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    (Original post by Oswy)
    Don't you realise that you're confusing two seperate issues?

    You can reward people for hard work or you can reward people for their 'natural gifts', they're not the same thing, unless, somewhat narrowly, you want to argue that in some cases their interest in hard work is their 'natural gift'. If I'm born with an ability which has me at an advantage in some way how does my use of that advantage make it meritable? After all, my 'natural gifts' haven't been worked for, I just 'got lucky', that's the very opposite of merit by any reasonable standard.

    You and I might do the same job and even though I might work twice as hard as you do, you might still, thanks to your 'natural talents', be more successful or more productive. I think you have to disentange the two issues otherwise your arguments are flawed.
    Because whether you've succeceded in life due to your natural ability, or due to the hard work you've put in, your going to end up near the top somewhere. This country wants the best people running it,and if we all start from the same basic level and all have an equal opportunity to learn and develop then there's no excuses, and those who get to the top deserve to be there. In the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter whether you're in a position due to your natural gift, or through hard work. As long as you're good enough at the job, and get it done properly I don't see what the arguement is?

    Maybe if you're naturally gifted, but lazy. And you don't actually put the effort in and do your job, then a problem arrises.
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      (Original post by iainthegreat)
      Because whether you've succeceded in life due to your natural ability, or due to the hard work you've put in, your going to end up near the top somewhere...
      But that's just plain wrong. Plenty of people work very hard all their lives but because they have developed (or been born with) little in the way of 'talents' it doesn't really get them very far. At the same time plenty of people who do not necessarily work hard, and might even be rather lazy, but who have benefitted from all kinds of unearned advantages, such as those associated with being born into, and raised by, well-off and well-educated parents, can easily become successful. The myth that the wealthy have got where they are because they all 'earned' it with their hard work and/or 'talents' is easily disposed of, even though it persists in the popular imagination.
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      (Original post by Oswy)
      But that's just plain wrong. Plenty of people work very hard all their lives but because they have developed (or been born with) little in the way of 'talents' it doesn't really get them very far. At the same time plenty of people who do not necessarily work hard, and might even be rather lazy, but who have benefitted from all kinds of unearned advantages, such as those associated with being born into, and raised by, well-off and well-educated parents, can easily become successful. The myth that the wealthy have got where they are because they all 'earned' it with their hard work and/or 'talents' is easily disposed of, even though it persists in the popular imagination.

      In my first post I said everyone starts from the same level, and everyone is given an equal opportunity to develop. Therefore there is no bias to being well-off or rich, because everybody starts at the same point.

      So your saying that people should be rewarded for effort, rather than ability? Sure, in an ideal world this works, but we should want the best people with the best jobs. We want people who have the ability to do the job, whether through hard work or natural talent, it shouldn't make a difference. At the end of the day, the people who get to the very top are those who are naturally very gifted AND work hard.
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        (Original post by iainthegreat)
        In my first post I said everyone starts from the same level, and everyone is given an equal opportunity to develop. Therefore there is no bias to being well-off or rich, because everybody starts at the same point...
        But this is clearly wrong and self-contradictory.

        Those born into families of the 'well-off or rich' clearly do have all kinds of economic and social advantages. You're ignoring something that is staring you right in the face.
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        (Original post by Oswy)
        But this is clearly wrong and self-contradictory.

        Those born into families of the 'well-off or rich' clearly do have all kinds of economic and social advantages. You're ignoring something that is staring you right in the face.
        My first post said that everyone SHOULD start from an equal playing field, and SHOULD be given an equal opportunity to thirve. What is the case now is irrelevent.
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          (Original post by iainthegreat)
          My first post said that everyone SHOULD start from an equal playing field, and SHOULD be given an equal opportunity to thirve. What is the case now is irrelevent.
          You mean this?

          I feel that we should all be given an equal base from which to start. Those who put in the hard work, and of course those who are natural more gifted will thrive. This way people only get to where they are through merit.
          This is still contradictory though, because you make a jump from 'naturally more gifted' to 'merit'. We've already discussed how being born with some advantage, i.e. an 'unearned' advantage, doesn't fit the concept of 'merit', as 'merit' usually implies something having been earned.
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          (Original post by Oswy)
          You mean this?

          Yup, that way it's a true measure of a person, no excuses, no byes through. Either you're good enough or not.

          (Original post by Oswy)
          This is still contradictory though, because you make a jump from 'naturally more gifted' to 'merit'. We've already discussed how being born with some advantage, i.e. an 'unearned' advantage, doesn't fit the concept of 'merit', as 'merit' usually implies something having been earned.
          Ok, so maybe merit isn't a great choice of word. But it will be a true reflection of where somebody ought to be. They're there because that's where they should be. People above them either worked harder, or are naturally more talented and so deserve to be there.
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          (Original post by Oswy)
          Dude, you didn't even respond to my post. I specifically said that I wasn't suggesting we go back to the material conditions of hunter-gathering communities. I was illustrating the fact that for most of human history social relations have been relatively egalitarian and based on mutual support. You're also in danger of attributing to capitalism what is rightly attributable to science and technology.

          So, my point remains. While for almost all of human history we actually have lived in societies with 'communistic' social relations we now live under capitalism, where social relations are, essentially, antagonistic, we fight over resources, we fight over jobs, we don't know our neighbours, they are our rivals. Well done capitalism. Oh, and meanwhile, the capitalist paradigm of growth and consumption is poisoning the planet.
          But I did tackle the fundamental issue you raised in the post - sure I went off on a load of tangents, for which I apologise, but the (or at least a) fundamental thread of your argument was "that humans clearly can live, and indeed have lived for a very long time, in societies with a high degree of equality and mutual support", presumably to argue that humans can do so again today, albeit in different "material conditions".

          My argument was that this is totally irrelevant, even in terms of the human condition. You are suggesting that there is a significant human tendency for mutual support, and that this can be harnessed for modern communism. I am saying that the fact we survived for many centuries in primitive communism is attributable just as much to our selfishness as it is to our capacity for egalitarianism, and that the latter was only so prominent through necessity.

          As for "You're also in danger of attributing to capitalism what is rightly attributable to science and technology." - which are in turn almost solely attributable to capitalism themselves, be it overt (e.g. in the USA) or covert (e.g. in the USSR).

          Your second paragraph stereotypes too much ("we don't know our neighbours" -well I certainly do). In general I can see where it's coming from - yes, capitalism is full of competition - but it is this competition which drives progress. If the world had all been communist for the past hundred years, we would be much more backward than we are today (unless of course you stereotype and idealise "the worker" to be the perfect, selfless human being, which is not pragmatic).

          Ultimately communism focuses on equality, and puts growth and advancement second, whereas capitalism does the opposite. This all sounds fine at first, but actually when growth is subordinated to equality, it is hugely inhibited, and leads to worse overall conditions than capitalism tempered by elements of socialism (e.g. Britain today) where growth is put first, and though it takes time, the benefits eventually trickle down to the whole of society. Churchill was entirely right when he said "The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery".
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          (Original post by Oswy)
          It's reasonable to suggest that a person's 'talents' might have both a genetic component and an environmental component, thought there's plenty of argument to be had about the relative influence they have. For my part, I'm sceptical about the extent to which genetic factors are casually played up and environmental factors casually played down, especially in political theory associated with the right. Nevertheless, genetic factors can hardly be described as 'earned' and thus don't fit the notion of 'merit' very easily. We're then left with environmental factors, like, say, being born into a comfortably-off familiy with well-educated parents, experiencing all the economic and social advantages of that along with, say, a private education, the best of medical care and a degree of financial support that others might envy. The skills, and confidence, for future success generated by these environmental factors also don't easily fit the notion of 'merit' as they are external, and also 'unearned', factors which will contribute to success. On close inspection, then, 'merit' is a tricky notion.
          Of course, in the world we live in, a meritocracy seems like the best society ideology we have so far but...

          I don't understand Socialists. They disrespect the idea of advantages, such as in the form of wealth, being simply gifted to people, yet they are so supprtive of talented people succeeding (whatever the background). However talent is, in a way, just another freely given advantage which no one had to work for.
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            (Original post by michael321)
            ...
            Allow me to restate my position with regard to ‘hunter-gathering’.

            I’m stating as a fact that all humans, until very recently, lived as ‘hunter-gatherers’. Indeed the entry on the subject in my Oxford Dictionary of Sociology goes so far as to suggest that “This has been the means of subsistence for 99 per cent of humankind’s history.” That’s the first fact I want to establish, that humans have until very, very recently, as a species, all lived as ‘hunter-gatherers’. You might think I’m labouring the point, but this is an important fact of itself insofar as it is a ready response to those who try to suggest that capitalist economic and social arrangements are somehow ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ to human life, or even, as they sometimes do, suggest that ‘it’s always been this way’. Regardless of the details of hunter-gathering organisation, the fact that we humans have lived that way for almost all of our existence as a species demonstrates that the arrangements we see under capitalism, such as the acute monopolisation of land and resources, the severe asymmetries in the extent to which basic human needs are satisfied and the perpetual (and perpetually high) levels of unemployment, are in fact arrangements specific to capitalism. Indeed, from a historical perspective, unemployment itself is a relatively meaningless concept outside of the era of capitalism, but I digress.

            Whatever response you make to the above I don’t think you can reasonably deny that a) all humans have lived as hunter-gatherers for almost all of human history and b) subsequent references to economic and social arrangements characteristic of capitalism as ‘normal’, ‘natural’ or having ‘always been the case’ are wrong.

            I’m also stating as a fact that such hunter-gathering societies are relatively egalitarian in their economic and social arrangements and distinctly much more egalitarian when considered against those which capitalism generates and sustains. Notice that I’m not saying here that hunter-gathering societies ‘are egalitarian’ in some absolute sense, only that, relative to other kinds of society and especially the kind of society we observe under advancing capitalism, hunter-gathering is in fundamental respects substantively egalitarian. Study of contemporary hunter-gathering societies as evidence of how all our ancestors lived in the past has its methodological limitations. This is not least because those tiny pockets which remain have invariably been removed to, or marginalised within, lands they wouldn’t have otherwise chosen for self sustenance (Aboriginal Australians, for example, are now limited to desert environments, but the evidence shows that their major populations were in fertile shore lands, areas from which they were forcibly displaced by the recent European arrivals). Another methodological limitation is the fact that pretty much none of the remaining hunter-gathering groups can be said to have escaped ‘contamination’ from the ‘modern’ outside world, whether this is in terms of their conceptual models, methods of sustenance, technologies or use of materials. Bearing these limitations in mind, if we can, contemporary hunter-gathering societies do show some variation with regard to their economic and social arrangements. It is not uncommon for there to be labour and power divisions, for example, between male and female, and it is not uncommon for there to be labour and power divisions, for example, between elders and youth. Beyond this, in some instances hunter-gatherer groups also show degrees of social stratification, as among the Northwest Coast Indians of western Canada and southern Alaska, while others, such as the San, Inuit and Pygmies, are regarded by anthropologists as essentially ‘egalitarian’ societies. I don’t know where discussion of ‘alpha males’ comes from, though if that is merely a reference to some individuals taking on, or being given, leadership or ‘chieftain’ roles then fair enough – if it’s a reference to B movies about ‘cave men’ and dinosaurs then I’m, understandably, less willing to make a concession.

            Whatever response you make to the above, bear in mind that I’m stating that hunter-gathering societies are now, and are likely to have been in the past, relatively egalitarian when compared to the kind of capitalist society we live in. I’m not denying the likely presence of inequalities, between the sexes, between age-groups, even between families or individuals, but it’s the degree to which these societies are egalitarian in comparison to capitalism that matters for my argument. You might argue that it could hardly be otherwise on the basis that capitalism is distinctly anti-egalitarian in the way economic and social differentials grow alongside the process of capital accumulation and the attendant monopolisation of land, resources and power over market operations, advances the position of those who have capital over those who don’t. And that would be a fair point.

            I will also make the point clear that I’m not in any way suggesting that we should all go back to being hunter-gatherers in respect of their material life (it’s not possible of course, but even if it were that’s still not my argument). I’m simply showing that if there’s any debate about how humans have lived, or can live, we can’t ignore the fact that living in a way that is substantively more egalitarian that that offered by capitalism is not impossible, far from it, it’s actually how almost all of our human ancestors lived! Recognition of the scientific and technological advances we have made since living as hunter-gatherers only strengthens the idea that there can be a way back to relatively high egalitarian society without the hardship (though I recognise that the idea that hunter-gathering life is necessarily a 'hardship' can be problematised).

            So, just to make it plain, my points are as follows:

            1) Humans have spent almost all of their history living as hunter-gatherers and thus in societies that are substantively egalitarian, especially when compared to capitalism.

            2) It is clearly wrong to suggest that capitalism is 'normal', 'natural' or 'the way it's always been'.
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              (Original post by TheRevolution)
              Of course, in the world we live in, a meritocracy seems like the best society ideology we have so far but...

              I don't understand Socialists. They disrespect the idea of advantages, such as in the form of wealth, being simply gifted to people, yet they are so supprtive of talented people succeeding (whatever the background). However talent is, in a way, just another freely given advantage which no one had to work for.
              What you have to consider is that for socialists, the process of capital accumulation at the centre of capitalist society is based on alienation and exploitation and subsequently generates unjust economic and social relations. The consequential advantages that an individual has through, say, being gifted wealth, is thus necessarily built upon a system of exploitation. From a narrow and individualised perspective this might not be easy to 'see', but when we recognise how capital accumulation is generated, and acts, as a total process, the exploitative and alienating dimensions of capitalism become starkly obvious. I'd also suggest that socialists like me put much more emphasis on the satisfaction of needs because, as you suggest, none of us can - at the philosophical level - be held 'responsible' for our talents, or our lack of them.
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              (Original post by Oswy)
              ....

              So, just to make it plain, my points are as follows:

              1) Humans have spent almost all of their history living as hunter-gatherers and thus in societies that are substantively egalitarian, especially when compared to capitalism.

              2) It is clearly wrong to suggest that capitalism is 'normal', 'natural' or 'the way it's always been'.
              Well you make some interesting points, for instance about the way it's difficult to study self-subsisting tribes when they've moved from their ideal homelands, but I still disagree with your premise, or at least the extrapolations you draw from it.

              Your fundamental argument, as you say, is that capitalism is not our natural state, and humans have a natural tendency to communism.

              I would argue that basic communism is only the first stage of our human development (as indeed Marx did). Sure, we spent much of our existance on the planet in communism. Once the human population grew significantly, capitalism became the more efficient system, and much more pragmatic, given the arguments I outline two posts ago. I would argue that capitalism is normal for a large human population. Logistics, governance and specialisation all become very tricky issues under communism, which is quickly subverted into overly corrupt capitalism (again, see two posts ago). At every turn in its history, large scale communism has failed, and resulted in either pseudo-communist, de facto capitalist societies, or dictatorships - communism only works in microcosm, and is only natural in very small, isolated, subsistence societies.

              As for the idea that no modern societies have "escaped ‘contamination’ from the ‘modern’ outside world" - firstly this point aids my point about pragmatism - modern communism can never work because we already have too many capitalist notions floating around; and secondly it can be turned on its head if we ask "where did the first capitalist notions come from?" And yes, with alpha males I mean leaders.

              As for "from a historical perspective, unemployment itself is a relatively meaningless concept outside of the era of capitalism" - well I suppose you could argue that in tribal society unemployment wasn't an issue, but then there were bigger things to worry about, like getting eaten or pneumonia. To try to relate the employment situation in early tribal societies to the modern day is very tenuous, at best - and if you want to go down that route, I could compare life expectancy, medical standards etc.

              I get the points you're making, but I find this point irrelevant - "if there’s any debate about how humans have lived, or can live, we can’t ignore the fact that living in a way that is substantively more egalitarian that that offered by capitalism is not impossible, far from it, it’s actually how almost all of our human ancestors lived!" - and this point fundamentally wrong - "Recognition of the scientific and technological advances we have made since living as hunter-gatherers only strengthens the idea that there can be a way back to relatively high egalitarian society without the hardship (though I recognise that the idea that hunter-gathering life is necessarily a 'hardship' can be problematised)."

              My sentiments are the complete opposite of your second point - I think that capitalism is here because it is the most efficient, and socially optimum, system given current conditions - chiefly re population, but also as regards technology. I think, as I said earlier in this post, that communism is only natural in very small, isolated, subsistence societies. Once you grow, capitalism comes to the fore.

              You concede that "the idea that hunter-gathering life is necessarily a 'hardship' can be problematised" - but this is not something parenthetical, it is key to my argument. I'm saying that once once you move beyond the basic struggle for day to day survival, as most Western countries have for most of their citizens, you need a society more complex and less naive that simple communism, which, to work, needs a society where you either work or die (as early tribal life was). And as I argue in a previous post, there is much less to aspire to in a simple tribal community, wheras today, there is much more drive to get ahead. If you want to go back to communism, you have to give up most material aspiration, which is a key driver for work when work is no longer absolutely necessary for survival (and contibutes heavily to our happiness and wellbeing).

              So to sum up my main points:

              1) We may have lived as communists for thousands of years, but clearly capitalism is not that unnatural since it developed of its own accord with no outside influence.

              2) Capitalism is the "natural" state for societies whose populations are as large as most are today.

              3) Capitalism is the natural state for communities which have moved beyond simple subsistance.

              4) Technology has only been advanced as far it has due to capitalism. Modern technology does not make the crossover to communism any more feasible.

              5) Evidence for all this is modern communism's repeated reversion, de facto or in full, to capitalism or autocracy (N. Korea, Cuba, USSR, USSR's satellites, Vietnam, China, to name but a few).

              6) As I said in a previous post, our natural selfishness is merely harnessed for social good in tribal society, because we realise the best way to survive in such conditions is to group together. As society expands, other opportunities become available, and our natural instincts turn to other things.
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              'Thrive' doesn't mean earning more than someone else in socialism, so the premise of the question is flawed.
             
             
             
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