How Real is
Life in Capitalism?
Image: From "Recently Added" Gallery
August 25, 2009
August 25, 2009
"What means has the scientist of to-day to make researches that interest him? Should he ask help of the State, which can only be given to one candidate in a hundred, and which none may obtain who does not ostensibly promise to keep to the beaten track? Let us remember how the Institute of France censured Darwin, how the Academy of St. Petersburg treated Mendeléeff with contempt, and how the Royal Society of London refused to publish Joule's paper, in which he determined the mechanical equivalent of heat, finding it 'unscientific.'"
--Peter Kropotkin, 1892
"The Conquest of Bread," Chapter 9, Part IV
If I were living off the land, thousands of years ago, the value of every object would be justifiable. I could hold the spear I carved, and I would automatically equate it with the hours and the toil in making in. In the time in gathering supplies and constructing. And, were I to feel another spear, I would make a similar evaluation. The struggle in achieving greatness, in accomplishing something -- it would be immediately clear to me.
But living in Capitalism, all achievement is artificial. Whether I could be an innovative mathematician or a creative artist -- a logical engineer or a brilliant poet -- these do not depend on me, as the individual. It depends on the market potential for the service or commodity I offer, and whether a Capitalist wants to risk it.
"...it is certainly reasonable to form our opinion of the rank that is due to men of certain professions and stations, from the influence of their manner of life in cultivating the powers of the mind, or in preserving the sentiments of the heart."
--Adam Ferguson, 1767
"An Essay on the History of Civil Society," Part 4, Section II
From Bonaventura Cavalieri, John Wallis, James Gregory, to Isaac Newton, all major mathematicians were basically born into universities. They each were funded by the economic and social powers, and had to appease those who lifted them up. Great mathematicians may go to the grave without publishing a single formula; but it is the will of an economy that is directed by the passions and prejudices of the Capitalist class.
In Capitalism, your life achievements are meaningless and hollow. The conditions that determine how high you climb, or how low you fall, are all determined by the lusts and cravings of those who own the means of production. What you do doing your job, what energies are spent on, whether you compete, cooperate, accomplish, or fail -- these are not determined by your personal abilities. The outcome rests largely in how the social order and economy are organized, and the aim and end is always according to the interests of Capitalists.
"...as a wage worker in capitalist society you are not a man at all. You are simply a thing. And that thing is bought in the labor market, just as hair, hides and other forms of merchandise are bought."
--Eugene V. Debs, 1905
"Revolutionary Unionism," Speech at Chicago
You could've really contributed something unique to civilization, you could have genuinely advanced humanity as a whole -- but instead, you're dancing like a puppet. You swing, you miss, you laugh, you cry, you succeed, and you fail; or, you're promoted, and then laid off. Your happiness expands and shrinks, just another muscle that sacrifices and submits for the profit of Capitalists. What your life consists of is in how you work, value yourself, and interact with society. All of these things are necessarily controlled by the masters of industry. Five hundred years ago, that was the noble class, but today, it is the Capitalist class.
"In capitalist society, the architects, the engineers, the laborers, are not builders; the man who buys their labor is the builder; their projects, calculations and motions are alien to them; their living activity, their accomplishments, are his."
--Fredy Perlman, 1969
"The Reproduction of Daily Life"
If you want to liberate yourself, to become fully independent of their strings, you need to resist! As a single, solitary worker, you cannot demand anything from your boss. No matter how high or low, there are always armies of unemployed and underemployed. Any demand you make from your boss is shadowed by the millions in the same position begging for that job. There is no control over this social relationship if you approach your boss as one worker.
"...human life is more governed by fortune than by reason; is to be regarded more as a dull pastime than as a serious occupation..."
--David Hume, 1758
"Essays, Moral, Literary, Politic," Section: "The Sceptic"
You must approach the capitalist together! Workers in one business can unionize and strike for improved conditions, better pay, and work organized as the workers want. When all workers of an industry are organized, we can start demanding better things: more jobs on vacant and promising land, stricter environmental regulations, or prohibition of commodities made in foreign sweatshops. We can get political prisoners out of jail, or seriously cripple a war effort, or reclaim the land as a common heritage. But to realize our potential, we must organize into unions, and prepare for the strikes, boycotts, and direct actions that lay ahead!
"The ways by which you may get money almost without exception lead downward. To have done anything by which you earned money merely is to have been truly idle or worse. If the laborer gets no more than the wages which his employer pays him, he is cheated, he cheats himself. If you would get money as a writer or lecturer, you must be popular, which is to go down perpendicularly. Those services which the community will most readily pay for, it is most disagreeable to render. You are paid for being something less than a man. The State does not commonly reward a genius any more wisely. Even the poet laureate would rather not have to celebrate the accidents of royalty. He must be bribed with a pipe of wine; and perhaps another poet is called away from his muse to gauge that very pipe. As for my own business, even that kind of surveying which I could do with most satisfaction my employers do not want. They would prefer that I should do my work coarsely and not too well, ay, not well enough. When I observe that there are different ways of surveying, my employer commonly asks which will give him the most land, not which is most correct. I once invented a rule for measuring cord-wood, and tried to introduce it in Boston; but the measurer there told me that the sellers did not wish to have their wood measured correctly-- that he was already too accurate for them, and therefore they commonly got their wood measured in Charlestown before crossing the bridge. The aim of the laborer should be, not to get his living, to get 'a good job,' but to perform well a certain work; and, even in a pecuniary sense, it would be economy for a town to pay its laborers so well that they would not feel that they were working for low ends, as for a livelihood merely, but for scientific, or even moral ends."
--Henry David Thoreau, 1863
"Life Without Principle"