On Friday, on the way back from lunch, I ran into someone who was once afriend. As events have transpired between, apparently I am now a personanon grata with him -- he walked right by me twice, ignoring my saying hello,and only turned to look when he was well past me. There arn't too many thingsthat can hurt me in day to day interaction, but yes, that hurts. It's onething to decide that one doesn't have time or energy for a friendship, andI've occasionally done that, but quite another to become uncivil with someone.
I think I've read enough classic communist works to really decide what I thinkof the movement as a whole. This probably will be a repeat, at least partly,if you've read my previous musings on the topic. Still, philosophy does notspring like Athena from our heads -- a philosophical life should be one ofconstant chewing on ideas, and as in Open Source, we should release early,release often. Philosophy is indeed like Open Source Software -- we don'tcomplain when new releases have a lot of code from the old. Anyhow.. backto the topic at hand. Before we consider Marx's system, let's first frame thequestion -- what are we analyzing, and what alternatives are on the table?It would be simple to decide that Capitalism and Communism are the only thingsavailable, and tempting to make class central to our understanding of politicaland economic systems. In my reading of Communist works, I find myself inspiredto integrate a notion of class into my understanding of history and politicaltheory more deeply than I had one before. How shall we seek to understandclasses, what classes did Marx see, and what classes do we see today? Theidentity of a class, we can say, is tied to its means of sustenance, privilegesit establishes in society for itself, and its relations to other classes. It ispossible to describe much of society in terms of class relations, but noteverything, and even when it is possible, the framework of class relations maynot be the most elegant primary framework to view everything. In Marx's times,the classes were different than now, in number and power relations. Even bythe early times of Soviet Russia, as Trotsky notes, the class arrangements hadshifted to create new subtypes of classes. We can take note of, in Marx's times,the decaying noble/royal classes, the proletarians whose labour provides goods,the merchants who transfer goods from the proles and the consumers (whateverclass they may be), and the capitalists who arrange the proles throughinvestment into work prerequisities (e.g. a mill) and/or direction, to makefinished products. In China and Russia, there were also peasants. There wasadditionally the clergy and the beginnings of the independant University system,both of which sit outside the normal means of production, extracting wealthfrom the state itself as well as the masses. In times since, changes in thenature of the state, have caused changes in the class system. The pettybourgeois has largely been consumed by the large-scale and global capitalists,but at the same time, this class has eaten itself in its organization intocorporations. In this way, the capitalist has been abstracted from human tolegal fiction, and the Carnegies and the Fords of the past, the "Age of GreatBusinessmen" is largely at an end. All the classes, in theory, have theopportunity to put their finger into that legal fiction, although the degree towhich that control means anything is complex (although access to the profitsbecomes possible). This divide, between the money ties and the power/involvementties, is tragic for the lower classes in that it further dehumanizes theprocess and alienates the on-paper owners from the management andassociated responsibility, but also allows, in a sense, the proles to have away to own their labour again, in the form of stock (by purchase or companyprograms), if they so choose. The clergy, at least in the United States,extract their wealth directly from the masses, and the nature of their politicalprivilege has changed from being a direct political player to use of theirinfluence over the minds of the people. The academes now are primarily supportedby the state itself, now with additional strong ties to corporations, andhave protection of traditions designed to insulate them from political andfinancial pressures. Nobility has been put to an end by political changes, whilethe most wealthy of the new investor/VC class attempt to emulate it with theirsimilar levels of wealth. We could go on, but this is just a BLOG entry -- I'll take it further on my own. We immediately see an interesting change from Marx'stheory -- the transformation of the relations of production, in particular thedivorce of investor and specifics, and the possibility of individual investment,both challenge the traditional analysis, or at least suggest further work. Marxwould have us identify with the working class, and the seperation from theirlabour, presuming that labour and value are inseperable. This is something wemust evaluate in both parts.More analysis on this to come -- my hands are sore from rock climbing,and all this typing pains them. I skim over topics I'd like to dive into togreater depth..
- sigh* I guess I can imagine what happened though.
Ahh, so today the road trip happened, but was fruitless because one of myfriends got the date of the flea market wrong. Oh well. At least I got insome more cleaning of my apartment in, as well as rock climbing and a nicerun around town. I am embarassed and pleasantly surprised to find that anumber of my nice pants have been sitting in the back room of my apartment,in a pile with other clothes, long forgotten. To think that I was thinkingto go buy new pants! Heh. I guess that's an argument for keeping one's placetidy. It's a bit of effort to start all those clothes through the wash, butit should be worthwhile :)