Socialists Question Time AKA 'Ask a Socialist' Watch

This discussion is closed.
Melancholy
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#4561
Report 6 years ago
#4561
(Original post by Abiraleft)
Where does he say socialism would have no impact on the environment? :confused: I think his point was more that in terms of ideology, a socialist economic model might be less inclined to causing the environment harm - centrally because of its attachment to an altogether less consumerist culture - than a capitalist one.
Except it makes no sense for a company operating within a competitive free market to use more resources than is necessitated by demand - you'd actually get a more efficient use of resources as companies so that they're not wasting resources (and therefore reducing their profit).

As non-renewable resources become more and more scarce, lack of supply will forces prices up, making it more rational for capitalists to invest in renewables.

On the supply-side, the free-market capitalists win the day.

You're talking about the demand-side of the market - reducing consumerism. This sounds nice when abstractly articulated, but practically-speaking: How are you going to control people's demands without an element of coercion? And, relatedly, how are you to decide what people's ought to be without a price-mechanism, and how do you co-ordinate suppliers to meet the needs of billions individuals, all with unique personalities?
0
Oswy
Badges: 13
#4562
Report 6 years ago
#4562
(Original post by Harmonic Minor)
What about socialism's horrible environmental record in the USSR? Chernobyl...?
As has been noted, most leftists distinguish between the statism of the Soviet Union and which, ironically, spent a lot of time trying to immitate and compete with capitalist society (in terms of industrial and consumer production as well as military rivalry) and socialist societies better fitting the term. The kind of socialism that I support, needs based socialism, is inherently counter consumerism - consumerism being in large measure the environmentally destructive manufacture of false needs to keep the cycle of profit making alive under capitalism. That's not to say we don't need to consume some things and can't avoid the use of the earth's resources, but they should be justified and always mindful of wider impact. It's no coincidence that many in the Green movement are of a leftists, even Marxist, orientation, because, by way of example, leftism is concerned that everyone has clean drinking water as a matter of need, not with whether a small number of people can have their favourite spring water flown by private jet across three continents and helicoptered out to their yacht just because the excesses of market logic allows it.
Oswy
Badges: 13
#4563
Report 6 years ago
#4563
(Original post by Melancholy)
...How are you going to control people's demands without an element of coercion?...
The masses are routinely coerced into accepting their unsatisfied needs under capitalism; complain with too much vigour or make an attempt to take what you need and you'll be arrested, no matter that there are superabundances. The capitalist class have it all sown-up.
Melancholy
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#4564
Report 6 years ago
#4564
(Original post by Oswy)
Not to ignore the earlier points in your post - I think those discussions could go back and forth for some time as our lives disappear - but I wanted to address this in particular.

I genuinely do think that our capacities to be more 'rounded' human beings in our relations with others, if that's not too woolly a concept, are in no small measure predicated on our basic human needs being satisfied and our wellbeing supported. I know that when I've gone without food for longer than usual I get ratty - how much more likely is that the whole matrix of unsatisfied (or weakly satisfied) needs will contribute to our behaviour towards, and interest in, others? I suspect quite a bit more. If I went to sleep every night knowing that my family and I would never have to worry about where our next meal, indeed our next decent meal, was coming from, or whether or not we'd ever suffer homelessness through unemployment or other personal catastrophy, or struggle to pay for medicines or endure impoverishment in old age (among any number of other things) I think I'd probably wake up a much happier and friendlier person all other things being equal - wouldn't you? It's not like humanity don't have the resources, despite what some might say, thanks to technological advance our productive powers and capacity to provide for everyone have never been higher (and banks have never been fuller of huge wealth accumulated into the hands of a shockingly small percentile of the world's population either).

I know that I'm one of a relatively small number of radical leftist here at TSR and that radical leftism is very much on the back-foot in the current era of capitalism, even as we witness its crises. The ideology of capitalism is strong and its various instruments of promotion dominating. But what I think is still worth asking the sceptic is to consider how capitalism is changing the world - even the most dogmatic of pro-capitalist can't deny that capitalism generates such immense change, social change, technological change, environmental change, you name it. We're definately going somewhere under capitalism and, in comparison to the length of time previous modes of production have lasted (like the era of slave societies and feudal ones which have come after them) we're going somewhere pretty quickly. If I can persuade the sceptic to think in these, historical terms, rather than in terms of abstracted and formulaic terms (the prefered mode of analysis in orthodox capitalist economics for example) then I can persuade them that there's a trajectory to think about.
Most historical change is motivated by economic incentives, whether we're talking about grand structures or individuals (but usually grand structures); evidence that there is something within humans that wants to 'strive' for a better way of life, rather than just accept one. Life, for many, is a game. I think you mischaracterise human nature [and certainly, as animals with emotions that lead us to want to survive, reproduce, be safe, and succeed, human nature does exist in some empirical, rather than wildly metaphysical, sense] if you think that humans will be content with mere equality (of, presumably, wealth), averageness, conformity, and so forth. How utterly depressing to know that, however hard you want to work, you will always be pushed down - it's not a rosy way of life, or at least I'm unwilling to uncritically accept it as such.

That's not to say that people who are relatively worse-off won't be disheartened (heck, I'm a liberal egalitarian who believes that all talents and abilities to motivate oneself [leading to financial gains] are morally arbitrary and thus not strictly deserved in any moralistic sense, but are merely what Rawls calls 'legitimate expectations'); but I AM saying that it's by no means certain that people will be happier under a socialist system just because the poor would be happier with food. Sure they would; but welfare for the poor is not solely the concern of the socialist, and indeed the socialist goes much further to cause misery for the would-be entrepreneur.
0
Harmonic Minor
Badges: 1
Rep:
?
#4565
Report 6 years ago
#4565
(Original post by Oswy)
The masses are routinely coerced into accepting their unsatisfied needs under capitalism; complain with too much vigour or make an attempt to take what you need and you'll be arrested, no matter that there are superabundances. The capitalist class have it all sown-up.
Kind of like all the looters this summer stealing the things they needed, like iPhones and designer trainers?

We have laws to protect people's property, and anybody in this country who literally lacks the basic necessities to live (food, shelter) can have it supplied by the government.
0
Melancholy
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#4566
Report 6 years ago
#4566
(Original post by Oswy)
The masses are routinely coerced into accepting their unsatisfied needs under capitalism; complain with too much vigour or make an attempt to take what you need and you'll be arrested, no matter that there are superabundances. The capitalist class have it all sown-up.
This objection lies on a definitional confusion. I am defining coercion as the use of physical force rather than freely chosen. If I am obstructed from purchasing an item that I would otherwise be freely entitled to purchase (by a law or otherwise), then that is coercion. If a huge advertising campaign tempts me to purchase various items, that is freely chosen and is not coercion. Though I'll be charitable and accept that you can use coercion in that way if you desire, it doesn't affect the force of my point which is not driven by the moral force behind language such as "coercion", but is a practical problem.

Practically it is easy to see how companies, each acting individually, can meet the needs of their consumers (I will add, though it's unimportant, they do this uncoercively in a non-physical and prima facie non-sinister manner). It is NOT, however, easy to see how a law or the State (... or would you like to suggest another agent?) can suddenly change people's demands.

Ultimately, freedom (negative liberty) in a market-based society is much easier, practically, to allow to satisfy people's demands because the market is just simply each person acting on their own desires, without any need for a grand co-ordinated plan. A State is unable, practically, to plan this - and I refer to various articles in contemporary political philosophy to demonstrate this: Mises Economic Calculation Problem and Hayek's "Use of Knowledge in Society" essay, for example.
0
Melancholy
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#4567
Report 6 years ago
#4567
(Original post by Oswy)
Obviously capitalism generates winners as well as losers. While you ponder over the size of memory in your iPhone (the one which will no doubt be obsolete in months) others struggle to buy food or secure their own home. I don't think it's any coincidence either that the constant chasing of the latest consumer gadget generates anxiety over satisfaction - iPhones and the like are (beyond their most basic usefulness) a generation of 'false needs' in order to keep you buying stuff.
There is no system under which the worst-off in society would be better-off than under a mixed-economy. Your winners and losers imagery misrepresents economics as a zero-sum game. Why not incentivise the talented to use their skill, and take a proportion of the fruits of their labour to help the poorest? It's far better than incentivising nobody (other than through physical force, perhaps) - the talentless are still left without food.
0
Oswy
Badges: 13
#4568
Report 6 years ago
#4568
(Original post by Melancholy)
...Life, for many, is a game...
I think that for the comfortably off under capitalism life probably is often just a 'game' knowing that they are unlikely to suffer poverty, homelessness or the lack of any other basic needs which for those less privileged are real concerns.

I don't have much time for the argument that the capitalist class are the 'hard working' class, if that's what you're trying to offer up, they routinely get other people to do their actual hard work. Beyond that, socialism doesn't have to inhibit hard work, indeed as more people have their basic needs met so their capacities and interests in maximising their contribution to wider society is likely to increase. Believe it or not as far as there is a 'human nature' to pin down it seems to include a universal desire to contribute to the wellbeing of the wider community - although much suppressed by expectations and direction under capitalism which rewards, nay demands, greed, selfishness and narcissistic individualism.
Melancholy
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#4569
Report 6 years ago
#4569
(Original post by Oswy)
Private property is as much a historically generated human construct as slavery has been - the latter also having become a near-universal feature of human civilisation - so your attempted argument from history falls flat. Indeed, for the longest period of their history as a species humans have lived as hunter-gatherers where land and natural resources have consistently been understood as community resources, not a potential for individualised private monopolisation. As always the pro-capitalist argument sees the condition of capitalism normatively and tries to back-project it, even universalise it.
This is incorrect and sloppy. True, entitlement structures surrounding private property are, like all rules and laws, socially constructed. BUT the fact that property can be controlled is an ontological fact of nature. Even if hunter-gatherers work together then split the fruits of their labour between them, there is still an entitlement system, based on some sort of [perhaps tacit or unspoken] rule, which defines what one is entitled to privately control. The entitlement system, whilst socially-constructed, does not mean that private property itself is socially constructed - it is a ONTOLOGICAL fact.

Your romanticising of a propertyless society fails under analytical scrutiny. This is what frustrates me about historians (I am a history student, by the way). Histiography, defences of history, philosophies of history written by historians (e.g. E H Carr and Richard J Evans) are NOT in-tune with analytical philosophy, and they're therefore sloppy in how they communicate concepts.
0
ahq
Badges: 13
#4570
Report 6 years ago
#4570
(Original post by Melancholy)
Except it makes no sense for a company operating within a competitive free market to use more resources than is necessitated by demand - you'd actually get a more efficient use of resources as companies so that they're not wasting resources (and therefore reducing their profit).

As non-renewable resources become more and more scarce, lack of supply will forces prices up, making it more rational for capitalists to invest in renewables.

On the supply-side, the free-market capitalists win the day.

You're talking about the demand-side of the market - reducing consumerism. This sounds nice when abstractly articulated, but practically-speaking: How are you going to control people's demands without an element of coercion? And, relatedly, how are you to decide what people's ought to be without a price-mechanism, and how do you co-ordinate suppliers to meet the needs of billions individuals, all with unique personalities?
I would imagine that like many instances of cultural change, it would be a (maybe gradual) transformation following (or during) political restructuring. If it sounds abstract, then it's probably because at this point, it is. :dontknow:
Oswy
Badges: 13
#4571
Report 6 years ago
#4571
(Original post by Melancholy)
...I am defining coercion as the use of physical force rather than freely chosen...
As far as I'm concerned the concept of coercion is just as applicable to situations where a person is persuaded by threat of force not to satisfy their need to eat as it is to so eat. I appreciate that you're looking to prescribe philosophical definitions to fit your agenda but it doesn't wash.
Oswy
Badges: 13
#4572
Report 6 years ago
#4572
(Original post by Melancholy)
...BUT the fact that property can be controlled is an ontological fact of nature...
Now you're just question begging.
Melancholy
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#4573
Report 6 years ago
#4573
(Original post by Oswy)
I think that for the comfortably off under capitalism life probably is often just a 'game' knowing that they are unlikely to suffer poverty, homelessness or the lack of any other basic needs which for those less privileged are real concerns.
Rescuing those classes does not entail socialism, merely a liberal welfare state.

I don't have much time for the argument that the capitalist class are the 'hard working' class, if that's what you're trying to offer up, they routinely get other people to do their actual hard work. Beyond that, socialism doesn't have to inhibit hard work, indeed as more people have their basic needs met so their capacities and interests in maximising their contribution to wider society is likely to increase. Believe it or not as far as there is a 'human nature' to pin down it seems to include a universal desire to contribute to the wellbeing of the wider community - although much suppressed by expectations and direction under capitalism which rewards, nay demands, greed, selfishness and narcissistic individualism.
If that were true then there would be no suffering in the world - voluntarism within a capitalist society would be sufficient. I think you're in danger of choosing human nature to meet your theory rather than empirically observing the very clear evidence that animals seek their own survival and wish to satisfy their own preferences (which often involves basic needs and pursuit of pleasures).

The market system does not demand greed. You can happily live a poor or average lifestyle if you want. If you want to be richer, by definition, you have to be greedier. I'm unsure of your point. Isn't it inherently greedy for you to seek the fruits of other people's labour? Or selfish to look after your own interests? I don't see why you're using such negative language to make these points.

As for hard-working people prospering - my point doesn't rely on this direct perfect correlation; just that effort can be a means to acquire more. I may be born unfairly poor - some people might be born unfairly rich - however effort, from an instant position of unfairness, is more likely to be productive, thus satisfying a human desire for autonomy, the idea of self-governing and making your own life, and flourishing.
0
Melancholy
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#4574
Report 6 years ago
#4574
(Original post by Oswy)
Now you're just question begging.
I think you should learn the definition of philosophical terms. That was not begging the question. I explained precisely why private property is an ontological fact of nature. Read the whole post:

"This is incorrect and sloppy. True, entitlement structures surrounding private property are, like all rules and laws, socially constructed. BUT the fact that property can be controlled is an ontological fact of nature. Even if hunter-gatherers work together then split the fruits of their labour between them, there is still an entitlement system, based on some sort of [perhaps tacit or unspoken] rule, which defines what one is entitled to privately control. The entitlement system, whilst socially-constructed, does not mean that private property itself is socially constructed - it is a ONTOLOGICAL fact.

Your romanticising of a propertyless society fails under analytical scrutiny. This is what frustrates me about historians (I am a history student, by the way). Histiography, defences of history, philosophies of history written by historians (e.g. E H Carr and Richard J Evans) are NOT in-tune with analytical philosophy, and they're therefore sloppy in how they communicate concepts."

Thank you. Show me where I was begging the question?
0
Melancholy
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#4575
Report 6 years ago
#4575
(Original post by Oswy)
As far as I'm concerned the concept of coercion is just as applicable to situations where a person is persuaded by threat of force not to satisfy their need to eat as it is to so eat. I appreciate that you're looking to prescribe philosophical definitions to fit your agenda but it doesn't wash.
Then your problem, yet again, is with ontological fact, if you define a situation in which humans are tempted to purchase food just because it is advertised to them. Your body coerces you to eat, in the sense in which you use the word 'coercion'. This robs coercion of any moral weight when you use coercion in this sense. Is your body immoral for coercing you to eat? Wow.

I'm not rigging definitions to meet my agenda, I'm just ensuring that my definitions make coherent sense.

(I would describe threat of force as coercion, by the way).
0
Melancholy
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#4576
Report 6 years ago
#4576
Anyway, I'm done now.
0
Oswy
Badges: 13
#4577
Report 6 years ago
#4577
(Original post by Melancholy)
Rescuing those classes does not entail socialism, merely a liberal welfare state.

If that were true then there would be no suffering in the world - voluntarism within a capitalist society would be sufficient. I think you're in danger of choosing human nature to meet your theory rather than empirically observing the very clear evidence that animals seek their own survival and wish to satisfy their own preferences (which often involves basic needs and pursuit of pleasures).

The market system does not demand greed. You can happily live a poor or average lifestyle if you want. If you want to be richer, by definition, you have to be greedier. I'm unsure of your point. Isn't it inherently greedy for you to seek the fruits of other people's labour? Or selfish to look after your own interests? I don't see why you're using such negative language to make these points.

As for hard-working people prospering - my point doesn't rely on this direct perfect correlation; just that effort can be a means to acquire more. I may be born unfairly poor - some people might be born unfairly rich - however effort, from an instant position of unfairness, is more likely to be productive, thus satisfying a human desire for autonomy, the idea of self-governing and making your own life, and flourishing.
Liberalism isn't working in its alleged help for the poor, the real-world tendency, as the crisis of capitalism deepens, is to turn away from redistribution and towards 'classical' liberal and right-libertarian doctrine. Capitalism isn't just a system within which we must operate but a system which substantively generates and directs our behaviour and values, as all modes of production do. I'm pretty sceptical when people start to wave about references to 'human nature' as we are a species which has evolved a big brain and a significant capacity to orientate ourselves to the conditions we find ourselves in. Yes, humans, like other animals invariably place a priority on their own survival and satisfaction of their own needs, but it's an intellectual dishonesty to suggest that this is where human instinct stops or that there's no potential for our rational moderation of instinct. The market very much does demand greed given that we must compete for all our needs, even our most basic of needs, under capitalism, if we fail to compete we suffer for it and the economic uncertainties of capitalist economics only intensified that greed. I have no idea what you're saying in your last point but I'll repeat that I reject any inference that the capitalist class are so because they have proven, and do prove, themselves to be a class of hard workers.
Oswy
Badges: 13
#4578
Report 6 years ago
#4578
(Original post by Melancholy)
...
I'm not rigging definitions to meet my agenda, I'm just ensuring that my definitions make coherent sense...
Yeah, you are. Humans need to eat to survive and preventing them from doing so by force is a form of coercion, no matter that they might have to eat that which others have defined as their 'private property'.
Oswy
Badges: 13
#4579
Report 6 years ago
#4579
(Original post by Melancholy)
...BUT the fact that property can be controlled is an ontological fact of nature...

...Show me where I was begging the question?
I'm suggesting that 'private property' is an historically generated concept rooted in specific forms of social and economic organisation and that the earth and its resources don't have some metaphysical status as 'private property' outside of that. When you make reference to 'the fact that property can be...' as if the earth and the resources are already 'property' before you even begin your argument you're question begging.
Melancholy
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#4580
Report 6 years ago
#4580
(Original post by Oswy)
Liberalism isn't working in its alleged help for the poor, the real-world tendency, as the crisis of capitalism deepens, is to turn away from redistribution and towards 'classical' liberal and right-libertarian doctrine.
The poorest class of people are the most optimally-situated than they've ever been in the history of the world.

Capitalism isn't just a system within which we must operate but a system which substantively generates and directs our behaviour and values, as all modes of production do. I'm pretty sceptical when people start to wave about references to 'human nature' as we are a species which has evolved a big brain and a significant capacity to orientate ourselves to the conditions we find ourselves in.
Are you committing yourself to the implication that humans choose their desires? I certainly don't choose my desires, they are unconsciously motivating rather than consciously chosen. In that sense, I am a passive slave to my passions. The size of my brain, intellect and my ability to reason does not change that. A smoker might have the higher-order interest in not being tempted to smoke, but they certainly don't control their instinctive temptations to smoke. We don't control what motivates us, and so I think this part of your argument is insufficient. Animals spirits rule us.

Yes, humans, like other animals invariably place a priority on their own survival and satisfaction of their own needs, but it's an intellectual dishonesty to suggest that this is where human instinct stops.
But I am immune from this criticism because I accept that charitable organisations and voluntary groups do voluntarily occur under a market-system. My only claim is that not everybody will magically be motivated in this same way.

The market very much does demand greed given that we must compete for all our needs, even our most basic of needs, under capitalism, if we fail to compete we suffer for it and the economic uncertainties of capitalist economics only intensified that greed.
Greed is an ontological fact. Hunter-gatherers are greedy when they search for food. I don't see why this sort of greed is a bad thing when we're talking about the minimum motivation of getting food for yourself (which doesn't require much competitive energy in a market system, certainly no more energy than your hunt for food as a hunter-gatherer). And how to cultivate a culture where hunter-gatherers splendidly ignore self-interest and work together and share their good (even if one has done most the hunting) without feelings of resentment - AND on a huge scale such that you can still get Tesco Value chicken for £1 [so that the poorest are well-served] - is a huge practical question for socialists.

I mean, if you became the sovereign, what really would be your first policy to create this society?

I have no idea what you're saying in your last point but I'll repeat that I reject any inference that the capitalist class are so because they have proven, and do prove, themselves to be a class of hard workers.
It does not matter.
0
X
new posts
Latest
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

Personalise

Do you like exams?

Yes (140)
18.52%
No (459)
60.71%
Not really bothered about them (157)
20.77%

Watched Threads

View All