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    (Original post by Relaxicat)
    ...
    Right. You don't have to listen to me, I don't recall ever asking you to do so at any point. You can believe what you wish, I'm not exactly too bothered. Marx 'having an opinion' on economics is just like you and I 'having opinions' about it. I'm sure everyone has an opinion about it to some extent; the point is, Marx had opinions, they just weren't the correct ones.

    Marx wrote his economic theories in response to the classical economics, which was dominant at the time because of theorists like Smith, Ricardo etc. Almost everything he says is in some way or form an attempted repudiation of those liberal economic theories. But you just have to answer this: in the realm of contemporary economics, which have become the most relevant, Marxist economics, or classical economics?

    Marxist knew nothing about economics, I don't think I can say this enough times. And I don't see why I have to sit here writing a point-by-point rebuttal of something that has been discredited time and time again by various academics over the years, that even 'Marxists' don't use it, simply because you can't be bothered to broaden your reading base. All you really needed to do was read a basic economics book, before you start calling Marx a 'seminal economist'. I have no particular interest in what your 'Oxford PhD' professors have to say about it, in all honesty.

    Admittedly, my characterisation of the 'surplus labour' issue was rather silly, but it was just to show you how equally silly the theory is. I honestly don't want to get into some childish ad hom contest (which is what your last post seemed to be), so hopefully your next reply will be done in the appropriate manner, otherwise we may as well end the discussion here.
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    (Original post by Oswy)
    Pretty much all and any non-human resources which are involved in the productive process, from factories and tools, to fields and rivers. It's applicable in any mode of production, that is to say any 'kind' of society, from hunter-gathering to industrial capitalism. It tends to be used in texts focused on industrial capitalism because this is what Marxism tends to be most interested in analysing and critiquing, but it's universally applicable - all human societies have their own means of production in order, erm, to produce.
    Thanks. This is why I keep saying that Marxist 'economics' belongs in the industrial revolution because it only really is describing that society. The 'means of production' is something that has diversified so much in modern society that an attempt to monopolise it is so amazingly difficult to make it pointless. The only entity which has the capacity to do so, is the state, through legislation.

    The means of production can mean this computer I'm on now, which is relatively cheap, or even your brain.
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    (Original post by D.R.E)
    Right. You don't have to listen to me, I don't recall ever asking you to do so at any point. You can believe what you wish, I'm not exactly too bothered. Marx 'having an opinion' on economics is just like you and I 'having opinions' about it. I'm sure everyone has an opinion about it to some extent; the point is, Marx had opinions, they just weren't the correct ones.

    Marx wrote his economic theories in response to the classical economics, which was dominant at the time because of theorists like Smith, Ricardo etc. Almost everything he says is in some way or form an attempted repudiation of those liberal economic theories. But you just have to answer this: in the realm of contemporary economics, which have become the most relevant, Marxist economics, or classical economics?

    Marxist knew nothing about economics, I don't think I can say this enough times. And I don't see why I have to sit here writing a point-by-point rebuttal of something that has been discredited time and time again by various academics over the years, that even 'Marxists' don't use it, simply because you can't be bothered to broaden your reading base. All you really needed to do was read a basic economics book, before you start calling Marx a 'seminal economist'. I have no particular interest in what your 'Oxford PhD' professors have to say about it, in all honesty.

    Admittedly, my characterisation of the 'surplus labour' issue was rather silly, but it was just to show you how equally silly the theory is. I honestly don't want to get into some childish ad hom contest (which is what your last post seemed to be), so hopefully your next reply will be done in the appropriate manner, otherwise we may as well end the discussion here.
    So, do enlighten me, how exactly was he wrong?


    (I question you on this for the third time)
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    (Original post by Oswy)
    How about barterists?
    It's a very very early form of capitalism I suppose.. depends on various things. Barter is just a form of trade absent money, it's not really comparable without further qualifications.

    Anyway, it's entirely reasonable that someone might think unmodified (or uncompromised if you prefer) capitalism or socialism can't 'work' and that there needs in both or either case to be something to counter their believed failings.
    I'm nearly sure it was Mises who said a market characterised by interventionism is still a market (or something similar, my ****ing memory is failing recently). If there is private ownership of the means of production and there is taxation, there is still capitalism. Haven't you always said we live in a capitalist world? How could there possibly be a "compromise" between something and its negation?
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    (Original post by Relaxicat)
    So, do enlighten me, how exactly was he wrong?

    (I question you on this for the third time)
    lol. You are good. You make an assertion, then I attempt to counter it - that's how debate and discussion work. As I said earlier, I have no particular interest in writing up a point-by-point rebuttal, because, admittedly, Marxist economics is a vast sea with many complex ideas.

    If you wish though, I can point you in the direction of books which talk rather extensively about Marx and Marxism that I've come across.
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    (Original post by D.R.E)
    lol. You are good. You make an assertion, then I attempt to counter it - that's how debate and discussion work. As I said earlier, I have no particular interest in writing up a point-by-point rebuttal, because, admittedly, Marxist economics is a vast sea with many complex ideas.

    If you wish though, I can point you in the direction of books which talk rather extensively about Marx and Marxism that I've come across.
    Well you opined quite strongly that his opinions are wrong and outdated. You continue to fail to explain why, or to venture even simple opinions. I can only conclude you are not really sure, which is fine, as you are entitled to your own opinion, but for your posting on this forum i can only assume you are a student, and this polemical approach of yours, which continues to be without evidence, will not get you far in academia!

    It does not need to be point-by-point. Simply, where would you say his deficiencies lie, broadly?
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    (Original post by D.R.E)
    Thanks, I always have this problem with thinking of an ideal term to describe what I'm talking about. 'Capitalism' seems a rather anachronistic term. I don't necessarily see the problem with private ownership of the 'means of production' so long as the markets are simultaneously free.
    Why not, out of interest? Does the uneven distribution of power not bother you?

    What exactly does the phrase 'means of production' pertain to, by the way? It seems like something that, again, is more relevant in the context of the industrial revolution than it is now.
    Well I'm not a Marxist but I think what Marx meant was the stuff that made other stuff - i.e. factories, mills, etc. I agree that late modernity and the rise of tertiary and quarternary industries as major generators of wealth makes analyses of class specific to the late 19th/early 20th centuries kind of redundant but I think there are still huge class difference, particularly between those at the top who own the companies, the professional/managerial class below them, and then the unskilled class. One thing we're gonna see in the next few years (IMO) is the increasing taylorisation of intellectual work - less and less decision making done by actual people and more assigned to computers or orders from on high about how to act, and I think that could be interesting because it will effectively push the professional/managerial class closer to the unskilled class. The 'means of production' are perhaps less obvious but I don't think they're less relevent - in general there's still a small class at the top who have the most to gain from increasing profits and that means dehumanising everyone below them.

    Marx wrote his economic theories in response to the classical economics, which was dominant at the time because of theorists like Smith, Ricardo etc. Almost everything he says is in some way or form an attempted repudiation of those liberal economic theories. But you just have to answer this: in the realm of contemporary economics, which have become the most relevant, Marxist economics, or classical economics?
    Just as a point of order, Adam Smith believed in the Labour Theory of Value too. Early Liberals are an interesting bunch; I feel they've sometimes been either fetishised or hijacked by the Libertarian Right which has tried to shoehorn them into agreeing with it.
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    (Original post by Relaxicat)
    Well you opined quite strongly that his opinions are wrong and outdated. You continue to fail to explain why, or to venture even simple opinions. I can only conclude you are not really sure, which is fine, as you are entitled to your own opinion, but for your posting on this forum i can only assume you are a student, and this polemical approach of yours, which continues to be without evidence, will not get you far in academia!

    It does not need to be point-by-point. Simply, where would you say his deficiencies lie, broadly?
    Thankfully I have no intention of ever being an academic, so that's fine by me!

    Broadly speaking, as I said previously in this, Marx wasn't necessarily 'wrong'. His critique of his contemporary society was largely on the mark. There had been, up to that point widespread inequalities between the different classes, mostly because of the way European society had been structured over centuries.

    The problems start when (1) he tried to turn this critique into economic 'laws' and (2), when people like you take that critique out of context and try to apply his 'laws' to society which are nothing like the ones that existed at the time. He (and you) seem to think that there is some sort of scientific model for human society, which can be applied objectively in all societies that have ever existed and will ever exist; which seems quite silly, in my opinion.

    Let me give you an example: Malcolm X had some very interesting theories which were quite potent in 1960s. Should I, a black man living in Britain in 2011, take his theories about humanity and race, and try to apply them to my society?
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    (Original post by D.R.E)
    Thankfully I have no intention of ever being an academic, so that's fine by me!

    Broadly speaking, as I said previously in this, Marx wasn't necessarily 'wrong'. His critique of his contemporary society was largely on the mark. There had been, up to that point widespread inequalities between the different classes, mostly because of the way European society had been structured over centuries.

    The problems start when (1) he tried to turn this critique into economic 'laws' and (2), when people like you take that critique out of context and try to apply his 'laws' to society which are nothing like the ones that existed at the time. He (and you) seem to think that there is some sort of scientific model for human society, which can be applied objectively in all societies that have ever existed and will ever exist; which seems quite silly, in my opinion.

    Let me give you an example: Malcolm X had some very interesting theories which were quite potent in 1960s. Should I, a black man living in Britain in 2011, take his theories about humanity and race, and try to apply them to my society?
    Thank you for elucidating, now we can debate more properly!

    I would say that because we still live in a capitalist society, his ideas remain relevant. We still sell our labour for money, we are still paid according to our needs and seldom more, capitalism continues to operate and expand, even to foreign nations (as Marx quite correctly predicted it would). There is still private ownership - a key point of capitalism, which Kapital discusses.

    Social systems such as this, these 'scientific models' for humanity which you speak of, which I will instead term social systems,can indeed be applied to future generations, if there is some logic in them. Would you not say democracy as a concept can be applied across future societies?

    Consider, Plato spoke of democracy and oligarchy, and the romans had a senate, and had juries; these ideas have longevity across thousands of years. Cannot the same apply to capitalist principles?

    Furthermore, my apparent sycophant-ism for Marx is indeed because I have hardly studied much other economics, but Marx was important because his ideas (I am led to believe) were hardly in conflict to other conceptions of capital and Capitalism at the time.

    To be honest, I still see no problem in his theory. Yes, it was written in a different context, but hardly one far divorced from the contemporary period.
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    (Original post by Gremlins)
    Why not, out of interest? Does the uneven distribution of power not bother you?
    Yes it does. However, I just don't think it's as simple as Marxists, Socialists and Communists want to make it seem. Inequality manifests itself through a variety of ways, so I am generally sceptical about anyone who claims to have some kind of magic-wand solution to it. My view on this probably quite fanciful, but I think that the primary cause of economic equality is genetics, so I believe that as the world becomes a freer market, and the distribution of qualities becomes more even, inequality will also decrease. I don't think it's possible to completely eradicate unequal distribution of 'talent' and wealth, but we can probably achieve a more even distribution of wealth.

    What do you think?

    Well I'm not a Marxist but I think what Marx meant was the stuff that made other stuff - i.e. factories, mills, etc. I agree that late modernity and the rise of tertiary and quarternary industries as major generators of wealth makes analyses of class specific to the late 19th/early 20th centuries kind of redundant but I think there are still huge class difference, particularly between those at the top who own the companies, the professional/managerial class below them, and then the unskilled class. One thing we're gonna see in the next few years (IMO) is the increasing taylorisation of intellectual work - less and less decision making done by actual people and more assigned to computers or orders from on high about how to act, and I think that could be interesting because it will effectively push the professional/managerial class closer to the unskilled class. The 'means of production' are perhaps less obvious but I don't think they're less relevent - in general there's still a small class at the top who have the most to gain from increasing profits and that means dehumanising everyone below them.
    I actually agree with this, it's just that I think economic activity will diversify more and more to alleviate for that process of computerisation. The managerial class will presumably need to re-skill to cope with the new environment. Although I admit is this largely conjecture on my part.

    Just as a point of order, Adam Smith believed in the Labour Theory of Value too. Early Liberals are an interesting bunch; I feel they've sometimes been either fetishised or hijacked by the Libertarian Right which has tried to shoehorn them into agreeing with it.
    Interestingly, I said something similar to a Libertarian friend of mine recently and he almost had a fit about it.
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    (Original post by D.R.E)
    Thanks. This is why I keep saying that Marxist 'economics' belongs in the industrial revolution because it only really is describing that society. The 'means of production' is something that has diversified so much in modern society that an attempt to monopolise it is so amazingly difficult to make it pointless. The only entity which has the capacity to do so, is the state, through legislation.

    The means of production can mean this computer I'm on now, which is relatively cheap, or even your brain.
    But I did say that the idea of the 'means of production' is universally applicable. Hunter-gathering societies can be understood as having a 'means of production' just as industrial capitalist societies can. As for monopolisation, I'm not sure what you're suggesting - land and natural resources are monopolised by those who have capital, it doesn't really matter that there are quite a few of them, those who have no substantive capital are still thus alienated from equitable access and use of the earth's resources. Even in a scenario where everyone but one individual was a land and resources owning capitalist, that one would still be alienated by their collective monopolisation.
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    (Original post by Hy~)
    It's a very very early form of capitalism I suppose.. depends on various things. Barter is just a form of trade absent money, it's not really comparable without further qualifications.

    I'm nearly sure it was Mises who said a market characterised by interventionism is still a market (or something similar, my ****ing memory is failing recently). If there is private ownership of the means of production and there is taxation, there is still capitalism. Haven't you always said we live in a capitalist world? How could there possibly be a "compromise" between something and its negation?
    If an activity can be reasonably characterised as seeking the accumulation of capital then I think it's hard to deny it being 'capitalist'. Maybe a case for 'capitalism' can be made for societies prior to, or which otherwise eschew from the use of, money (i.e. some abstracted unit of exchange as substitute for 'real' stuff). But I think that is a drift away from meaningful 'capitalism'. To this extent I think Marxists would usually think of 'capitalism' as essentially entailing the accumulation of capital as money on top of what they regard as the primary or base-line of capital: land and natural resources.

    As for Mises? We could imagine an idealised 'homesteading' scenario in which every individual or family owned suitable private property with which they were able to self-sustain their productive needs; and if they aren't then engaged in capital accumulating activities then it's not very legitimate to call it capitalist simply because there is private property. The Marxist view is, I think, not so much that private property is capitalism (or at least not fully operative capitalism), but that it is the initial, and ultimately central, arrangement which allows capitalism to flourish, not least because of its monopolising/alienating nature.
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    (Original post by D.R.E)
    Yes it does. However, I just don't think it's as simple as Marxists, Socialists and Communists want to make it seem. Inequality manifests itself through a variety of ways, so I am generally sceptical about anyone who claims to have some kind of magic-wand solution to it...
    Ok, but why should your scepticism about magic-wand solutions to the problems of uneven distribution (and which you say bothers you) lead you to embrace an ideology which rejects on principle that uneven distribution is even a problem at all?
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    (Original post by Gremlins)
    ...

    One thing we're gonna see in the next few years (IMO) is the increasing taylorisation of intellectual work - less and less decision making done by actual people and more assigned to computers or orders from on high about how to act, and I think that could be interesting because it will effectively push the professional/managerial class closer to the unskilled class. The 'means of production' are perhaps less obvious but I don't think they're less relevent - in general there's still a small class at the top who have the most to gain from increasing profits and that means dehumanising everyone below them.

    ...
    I think this historical way of seeing capitalism can't be stressed enough and it's a central aspect of Marx that he is as much interested in capitalism's trajectory through time as he is in capitalism as an (abstracted) system. Once we realise that capitalism is a highly transformative, and self-transforming, mode of production, we're encouraged to think seriously of its possible trajectory, as opposed to merely its contemporary arrangements (not that the latter is unimportant).

    More specifically, I'm amazed that more people don't see the likely future impact of technologisation on labour demand, the overall trend is for less and less human labour (physical and intellectual) being needed relative to productive output. It may be some time before this trend shows a palpable impact, the world is big and complicated, but the trend is unmistakable. I would site the upward creep of underlying unemployment and underemployment rates since the late 1960s in advanced industrial societies (setting aside booms and recessions), but official figures relating to employment and unemployment (etc) are apparently inconsistently present and problematic - not least because governments don't like to define things like unemployment in ways which make their terms in office look bad.
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    (Original post by D.R.E)
    ...

    Let me give you an example: Malcolm X had some very interesting theories which were quite potent in 1960s. Should I, a black man living in Britain in 2011, take his theories about humanity and race, and try to apply them to my society?
    I think you've got to make this decision on merit not some generalisation about historically situated theories being automatically historically bounded. On this basis both Marx and Malcom X might have some useful things and some not so useful things to say in relation to the world as we understand it today.
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    Apologies for the extremely late response.

    (Original post by Oswy)
    I think you've got to make this decision on merit not some generalisation about historically situated theories being automatically historically bounded. On this basis both Marx and Malcom X might have some useful things and some not so useful things to say in relation to the world as we understand it today.
    Well, taken in context, I think both Malcolm X and Marx have a lot of interesting things to say. But my problem is that Marxists try to use his teachings a sort of methodology for interpreting the everything that happens in society. If I tried to use Malcolm X's teachings without context, I'm sure you know what the result would be.

    (Original post by Oswy)
    Ok, but why should your scepticism about magic-wand solutions to the problems of uneven distribution (and which you say bothers you) lead you to embrace an ideology which rejects on principle that uneven distribution is even a problem at all?
    This is misrepresentation of Libertarianism, to be fair. Firstly, it all depends on what you call a 'problem'. The uneven distribution is only a problem if you believe that all human beings are of equal capabilities and therefore should have an equal 'outcome' in life. I do not believe this, so the uneven distribution only bothers me in that I would like to see everyone successful, but I do realise that this is simply not possible - in life, there are some losers and some winners. Even if everyone started life a £1 million in their bank accounts, some people will finish with £10 million, others with £2 million and a heck of a lot with nothing at all.

    I also think that Libertarianism adopts a view that the equalisation will happen through a more natural process, which I described earlier.

    (Original post by Oswy)
    But I did say that the idea of the 'means of production' is universally applicable. Hunter-gathering societies can be understood as having a 'means of production' just as industrial capitalist societies can. As for monopolisation, I'm not sure what you're suggesting - land and natural resources are monopolised by those who have capital, it doesn't really matter that there are quite a few of them, those who have no substantive capital are still thus alienated from equitable access and use of the earth's resources. Even in a scenario where everyone but one individual was a land and resources owning capitalist, that one would still be alienated by their collective monopolisation.
    I think your definition of 'monopolisation' is not exactly the correct one. People with capital cannot, realistically, monopolise all land and resources. The only entity that has ever managed to do this, is the state. By the imposition of borders and the modern nation-state, government basically 'owns' the entire planet.

    Anyway, what is a capitalist anyway? Someone with some form of capital, right? That's pretty much everyone on the planet, so I find it strange that you seem to have some sort of cut-off point, and that being over a certain income bracket makes you evil and oppressive. You also seem to view capital as a sort of stagnant and immovable 'force'. The fact is, capital is worthless unless it is being invested, and thus is almost always in transit.

    A 'capitalist' buys shoes, that's the movement of money; they drive from their house to the store (having bought petrol), that's movement; they invest in a business venture, again, that's movement. Capital always changes hands, unless there are barriers to that.

    And what exactly do you mean by 'alienated' anyway? Alienated from what?
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    (Original post by Relaxicat)
    ...
    Well, you say we currently live in a capitalist society. So, pray tell, what other type of society has existed in history? In the entirety of human existence, nothing even remotely resembling a Socialist or Communist society has ever existed. This is because both these theories are basically flights of fancy which don't take into account how people actually behave. The only systems close to that are the sort of collectivist command economies that have been attempted all over the world, and have subsequently proven how incredibly inefficient the system is at providing for the basic needs that help people live from day to day.

    Collectivism works for ants, not humans.

    My post wasn't to say there aren't certain 'systems', to call them that, which can be used in different societies, it was to say Marxist systems don't do that, because... well, they're crap. Senates, juries, democracy, Capitalism... these are all systems which actually utilise human action rather than attempting to alter it into a utopian dream of completely altruistic creatures. The 'flaws' of those systems, if you want to call them that, are the same as the 'flaws' of human nature, if want to call them that.

    I would strongly suggest you read some more contemporary economic theorists; hell, I'd even suggest you read Keynes instead of Marx! His theories weren't relevant to 'Capitalism', just society in during that period. Or maybe, lets say the application of Capitalism in the time he lived him, which is fair enough really.
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    (Original post by D.R.E)
    Well, you say we currently live in a capitalist society. So, pray tell, what other type of society has existed in history? In the entirety of human existence, nothing even remotely resembling a Socialist or Communist society has ever existed. This is because both these theories are basically flights of fancy which don't take into account how people actually behave. The only systems close to that are the sort of collectivist command economies that have been attempted all over the world, and have subsequently proven how incredibly inefficient the system is at providing for the basic needs that help people live from day to day.
    Not actually true. There have been, and still are, societies where people share what they produce. A good example are the Yanomamo people, where consuming stuff you've caught or made yourself is taboo. To say that markets as a method of distribution are something to do with human nature is clearly wrong when for the majority of human history there hasn't really been much conception of property.



    .... it was to say Marxist systems don't do that, because... well, they're crap. Senates, juries, democracy, Capitalism... these are all systems which actually utilise human action rather than attempting to alter it into a utopian dream of completely altruistic creatures. The 'flaws' of those systems, if you want to call them that, are the same as the 'flaws' of human nature, if want to call them that.
    I'm sure what you've just said is a fallacy because you're assuming that what we have now is based on human nature rather than allowing for the possibility that your idea of human nature has been shaped by these kinds of institutions...
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    (Original post by D.R.E)
    Well, you say we currently live in a capitalist society. So, pray tell, what other type of society has existed in history? In the entirety of human existence, nothing even remotely resembling a Socialist or Communist society has ever existed. This is because both these theories are basically flights of fancy which don't take into account how people actually behave. The only systems close to that are the sort of collectivist command economies that have been attempted all over the world, and have subsequently proven how incredibly inefficient the system is at providing for the basic needs that help people live from day to day.

    Collectivism works for ants, not humans.

    My post wasn't to say there aren't certain 'systems', to call them that, which can be used in different societies, it was to say Marxist systems don't do that, because... well, they're crap. Senates, juries, democracy, Capitalism... these are all systems which actually utilise human action rather than attempting to alter it into a utopian dream of completely altruistic creatures. The 'flaws' of those systems, if you want to call them that, are the same as the 'flaws' of human nature, if want to call them that.

    I would strongly suggest you read some more contemporary economic theorists; hell, I'd even suggest you read Keynes instead of Marx! His theories weren't relevant to 'Capitalism', just society in during that period. Or maybe, lets say the application of Capitalism in the time he lived him, which is fair enough really.
    Gremlins has already covered the best counter points, but i'll have my own shot...


    You are certainly right to say that capitalism works, but this does not mean that it is good, or is the only system that ever has been or there will ever be.


    (Original post by D.R.E)
    So, pray tell, what other type of society has existed in history? In the entirety of human existence, nothing even remotely resembling a Socialist or Communist society has ever existed. This is because both these theories are basically flights of fancy which don't take into account how people actually behave
    This is quite massive generalisation of history. If we are talking 'the entirety of human existence', then I might condescendingly refer back to the stone age, where we may have seen trade between peoples, but such definitions of capitalism such as 'where a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state' clearly wouldn't apply, given a lack of any particular industry, or private ownership of the means of the production. Furthermore, our cavemen weren't interested in the accumulation of capital .

    Your approach is therefore anachronistic - you take what we define as capitalism and say it has always applied everywhere. What you really mean I think is the principle of trade. Which is not the same thing at all!

    To elaborate on other types of societies, which you seem to think I will strive hard to find, I might mention dictatorships such as North Korea - where there is no free trade. Communist states such as China and Russia (past ones) where communes were utilised. And also the types of egalitarian tribes which Gremlins speaks of, where there is no concept of private ownership.




    (Original post by D.R.E)
    I would strongly suggest you read some more contemporary economic theorists; hell, I'd even suggest you read Keynes instead of Marx! His theories weren't relevant to 'Capitalism', just society in during that period. Or maybe, lets say the application of Capitalism in the time he lived him, which is fair enough really.
    Yes, the communist manifesto was about contemporary concerns, but if you actually read Marx's Capital (I strongly suspect that you haven't) then you'll see that it is predominantly theory divorced from any particular contemporary concerns. Otherwise, as I have said, your reasoning would be that Plato's concerns in Republic wouldn't apply anymore when they clearly do.
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    (Original post by D.R.E)
    ...
    No worries about late responses, I'm often away from TSR for periods and don't always get to reply to everything quickly, sometimes I don't get to reply at all.

    Ok, I don't know that I've covered every base but here's my considered response anyway.

    Marx was self-consciously aiming for a universally applicable theory of human society, he wanted to be as ‘scientific’ as possible (and which is where, I think, he came a little unstuck in his future political programme, if not his past and present analysis). So, whatever it was that Malcolm X was doing, Marx was deliberately looking for a methodology which could explain all human societies in all contexts, just as the theory of gravity is intended to be universally applicable. This is, as it happens, where the Marxists tend to distinguish themselves from ‘sociological’ theories more generally, and which tend to have much narrower or context-dependent ambitions.

    As far as I’m concerned unequal distribution of resources doesn’t have any logically necessary relationship with unequal capabilities, but then I’m coming from the more radical leftist perspective that is Marxism. Why exactly, for example, should someone who happens to be weaker (physically or intellectually) be disadvantaged in their access to resources? Is a short person responsible for their ‘shortness’ and hence ‘deserve’ their lesser access under circumstances where tall people can monopolise? Down that road lies social Darwinism, and you don’t want to go there, do you? Just because capitalism and private-property monopolisation can be characterised in terms of ‘winners and losers’ that doesn’t make it legitimate. There are winners and losers under Nazism too, that’s not a defence and nor is winning and losing a necessarily all-or-nothing arrangement, there are scales or ‘winning and losing’ aside from my Marxist approach of seeking, ultimately, to abolish that way of organising society. To be fair, however, my reference to ‘equal’ access is, ultimately, a slightly inaccurate use of terminology, I should always talk about ‘equitable’ access, though for most purposes ‘equal’ is close enough and avoids even greater complexity in such discussions. You see, I’m interested in treating people as equals and this should be regardless of whether they have productive advantages or disadvantages. My, admittedly radical, position, is that we don’t really have ‘deserved’ or ‘underserved’ productive powers, we don’t really have ‘agency’, we don’t really have ‘free will’. Given this, it is thus reasonable for me to promote the idea that what matters above all is that arrangements are equitable and that all our basic needs are met as a matter of first priority. Competition is fine in Olympic races, but not when competition is inserted into the very processes which determine who gets to eat and who doesn’t, who has access to resources and who doesn’t, who gets an education and who doesn’t.

    All I have to show is that when A is successful in asserting his claim, through private property, to some 1000 acres of land, some lake, some mountain, or whatever, then B, C and D are alienated from unfettered (or at least equitably agreed) access or use, and it thus represents monopolisation, both in their specific terms (of those fields, that lake, or that mountain) and as portions of an ultimately finite earth more generally. The complex web of relations between capital as land and resources on the one hand and capital as money on the other, mean that they mutually reinforce each other, they are mutually constitutive, at least in actually existing capitalism they are. As for ownership, the ultimate Marxist aim is to abolish it and render it as illegitimate as we currently regard the idea of ownership of the air.
 
 
 
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