The End of Capitalism?: Interview of Alex Knight

Part 1. Crisis and Opportunity

Alex Knight is a proponent of the End of Capitalism Theory, which states that the global capitalist system is breaking down due to ecological and social limits to growth and that a paradigm shift toward a non-capitalist future is underway. Since 2007 he has edited the website He has a degree in electrical engineering and a Master’s in political science, both from Lehigh University. He lives in Philadelphia, where he is a teacher and organizer.

The following exchange between Michael Carriere and Alex Knight occurred via email, July 2010. Alex Knight was questioned about the End of Capitalism Theory, which states that the global capitalist system is breaking down due to ecological and social limits to growth and that a paradigm shift toward a non-capitalist future is underway.

The interview will be available in four parts. Scroll to the bottom to read all of Prof. Carriere’s questions.

Part 1. Crisis and Opportunity

MC: The current financial crisis is clearly a moment of peril for both individuals and the broader system of capitalism. But would it also make sense to see it as a moment of opportunity?

AK: Absolutely. I see opportunity springing from every crack in the structure of capitalism. For all those who wish to see a different world, this moment is dripping with opportunity because the old order is crumbling before our eyes.

The crisis extends far beyond the broken financial system. Millions of people are losing their jobs, homes, and savings as the burden of the crisis gets shifted onto the poor and working class. Public faith in the system, both the government and the capitalist economy, has been shattered and is at an all-time low. And it’s not just the economic crisis. The bank bailouts, the endless wars in the Mid East, the BP spill and the meltdown of the climate, and about a dozen other crises have shaken us deeply. It’s become common sense that the system is broken and a major change is needed. Barack Obama was elected in the US precisely by promising this change. Now that he is failing to deliver, more and more people are questioning whether the system can provide any solutions, or whether it’s actually the source of the problem.

Shattered faith is the dominant sentiment today. You can see it in people’s faces – the disappointment, grief, worry, and anger. To me, this loss of faith presents an enormous opening for putting forth a new, non-capitalist way of life. People are ready to hear radical solutions now, like they haven’t been since the Great Depression.

Historic Crossroads

If we go back to 1929, we’ll see some interesting parallels to our current moment. When that depression started, millions lost their livelihoods to pay for the bankers’ crisis. Faith in capitalism sunk to rock bottom. The public flocked to two major ideologies that offered a way out: socialism and fascism.

Socialism presented a solution to the crisis by saying, roughly: “Capitalism is flawed because it divides us into rich and poor, and the rich always take advantage of the poor. We need to organize the poor and workers into unions and political parties so we can take power for the benefit of all.”

Socialism attracted millions of followers, even in the United States. The labor movement was enormous and kept gaining ground through sit-down strikes and other forms of direct action. The Communist Party sent thousands of organizers into the new CIO, at the time a more radical union than the AFL. Socialist viewpoints even started getting through to the mass media and government. Huey Long was elected Senator from Louisiana by promising to “Share Our Wealth,” to radically redistribute the wealth of the country to abolish poverty and unemployment. (He was assassinated.) Socialism challenged President Roosevelt from the left, pushing him to create the social safety net of the New Deal.

On the other side, fascism also emerged as a serious force and attracted a mass following by putting forth something like the following: “The government has sold us out. We are a great nation, but we have been disgraced by liberal elites who are pillaging our economy for the benefit of foreign enemies, dangerous socialists, and undesirable elements (like Jews). We need to restore our national honor and fulfill our God-given mission.”

When people hear the word fascism, they usually think of Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy, where successful fascist movements seized state power and implemented totalitarian control of society. Yet fascism was an international phenomenon during the Depression, and the United States was not immune to its reach. General Smedley Butler, the most decorated Marine in US history, testified before the Senate that wealthy industrialists had approached him as part of a “Business Plot” and tried to convince him to march an army of 500,000 veterans on Washington, DC to install a fascist dictatorship.

Today we are approaching a similar crossroads. When I hear the story of the Business Plot I think about the Tea Party, which has sprung from a base of white supremacist anger, facilitated by right-wing elements of the corporate structure like Fox News. This is an extremely dangerous phenomenon. The tea-partyers have moved from questioning Obama’s citizenship, to now trying to reverse the gains of the Civil Rights Movement, such as the ability of everyone, regardless of color, to enjoy public accommodations like restaurants.

I think it’s fair to name the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, the Christian Right, etc. parts of a potential neo-fascist movement in the United States. Their words and actions too often encourage attacks on people of color, immigrants, Muslims, LGBT folks, and anyone they don’t see as legitimate members of US society. Ultimately, many in this movement are pushing for a different social system taking power in the United States: one that is more authoritarian, less compassionate, more exploitive of the environment, more militaristic, and based on a mythical return to national glory. This is not a throwback to Nazi Germany. It’s a new kind of fascism, a new American fascism. And it’s a serious threat.

Tea Party racism in Denver, April 15, 2009

On the other hand, this crisis is also an opportunity for all of us who see capitalism as a destructive force and believe the message of the recent U.S. Social Forum that “Another World is Possible. Another US is Necessary.” “Socialism” in the post-McCarthy/Cold War era of the United States is a dead word, because it carries a lot of baggage from the Soviet Union. Rightly so, the USSR was a terrible dictatorship that is hardly an example to follow. The question is, how do those of us who are progressive and anti-capitalist articulate our ideas to resonate with a mass audience in this moment?

Common Values

I argue that we need to speak to the population in a language of our common values: democracy, freedom, justice, and sustainability.

Adopting this mainstream language is not an attempt to be deceptive. These words have captured people’s hearts for a real reason: they offer a window to the world we want to see. It is the government, corporations, and media who deceive us by evoking these words to justify their atrocities, as in “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” (Over a million dead, and the Iraqi people are no closer to any kind of “freedom” I would want.) Rather than surrendering these noble ideals to the right wing, where they become meaningless dogma, I see immense potential to take language back and use it with honesty, as if words actually mean something.

So what if progressives reclaim these common values and make them guideposts on the way to a better society? For example, how can we talk about freedom if there is no self-determination, either in Iraq or here in the US? Let’s be honest, what freedom do we really have? The freedom to choose Coke or Pepsi, or similarly, to vote Democrat or Republican?

What about the freedom to determine our own destinies outside the constraints of corporations and government? What freedom is more basic than freedom from poverty and suffering? How can anyone speak of freedom if they have no income and no opportunity to escape unemployment? Or if they have nowhere to live because their home was foreclosed? What if their community is torn apart because so many youth are filling the prisons on nonviolent drug offenses? Is a prisoner free? Is their mother, spouse, or loved ones free? What does freedom mean if you’re queer or trans, and you face emotional and physical violence every time you express who you are and live your own life? How can we claim to be a free society if immigrants live in fear of being locked up by ICE and deported? What freedom do you have if your neighbor has none?

I think real freedom requires self-determination, the ability of an individual or community to choose their own destinies. We can’t pretend we have freedom in this country until “we, the people” have a say in our neighborhoods, towns and cities, in our workplaces, our schools, and our government. This requires that the public actively participate in managing their own affairs, for example through neighborhood councils to have a say in the neighborhood, through labor unions to have a say at work, student unions to have a say at school, and other democratic organizations that give people the power to defend their rights. There is a dire need to hold our corrupt representatives in Washington accountable to popular will. But to be truly free, might we also need to structure government in a new way, so it can be run by the people themselves? Or even to abolish the government, if it can’t do what the people say?

So I believe when we get to the meaningful core of the word “freedom,” it poses a radical challenge to capitalist society. We can say similar things about “democracy,” “justice,” and “sustainability,” and I would add, “love.” I’ll talk more about this in response to your third question. These values reinforce each other, and if we honor them for their true depth of meaning, they can be effective tools for change.

The Power of Imagination

This might sound good, but do progressives have the power to achieve these kinds of changes? It may sound farfetched. The media and government, especially in the U.S., have done an excellent job convincing us that we can never win. People with our views are routinely excluded from official conversation on the news or in elections. When we try to protest and take our voices to the street, they corral us within “free speech zones” so we look crazy and feel powerless. If a progressive voice does get through to the public somehow, it’s dismissed as “unrealistic.” We’re pressured to just vote for the lesser of two evils and be silent. The result of this silencing is that we have no idea how many people share our values and aspirations, because we’re often too intimidated to proclaim our views proudly. Worse, to some degree we’ve internalized this silencing so that we hesitate even to imagine our progressive hopes and dreams, lest they accidentally slip past our lips into polite conversation.

The stifling of progressive views is part of a larger culture of silence that helps the system maintain control. Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman call it Manufacturing Consent, the use of media and propaganda to create a passive, obedient population. The message we receive constantly from media is that we are spectators, not participants. Rather than take a stand on an issue and risk being wrong or foolish, why not leave it to the experts? Besides, we’re too busy being consumers, workers and students to worry about politics. Better to not make waves. We might as well amuse ourselves with television, celebrity gossip, and Facebook, and try not to get involved. From all the propaganda we consume over the course of our lives, we come to develop the core belief that we are powerless to affect change. This myth of powerlessness is one of the biggest lies in the history of the world, and we need to dismantle it.

What the U.S. Social Forum proves is that there is a large, broad-based movement for change here in the United States, the very core of the global capitalist machine. There are millions of average, everyday people all across the nation who are working and pushing in a progressive direction in large and small ways, whether on immigrants’ rights, women’s rights, housing, health care, education, prison justice, queer and trans justice, environmental justice, peace in the Middle East, etc. The system doesn’t want you to know about this, which is why they don’t show it on television. Our movements are alive and well. They are strong. They are inspiring. And in many places they are winning.

Coalition to Save the Libraries confronts the Philadelphia City Council and its Budget Cuts, May 21, 2009

I’ll just share a local example from here in Philadelphia. In late 2008, Mayor Nutter announced he would close 11 libraries due to budget constraints. Seemingly out of nowhere – but actually out of strong communities throughout the city – a movement emerged to oppose and prevent this decision, facilitated by the multiracial, multigenerational Coalition to Save the Libraries. The coalition organized creative actions at library branches slated for closure and at City Hall. People from across the city came together to imagine what kind of library system would best serve the public. Pressure kept mounting until the Mayor had to abandon his closures. All the libraries remain open to this day, despite continuing budget cuts and layoffs. Kristin Campbell wrote a fuller description of how grassroots organizing saved the libraries.

We can look at this victory and downplay it as limited because it only restored a public service that shouldn’t have been attacked anyway. But like all grassroots organizing it points towards a better future, for the simple reason that people became empowered by working together. Capitalism is a system of disempowerment. It cannot tolerate our active participation in public affairs. As soon as we begin to break our silence and speak out against the injustices we are being subjected to, the system begins to quake and it searches for ways to pacify and silence us again. If we remain alert, active, and vocal, we can break the culture of complacency and bring more and more people into the awareness of their own power. So I think that’s the opportunity we have in this crisis.

I want to excite people’s imaginations of what a better world might look like. There is no better time to do it. If my theory is right, then capitalism, the system that has dominated the world for the past 500 years, is coming to an end. Recognizing this opens up a world of possibility for the future. Maybe that’s scary, because who knows what will happen? We might be driven into a neo-fascist nightmare. Things might keep getting worse, in which case maybe we should just find reasons to enjoy our current way of life while it lasts. I can see some of my friends saying that. But that leaves out two crucial truths that I want to highlight.

The first truth is that capitalism is a terribly abusive and destructive system, which we would be better off without. The second truth is that if we organize and push for a better world, we might win. So the time for complacency is over, and the time for taking bolder steps toward our dreams is here.

  • Originally published on The End of Capitalism.
  • Michael Carriere is an assistant professor at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, where he teaches courses on American history, public policy, political science, and urban design. He is currently working on a book, with David Schalliol, titled The Death and (After) Life of Great American Cities: Twenty-First Century Urbanism and the Culture of Crisis. He holds a Ph.D. in American history from the University of Chicago. Read other articles by Michael.

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    1. MichaelKenny said on July 29th, 2010 at 10:51am #

      No need to be so pessimistic! There’s no “might win” about it. The global capitalist system is indeed breaking down due to ecological and social limits to growth and a shift towards a non-capitalist future is certainly underway. No system can survive if the people who run it cease to believe in their own system. That’s what brought down the communists. After 1968, the young of Europe, both east and west, wrote off communism as just another form of fascism and started looking for something else. By the 1980s, the “communist” elite wasn’t communist at all and were just trying to get rich. As soon as the people seriously revolted, the communist middle class just shrugged their shoulders and went with the tide. Communism was capitalism’s crutch. And,of course, vice versa. Once one fell, the other, logically, should fall soon after. In Europe, at least, that seems to be precisely what is happening. I sense the same lack of belief in the current system all over Europe today as was the undoing of the communist dictatorships in the 1980s. The communists held on for about 20 years. The US elite has being trying to ram US-style cowboy capitalism down Europe’s throat for about the same length of time. Wall St’s attacks on the EU and the euro have woken a lot of people up to the fact that US and European interests are not merely not the same, but are actually in conflict. The defeat in Afghanistan will probably seal the fate of US-style capitalism, at least in Europe.
      Where will Europe go? Probably Green. The young are very concious of the environment. More so than anything else. The political debate in 21st century Europe will probably be between what the German Greens call “fundis”, fundamentalists who want want to make radical changes, fairly fast, in the way that European society works and “realos”, who want the same thing, but want to take it in small steps. In other words, the debate will not be “Green or not Green”, but how much Green and how fast. And no, I don’t see communism rising from the dead or the EU collapsing!
      How relevant any of that is to the American scene is not a question for me. The defeat in Afghanistan will remove the US from the world stage for about a generation, and so Americans will have little influence on, and be little influenced by, what happense elsewhere.

    2. Don Hawkins said on July 29th, 2010 at 1:30pm #

      Today we are approaching a similar crossroads. When I hear the story of the Business Plot I think about the Tea Party, which has sprung from a base of white supremacist anger, facilitated by right-wing elements of the corporate structure like Fox News.

      I think it’s fair to name the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, the Christian Right, etc. parts of a potential neo-fascist movement in the United States. Michael Carriere

      Now just on the off chance your correct you mean Beck and all the swastikas he had on his show talking about the progressives was all along about him. I mean Fox new’s seem like such nice people and very well dressed. If that is the case very devious indeed but if that is there big plan does this mean some of us will have to go to camps or maybe put to sleep? I thought the progressives would do that maybe they both ate thinking about the same plan just who get’s to control the show. George Monbiot wrote this

      The Tea Party protests began after the business journalist Rick Santelli broadcast an attack from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on the government’s plan to help impoverished people whose mortgages had fallen into arrears(3). To cheers from the traders at the exchange, he proposed that they should hold a tea party to dump derivative securities in Lake Michigan in protest at Obama’s intention – in Santilli’s words – to “subsidise the losers”. (I urge you to watch the broadcast – it is the most alarming example of cheap demagoguery you are likely to have seen. It continues to be promoted by Santelli’s employer, CNBC(4)).

      The protests which claim to defend the interests of the working class began, in other words, with a call for a bankers’ revolt against the undeserving poor. They have been promoted by Fox News, owned by that champion of the underdog Rupert Murdoch, and lavishly funded by other billionaires(5). Its corporate backers wrap themselves in the complaints of the downtrodden: they are 21st Century Marie-Antoinettes, who dress up as dairymaids and propose that the poor subsist on a diet of laissez-faire. Monbiot

      So maybe Monbiot didn’t go far enough there is something more sinister at work. Well whoever get’s to control the show will have there hands full. Then again sitting at a secure location directing the downtrodden is not exactly hard work. Oh I almost forgot I think Beck and Fox New’s in general read DV and probably just me but Beck used some stuff written on DV the other day little does he know he fell right into the trap check and mate Beck your going to need more than boot’s mate you see we have the truth the knowledge you don’t. The force is strong

      “You will know (the good from the bad) when you are calm, at peace. Passive. Use the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack. Yes Glenn Beck said watch Star War’s again so I did how do you like them apples Charlie.

    3. Josie Michel-Bruening said on July 29th, 2010 at 1:52pm #

      Thank you, Michael Carriere. I seldom enjoyed an article as much as this one.
      Don Hawkins, you should not rely on Europeans.
      As for most Germans they are copying US life style.
      US leadership is dominating our government, as well as our medias.
      The description of your society in the article above fits to ours, regrettably.
      Well, there is a minority, joining social forums and fighting for justice, for human values and respecting nature etc.

    4. Josie Michel-Bruening said on July 29th, 2010 at 1:59pm #

      Sometimes, it is easier to find friends for these above explained ideas than in you neighbourhood.
      It reminds me for instance at John Jensen having also written for this forum and at all friends supporting them all over the world.

    5. teafoe2 said on July 29th, 2010 at 7:29pm #

      The take on the Tea Party trip is very good, I agree with it.

      I also agree that Capitalism is looking shaky at the moment, and have read enough Hegel to know that sometimes things change gradually and other times catastrophically. So it could be that things will be getting out of hand pretty soon, from a capitalist standpoint?

      So I’m in full agreement with the notion that US society needs to be re-organized on non- or post-capitalist lines. I just wonder how that will be accomplished without taking into account the role of Economic Class in the current setup.

      BTW, I have to register dissent from these academics’ simple-minded parroting of the coldwar propaganda notion that the USSR was nothing but a “terrible dictatorship” in the same category as Naxi Germany. The real facts are a lot more complex. Yes there was much wrong, a lot of injustices, stupid mistakes like backing Jiang Jie Shieh instead of the 8th Route Army, backing UN Res. 181 to set Zionism up in business as the “State of Israel”.

      But the USSR did the heavy lifting in the war against Hitler, and many other positive things like supporting Cuba vs US colonialism. The CPUSA did a lot of positive things here in the US. So let’s not just parrot the Ronald Reagan/Winston Churchill version. Reality is more complex.

      For myself, whenever somebody starts oozing about “Freedom” and “Love”, I check to see I still have my wallet.

    6. Deadbeat said on July 29th, 2010 at 8:22pm #

      Here’s an IMPRESSIVE critique of Liberalism by BAR’s Jared Ball. This is the kind of RADICAL critique I’ve been waiting to here!!!

      “Snookered” by Liberalism

    7. franco_american1962 said on July 29th, 2010 at 9:02pm #

      Vulgar Marxism crops up in the least likely of places. Anyone who thinks that Capitalism can be jettisoned, and in its place, something like central planning can be implimented, think again. One ineluctible conclusion that I have drawn, in large part from my readings of Hayek, Von Mises, and Popper, is that economic self-determination IS a cornerstone of American democracy. Look at the history of central planning, and you will find the true moral, spiritual, and economic desolation (For starters, I challenge anyone to read volume 2, Karl Popper, “The open society and its enemies”). If Capitalism is to be jettisoned, in favor of an economic sytem that is “preordained”, what then does that leave the individual American. If one is not pleased with one’s station in life, one does have every opportunity to ameliorate his station; not so in a centrally planned economy; your job is assigned, and one is consigned. Everything hedges on steering clear of “quick fixes”; of fixations on Utopian social engineering. American freedom and liberty rests upon the pillar of economic self-determination, i.e., choosing one’s trade and career; and, as Karl Popper suggested, a “piecemeal engineering” of our democratic institutions. Let Marx and his historicism rest in peace.

    8. franco_american1962 said on July 29th, 2010 at 9:16pm #

      “The first truth is that capitalism is a terribly abusive and destructive system, which we would be better off without. The second truth is that if we organize and push for a better world, we might win. So the time for complacency is over, and the time for taking bolder steps toward our dreams is here.”
      Sounds hauntingly familiar! Again, the angst of vulgar Marxism.

    9. franco_american1962 said on July 29th, 2010 at 9:37pm #

      “I see immense potential to take language back and use it with honesty, as if words actually mean something.”
      So this is a battle of words? What is this inanity about taking language back? The only solution I can see working is practical, not semantic. The first thing our nation might consider is the Constitution. As for the notion of a “progressive” society, sorry, but that smacks of statism. The entire polity has devolved into a two-party system, practically indistinguishable one from the other. Since the end of World War II, the federal govt. has seen to it to insinuate itself into our lives; the kind of state presence that was needful in winning a world war, is not the kind of government we need in peacetime. Its time to rachet down the bureaucracy, and turn the ship of state back on course. All great civilizations in history had one thing in common: the rule of law. Civilizations are founded on the rule of law, and not that of men. So in this sense, a “progressive” society might not be progress at all.

    10. David Silver said on July 30th, 2010 at 7:35am #

      For capitalim to “self destruct” I believe it requires a trigger–a huge,
      organized Resistance to reach the critical mass. Alex implies we have a “broad based national movement” that has a consciousness of the common enemy –aka as the ruling class-the Transnationals and Banks.
      I don’t think so.
      Finally the interview doesn’t tell us what political and economic system will follow capitalism Many in the neo-marxist perspective, the New Left and Social Democratic perspectives are looking for a hybrid neithe capitalist nor Socialist. Whic was prevalent at the World Social Forum.

    11. teafoe2 said on July 30th, 2010 at 6:09pm #

      David S, I find your points well taken. Especially re a “trigger”: “if you don’t hit it, it won’t fall”.

      I have to agree with M Kenny that “socialism” is a hard sell in the US of A. How could it be otherwise, given the decades of coldwar antiworkingclass/antipoor brainwashing the US public has been subjected to.

      I don’t know that I find the term “hybrid” very promising. To me it’s the sort of nomenclature that would be employed by those hoping to reintroduce capitalism via the back door.

      If somebody can come up with an idea for a way to organize society in a better way than at present, I don’t care about the label. But it seems that the first requirement of a real change is to abolish private property in the means of production. The second would be to find a way to stop those who enjoy topdog status in the present status quo from subverting the new scheme of things and reinstalling the system we have now.

      It may be rational from a propaganda perspective to avoid use of the term Socialism, or reference to the work of Marx, Engels et al. But can people who are trying to lead a movement to topple the present setup and launch something entirely different afford to ignore what has been learned in past attempts to understand the problem?

    12. Josie Michel-Bruening said on July 31st, 2010 at 10:06am #

      I would like to join this comment: teafoe2 said on July 30th, 2010 at 6:09pm #
      And I would like to add the following:
      Any “ism” you can recognize at its fruits, despite of all brainwashing and all falsifications of history according to the current make-believed vancisher.
      The current fruits of the global competition in “who or which country is the best in exploiting the resources of nature for its own prosperity?” are obvious.
      “Competition” seems to be a key word to me.
      Beyond of all mistakes the former USSR might have made, the competition of armament between thetwo different systems brought about their fall.
      At the same time when the Berlin wall was fallen, all social compromizes
      in the society of Western Germany which we were allowed to enjoy for being a bullwark against Communism were given up. And that was what successive US administrations had fought for.
      May be, some of us did not notice yet the downfall of Capitalism.
      Well, they are “free” to fail.

    13. Max Shields said on July 31st, 2010 at 10:22am #

      teafoe2 said on July 30th, 2010 at 6:09pm #

      Good to see you’re acknowledging the limits of Marx/socialism particularly in terms of “selling”. But the hard sell if you will comes about because Marxism (like Capitalism) is riddled with major problems when presented as an edict or manifesto for action. Like it or not there is a legacy of what has been described vulger Marxism. Shades of Marxism or more accurately socialism have had success but hardly living examples of pure Marxism.

      A simple principle of maximizing the distribution of human welfare with the use of minimal resources is a sustainable means of creating a viable living condition not only for humans but for the entire life support system on this planet.

    14. franco_american1962 said on August 1st, 2010 at 11:18am #

      “I have to agree with M Kenny that “socialism” is a hard sell in the US of A. How could it be otherwise, given the decades of coldwar antiworkingclass/antipoor”
      Quite the contrary, socialism, in the form of “progressive” legislation is pronounced. If one argues for a so-called limited application of socialism, say, in economic matters, I dare say that such would have very far-reaching implications. After all, this discussion hedges on the a form of economic justice that has nothing to say about the individual, but on the contrary, some construel of the collective. At present, much in the way of American life has been informed by the rule of men, not of the rule of law. And as for ascribing blame, neither party can claim any true loyalty to the Constitution!

    15. franco_american1962 said on August 1st, 2010 at 11:32am #

      A simple principle of maximizing the distribution of human welfare with the use of minimal resources is a sustainable means of creating a viable living condition not only for humans but for the entire life support system on this planet.
      I had to sift through the verbiage to get to the heart of this vacuousness. If you ascribe to a statist solution, then, your argument fails on many accounts. I believe Marx saw man as a product of the social, not the obverse; would it then be appropriate to conclude that greater-not lesser-state intervention and centralized control would be the solution. Is one to throw the baby out with the bath water in regards to the free-market? Any attempts at introducing more socialism (statism) into the fray, can only be effected by coercion or cajoling.

    16. franco_american1962 said on August 1st, 2010 at 11:45am #

      As a parting thought, I would like to add a very important observation, and one that some might construe as racist: that of projected demographic trends. If this discussion is fundamentally concerned with a more left-leaning program of economic (distributive) justice, then, I believe, it is merely a question of time before socialists of all stripes and colors will see the realization of a collectivist, state welfarism. Such a political, social and economic landscape must presuppose the “preordained”, as well as some artifice of class conflict, the latter being a sine qua non of any leftist agenda.

    17. teafoe2 said on August 1st, 2010 at 2:43pm #

      Josie you make a couple good points, but I had a little trouble following your sentence structure in places.

      Max, could you give an example of what you’re referring to when you say
      “an edict or a manifesto for action”? I have to say I find your statement a little mysterious, since an “edict” and a “manifesto” are manifestly vary different types of documents drafted for very different purposes.

      I have a hard time figuring out just what you’re so vigorously opposed to. I’m even more puzzled trying to understand what course of action you are recommending, when you say things like “A simple principle of maximizing the distribution of human welfare with the use of minimal resources is a sustainable means of creating a viable living condition not only for humans but for the entire life support system on this planet.”\

      A simple principle which I think you’d be hardpressed to find any published Marxist would disagree with, in principle. But how are people going to put the principle into effect? Especially with all these ziocapitalists controlling everything, people like you telling us capitalism is a figment of our imaginations, and expletive deleteds like this Spaghettiman 1962 interrupting what started as a serious discussion with his ignorant garbage?

    18. Deadbeat said on August 1st, 2010 at 4:19pm #

      Tf2 writes …

      Max, could you give an example of what you’re referring to when you say “an edict or a manifesto for action”?

      The only substantive solution to the Capitalism that Max offered was Henry George and the Georgist philosophy. The shortcomings of Georgism has been debated here. Max’s other offering is the “small is beautiful” mantra but withdrawing from the general society and failing to vie for political power will be easily crushed.

      I also think, giving Max the benefit of the doubt, even after 20 years since fall of the USSR there is is a general disdain or fear of saying the word “Socialism”.

      Unfortunately what we are getting from “environmentalist” are easy bromides and nice sounding cliches which IMO are designed to distract people from analyzing and discussing how a Socialist society can be configured and established– a tremendous undertaking.

      Clearly there no Marxist would disagree with sustainability. David Harvey is a leader in promoting the “no-growth/redistribution” solutions. He even raises the question of home “ownership”. This gets to the heart of the personal debt crisis because housing is treated as a commodity in Capitalism and as a commodity people have to take on debt in order to bid for shelter.

      But these attacks on Marxism will end up being counterproductive. Max has argued from the assumption that ALL of the answers came from one man — Karl Marx — and fails to take into account that Marxism is a LIVING body of work and the legacy of Marxist thinkers and philosophers that have added to Marxist ideas and thought.

      IMO the greatest aspect of Marxism is that it provided us with an understanding of how Capitalism function and why it must be scraped. Marxism IMO provides an excellent starting point and is especially needed in the United States where Capitalist propaganda is so widespread.

      Just getting to the starting line is a tremendous task and as TF2 points it is in the interest of the ziocapitalists class to circumvent just getting to that starting point. Which is why I think they work awfully hard to maintain a confused and disrupted Left.

    19. franco_american1962 said on August 2nd, 2010 at 8:27am #

      Unfortunately what we are getting from “environmentalist” are easy bromides and nice sounding cliches which IMO are designed to distract people from analyzing and discussing how a Socialist society can be configured and established– a tremendous undertaking.
      Who will do the “configuring and establishing”? This statement certainly smacks of the Utopian engineering that Karl Popper inveighed against. Again, the implications of such a thorough restructuring would not only affect the economic.

    20. franco_american1962 said on August 2nd, 2010 at 8:40am #

      “I see immense potential to take language back and use it with honesty, as if words actually mean something.”
      There is no discernible common-language issuing from this discussion. There are, of course, plenty of neologisms being thrown about, as well as a lot of self-important talk of “configuring and restructuring”. I might suggest a more direct challenge to the what now ostensibly plagues Capitalism, but that would require that I dispense with the obscurantist language which is de rigeur for Marxist “critique”. This discussion is just a bunch of Utopian claptrap, by those who fundamentally have no regard for an open and free society. But how one defines the former, will certainly hedge on how collective will grasp the “immense potential of language”.

    21. teafoe2 said on August 2nd, 2010 at 1:39pm #

      Okay, spaghetti head, let’s see you “suggest a more direct challenge to what plagues Capitalism”. I don’t give a parmesan what kind of language you use, as long as it’s English because that’s the only one I have any fluency with.

      So how do YOU define a “free and open society”? You mean one resembling the current militarist police state presided over by Uncle Barack? Where the capitalist legal mythology says there is nothing wrong with the public news media being controlled by this pack of Zionazis?

      I’ve read Popper, in fact I have “Objective Knowledge” right over here on the shelf. If anybody is an “obscurantist” it’s Karl P, not Karl M. “In my opinion”:)

    22. franco_american1962 said on August 2nd, 2010 at 5:38pm #

      I was wondering how long it would take, sitting in my boat, waiting for a fish to bite. I didn’t say the Karl Marx is an obscurantists; I am calling the dilettantes on this topic as such. As for pertinence, I would not argue with Marx on his sociological take on his time, and of its application to contemporary times- in this sense, he is to be regarded as a great thinker. However, Marx falled short on many accounts. Might I suggest you read Popper’s “The open society and its enemies (volume 2)”? Or perhaps a more powerful avowal of open society might be Frederick Hayek’s “The Constitution”. I really have grown weary of “rational planning” type!

    23. franco_american1962 said on August 2nd, 2010 at 5:40pm #

      Sorry: Frederick Hayek’s “The constitution of liberty”

    24. teafoe2 said on August 2nd, 2010 at 6:16pm #

      Dear Pasta-dude:

      Hayek was a reactionary. If you are weary now, keep posting your reactionary jive on DV, and see how weary you get with your own namecalling.


      Iago Faulk-Yusef
      69 Uranus,
      San Francisco 10011
      (between top of Arguello and State Street, it’s on the map:)

    25. teafoe2 said on August 2nd, 2010 at 7:36pm #

      I just took Camerons’s advice and googled David Harvey’s name. Jackpot!

      I sent Harvey’s speech to the World Social Forum last year to Kim, hope he sees fit to publish it.

      I also read Harvey’s intro lecture to his one-semester course on how to read Das Kapital. It was very enlightening even to one who first read it some time in the seventies and reread it many times. Harvey notes a lot of stuff that went past me, but is obviously true.

      If Max Shields could manage to put his preconceptions aside for a few minutes, I think he’d get a lot out of reading Harvey’s speech. Harvey is alert to Max’s concerns and way of approaching doing something about them.

      Many thanks for turning me onto Harvey, who covers all the ground Petras covered in his recent article but in more detail. In particular Harvey has thought more deeply, I believe, about “what is to be done”, how we might possibly get from here to there.

      Alas, that remains an open question, and to me the prognosis is not very rosy. But Harvey’s brilliance is to me a very hopeful sign. I hope finding him is an omen of better things to come. ??

    26. franco_american1962 said on August 2nd, 2010 at 7:50pm #

      No, Plato was a reactionary, Popper was a real liberal-Humanist, unlike what this website reflects, with its fundamental disdain of western culture, and pining for a statist, closed-society. Yes, the story is old, but it goes on.