)

i've seen the episode. not bad but the point it makes is simplistic and a great generalisation. surely if some companies murder trade unionists and others do not, one cannot claim that there is no "qualitative difference except in capacity". my faith in the instrinsic goodness of human beings is not so totally absent that i think that any business owner would murder trade unionists if he or she could get away with it. i presume that you do indeed think that they all would.

That was in relation to 'independent stores' and it's hardly going to be deep, it's South Park.I think the rest of what you said has been conclusively dealt with.

wdrbnsn
Offline
Joined: 23-09-10
Sep 23 2010 06:07

I say, go with shoplifting. It gets you what you want, with an extra topping of "fuck corporations".

CRUD's picture
CRUD
Offline
Joined: 11-04-10
Sep 23 2010 10:32

Admin: CRUD please familiarise yourself with the board rules. Particularly with regard to personal abuse/flaming and trolling.

Chilli Sauce's picture
Chilli Sauce
Offline
Joined: 5-10-07
Sep 23 2010 16:42
wdrbnsn wrote:
I say, go with shoplifting. It gets you what you want, with an extra topping of "fuck corporations".

Yeah, but how does that build working class power and actually challenge commodity production? I mean, I'm not opposed to shoplifting, but there's nothing revolutionary about it. The same applies to dumpster-diving, squatting, and purchasing from any 'ethical' sources.

Also, once again, it's not practically beneficial for the majority of the working class. Most people seek security--a good house, a stable income, health insurance--and don't want to have to concern themselves with trouble with the law if they get busted shoplifting. I fucking hate privilege politics, but the 'go with shoplifting' attitude is entirely removed from the everyday reality of most working class people and is often quite indicative of someone who has the 'middle class respectability' to be above immediate suspicion as a shoplifter.

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Sep 23 2010 17:18

I would just like to say I agree with everything Joseph has said here

dinosavros
Offline
Joined: 5-05-10
Sep 23 2010 17:52

I don't think all of CRUD's posts should have been deleted, there were some good arguments in there, you could have just deleted the personal flames within them (like you usually do).

CRUD's picture
CRUD
Offline
Joined: 11-04-10
Sep 23 2010 23:35

Admin: Last warning. This is a no flaming forum.

If people want to discuss moderation policy please start a thread on feedback.

CRUD's picture
CRUD
Offline
Joined: 11-04-10
Sep 23 2010 23:48

Admin: your choice, temp-banned.

If you want to continue posting, please familiarise yourself with the posting guidelines, and refrain from repeatedly and deliberately breaking them in the main forums.

30bananasaday
Offline
Joined: 19-12-09
Sep 24 2010 11:52

Joesph Kay wrote:

Quote:
A general, personal, ongoing boycott of 'bad' companies has no effect on anything.

30bananasaday wrote:

Quote:
Wait a minute. You're a class-struggle anarchist seeking the abolition of capitalism. For you, until we abolish capital and the state, everything is fucked...........and you are criticising ethical boycotts because they don't achieve anything?

What, pray tell, does achieve something? Writing and distributing pamplets and having meetings? People have been doing that for over a hundred years and the proletariat has simply grown less and less interested. Is that all about to change?

joesph kay wrote:

Quote:
wind your neck in, jesus. this is like a compilation of evasive clichés; straw men, outrage, 'you don't even do anything!!111'. if you're interested in serious discussion and not histrionics, re-read my post and notice how nowhere did i write that sweatshop labour and repression of union activists will be stopped by writing pamphlets and holding meetings.

Now, I am not trying to be funny or to flog a dead horse, but you here accuse me of being evasive while you totally evade the issue. My point is that while you accuse ethical boycotts of having no effect, you simulataneously believe that it is absolutely imperative that capitalism is defeated, but whichever tactics you believe in are, like ethical boycotts, utterly ineffective.

I shouldn't have presumed which tactics you follow. This opened me up to your straw-man accusation which you cling to with all your might. The point, which you cannot escape regardless of your patronising tone and status on this forum, is that you have absolutely no idea how capitalism might be brought down, and the bringing down of capitalism is essential to your position. ethical boycotts are a stab in the dark (seeking a goals other than the final demolition of capitalism), as is whatever you do. Neither, looking the current empirical state of affairs, due to widespread apathy, appear likely to work, given which reality it seems a bit rich and silly for you to then critique ethical boycotts for the fact that they will not achieve anything.

I'll ask you a direct question: if it is the case that ethical boycotts are pointless because until the capitalist dynamic is ultimately confronted all is fucked, which tactics are capable, unlike ethical boycotts, of ultimately confronting capitalism? Do such tactics exist?

30bananasaday
Offline
Joined: 19-12-09
Sep 24 2010 09:27
joesph kay wrote:
the point is corporate entities are legal persons but they aren't capable of moral behavior. they have to behave like sociopaths to exist. if one firm squirms at the thought of murdering union activists, and such behaviour can be engaged in without significant material detriment, then they'll be leapfrogged by a more ruthless capitalist outfit. hence "'Bad' companies are those which are successful".

i can see your point here and its a good one, but i think that it is also a simplification. consumer trends definitely place limits on what companies can do. the more actively concerned the consumer body is, the less bad things companies can do. This is obviously true, and if we still believe an emancipatory transformation of society is possible, as those on this forum appear to do, we must believe that extremely small, apparently utterly insignificant trends set by tiny minorities have the potential to become much larger, more powerful forces.

30bananasaday
Offline
Joined: 19-12-09
Sep 24 2010 10:37
Steven wrote:
I would just like to say I agree with everything Joseph has said here

Oh my! Two of the libcom.org moderators don't agree with me! Shock horror!

Great post by the way, steven. It doesn't matter that you didn't advance any actual content. The simple fact that you, such an intelligent and considered individual, agree with what joesph kay has written makes anyone in prior disagreement with the offerings of joesph kay think again. Another person may have written at length on why precisely it is that boycotts are ineffective, citing studies and statistical evidence, taking forays into economic and legal theory, but it would not have come close to the persuasive force of your post. No amount of argument and evidence coming from a mere mortal can pretend to match up to the simple knowledge of the postion taken by the mighty steven of libcom.org on any particular issue.

30bananasaday
Offline
Joined: 19-12-09
Sep 24 2010 09:37

30bananasaday wrote:

"we cannot simply say that we are faced "an amoral world of commodities", as you, joesph kay, do, and argue that we can simply transplant in a new, moral world."

joesph kay wrote:

"straw man."

I now write:

OK, so you think that our current world of commodities is amoral, you are an anarchist, but you dont think it is possible to transplant in a moral world. you dont think people need to give a slight shit about the ethical concerns related to the production of their lifeworld because we need to focus on the ultimate goal of defeating capitalism to achieve anything. So what will happen after capitalism is defeated?

A question to you all: if we don't need to care about the most vile practices of companies and have a sense of ethical responsibility in our day to day practice, how can we ever reach a world of mutual aid in which everything is so damn nice that we don't need a government (a leviathan)? You ask the proletariat to organise in support of what is clearly its own self-interest. Why would any individual proleterian ever look beyond her own self-interest, according to your paradigm? Why would exploitation end if we could just get rid of capitalism, without a whole new subjectivity of personal responsibility?

People say that ethical boycotts cannot achieve anything. This is wrong; they can, but the problem is that only a tiny minority engage in them. If all consumers stopped purchasing something because of ethical issues, clearly, the particular practice would disappear straightaway. The problem with ethical boycotts, that no-one engages in them, is a bit like the problem of anarchism. Anarchism is a great idea, but no-one gives a slight shit about it. most people dont know what it is, but if you told them they'd think you were nuts. So the tiny minority engaged in anarchist practice, like those practicing ethical boycotts, achieve nothing.

30bananasaday
Offline
Joined: 19-12-09
Sep 24 2010 12:03

It would have been quicker yes. Wouldn't it have been quicker if you hadn't written that post at all? wouldn't it be quicker if we all got it over and done with and killed ourselves?

yes I am a pessimist but i do also think that changing the world is always possible. what i don't agree with is all of you on here who are trapped in the 1900 paradigm of class struggle providing the key to everything. i'm not overly optimistic about change, as i say, but if we are going to think about change, we need to think about a completely new form of subjectivity with personal responsibility as an included attribute. class struggle will not create a radically new form of subjectivity

fall guy, you obviously don't agree with my point, and yes i have probably been a bit rambling and nonsensical at times, but seriously, if you have nothing useful to say, nothing that isn't a snide 'you're a twat' comment, how about you just keep silent?

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Sep 24 2010 10:34
30bananasaday wrote:
OK, so you think that our current world of commodities is amoral, you are an anarchist, but you dont think it is possible to transplant in a moral world. you dont think people need to give a slight shit about the ethical concerns related to the production of their lifeworld because we need to focus on the ultimate goal of defeating capitalism to achieve anything. So what will happen after capitalism is defeated?

it's not complicated. capitalism is amoral. we can't just construct a nice new moral world out of force of will, we need to fight the existing one. personal consumption decisions are not anti-capitalist; in fact they're one of the freedoms capitalism encourages precisely because they are no threat.

30bananasaday wrote:
People say that ethical boycotts cannot achieve anything. This is wrong; they can, but the problem is that only a tiny minority engage in them.

PROTIP: read what i actually said. To save you scrolling up a few inches:

I wrote:
A specific, collective, time-bound boycott of a particular firm could be a tactic in an industrial dispute. A general, personal, ongoing boycott of 'bad' companies has no effect on anything. (...) personal consumption decisions make no difference.

Do you actually disagree with that? Because if not, i suggest you stop arguing with straw men. If you do disagree, try actually arguing with what i said.

In any case, i think even millions boycotting 'unethical' products isn't very effective, because the whole point is you can't boycott a social relationship. boycott politics is commodity fetishism par excellence - inverting cause and effect. Sweatshops don't exist because people buy commodities, they exist because capital everywhere seeks to drive down wages to the minimum and extend hours to the maximum in order to maximise accumulation. The result of that is cheap (or not so cheap, once the mark-ups are pocketed) commodities. You are not responsible for sweatshops. You don't need to feel guilty about them. Feel angry by all means.

30bananasaday wrote:
what i don't agree with is all of you on here who are trapped in the 1900 paradigm of class struggle providing the key to everything. i'm not overly optimistic about change, as i say, but if we are going to think about change, we need a completely new form of subjectivity with personal responsibility as an included attribute. class struggle will not create a new form of subjectivity

when did this David Cameron/Tony Blair line about class struggle being so last century dahling come to pass for radical analysis? Chinese and Bangladeshi workers are struggling against their shitty conditions, and they're making gains. So are workers in various Western industries andnumerous other places elsewhere. This, observably has led to various changes in subjectivity, as workers have stood in solidarity with one another, juxtaposing a logic of solidarity to the amoral imperitive of captial to 'accumulate, accumulate!' whatever the human (and environmental etc) cost.

By contrast the only change in subjectivity the guilt politics of boycotting teh evil multinationals induces is to turn western workers into whiny liberal bitches paralysed by guilt for things they aren't responsible for, and convinced that struggling in their own interests is selfish and old-fashioned because WON'T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN! I was like that for a brief while in my teens; thank fuck my friends pointed out what a tedious, moralising bore i'd become and i bucked my ideas up.

30bananasaday
Offline
Joined: 19-12-09
Sep 24 2010 11:05
Quote:
it's not complicated. capitalism is amoral. we can't just construct a nice new moral world out of force of will, we need to fight the existing one. personal consumption decisions are not anti-capitalist

i'm not saying that class struggle is irrelevant, i'm saying that it isn't everything. i don't think adopting a stance of ethical consumerism is everything, but i don't think it's nothing either.

Quote:
Sweatshops don't exist because people buy commodities, they exist because capital everywhere seeks to drive down wages to the minimum and extend hours to the maximum in order to maximise accumulation. The result of that is cheap (or not so cheap, once the mark-ups are pocketed) commodities. You are not responsible for sweatshops. You don't need to feel guilty about them. Feel angry by all means.

I don't agree here. companies try to drive down costs, yes. If they drove down their costs in a certain way which consumers did not accept and the consumers stopped buying products as a result, the consequence would be that the company would have to change its practice, making less profit. it seems to me that you in fact fetishise 'capitalism' and see it as something with its own natural laws and dynamics independent of the decisions people are making on a day-to-day basis. our subjective acceptance of what companies do when we buy their products is as intrinsically necessary to what companies do as the laws of profit maximisation.

Quote:
when did this David Cameron/Tony Blair line about class struggle being so last century dahling come to pass for radical analysis? Chinese and Bangladeshi workers are struggling against their shitty conditions, and they're making gains. So are workers in various Western industries andnumerous other places elsewhere.

you have persistenly accused me of attacking straw men in this thread. you are probably right with your accusation. but truthfully now, you are caricaturing me here. "so last century dahling"....come on, that really is not what i am saying. i'm not saying class struggle is irrelevant, i'm saying that we cannot pin all our hopes on it. the quote of mine you responded was about the belief in "the 1900 paradigm of class struggle providing the key to everything". i'm not saying that it is now an irrelevance. But look here: you say workers are making gains. But have they made gains coming close to challenging capitalism, a challenge which is apparently necessary before any substantial change can be instigated? no, they have not- capitalism is today safer than it was 100 years ago, much safer. one hundred years ago proletarian class consciousness was much, much greater than it is today. so you mock me for saying that the 1900 paradigm of class struggle providing the key to everything must be left behind, you argue that workers are today making gains, but since 1900 we have seen the communist movement disintegrate to its present state, almost non-existence. But we must carry on with class-struggle essentialism nonetheless? In the face of its failure?

joesph kay wrote:
By contrast the only change in subjectivity the guilt politics of boycotting teh evil multinationals induces is to turn western workers into whiny liberal bitches paralysed by guilt for things they aren't responsible for, and convinced that struggling in their own interests is selfish and old-fashioned because WON'T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

I presume that this relates to what I wrote above, the following:

me wrote:
A question to you all: if we don't need to care about the most vile practices of companies and have a sense of ethical responsibility in our day to day practice, how can we ever reach a world of mutual aid in which everything is so damn nice that we don't need a government (a leviathan)? You ask the proletariat to organise in support of what is clearly its own self-interest. Why would any individual proleterian ever look beyond her own self-interest, according to your paradigm?

I don't have a problem with workers organising in their own self-interest, but I don't think that on its own that will be enough to create a world without exploitation. Exploitation is what you get when people act in their self-interest, the class-struggle is about self interest, hence the class struggle will not create a world without exploitation.

Earlier on I asked you a question which you have neglected. I now restate it:

if it is the case that ethical boycotts are pointless because until the capitalist dynamic is ultimately confronted all is fucked, which tactics are capable, unlike ethical boycotts, of ultimately confronting capitalism? Do such tactics exist?

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Sep 24 2010 12:16
30bananasaday wrote:
f they drove down their costs in a certain way which consumers did not accept and the consumers stopped buying products as a result, the consequence would be that the company would have to change its practice, making less profit.

the customer is king?

the point is we have limited incomes, because we're wage slaves. if we're to have clothes to wear, food to eat etc we often have litttle choice than to buy cheap. So that's one problem; guilty consumerism is for those with sufficient disposible income.

A second problem is that 'ethical' production is often shitty too, serving primarily to assuage the groundless guilt of consumers rather than change the relations of production. i know several people who've had an utterly shit time working at 'ethical' co-ops, worse than the multinational equivalent. that i'd prefer either to a Chinese sweatshop goes without saying.

A third problem is that conditions of production are pretty opaque. some high-profile brands may be caught out using child labour or whatever, but there's no such thing as an ethical commodity, except as a niche marketing exercise for guilty western liberals. there's often no way of knowing what conditions something was produced in. And in any case, the 'humane' conditions of Western service economies that are seeing spiralling depression and suicide rates are hardly more ethical than sweatshops. Exploitation isn't a moral category, it's a description of capital's basic functioning as money making more money, something consumer choice is powerless to effect.

A fourth problem is it's a only a tactic applicable to high-profile consumer brands, not the low-cost generic products many workers consume, nor the high volume of business-to-business production and trade. Of course the Smug Twat niche is a well-recognised demographic and a host of capitalists are more than happy to supply it, especially given the premiums they can charge to assuage guilt (i had a 'marketing ethics' lecture at uni once; it wasn't about how to do marketing ethically, but how to market yourself as ethical for the lowest cost to improve margins. that's capitalism.)

30bananasaday wrote:
it seems to me that you in fact fetishise 'capitalism' and see it as something with its own natural laws and dynamics independent of the decisions people are making on a day-to-day basis. our subjective acceptance of what companies do when we buy their products is as intrinsically necessary to what companies do as the laws of profit maximisation.

i know you're chronically incapable of engaging with my argument, but how does this contradict the idea that "personal consumption decisions make no difference"? Now in any case capitalism does have laws of it's own. I know every advert ever has told you how YOU matter, that the market responds to your needs etc but this is largely bullshit. Spending patterns are not responsible for sweatshops. capital everywhere seeks to minimise wages and maximise hours (as is happening here when it goes unresisted). your subjective feelings on the matter don't figure in that dynamic. seriously, don't you see the irony in an 'anti-capitalism' that equates subjectivity with consumerism?

30bananasaday wrote:
you are caricaturing me here. "so last century dahling"....come on, that really is not what i am saying.

dude, you said "all of you on here who are trapped in the 1900 paradigm of class struggle", that's clearly stating that class struggle is old-hat from the 20th century, otherwise why mention '1900' at all. it was crap rhetoric and now you're backpeddling.

30bananasaday wrote:
But look here: you say workers are making gains. But have they made gains coming close to challenging capitalism, a challenge which is apparently necessary before any substantial change can be instigated?

what? this is gibberish. if workers are making gains, they are making changes. so who's said 'we can't do anything until teh revolution'? where has this "apparent necesssity" come from? you're tilting at windmills again...

30bananasaday wrote:
so you mock me for saying that the 1900 paradigm of class struggle providing the key to everything must be left behind, you argue that workers are today making gains, but since 1900 we have seen the communist movement disintegrate to its present state, almost non-existence. But we must carry on with class-struggle essentialism nonetheless? In the face of its failure?

read some history mate. jesus, read those links i just posted about China and Bangladesh. and don't throw around words like 'essentialism' as it doesn't make you look clever; the attack on 'class essentialism' was part of the postmodern reaction in academia after '68. we're all just a multiplicity of subjectivities now and all that shite. but this is a side issue.

for the last 25 years workers in Britain and other developed countries have been smashed and defeated and are facing non-stop attacks on our standards of living. the only thing that will halt that is collective action, but we've yet to recover. similar periods have happened before, such as the deskilling that accompanied automation in the weaving industry supposedly the death-knell of working class power (then expressed largely through craft unions). a few decades later new trade unions were formed and people wondered what all the fuss was about.

in any case, conditions in places like China do approximate to those in Victorian Britain, and there are plenty of workers struggles forcing up the standard of living. the same is true wherever capital is exported, and there's various empirical studies of this (such as Silver's 'Forces of Labour'). reports of the death of class struggle have been greatly exaggerated. in fact the class war continues to be fought, just very one-sidedly. all this shit about how exploitation is what happens to people in other countries, how our subjectivity must be expressed as consumers etc is part of that ideological assault. Blair et al obviously want to disarm us, don't be their useful idiot.

30bananasaday wrote:
I don't have a problem with workers organising in their own self-interest, but I don't think that on its own that will be enough to create a world without exploitation. Exploitation is what you get when people act in their self-interest, the class-struggle is about self interest, hence the class struggle will not create a world without exploitation.

Your premises are wrong, so it's not surprising your syllogism comes to an erroneous conclusion. Let's break it down:

Major premise: Exploitation is what you get when people act in their self-interest.

Hopelessly imprecise. Lots of things happen because of self-interest. If someone rescues a hot girl from drowing because they hope to get laid, they may be a white knight prick, they're certainly acting from self-interest, but nobody's being exploited. Rather exploitation is what happens when wage labour is employed to produce commodities, typically under conditions of private property, market exchange and generalised commodity production although there are some interesting atypical cases which render the latter clause superfluous to the premise.

Minor premise: the class-struggle is about self interest.

Again, very imprecise. The class struggle is about recognising class interests, that is that your interests are bound up with those who share your same material circumstances (in your department right up to the global proletariat). Self-interest is thus fundamentally collective and bound up with a logic of solidarity, which in struggle can produce direct social relations between people not mediated by commodities, a logic that points beyond capitalism.

Conclusion: hence the class struggle will not create a world without exploitation.

The wayward conclusion follows from the defective premises.

30bananasaday wrote:
Earlier on I asked you a question which you have neglected. I now restate it:

if it is the case that ethical boycotts are pointless because until the capitalist dynamic is ultimately confronted all is fucked, which tactics are capable, unlike ethical boycotts, of ultimately confronting capitalism? Do such tactics exist?

I've not neglected this since i've cited examples of tactics effective at improving conditions (class struggle) as opposed to ones that serve only to assuage consumer guilt (personal boycotts). However this is irrelevent to the question at hand, which is "living in a capitalist society" not "revolutionary strategy".

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Sep 24 2010 12:31

i just want to pick up on this which i overlooked...

30bananasaday wrote:
to cling to the idea the society can be radically transformed in an emancipatory fashion if people suddenly adopt now ideas which have been around for hundreds of years does possess a certain absurd quality.

it is absurd. luckily nobody is proposing that. class struggle politics (at least the kind i hold, and i know others on this thread are the same) is not about evangelising about an abstract idea and them lamenting your workmates don't give a fuck about your nuanced and footnoted lefty argument. it's about organising around the issues that effect us where we live and work, and the subsequent conflicts open up a space for the questioning of established ideas and political development.

you seem to be saying the class struggle is really one-sided at the moment, so we should boycott coke.

Sheldon's picture
Sheldon
Offline
Joined: 19-01-09
Sep 24 2010 12:58
bananas wrote:
it seems to me that you in fact fetishise 'capitalism' and see it as something with its own natural laws and dynamics independent of the decisions people are making on a day-to-day basis. our subjective acceptance of what companies do when we buy their products is as intrinsically necessary to what companies do as the laws of profit maximisation.

Yet this is precisely how capitalism has come to operate. In its formation there was a certain degree of personal control over the means of production (personal in the hands of individual capitalists), but now the system is largely diffused across impersonal bureaucracies like multinationals or the state. There has in fact been a significant separation in the role of human decision making in the managing of the capitalist apparatus. This is one reason why the situation today is far more dire, saying nothing about the level of class consciousness throughout the ranks of the proletariat, and the Marxist rallying call of "socialism or barbarism" is so pivotal. The entire system is careening along a fiery course of war and destruction, without a captain (or crew) at its helm! There is no clear "villain" in this epic except the commodity form itself and everything that has come to be consumed by it.

So yes, what of "ethical" companies? They are part of this very same tendency, and the critique must be extended along materialist lines otherwise we delve into the silly notions that have already been explored on this thread.

30bananasaday
Offline
Joined: 19-12-09
Sep 24 2010 13:30

At this stage, after the last post of Joesph Kay, I don't think I have any choice but to concede that i have lost this argument. joesph, i thank you for taking the time to so thoroughly destroy my position as this is far more helpful to myself and possibly others than anything else.

although i have lost the argument, however, there are still a few points which i do dispute.

joesph kay wrote:
dude, you said "all of you on here who are trapped in the 1900 paradigm of class struggle", that's clearly stating that class struggle is old-hat from the 20th century, otherwise why mention '1900' at all. it was crap rhetoric and now you're backpeddling.

You have missed out the last bit where i wrote "providing the key to everything." I'm not saying class struggle is now irrelevant. I have never said that and you only make it appear so by editing what I wrote.

but something that i don't get is this: you argue that the world of capitalism, of the commodity, is amoral. that we cannot instigate moral changes within it because of the dominance of the laws of capital. I think that this is really what you have said. and then you say:

Quote:
if workers are making gains, they are making changes. so who's said 'we can't do anything until teh revolution'? where has this "apparent necesssity" come from? you're tilting at windmills again...

Why is ethical consumerism entirely dismissed by you? My understanding is that it is because the laws of capital do not allow an ethical will to be imposed. surely, but i have proabably misunderstood something, this means that a reformist agenda is, whilst perhaps nice because workers get a bit more money to spend on commodities, never going to effect any significant change on the world as it cannot challenge finally the laws of capitalism. It does seem to me that what you are talking about is reformism. you are saying "the workers are effecting changes - we don't need to focus on a revolution." is this a correct understanding of your positions?

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Sep 24 2010 13:57
30bananasaday wrote:
At this stage, after the last post of Joesph Kay, I don't think I have any choice but to concede that i have lost this argument. joesph, i thank you for taking the time to so thoroughly destroy my position as this is far more helpful to myself and possibly others than anything else.

fair play. it ain't easy conceding an argument (i got a bit of Marx wrong recently on another thread and had to hold my hands up to the error...).

30bananasaday wrote:
You have missed out the last bit where i wrote "providing the key to everything." I'm not saying class struggle is now irrelevant. I have never said that and you only make it appear so by editing what I wrote.

i wasn't editting it, i was just focussing on the '1900', which seemed superfluous if your point was simply to say 'class struggle isn't everything' as opposed to make class struggle out to be old-fashioned.

30bananas wrote:
but something that i don't get is this: you argue that the world of capitalism, of the commodity, is amoral. that we cannot instigate moral changes within it because of the dominance of the laws of capital.

we cannot make capitalism moral, but we can fight it and in so doing create different relations amongst ourselves. the solidarity in struggle is certainly something moral/human in an amoral/inhuman world.

30bananasaday wrote:
Why is ethical consumerism entirely dismissed by you? My understanding is that it is because the laws of capital do not allow an ethical will to be imposed.

my argument is capitalism cannot be significantly challeged by consumption because the market is not where it's vulnerable. by equating subjectivity with consumers we accept a role capitalism assigns to us, by struggling as workers we reject one (at least partially). as i said earlier, specific, targetted boycotts may be a useful tactic in certain struggles (say workers were being screwed at a local café, a boycott could really hurt the owners pockets to help enforce a demand).

30bananasaday wrote:
t does seem to me that what you are talking about is reformism. you are saying "the workers are effecting changes - we don't need to focus on a revolution." is this a correct understanding of your positions?

winning concessions from capital through unmediated direct action isn't reformism; if revolutionary practice means anything then that is it. on the contrary, trying to make capitalism nicer through consumption patterns is reformism plain and simple. perhaps some definition of terms would help.

i don't think reformism means simply winning reforms. if it did, revolution could only mean the total overthrow of everything everywhere now this minute, and thus a constant dissapointment and impotence since there's nothing you can do short of total revolution. by contrast i think what distinguishes revolutionary from reformist action is as much means as ends. so if workers win concessions ('reforms') through means which foster solidairty, increase their condfidence and militancy and antagonism to capital, then that's a revolutionary way to act. if they do so by abdicating power to representatives in parliament or the unions, or indeed by 'voting' for nicer capitalists in the market (i.e. ethical consumerism) then that's reformism.

i think in general reformism only gets results when there's a credible revolutionary threat; the welfare state was founded when the ruling class felt "we must give them reforms or they will give us revolution"; since that latent threat was exorcised in the 1980s the welfare state has been rolled back despite the protestations of reformists. there's an overused but relevent quote from Solidarity on this:

Solidarity wrote:
Meaningful action, for revolutionaries, is whatever increases the confidence, the autonomy, the initiative, the participation, the solidarity, the equalitarian tendencies and the self-activity of the masses and whatever assists in their demystification. Sterile and harmful action is whatever reinforces the passivity of the masses, their apathy, their cynicism, their differentiation through hierarchy, their alienation, their reliance on others to do things for them and the degree to which they can therefore be manipulated by others - even by those allegedly acting on their behalf.
30bananasaday
Offline
Joined: 19-12-09
Sep 24 2010 14:47

thanks for that joesph, very interesting. I think my prior understanding of the opposition between revolutionary and reformist activity was perhaps very simplistic.