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WTF is capitalism???

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Mike Harman
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Jan 13 2009 11:01

Paz: read this, then feel free to come back with any questions you might have. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/

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Paz
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Jan 13 2009 11:15
Mike Harman wrote:
Paz: read this, then feel free to come back with any questions you might have. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/

catch: read this, then feel free to come back with any questions you might have.
http://mises.org/rothbard/mes.asp

tigersiskillers
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Jan 13 2009 12:09
Paz wrote:
Mike Harman wrote:
Paz: read this, then feel free to come back with any questions you might have. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/

catch: read this, then feel free to come back with any questions you might have.
http://mises.org/rothbard/mes.asp

But Paz, you're the one with the questions, not Catch. You're the one who came to a libertarian communist site with a faux innocent enquiry.

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 13 2009 12:11
Paz wrote:
Mike Harman wrote:
Paz: read this, then feel free to come back with any questions you might have. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/

catch: read this, then feel free to come back with any questions you might have.
http://mises.org/rothbard/mes.asp

if catch was going on mises.org asking abstract trolling questions this response might make sense.

Boris Badenov
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Jan 13 2009 13:09
Paz wrote:
BillJ, if I were to give an arbitrary definition of capitalism to you, I would end up leaving out another possible definition. An example of this would be an attempt to define the word "game". If I defined a game along the lines of checkers I would leave out basketball or many other games for that matter. If I defined it as team sport I would leave out games like solitaire, etc.

So if you yourself don't have a workable definition of capitalism, how can you accuse others of using the "wrong" definition?
Btw, the word "game" has meaning without defining it "along the lines" of checkers, chess, baseball or any other actual example of a game, so using that as justification for not explaining what you think capitalism is makes you look exactly like the hypocritical troll people have already accused you of being.
If you want dialogue, you're going to have to stop asking trivial questions and start giving some answers; that's how communication works.

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Django
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Jan 13 2009 17:51

No meaningful response to the good response Waslax has written I see.

But at least we know where he's coming from (Von Mises/Rothbard). Presumably you have a definition of capitalism following them and some form of argument against non-capitalist societies?

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Paz
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Jan 13 2009 19:50

Let's begin by recognizing that I am only one person. I have limited resources from which to carry on this conversation. It isn't exactly easy to be one person "against" many. Yet one of my intentions here is to put to rest the idea that we have to be against one another in the first place. I will make an attempt to respond to every post with as much effort as I can put into it. If I skip responding to posts in their entirety, it has more to do with how much time I have left to work with than anything else. However I will attempt to go back to them and respond when I have more time.

I haven't tried to hide my intellectual background. Some have been clever enough to look at my profile. It's all in there. My intent wasn't to posit a "faux innocent" question. I'm seriously attempting to understand what is meant when folks here use the term "capitalism". Also, when trying to come to conclusions about this topic that we can all agree upon, I ask that you recognize that I may not be defending "capitalism" as such.

There are some misunderstandings with regard to praxeology. One can be a praxeologist and be a marxist if one prefers. Praxeology is concerned with those aspects of human action which can be understood a priori.

http://www.praxeology.net/praxeo.htm

I am also not trolling here. You can bring forth accusations of such, but from now on they will be dismissed. If you have a problem with me posting here, then take it up with the admins and have me removed from the forums.

My next post is going to have to do with some aspects of identifying what words mean. I'll need some time to write it. Thank you for your understanding. wink

petey
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Jan 13 2009 21:39
Paz wrote:
Thank you for your understanding.

well catch was gracious to you and you answered snidely, so that's a bad start.
i recognize the avatar and have been to the ALL site. there is much there that i find of interest. nonetheless, while right-libertarianism would be effective against corporate power, it doesn't address the superior-inferior relationships in pure free-marketism. only a co-operativist ideal will do that. how that's to be attained, and exactly what it would look like i don't pretend to know. i'm speaking for myself, most posters here are certainly to the left of the position i've just stated.

Mike Harman
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Jan 13 2009 21:43

Paz, in all seriousness I'd highly recommend reading the first three chapters of Capital - since it describes money, use-value, exchange-value - and then moves on to commodities and wage labour as such later on - it's a while since I read it so can't remember exactly what comes where. At the moment it seems like you want the people on this forum to give you dictionary definitions for everything, whereas Marx's analysis of capitalism (one which is shared by a lot of anarchists as well, even if they dislike everything else about him) is precisely focused on how the various categories which are useful in understanding capitalism emerged historically. i.e. if you want to understand our understanding of capitalism, you need to understand how we view it operating in the real world, and that can't be done in two sentence summaries or throwaway hypotheticals.

radicalgraffiti
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Jan 13 2009 23:59
petey wrote:
i recognize the avatar and have been to the ALL site.

I recognize the avatar too, is it to do with the ALL thing? I thought it represented market "anarchism" or something like that? There was some guy going on about ALL on revleft and trying to get people to join the ALL group but he got banned for being a homophobe. It sounded like some liberal "every one should just be nice" bullshit.

Boris Badenov
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Jan 14 2009 00:17
Paz wrote:
Praxeology is concerned with those aspects of human action which can be understood a priori.

what does that mean exactly?
the website you reference claims that praxeology can be traced back to the ancient greeks and to medieval scholasticism. what exactly is the proof for such a claim? but before you answer that, what exactly does it mean to "be concerned with human actions which can be understood a priori"?

Zazaban
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Jan 14 2009 00:25
Vlad336 wrote:
Paz wrote:
Praxeology is concerned with those aspects of human action which can be understood a priori.

what does that mean exactly?
the website you reference claims that praxeology can be traced back to the ancient greeks and to medieval scholasticism. what exactly is the proof for such a claim? but before you answer that, what exactly does it mean to "be concerned with human actions which can be understood a priori"?

a priori |ˈä prēˈôrē; prīˈôrī; ˈā|
adjective
relating to or denoting reasoning or knowledge that proceeds from theoretical deduction rather than from observation or experience : a priori assumptions about human nature.
adverb
in a way based on theoretical deduction rather than empirical observation : sexuality may be a factor, but it cannot be assumed a priori. | [ sentence adverb ] a priori, it would seem that his government was an extension of Soviet power.

In other words, praxeology is a kind of super-psychology that doesn't involve observation of people. Which is a very odd concept.

Boris Badenov
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Jan 14 2009 00:37

thanks, Zaz, I know what a priori means; what is not so obvious is the actual practice involved in being concerned with human action. I mean as an "ology", it must have certain rules, methods etc., methinks. It's not enough to namedrop a bunch of dead philosophers and economists.

Quote:
In other words, praxeology is a kind of super-psychology that doesn't involve observation of people.

the feeling I get is that it's supposed to be a kind of vague phenomenology. What that has to do with economics and modes of production is quite beyond me tbh, but maybe I haven't looked into the matter carefully enough.

mikus
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Jan 14 2009 01:27

Paz, you're using Wittgenstein in a misguided way. When he uses the sort of techniques (for lack of a better word) that you do, he's criticizing the extraction of ordinary language into a different paradigm (philosophy), in which supposed "truths" are revealed. He never argues against defining terms in a strict and precise fashion (which seems to be your beef with using the word "capitalism"), which is done in any science. He argues against viewing our ordinary language as if words were defined in this way (which is where the whole philosophical view of "essences" and so forth comes from).

Anyway I think you're using a very watered down, crude ordinary language argument here. I'm a fan of ordinary language philosophy myself but what you're trying to do just doesn't cut it.

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Choccy
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Jan 14 2009 01:49
radicalgraffiti wrote:
Paz wrote:
Would it still be considered capitalism if bosses/capitalists/bourgeoisie were the majority and the workers/proletariat were the minority?

I don't see how such a situation could occur, but probably yes.

It isn't possible.
Capitalists live off the product of the combined labour of the working class - so the working class create pretty much everything useful. At some point should this ratio of capitalists : proletariat increase, it would reach a threshold where the amount of physically available labour for exploitation was no longer sufficient to support the hypothetical growth of capitalists.

Like an upside-down pyramid, without a majority of wage-labourers creating the social wealth at its base, such a system would collapse, unable to support itslef. Capitalism can only be sustained when the labour of many is expropriated at the hands of the concentrated power of the few.

mikus
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Jan 14 2009 02:06

There is a general confusion exhibited on this thread between "verbal definitions" and "real definitions" (hypotheses).

Robert Wesley Angelo wrote:
Substitution rules are often found in dictionaries -- but only where dictionaries give us no more than rules for using signs. This is not always the case.

For instance, "Thunder is a sound that follows a flash of lightening" is indeed a rule for applying the word 'thunder'; but "Thunder is a sound caused by the sudden heating and expansion of air by an electrical discharge" is an hypothesis and does not belong to the grammar of the word 'thunder' -- i.e. it is not a definition of a word; it is a "definition of a thing".

The above definition of 'thunder' and "definition of thunder" are from Webster's New World Dictionary (2nd edition). We can find a distinction made between these two types of definitions in Aristotle (the first is often called a "verbal definition", the second a "real definition"):

one kind of definition will be a statement of the meaning of the name, or of an equivalent nominal formula [Anal. Post. 93b] ... a set of words signifying precisely what [the] name signifies [92b; -- e.g.:] thunder can be defined as noise in the clouds ... [94a]

Another kind of definition is a formula exhibiting the cause of a thing's existence. [A "definition is an expression indicating the essence of a thing" (Top. 154a; tr. Pickard-Cambridge), and "to know its essential nature is ... the same as to know the cause of a thing's existence" (Anal. Post. 93a); -- e.g.:] the statement of what the nature of thunder is will be The noise of fire being quenched in the clouds. [Anal. Post. 93b-94a; tr. Mure]

Aristotle's "noise in the clouds", like World's "sound that follows a flash of lightening", is a possible definition of the word 'thunder'. It is a substitution rule for the word 'thunder', not an hypothesis about thunder. So that, Anaximander could speculate that thunder is the noise of air bursting out of clouds, or Anaxagoras that thunder is the noise of clouds colliding, or indeed Homer could speak of "Zeus, the thunderer" -- without thereby uttering something that was meaningless to Aristotle or to us. For although having different "real definitions" (hypotheses) of thunder, we have the same "verbal definition" in common: the word 'thunder' means the same as 'noise in the clouds'. One sign, one grammar (not one sign, five grammars), but five different hypotheses about the phenomenon called 'thunder'.

Taken from here.

A lot of the "definitions" given (for example Waslax's), which center around surplus-value, abstract labor, and so forth (which are hypotheses as a part of a scientific theory, rather than definitions of a system) are examples of "real definitions" (i.e. hypotheses) rather than definitions in the normal sense. I think the original poster was looking for definitions, rather than scientific explanations, since any scientific explanation already presupposes that we know what it is that we're trying to explain.

mikus
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Jan 14 2009 02:11
xConorx wrote:
radicalgraffiti wrote:
Paz wrote:
Would it still be considered capitalism if bosses/capitalists/bourgeoisie were the majority and the workers/proletariat were the minority?

I don't see how such a situation could occur, but probably yes.

It isn't possible.
Capitalists live off the product of the combined labour of the working class - so the working class create pretty much everything useful. At some point should this ratio of capitalists : proletariat increase, it would reach a threshold where the amount of physically available labour for exploitation was no longer sufficient to support the hypothetical growth of capitalists.

This isn't a strong argument.

As long as capitalists consume an amount of product that takes no more time to produce than is actually worked by workers, there can be as many capitalists as you wish. There's no a priori reason to assume that 100 capitalists will not be able consume no more than is produced by 10 laborers, in physical terms (or in value terms for that matter).

I agree with you that it's not possible but I don't think the argument you gave is convincing.

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Choccy
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Jan 14 2009 02:54

I'm not sure the emphasis should be on whether there's an 'a-priori' reason to assume it, but there's almost certainly a practical physical limitation (I've no idea where that'd be), even just in energetic terms - unless you're talking about some hypothetical hyper-efficient system of almost total automation where 10 people just push switches to provide all the product of social labour that the old 'majority proletariat' would have formerly produced, enough for 100 people

Of course the extension of that logic is that with enough automation and efficiency, eventually we'd all be capitalists - or else there'd be a stage where one person was the proletariat and the other 6 billion (or a lot more in the future if piopulation estimates are to be believed) are living off said individual's labour
reduction ad absurdum and i do apologise wink

Can you phrase in a way that is convincing?

BillJ
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Jan 14 2009 03:43
Paz wrote:
BillJ, if I were to give an arbitrary definition of capitalism to you, I would end up leaving out another possible definition. An example of this would be an attempt to define the word "game". If I defined a game along the lines of checkers I would leave out basketball or many other games for that matter. If I defined it as team sport I would leave out games like solitaire, etc.

This makes absolutely no sense. You cannot define something by giving a particular example of it, i.e. you cannot define "game" by saying "checkers" because checkers is a specific form of game and does not explain what the general concept of "game" denotes. Examples can aid an understanding of a concept, but they do not explain the concept on their own.

Why don't you cut the shit? If not, surely you'll simply be banned.

Zazaban
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Jan 14 2009 06:05

It might help to know that this confused gentlemen stated on Flag! that disagreeing with a statement somebody makes is hierarchical. He has stated he imagines a society were everybody approves of everything everybody else says/does. I'm not joking. No really, I'm not.

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Paz
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Jan 14 2009 08:31

Hey everyone,

Nice to see you all taking an interest. I hope to clear up a lot of confusion here. I would have worked on it today as it was my day off, but my landlord knocked on my door today and told me to switch living quarters. I ended up spending the day moving all of my stuff into another room. I apologize for not posting sooner.

I'll do my best to attempt to answer some points that stand out, but as there are so many posts it is going to be difficult to get to all of your points and my own in the course of this evening.

petey wrote:
well catch was gracious to you and you answered snidely, so that's a bad start.

I apologize if I came off that way, but from my perspective the original post did seem snide. I'm not holding it against catch as I don't think that was the intent, but I figured if he was going to send me a link to Das Kapital I would send him a link to Man Economy and State, to be fair.

Mike Harman wrote:
Paz, in all seriousness I'd highly recommend reading the first three chapters of Capital - since it describes money, use-value, exchange-value - and then moves on to commodities and wage labour as such later on - it's a while since I read it so can't remember exactly what comes where.

Thank you. I have read through portions of Das Kapital, but I admit I haven't finished it from front to back. Then again, I don't necessarily expect anyone here to have read Man Economy and State from front to back. That book too goes into money, use-value, exchange-value, etc.

Mike Harman wrote:
At the moment it seems like you want the people on this forum to give you dictionary definitions for everything, whereas Marx's analysis of capitalism (one which is shared by a lot of anarchists as well, even if they dislike everything else about him) is precisely focused on how the various categories which are useful in understanding capitalism emerged historically.

I would like to make it clear that I am not looking for dictionary definitions as I find them rather inadequate. I would like to understand what capitalism means to those here who use the term.

radicalgraffiti wrote:
I recognize the avatar too, is it to do with the ALL thing?

Yes. If you're interested in the Alliance of the Libertarian Left, here is their website:

http://www.all-left.net

vlad336 wrote:
the website you reference claims that praxeology can be traced back to the ancient greeks and to medieval scholasticism. what exactly is the proof for such a claim? but before you answer that, what exactly does it mean to "be concerned with human actions which can be understood a priori"?

I'll provide you with a link to some more information on the topic if you are interested:

http://praxeology.net/unblog06-06.htm#03

And I didn't say "concerned with human actions which can be understood a priori". I referred to those aspects of human action which can be grasped as such.

Zazaban wrote:
In other words, praxeology is a kind of super-psychology that doesn't involve observation of people. Which is a very odd concept.

This is a common confusion with regard to praxeology. It is true that praxeological knowledge can't exist without being able to apply praxeological concepts to empirical reality. The other aspect of understanding human action that we can distinguish is called thymology, which is of those aspects of human action which are gained through experience.

Yet it's not as though one comes before the other. Praxeological truths are implicit in thymological experiences. Understanding an action is to locate it in praxeological space.

I borrowed from this paper for my response:

Anti-Psychologism in Economics: Wittgenstein and Mises By: Roderick Long

mikus wrote:
He never argues against defining terms in a strict and precise fashion (which seems to be your beef with using the word "capitalism"), which is done in any science. He argues against viewing our ordinary language as if words were defined in this way (which is where the whole philosophical view of "essences" and so forth comes from).

Well, it isn't my beef with capitalism. I do think that terms can refer to a specific meaning in a precise and strict fashion. I just don't think that we've come across that meaning yet in our discourse.

You may think that my method is crude and watered down, but you must remember that I am essentially alone in dealing with many people here and attempting to take their comments seriously and responding in a manner that is considerate of their own efforts on this topic. I am also limited in what I am able to accomplish. I don't have the correct answers to everything. For now I would be lucky if someone here thinks that I have a correct answer to something!

xConorx wrote:
It isn't possible.

Can you imagine a situation wherein it is possible? After all, you do have free will.

BillJ wrote:
This makes absolutely no sense. You cannot define something by giving a particular example of it, i.e. you cannot define "game" by saying "checkers" because checkers is a specific form of game and does not explain what the general concept of "game" denotes. Examples can aid an understanding of a concept, but they do not explain the concept on their own.

I didn't define a game by saying checkers, I do recall mentioning something along the lines of checkers. But I should be more precise. There are rules of games. Yet if I were to define a game by explaining the rules that apply to checkers, I might leave out the rules of chess, etc. If I tried to explain it along the lines of competition, I would leave out games that could be played by oneself, like solitare. The attempt to define the term may lead to an arbitrary definition. However, the point is not that it is impossible to define. We are able to use the word and generally we can understand what is meant when the term is used.

Zazaban wrote:
It might help to know that this confused gentlemen stated on Flag! that disagreeing with a statement somebody makes is hierarchical. He has stated he imagines a society were everybody approves of everything everybody else says/does. I'm not joking. No really, I'm not.

I'm afraid you missed the point of those arguments. Here is a link to my thread on Flag!.

The Conceptual Possibilities of Anarchy

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waslax
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Jan 14 2009 09:37
mikus wrote:
There is a general confusion exhibited on this thread between "verbal definitions" and "real definitions" (hypotheses).

.....

A lot of the "definitions" given (for example Waslax's), which center around surplus-value, abstract labor, and so forth (which are hypotheses as a part of a scientific theory, rather than definitions of a system) are examples of "real definitions" (i.e. hypotheses) rather than definitions in the normal sense. I think the original poster was looking for definitions, rather than scientific explanations, since any scientific explanation already presupposes that we know what it is that we're trying to explain.

Fair enough. However, the definition I gave can be taken down to its core, leaving out its hypothetical/theoretical aspects. That core is: wage labour based generalized commodity production. That definition, I believe, partial as it, qualifies as a 'verbal definition', as none of its constituent terms are hypothetical/theoretical.

akai
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Jan 14 2009 10:12

Paz, I could answer you questions to me, except I recognize this as semantic bullshit. Terms like "capital" have general economic and legal definitions. Trying to redefine them is pointless and smacks of manipulation in my opinion, but if you have some alternative definition, just write it here instead of baiting people; I'm pretty sure that most of the regulars here have no problem with the standard.

Looks to me like pretty primitive debating tactics.

Although apparently these semantic tricks have been somewhat effective in penetrating some segments of the anarchist movement in the US where after the RNC and the participation of "market anarchists" in the anarchist bloc, some have come to the astounding conclusion that market anarchists are anticapitalist and they propose something very different than libertarian anarchists - which they don't. (But that's for another thread,)

petey
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Jan 14 2009 14:54
radicalgraffiti wrote:
petey wrote:
i recognize the avatar and have been to the ALL site.

I recognize the avatar too, is it to do with the ALL thing? I thought it represented market "anarchism" or something like that? There was some guy going on about ALL on revleft and trying to get people to join the ALL group but he got banned for being a homophobe. It sounded like some liberal "every one should just be nice" bullshit.

that's the avatar at the ALL website, but i don't really know the history of it, maybe ALL adopted it from some other source. i don't think liberalism is part of their gig tho'. if i understand correctly, the first step is to eliminate the role of the state in markets, and, since the state in practice gives all sorts of benefits to large corporations, this will level the economic playing field considerably. they've developed some psychology to back this up, but i haven't looked into that at all. maybe that's what 'praxeology' is?

laureakai wrote:
some have come to the astounding conclusion that market anarchists are anticapitalist

yes, some have come to exactly that conclusion. i think the rationale is that once the state is removed, so many loci of economic activity will be created that capital won't be able to accumulate to nearly the extent that it does now. this of course is not anticapitalist. i also fail to see how anyone can believe that overwhelming concentrations of capital would not develop under this scheme too.

Boris Badenov
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Jan 14 2009 14:54
Paz wrote:

I'll provide you with a link to some more information on the topic if you are interested:

http://praxeology.net/unblog06-06.htm#03

thanks, but I'm not sure how a blog will cast light on the matter better. Is that your blog btw? Because photoshopping yourself into the School of Athens does not mean your ideas actually have anything to do with the ancient Greeks or with "agorism."
I would appreciate it if you could just give a short, clear description of the kind of rules and methods involved in the practice of "praxeology" as well as its ultimate goal (the way you understand it). The reason I ask, is because you seem to think that praxeology, whatever it is, is relevant to an understanding of what capitalism actually is, and since we're talking about capitalism...

Quote:
And I didn't say "concerned with human actions which can be understood a priori". I referred to those aspects of human action which can be grasped as such.

That was the definition on the website you referenced. Your phrasing doesn't make things much clearer though, tbh.

Boris Badenov
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Jan 14 2009 15:20
petey wrote:
[i don't think liberalism is part of their gig tho'. if i understand correctly, the first step is to eliminate the role of the state in markets

Obviously no one in this day and age who fancies themselves a 'radical' will agree to being called a 'liberal', but 'market-anarchism' is exactly liberalism (classical liberalism) taken to its logical conclusion.

petey
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Jan 14 2009 16:10
Vlad336 wrote:
Obviously no one in this day and age who fancies themselves a 'radical' will agree to being called a 'liberal', but 'market-anarchism' is exactly liberalism (classical liberalism) taken to its logical conclusion.

yes, but rg wasn't referring to that liberalism.

radicalgraffiti wrote:
It sounded like some liberal "every one should just be nice" bullshit.
petey
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Jan 14 2009 16:11

(dp)

radicalgraffiti
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Jan 14 2009 17:13
xConorx wrote:
radicalgraffiti wrote:
Paz wrote:
Would it still be considered capitalism if bosses/capitalists/bourgeoisie were the majority and the workers/proletariat were the minority?

I don't see how such a situation could occur, but probably yes.

It isn't possible.
Capitalists live off the product of the combined labour of the working class - so the working class create pretty much everything useful. At some point should this ratio of capitalists : proletariat increase, it would reach a threshold where the amount of physically available labour for exploitation was no longer sufficient to support the hypothetical growth of capitalists.

I agree its not possible, I should have been more definite. I just wanted to be clear that the ratio of capitalists to workers is not the point, it's about the social relationship. I guess I didn't do that vary well.

Paz wrote:
Yes. If you're interested in the Alliance of the Libertarian Left, here is their website:

http://www.all-left.net

that website is kind of misleading, it includes organizations like the IWW in the organizations and website list.

petey wrote:
that's the avatar at the ALL website, but i don't really know the history of it, maybe ALL adopted it from some other source. i don't think liberalism is part of their gig tho'. if i understand correctly, the first step is to eliminate the role of the state in markets, and, since the state in practice gives all sorts of benefits to large corporations, this will level the economic playing field considerably. they've developed some psychology to back this up, but i haven't looked into that at all. maybe that's what 'praxeology' is?

I probably shouldn't have called them liberal, I ment the idea seemed real vague and seemed to be limited to the idea that everything would be ok if people would join there group. This is what the guy on revlft said when i asked what ALL was

Red Anarchist of Love wrote:
the movement of ALL is were all mankind gives thier loaylty to humnan race first and for most, before any goverment, religon, political group, or any other label we use to separte our self from each other

I wasn't aware of the website at the time, I though the ALL thing was just anothere "everyone on the left should stop fighting and work together" you get a lot of that on revleft.

Vlad336 wrote:
Obviously no one in this day and age who fancies themselves a 'radical' will agree to being called a 'liberal', but 'market-anarchism' is exactly liberalism (classical liberalism) taken to its logical conclusion.

Maybe I was right by acident? grin

petey
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Jan 14 2009 19:25
radicalgraffiti wrote:
Red Anarchist of Love wrote:
the movement of ALL is were all mankind gives thier loaylty to humnan race first and for most, before any goverment, religon, political group, or any other label we use to separte our self from each other

damn that's weird