You will be assimilated; resistance is futile.

Say what you will about Capitalism, but it has the probably most effective and universally applicable method of conquering its enemies: subversion, assimilation and substitution via mimicry.

pseudo-punk: one and two

pseudo-hippie: one and two

pseudo-communist: one and two

pseudo-green: one and two

point being, if it costs you that much money to be an anti-consumerist/anti-capitalist rebel, you’re doing it wrong.

It’s cool to be a rebel right now. But really living without stuff, wearing the same pair of jeans for decades until they’ve become unfixable, fighting the peer-pressure to buy-buy-buy, go to demonstrations, organize, boycott, fight, etc… well, that’s hard work. So much easier to just buy into the look and believe that that is what the whole thing is about. This dilutes the real counterculture and assimilates it into the mainstream, consumerist culture; it becomes a mere fashion statement.

And it’s really fucking tough to resist, too. I’m guilty of it, too… but I want to do better, because I hate feeling like a poser and hypocrite. I’m getting there, in baby steps, but I get the feeling that baby-steps just aren’t fast enough.

Being good is hard; and disgustingly caffeine-free *pout*

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48 comments on “You will be assimilated; resistance is futile.

  1. David Marjanović says:

    Well said, just don’t lose your patience. Viva la evolución.

    Is waste separated in ND? How much recycling is there?

  2. Jadehawk says:

    “Is waste separated in ND? How much recycling is there?”

    almost none, as far as I’ve been able to figure out. Aluminum is recycled, paper is recycled, and there’s yard waste bins (biotonne basically), but that one we don’t use because we have a worm bin for our bio trash.

  3. Katrina says:

    GOATS ON FIRE!

    Jadehawk, I know what you mean. We felt like uber-consumers this past year because of our move. I once joked that we propped up the economy of Washington state all by ourselves.

    Now, we’re going through all of our possessions, as we unpack, and trying to find ways to reuse them all rather than buy more.

    Simply, we have too much stuff – and we know it. Our stack of “Good Will items” is steadily growing.

    But I ramble. . .

  4. David Marjanović says:

    Aluminum is recycled, paper is recycled, and there’s yard waste bins

    That’s, comparatively, not bad. In France, there’s glass, paper/plastic/metal (up to small electric devices!), and “everything else”.

  5. Walton says:

    I would venture to suggest that part of the reason why capitalism is so good at “conquering its enemies”, as you put it, is because it provides a better standard of living and quality of life than the alternatives which have been tried from time to time. You point out, correctly, that living a genuinely anti-consumerist life is hard and unpleasant, compared to the relative material comfort of a mainstream consumer-capitalist lifestyle. So it’s no surprise that most people choose the latter.

    Capitalism is far from perfect. And it needs a whole range of restrictive measures to keep it in check: otherwise it consumes resources at an ever-expanding rate, as well as generating periodic boom-and-bust cycles. But the capitalist-mixed economy model which we use in the Western world is, I think, better than anything else the human brain can come up with.

  6. Jadehawk says:

    I would venture to suggest that part of the reason why capitalism is so good at “conquering its enemies”, as you put it, is because it provides a better standard of living and quality of life than the alternatives which have been tried from time to time. You point out, correctly, that living a genuinely anti-consumerist life is hard and unpleasant, compared to the relative material comfort of a mainstream consumer-capitalist lifestyle. So it’s no surprise that most people choose the latter.

    *sigh*

    waaay to miss the point. capitalism, especially consumerism, isn’t making anyone’s life better. you’re tautologically claiming that having more stuff is a better quality of life, because you get to have more stuff. it’s not actually true, as everybody has been trying to explain to you since forever (if you want to be taken seriously in these conversations, at the very least read a popular account of the real effects of consumerism on happiness and quality of life. something like “affluenza”).

    it’s just that going against a mainstream culture is always harder work than just going with the flow of it, and capitalism is good enough at mimicking it that it removes the incentive to try, when you can just soothe your green-guilt, your white-guilt, your male-guilt and pretty much every other guilt over living destructively and in privilege with a consumerist pseudo-solution. which reminds me… have you ever read Brave New World? consumerism is a different kind of “opiate for the people”, that’s all.

    “But the capitalist-mixed economy model which we use in the Western world is, I think, better than anything else the human brain can come up with.”

    I highly doubt that, from what my studies are indicating. But if you’re right, we’re about to go extinct, since capitalist consumerism is about to turn us into the Independence Day aliens, just without FTL and therefore stuck on this planet.

  7. Walton says:

    (if you want to be taken seriously in these conversations, at the very least read a popular account of the real effects of consumerism on happiness and quality of life. something like “affluenza”).

    Jadehawk, when you posted the article on “Affluenza”, I read it. I can’t remember much of it now, as my brain is full of law. But it doesn’t establish as much as you seem to be claiming. Yes, a materially prosperous consumerist society creates some special social ills of its own; no one is denying this. But I’d still rather live in a society where I have easy, affordable access to a large selection of consumer goods than one where I don’t. I’d rather live in a society suffering from “affluenza”, and accept the social problems that go with that, than live in, say, the much more austere society of two generations ago.

    you’re tautologically claiming that having more stuff is a better quality of life, because you get to have more stuff.

    No. I’m claiming that there is some stuff access to which improves our quality of life. Of course, this depends on personal preference and what’s important to you.

    For example, the fact that today we have access to a vast range of foods, fresh and processed, from around the world, vastly improves my quality of life. I’m a really, really picky eater, to the point that there are a huge number of foods (including some basic staples) which I just can’t eat. In modern society, I can get a nutritionally adequate diet while only eating the foods I like. If I had to live on, say, World-War-II-era rations, I would have a thoroughly miserable existence.

    Likewise, you are having this conversation on a computer which is a product of consumer capitalism (unless you built it yourself, and, even then, its component parts are a product of consumer capitalism). Your blog is hosted on a commercially-run website. The whole exercise in digital social communication in which all of us here are presently engaging is, itself, facilitated by consumer capitalism. That’s “stuff” which improves our quality of life; and if I had less of it, my quality of life would be poorer.

    Is acquiring more stuff always a recipe for happiness? Is it the ultimate aspiration of the human condition? Of course not. But consumer capitalism provides me with a lot of stuff without which I would be less happy.

  8. Jadehawk says:

    No. I’m claiming that there is some stuff access to which improves our quality of life. Of course, this depends on personal preference and what’s important to you.

    except that this is almost entirely socially conditioned. there’s no intrinsic happiness in having stuff.

  9. Jadehawk says:

    “If I had to live on, say, World-War-II-era rations, I would have a thoroughly miserable existence.”

    strange then, that the Britons of that time liked them, and thought they were abolished too early. You have no knowledge or experience with these things, so you have no basis on which to make these assumptions.

  10. David Marjanović says:

    affluenza

    LOL! So true…

    But if you’re right, we’re about to go extinct, since capitalist consumerism is about to turn us into the Independence Day aliens, just without FTL and therefore stuck on this planet.

    Not LOL! So true…

    when you posted the article on “Affluenza”, I read it

    I missed it. Link, please!

  11. Jadehawk says:

    “Affluenza” is a book and a PBS program (and a term coined from those), but it has an entry on wikipedia, too. No idea what “article” I linked to. Might have been the wikipedia entry.

  12. Walton says:

    except that this is almost entirely socially conditioned. there’s no intrinsic happiness in having stuff.

    So you wouldn’t be more unhappy if you were deprived of access to a computer? How about indoor plumbing? Central heating (presumably rather important in North Dakota)? Fridges? Ovens? Microwaves? Is it “socially conditioned” that human beings like to stay warm, take showers, cook decent meals, store food safely, and get instantaneous access to information from around the world? All of this is “stuff”, and all of it is produced commercially as part of the consumer-capitalist economy. And all of it improves our quality of life in and of itself, not merely because we’re socially conditioned to want it.

  13. Paul says:

    o you wouldn’t be more unhappy if you were deprived of access to a computer? How about indoor plumbing? Central heating (presumably rather important in North Dakota)? Fridges? Ovens? Microwaves?

    Is it really your position that these are only available due to capitalist consumerism? This strikes me as being no different than the argument that religion is necessary since it tells people to be nice to their neighbours, as if there is no opportunity for the latter without the former. Is your position truly that without capitalist consumerism, we’d be living in powerless, plumbing-less hovels scrabbling at the dirt for roots to consume? If not, why the argument by means of “capitalism is good because it lets me have stuff”? Surely you can conceive of a more equitable system that also allows for purchase and ownership of goods?

  14. Walton says:

    Is your position truly that without capitalist consumerism, we’d be living in powerless, plumbing-less hovels scrabbling at the dirt for roots to consume?

    Possibly. Or we might be living in unheated high-rise concrete blocks and standing in long queues to receive our meagre government rations. It depends what you replace capitalist consumerism with: but whatever alternative socio-economic system you choose, the result will be poverty and misery.

  15. Jadehawk says:

    “So you wouldn’t be more unhappy if you were deprived of access to a computer? How about indoor plumbing? Central heating (presumably rather important in North Dakota)? Fridges? Ovens? Microwaves? Is it “socially conditioned” that human beings like to stay warm, take showers, cook decent meals, store food safely, and get instantaneous access to information from around the world? All of this is “stuff”, and all of it is produced commercially as part of the consumer-capitalist economy. And all of it improves our quality of life in and of itself, not merely because we’re socially conditioned to want it.”

    1)All the items above are indeed not intrinsically good. I don’t have a microwave and am quite happy without one; Sharon Astyk over at Caudubon’s Book doesn’t have a fridge, and doesn’t seem to think she’s living in misery. And in any case, you’re confusing convenience with acutal happiness.

    2)All these things were invented in a patriarchy, too (by men mostly, too); that’s not evidence that we need a patriarchy to get these things; the same for capitalism, especially so when most R&D and basic research happens in non-capitalist contexts anyway.

    “but whatever alternative socio-economic system you choose, the result will be poverty and misery.

    sure. and the passing of the Healthcare bill will enslave every single American.

    seriously, you don’t have any evidence for that idiotic claim other than your belief that capitalism is the best thing humans ever invented. That’s not a valid argument.

  16. Jadehawk says:

    Causaubon’s Book, even :-p

  17. Jadehawk says:

    oh! and capitalism is already resulting in poverty and misery in the majority of the world, anyway. Or do you think all these South Korean workers committed protest-suicide because capitalism made their lives better?

    add to this that capitalism is on its way to make westerner’s lives miserable soon too (because of inability to stop resource depletion and global warming, because of its focus on competition rather than cooperation), and your argument against finding an alternative evaporates completely, even if taken at face value.

    we have really nothing to lose in finding this alternative.

  18. Paul says:

    but whatever alternative socio-economic system you choose, the result will be poverty and misery.

    Sorry, but I need to agree with Jadehawk. Congratulations, Walton, you’re kin to the US Teabag movement. Clownshoe.

    The fact that you can say things like that month after month, year after year, completely unevidenced and simply taking as an axiom that consumer capitalism is the best arrangement possible, just shows that the more you change the more you stay the same. Pity. Every once and awhile you show willingness to try to think things out instead of assume, but I can’t figure out why you refuse to do that when it comes to fiscal matters. You’ve admitted many times that you really don’t know up from down there, yet you feel justified saying “without capitalism, you have misery and poverty”. You really should be ashamed of yourself.

  19. Walton says:

    All the items above are indeed not intrinsically good. I don’t have a microwave and am quite happy without one; Sharon Astyk over at Caudubon’s Book doesn’t have a fridge, and doesn’t seem to think she’s living in misery. And in any case, you’re confusing convenience with acutal happiness.

    But I rather suspect Ms Astyk has a computer. (If not, I’m rather impressed that she manages to write a blog.) Similarly, I rather suspect that you, as a resident of North Dakota, have some form of central heating in your home.

    And convenience is not the same thing as happiness, but it certainly helps. A life where you have to slave away all day in order to achieve the most basic necessities is never going to be a happy one. In the past, most people (except the wealthy, who had servants) spent a substantial amount of their time cooking, cleaning, washing clothes and performing other basic manual tasks. Today, thanks to consumer-capitalist products such as washing machines and fridges, we no longer have to spend most of our time attending to our basic needs, and have far more leisure time and learning-time. Do you really dispute that this has improved our quality of life?

    All these things were invented in a patriarchy, too (by men mostly, too); that’s not evidence that we need a patriarchy to get these things; the same for capitalism, especially so when most R&D and basic research happens in non-capitalist contexts anyway.

    It’s very true that most basic research happens in non-capitalist contexts. It’s also true that non-capitalist societies also conduct plenty of research: the Soviet Union launched the first satellite and developed a huge array of impressive military technology, for instance. So I wasn’t asserting that scientific progress is a product of capitalism, in itself, or that it wouldn’t happen without capitalism.

    But what consumer capitalism does is provide the profit-incentive to transform scientific discoveries into practical technologies that actually make people’s lives better. The basics of modern computer technology were developed by governments for military codebreaking, for instance, but it took IBM and Microsoft to put a computer in every home. Similarly, plenty of discoveries made in the course of the space race have subsequently been incorporated into technologies used in consumer goods.

    In short, a lot of scientific knowledge comes from government-funded and other non-capitalist activities; but it takes capitalist business to turn that scientific knowledge into consumer products which can actually be bought and used by ordinary people. Contrast this with non-capitalist societies. As I said earlier, the Soviet Union had no shortage of scientific excellence. But it wasn’t used in ways that made people’s lives better; rather, it was used on military technology and projects for the glorification of the state, because it was the state, rather than ordinary consumers, which provided the money. In the end, innovation goes where the money is. If you’re a talented engineer and the state pays you to build missiles, you build missiles; if consumers pay you to build washing-machines, you build washing-machines. And I doubt you’d dispute that human quality of life is improved more by washing-machines than by missiles.

  20. Paul says:

    Contrast this with non-capitalist societies. As I said earlier, the Soviet Union had no shortage of scientific excellence. But it wasn’t used in ways that made people’s lives better; rather, it was used on military technology and projects for the glorification of the state, because it was the state, rather than ordinary consumers, which provided the money.

    This of course was more to do with the system of socialism in place, as opposed to the result of a totalitarian regime that didn’t care for the well-being of the people. It thus follows that any socialist system will be like the Soviet Union.

    …I mean, come on. That’s just silly. The government is the people in a democracy. You can’t compare the US to the Soviet Union with regards to socialism/capitalism without addressing the fact that we actually have a say as to what the government spends money on. While current government spending is out of control with respect to Defense, it is not important enough to consumers because their quality of life is comfortable enough on average that they do not protest spending by voting for anti-bloated Defense politicians. If people’s quality of life plummetted due to Defense spending the way you seem to think is inevitable under a different system, they would quickly vote for politicians that would decrease Defense spending to improve domestic quality of life.

    I can’t believe an educated Englishman would bring up the Soviet Union to make an argument against socialism (or anything not capitalism) in a democratic society. I mean, seriously, the mind boggles.

  21. Walton says:

    I mean, come on. That’s just silly. The government is the people in a democracy. You can’t compare the US to the Soviet Union with regards to socialism/capitalism without addressing the fact that we actually have a say as to what the government spends money on.

    That’s bullshit. The government can never be the same as “the people”, because there is no single entity called “the people”. There are individuals, and there are lots of overlapping social groups and networks consisting of individuals, all with different interests and desires. Democracy does not mean that “the government is the people”; rather, it means that the group which is temporarily in the majority (most often, the group which is loudest, best-funded and best-organised) gets to make rules which it imposes on everyone.

    I, as an individual citizen, have virtually no say in what the government spends money on. I can affect it, to a small extent, by choosing which party to vote for; but the differences are minimal. The bulk of spending, including spending on things which I think are completely stupid (such as imprisoning people for drug offences, say, or paying for the Common Agricultural Policy) will stay the same whatever party is in power, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. Since the majority of my fellow citizens either disagree with me or don’t care, nothing I do is going to cause these heads of spending to be eliminated. This isn’t to say that democratic politics is a waste of time – I vote, campaign, and speak out on things that are important to me, and I appreciate my right to do so – but my actual personal power, as an individual, is very limited. So is yours, most likely, unless you’re a senior politician or a media baron.

    By contrast, as a consumer, I do have massive power over my own life. I choose what I want to buy. And because businesses want to make as much money as possible out of people like me, they have an incentive to produce things that people want to buy: so there’s a vast range of choices out there, and every day I get to make choices. In short, I make far more decisions that have tangible effects on my life, and have far more autonomy as an individual, in the sphere of capitalist consumption than I do in the sphere of democratic politics. Consumerism is the real way of giving power to the people; it’s far more effective than democracy.

  22. Paul says:

    Walton,

    Now, can you translate that to support your previous statement?

    whatever alternative socio-economic system you choose, the result will be poverty and misery.

    And can you explain how consumerism gives power to the poor people who are used as child labor to ensure costs are low and corporate profits are high? Or how it empowers those lucky ones who at least get some high school education before they get to work for less than a living wage to push your consumer products? Or how it ensures that things don’t go to shit when natural resources are exhausted?

    And can you defend using the Soviet Fucking Union to argue about how anything aside from consumer capitalism will inevitably result in an inability to make products suitable for ordinary citizens? Completely ignoring the differences in governments? If you’re going to point out the downsides to a more government-run economy, at least point out something a bit more comparable to the US. Start with an actual functional democracy, not a totalitarian regime. Otherwise you’re just spewing right-wing propaganda, no better than people who say atheist governments necessarily kill people by the millions.

  23. David Marjanović says:

    Ah crap, ran up against the 4096-character limit.

    Sharon Astyk over at Ca[sa]ubon’s Book doesn’t have a fridge, and doesn’t seem to think she’s living in misery.

    I would, in the long term, live in misery without fresh milk, and butter (no matter if salted) does oxidize and lose its taste if kept at room temperature for weeks. I tried that for half a year, from early November 2008 to early July 2009, when I lived in a room in an ancient students’ home with ancient electricity supply and therefore didn’t have a fridge. (I drank UHT milk. :-/ Drinkable with cocoa in it, or with honey and cichoria, but still… :-\ )

    When the room is not warm, and also when I’m ill, I can’t drink milk straight from the fridge, and letting it stand around for an hour isn’t always an option. Heating it on the stove is wasteful: the stove heats the milk, the mug, the water around the mug, and the casserole that holds the water in place. A microwave oven heats just the milk.

    On the other hand, of course, this doesn’t mean I need to own a microwave all for myself. Indeed, in the last students’ home I lived in, the microwave was in the so-called cafeteria on the ground/first floor, so I made the trip from the first/second floor and back 4 times daily. The horror, the horror. :-| It did mean I had to get dressed first thing in the morning before having any breakfast*, but I can sort of live with that most of the time :-)

    * Well. I could have made tea first. I just almost never got up soon enough for that to make any sense. :-)

    As I said earlier, the Soviet Union had no shortage of scientific excellence. But it wasn’t used in ways that made people’s lives better; rather, it was used on military technology and projects for the glorification of the state, because it was the state, rather than ordinary consumers, which provided the money. In the end, innovation goes where the money is. If you’re a talented engineer and the state pays you to build missiles, you build missiles; if consumers pay you to build washing-machines, you build washing-machines. And I doubt you’d dispute that human quality of life is improved more by washing-machines than by missiles.

    As Paul said, you’re confusing consumer capitalism and democracy here. In a democracy, the state is the ordinary consumers, so it’s automatically the ordinary consumers who provide the money for research, one way or another or yet another still.

    In other words, I submit that all these drawbacks of the Soviet Union were due to its being a dictature.

    This of course was more to do with the system of socialism in place, as opposed to the result of a totalitarian regime that didn’t care for the well-being of the people. It thus follows that any socialist system will be like the Soviet Union.

    See, that’s why I stick to what I’ve been told was the 19th-century distinction between socialism and communism: both want the Classless Society®, but the latter wants to reach it by Revolution® (…or a putsch by the Party), while the former wants to reach it by democratic means. Under these definitions, nobody cyber-here is a communist, and the Soviet Union was not socialist.

    Yes, it officially called itself socialist. That was partially due to a different definition (Marx’s stupid stages of the development of society), and partially deliberate obfuscation (compare the More or Less Democratic Republic of Congo, or the flat-out lie “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”).

  24. David Marjanović says:

    Part 2 of 2.

    And can you defend using the Soviet Fucking Union to argue about how anything aside from consumer capitalism will inevitably result in an inability to make products suitable for ordinary citizens?

    I shall henceforth refer to such attempts as “an SFU argument” :-þ

    (Or would that be too easy to confuse with STFU?)

    I can affect it, to a small extent, by choosing which party to vote for; but the differences are minimal.

    A big part of the reason is the way votes translate to Parliament seats in the UK, which imposes a two-party system. Elsewhere (not including the US, for completely different reasons funnily enough), you can usually vote for proud communists as well as for proud reactionaries.

    Consumerism is the real way of giving power to the people; it’s far more effective than democracy.

    I actually agree with this (and point to the economic and political changes in China from Mao to now as an example), with a couple of big caveats:

    – Just like with the number of political parties and the differences between them, this requires there to be a real choice. This means a pretty strong state (or EU Commissioner for Competition) that can artifically prop up competition by actively preventing companies from merging, for instance.
    – Democracy only works if the voters know what they’re doing. If they don’t, someone will trick them into voting against their interests sooner rather than later. Capitalism, too, only works as a system that gives power to Jane Q. Public if the consumers know what they’re doing. When the ads are lies, or when the ads are technically correct but imply bogus benefits by appealing to the consumers’ ignorance, all economic and political power will end up with a few companies sooner rather than later. Preventing this requires a state that is strong enough to make and enforce laws about advertisement and to provide a good education for everyone.
    – A strong state sooner or later means tyranny, unless the rulers are both benevolent and competent and by miracle remain so forever, or unless they can be removed quickly enough. The latter option is called democracy.

    What have I missed…?

    Oh yeah, one thing. Yesterday Jadehawk sent me an e-mail that had an ad by Microsoft attached at the end: “Windows 7 – Everything you need and much more!” Reality is just so much funnier than fiction. :-D :-D :-D

  25. Walton says:

    See, that’s why I stick to what I’ve been told was the 19th-century distinction between socialism and communism: both want the Classless Society®, but the latter wants to reach it by Revolution® (…or a putsch by the Party), while the former wants to reach it by democratic means. Under these definitions, nobody cyber-here is a communist, and the Soviet Union was not socialist.

    That’s just wrong, at least according to Marxist theory.

    In Marxism, “communism” is the ideal end-state which a workers’ society is eventually supposed to reach. Communists of the Marxist variety aim at reaching this goal – hence why they call themselves Communists – but countries governed by Communist parties were consistently described as “socialist” states. The Soviet invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia were justified by the Soviets as a defence of the “socialist” order in those countries, for instance. Marxism is a form of socialism, and Marxists have always seen themselves as revolutionary socialists.

    Of course, Marxism is only one form of socialism: there are many others (anarcho-socialism, democratic socialism, and so on), and a whole range of movements even within Marxism. And the term “communism” isn’t only used by Marxists: there are small-c “communists” who are not Marxists, such as anarcho-communists.

  26. Jadehawk says:

    “By contrast, as a consumer, I do have massive power over my own life.
    BWAHAHAAAAHAAAA!!!!!!!!

    an illusion if choice is not actually a choice, you know (and incidentally, I’m working on an article about that, too).

    And I notice you didn’t bother responding to the part where capitalism doesn’t give most of the world any choices, and is running us headfirst into a disaster where again we will not even have your precious consumerist choices. Tell me again what precisely we have to lose, in that context, with finding alternatives?

    I’ll also have to finally write the article on efficiency vs. redundancy systems, because you keep on making the mistake of assuming that the non-redundant systmes created by capitalism itself are some sort of natural state of existence, and that therefore the fact that capitalism also provides solutions to them is somehow a good argument for capitalism.

  27. Jadehawk says:

    “I would, in the long term, live in misery without fresh milk,

    well, her milk comes directly from her critters twice daily, so no refrigeration necessary :-p

    and when I didn’t have a fridge, I’d always get enough milk for the day, not more. Capitalism of course would make this more expensive (I got it for free, because it was one of the “perks” of the job I had), but that’s irrelevant if we’re discussing a non-capitalist situation.

    I wouldn’t mind re-instating daily milk delivery (and just think of how many jobs would be created that way, hehe), but the current system of capitalism centralizes everything, so that’s not possible.

    a forcibly decentralized, glocal (not a typo) capitalism that isn’t allowed to leave the bounds of the areas where it’s actually useful would be ok in many ways, but that’s not what we have now. business controls government, not the other way round. and that sort of capitalism is destroying us, so we need to find an alternative.

    there really isn’t any other option to finding an alternative actually, unless like Walton you’ve already resigned yourself to sacrificing the future in the name of Capitalism.

  28. Paul says:

    I actually agree with this (and point to the economic and political changes in China from Mao to now as an example), with a couple of big caveats:…

    I actually agree with this. I’m not really anti-consumerism. I like having my stuff. I simply don’t think it’s possible to jump from “having stuff = good” to “socialism = misery and poverty”, and it looks quite ridiculous to try.

    an illusion if choice is not actually a choice, you know (and incidentally, I’m working on an article about that, too).

    Can’t wait to see that. But does affect our own happiness/well-being if our “massive power over our lives” is merely due to illusory choice, as opposed to really having a choice? I mean, it’s not like we can reload from an earlier state, try making different choices, and see if they really make a difference or if they are simply illusory choices. What does it really matter as long as we think we’re making our own choices?

    Just playing Devil’s Advocate, of course.

  29. Walton says:

    I wouldn’t mind re-instating daily milk delivery (and just think of how many jobs would be created that way, hehe), but the current system of capitalism centralizes everything, so that’s not possible.

    We have daily milk delivery in many parts of the UK. Last time I checked, we were still a capitalist society. (It doesn’t affect me much, of course, since I dislike milk and don’t drink it.)

    And I notice you didn’t bother responding to the part where capitalism doesn’t give most of the world any choices

    It does. It doesn’t tend to give them good choices, but still more than they would otherwise have had.

    In the developing world, capitalism tends to provide people with the opportunity to work long hours in dangerous sweatshops for no pay. That may not sound like much of a choice: but for those people, the other choices are usually subsistence-farming, prostitution, trawling through refuse or starving to death on the street, or some combination of the above. They work in sweatshops because it’s the best of the bad options available to them. If government takes away that choice – say, by instituting worker welfare laws, as a result of which the sweatshops pack up and move away – then they’re forced to pick one of the other choices.

  30. Walton says:

    …and is running us headfirst into a disaster where again we will not even have your precious consumerist choices.

    I’m not convinced. Even if the worst environmental predictions come true, I think capitalism will adapt to environmental disaster and the consequent scarcity of resources. In the end, human innovation is a very powerful force, and the profit-motive is the most consistently effective way of driving innovation.

    Tell me again what precisely we have to lose, in that context, with finding alternatives?

    Lots. I have quite a materially prosperous life right now, as do a high proportion people in the developed world. I don’t want to throw that away in some half-baked social experiment.

  31. Jadehawk says:

    nice little fantasy, walton. might I suggest a reading of Diamond’s Collapse to disabuse you of the illusion that our civilisation is neverending?

    “They work in sweatshops because it’s the best of the bad options available to them.If government takes away that choice – say, by instituting worker welfare laws, as a result of which the sweatshops pack up and move away – then they’re forced to pick one of the other choices.”

    you’re an ignorant, callous and selfish idiot. yeah, the lives of sweatshop workers is so awesome, they commit protest-suicides to get their governments to finally institute those ebil worker welfare laws.

    let me repeat this. people voluntarily killed themselves by putting themselves on fire to get those welfare laws passed that you find it convenient to think they’re better off not having.

    asshole

  32. Jadehawk says:

    “In the end, human innovation is a very powerful force, and the profit-motive is the most consistently effective way of driving innovation.”

    and millions of people will die, and many more billions will be landless and/or refugees.

    have I mentioned yet that you callous and selfish?

  33. David Marjanović says:

    That’s just wrong […] according to Marxist theory.

    I know, and sort of said so (just not clearly enough).

    By contrast, as a consumer, I do have massive power over my own life.

    I overlooked this, and should anticipate part of my planned rant about fashion. For instance, my metatarsals diverge, so the feet get broader toward the toes. That’s not a very common condition; therefore, shoes that fit comfortably over my feet (without giving me ingrown toenails, a painful condition that lasts for months) are extremely hard to find and tend to be insanely expensive. (I’ve had a pair that cost 145 €, 20 € more than my flights from Vienna to Copenhagen and back together for crying out loud; while wearing them every weekday for a few years, the inner soles started to dissolve, and the outer sole of one broke… I glued it several times with epoxy resin and other hardcore glues, but none holds, which means that a lot of water gets in when it rains. I now have a much, much cheaper, narrower pair, and the first warning signs of ingrown toenails have started to appear.) Shoes that fit comfortably over my feet without being too long (again as much as my toes) don’t seem to exist at all. Trousers of my size – the smallest of the long-and-thin sizes, and high-cut at that – are not expensive, but simply not carried by easily half of the stores, and available in very low numbers in those that do have them. My power as a consumer? Even though I have a First-World family behind me? Zilch. I am not a sufficiently big market. It’s like voting for a party knowing full well that it won’t even get 1 % of the vote.

    I wouldn’t mind re-instating daily milk delivery (and just think of how many jobs would be created that way, hehe)

    :-) :-) :-)

    We have daily milk delivery in many parts of the UK.

    :-o

    And there I was thinking in all seriousness it had stopped everywhere, together with all other such people-intensive jobs, because the wages became too high to make it economic. Man!

    If government takes away that choice – say, by instituting worker welfare laws, as a result of which the sweatshops pack up and move away –

    Where to?

    They’ve quite literally reached the end of the world already. They already are in the poorest states of India, in Bangladesh, and increasingly in all countries in Africa that don’t have too much civil war. Some have already pulled out of China, even though China still has 200 million practically unemployed people!

    Since the early 90s, jobs were outsourced from Germany to the Czech Republic, then from there to Ukraine, then from there to China, then from there to Burkina Faso… if they move to Ethiopia next, it’s over.

    It took well over a hundred years, but the self-made end of sweatshops is in sight now. The world is finite.

  34. Walton says:

    you’re an ignorant, callous and selfish idiot. yeah, the lives of sweatshop workers is so awesome, they commit protest-suicides to get their governments to finally institute those ebil worker welfare laws.

    Don’t misunderstand me. Sweatshops are awful, and I wasn’t meaning to downplay that.

    But stop and think about why people are willing to work in inhuman and very dangerous conditions, from early childhood, for long hours and little pay. It’s because they have no other means of supporting themselves. And if you close the sweatshops, you leave those people with no job, starving on the streets or having to resort to prostitution or begging. Is that really a better life?

    I am not at all defending sweatshops or the people who run them. I’m just saying that, sometimes, shutting them down can have worse effects on the poor than keeping them open.

  35. Walton says:

    With regards to my comment above, I apologise if I sounded a little arrogant, particularly with the “But stop and think…” remark. In all honesty, I’m not at all sure that I’m actually right about this. It’s way outside my area of expertise or experience.

  36. Jadehawk says:

    and it doesn’t even occur to you that the conditions in which sweatshops are the only option are a consequence of a drive to capitalization?

    slavery, which is precisely what’s going on, is not a choice. I realize that, the people in those situations realize that and fight to change it, but you don’t want to realize it because you’re comfortably sitting on the victories won by others like these people, and don’t need to fight anymore. it’s vile. and it’s a delusion to think such a system is in any way shape or form good.

  37. Walton says:

    and it doesn’t even occur to you that the conditions in which sweatshops are the only option are a consequence of a drive to capitalization?

    I don’t understand how this can be the case. As I understand it, before capitalism and multinational corporations came to these countries, most of the population were, in general, subsistence farmers surviving on the poverty line, just as their ancestors had been; and they didn’t have any other options available to them. Capitalism has, at least, given them another choice – and, as we have seen in recently industrialised countries like Taiwan, industrialisation gradually makes the country richer to the point where the next generation have some real options. As I understand it, the same is now happening in parts of China and India.

    In the Western world, the social changes of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century – free education, worker protection laws, sickness and unemployment benefit, and so on – could not have happened without the wealth produced by the Industrial Revolution. A country needs to achieve a certain level of wealth, via industrialisation and development, before it can afford to provide decent living and working conditions for all its citizens. A country where most people are still subsistence-farmers is never going to make much social progress.

  38. Jadehawk says:

    “I don’t understand how this can be the case.

    no shit. when you’re ignorant, then your own preconceptions are all that’s possible, huh?

    “Capitalism has, at least, given them another choice.”

    wrong. it has killed off their previous choices and opened up new ones which are more profitable, but worse for them themselves. ask some of those sweatshop workers, and they’ll tell you they’d prefer the choices they used to have, but capitalism has destroyed them, leaving them homeless, overworked, and physically and mentally damaged from the factory work.

    And the social changes that happened happened by force, fought by anti-capitalist forces against your precious friends the Robber Barons. The same forces you’re now denying to others because now they’re against you.

    And as I’ve repeatedly explained to you, no more places in the world will be able to “industrialize” the way the West did, because the West got rich by robbing the rest of the world. the industrializing nations do not have that option, because there’s nothing other than themselves to rob (while still beeing leeched off by the west). and that is precisely what they’re doing, by enslaving their population and destroying their ecology.

    Seriously, stop propagating the lie that capitalism has ever helped those places. it never did. capitalism exists for your temporary benefit, at the cost of everyone else, including our own futures

  39. Walton says:

    Well, I will admit that I’m not speaking from a position of particular expertise here. I’ve never visited a developing country nor have I ever met anyone who worked in a sweatshop, and I’m not an expert on economics or the social history of the developing world. And I’m in the middle of studying for finals and don’t have time to read up on it properly, so I should probably bow out of the discussion at this point.

    I just wish life were a bit simpler and I knew the answers. :-(

    This, though:

    And the social changes that happened happened by force, fought by anti-capitalist forces against your precious friends the Robber Barons.

    is not totally true, from what I can remember from my A-Level history. In Britain, at least, a lot of social reforms happened through the parliamentary process. Although there were some major workers’ movements in Britain in the nineteenth century (the Chartists, for instance), they generally failed to achieve their goals. Unlike much of the rest of Europe, Britain didn’t have a revolution in 1848, nor at any other time in the nineteenth century. The biggest social reforms – extension of suffrage to the working classes, the legalisation of trade unions, the ending of child labour, regulation of working hours and conditions, universal education, religious equality, and so on – were all carried out by upper- and middle-class parliamentary politicians, anxious both to maintain social stability and, at least in some cases, to do what they believed to be morally right.

    That doesn’t have anything to do with the main point you were making, but it’s an interesting side issue. Of course, the story in parts of continental Europe was totally different – in France, for instance, where there were numerous popular uprisings and revolutions, and social progress really was effected primarily by force.

  40. Jadehawk says:

    “a lot of social reforms happened through the parliamentary process.”

    so where women’s suffrage and the Civil Rights laws in the US. Do you really want to pull the Republitard stunt of claiming that those rights were voluntarily given to people by their leaders, without pressure from below? don’t make me laugh. Most of these things were eventually legislated because of fear of revolution; even in your country.

    Go studying please. If this conversation continues for much longer, I might put my fist through my entirely innocent computer screen.

  41. Walton says:

    Maybe you’re right, Jadehawk. I just don’t know.

    It’s mostly academic, as there’s virtually nothing I could do about global capitalism if I wanted to.

  42. Jadehawk says:

    “It’s mostly academic, as there’s virtually nothing I could do about global capitalism if I wanted to.”

    incorrect.

    go studying.

  43. David Marjanović says:

    As I understand it, before capitalism and multinational corporations came to these countries, most of the population were, in general, subsistence farmers surviving on the poverty line, just as their ancestors had been; and they didn’t have any other options available to them. Capitalism has, at least, given them another choice

    Not quite. Industrialization means that fewer farmers are necessary to feed a country. It’s unemployment that drives people into sweatshops.

    In the Western world, the social changes of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century – free education, worker protection laws, sickness and unemployment benefit, and so on – could not have happened without the wealth produced by the Industrial Revolution

    …together with the fear of another revolution. As you write: “anxious […] to maintain social stability”.

    Go studying please. If this conversation continues for much longer, I might put my fist through my entirely innocent computer screen.

    Maybe you should leave him to me :-)

  44. Walton says:

    Not quite. Industrialization means that fewer farmers are necessary to feed a country. It’s unemployment that drives people into sweatshops.

    Fair point. As I said, I don’t really know. But I don’t see how shutting down the sweatshops – e.g. by boycotting or outlawing them – would be any better for the workers: surely this would just leave them unemployed and starving?

    In any case, I don’t think I’ve particularly succumbed to excesses of consumer greed. I don’t own a car; walk everywhere; own comparatively few clothes, one pair of shoes, one pair of boots and two pairs of trainers; have been using the same laptop for three years; and don’t tend to buy excess pointless crap (largely because I can’t afford to, as most of my money goes on food and rent). So even if Jadehawk turns out to be right, I don’t think there’s much I could do to change my own lifestyle that would make a big difference to the global economic order or environmental depletion.

  45. Jadehawk says:

    1)abolishing sweatshops doesn’t happen in a vacuum, without other reforms. plus, like I said, the sweatshop workers themselves seem to think they’d rather have better working conditions, and even risk their lives (when not giving them up entirely) to fight for those conditions. Seems rather important to them.

    2)Your attitude displayed here is precisely what I was talking about when I wrote the post about people being ignorant of the actions available to them in a democracy. Voting, as well as “voting with your wallet”, are necessary but entirely insufficient means by which to accomplish change.

    3)go studying.

  46. David Marjanović says:

    I don’t see how shutting down the sweatshops – e.g. by boycotting or outlawing them – would be any better for the workers: surely this would just leave them unemployed and starving?

    What makes you so sure this would eliminate the jobs in question?

    Has it ever done so?

  47. Jadehawk says:

    “What makes you so sure this would eliminate the jobs in question?

    Has it ever done so?

    not usually. However, when your entire economy is built around providing super-cheap labor for foreign companies, then yes, a raise in labor costs would make those companies pack up and leave. Which is really a flaw in that whole system of slave-labor based industrialization, consumerism of cheap, disposable products, etc.

    It has however nothing to do with South Korea specifically, which has always had a domestically based economy; the chaebol existed under the thumb of the government, and couldn’t have moved manufacture anywhere else. The Korean government basically threw the people, environment, and agriculture under the economic development bus on purpose, because a rise in wages would have slowed their astronomic growth somewhat.

  48. David Marjanović says:

    the chaebol existed under the thumb of the government, and couldn’t have moved manufacture anywhere else

    That’s a point that is overlooked all the time when “development dictatures” are discussed. Not even Japan exposed its big corporations to fully free competition when its economy still had astronomic growth rates.

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