First, capitalism is not an economic system, as he says; it is a political one, just as are slavery and feudalism.
It is a political system which prohibits people from taking land for free for subsistence. This forces people to work for other people. And the forcing is not done by the kind of laws, as in slavery or feudalism, or by laws against vagrancy (homelessness), but simply by laws forbidding free access to subsistence land.
Watch the episode below. You will hear nothing about a free access to subsistence land.
In the debate below, Gene Epstein argues convincingly that worker-owned enterprises are compatible with capitalism.
First, because the so called “intellectuals” do not offer such a definition.
Second, because most city people’s concern (including students’ concern) is to succeed in this (capitalist) system by either getting a good job, or by creating a good business.
Third, because if city people had access to land, they would not know what to do with it. People have become alienated from the use of land except in some aesthetic or romantic way of walking through it or viewing it. People do not know how to grow food or how to care for animals.
However, the correctness of this definition is known instinctively by peasants, who when they have rebelled or protested did so invariably under the slogan “land and liberty.”
The root evil of capitalism — which is really a political system — is that politically it bars people from using land for free for subsistence. Not having such free access to subsistence land, drives people to becoming either employers or employees, depending on their capabilities and good fortune.
I am surprised that Wolff, who claims to be a Marxist economist, does not find this truth in the writings of Marx. It is there in Chapter 26: “The Secret of Primitive Accumulation” of Capital.
But the question of what is capitalism is not addressed. And when it is addressed, it is misrepresented. The first misrepresentation is to view that capitalism is only a form of economy — specifically a market-economy. But a market-economy is just barter or trade, which has existed from time immemorial. Neither can capitalism be identified with factory production — again something that has almost always existed as a specialized form of production.
Contrary to being an economic system, it is a political system. How so? It is a political system which bars people from taking up free subsistence land. This is a necessary condition for the existence for an industrial market-economy. What I am saying is that capitalism is a political system which forces people into a market-economy.
So, what would be the antithesis of capitalism? It would be a political system which grants everyone the right to a chunk of free subsistence land. Does such a system exist anywhere in the world? Yes, all indigenous people who have not been forced into the market-economy are free of capitalism. The next closest to this are, for example, the peasant villages which are to be found in Eastern Europe and Asia, which are more or less self-sufficient.
Because under capitalism one is, as Chomsky says, “driven into the industrial system, and into wage-slavery”, and “driven” is another word for “forced,” and the “force” comes from the laws of government, capitalism is a political system.
There are only a few writers that have viewed the essence of capitalism as I view it. See my previous postings:
Chomsky’s economic solution is to have a system of worker-owned enterprises. A solution, incidentally, which is also supported by Richard Wolff.
My quick response it that a worker-owned enterprise is compatible with capitalism. It does not address itself to the problem of unemployment.
The problem with this interview is that it does not address itself to the question: “How is the population driven into the industrial system?”
The answer is tied to the necessary condition for capitalism, which is the political deprivation of people to a free access to subsistence land. And the other matter which has to be addressed is: How does such a political system work (and is possible) which drives people into wage-slavery ?
What is required is a critique of the U.S. Constitution — a critique which neither Chomsky nor Hedges is prepared to give!
Paul Jay, Three Investment Banks Control More Wealth Than GDP of China – and Threaten Our Existence, theANALYSIS.news
There seems to be a renewed interest in what is called “socialism.” And there are all sorts of debates available on the internet, titled “Capitalism vs Socialism.” And as I listened to these debates, it is apparent that talk is at cross purposes. For one, no one in the current debates about capitalism seems to know how to define “capitalism.” All proffered definitions are inadequate. It cannot be defined simply as a market economy, because a market economy has always existed — it is called trade or barter. It cannot be defined by the incentive of profit, because that incentive again has always existed. It cannot be defined as a form of chattel slavery or serfdom. And it cannot be defined by an employer-employee relationship, because this too has always existed, as, for example, with mercenary armies.
Capitalism — though it had prior existence — did not loom large until industrialization, i.e., until there occurred large scale factory production which needed workers. It is the method by which workers are recruited (or forced to seek work) which distinguished capitalism from such systems as slavery and feudalism. And perhaps a clear case of “recruitment” is illustrated by the British way of obtaining field workers in Africa — without resorting to slavery or feudalism, — simply by imposing a “hut tax,” which is equivalent to a contemporary property tax on real estates.
But the root of capitalism is really even more basic. It consists in forbidding people to occupy subsistence land for free. And to enact such a policy there must be someone who by force prevents you from taking up free subsistence land. And that someone nowadays is the government. So, if the necessary condition for capitalism is this exclusion from taking up free subsistence land, and this exclusion is the work of a government, capitalism should be seen as a political matter, and, thus, the study of economics is better referred to — as it was in the past — as “political economy.” It is only, by abstracting the political element that the system thus engendered can be called “economics.”
The upshot of my discussion is this. Anyone who talks about capitalism without mentioning the necessity of excluding people from taking up free subsistence land, does not know what they are talking about.
Given this understanding of capitalism, the antithesis of capitalism is — if there is a government — the permission, or the right, of taking up free subsistence land.
The only one of the recent writers who saw this clearly was Jerry Cohen, who vividly portrayed the situation by using Al Capp’s fanciful cartoon creature, the Shmoo, as representing the fruits of subsistence land.
What is called “socialism” is meant to be a corrective to capitalism — not necessarily its antithesis, which, rightly understood, is anarchism (or “libertarian socialism”).
The state or “authoritarian” socialist corrective relies on using a centralized government to institute welfare programs. The nearest remedy or compensation for depriving people of a free access to subsistence land, is something like a negative income tax, or a universal minimum income.
What is presented by Richard Wolff as the “new socialism” or worker-owned and operated enterprises, seems to be a form of state socialism and social democracy. Wolff offers the Mondragon Corporation as a model. Such businesses are not antithetical to capitalism — and, in fact, are just one form of a capitalist undertaking, as are various communal enterprises, such as the Amish or the Anabaptist Mennonites. They are not antithetical to capitalism as long as their land could be purchased, and they are subject to property taxes.
The only one who focused on this political fact was Bernard Shaw, who said the following: “To begin with, the word Capitalism is misleading. The proper name of our system is Proletarianism.” [See Capitalism = Proletarianism] Barring people from doing whatever, can be called a political or coercive act. In that case Proletarianism [aka Capitalism) is a political system.
I know that people who defend Capitalism focus of the market transactions between a employers and employees, pointing out the benefits to the economy — technological innovations, mass production, and better living conditions. And this is true, except for the existence of the unemployed, the underemployed, and poverty.
I tried to understand the characteristics of capitalism (=proletarianism) by the model of two persons marooned on an island. [See Three forms of slavery: chattel slavery, serfdom, and wage-slavery]
There was one transaction between Crusoe and Friday which has bothered me. This is the situation in which Crusoe and Friday share the island equally, but Crusoe has a rifle and bullets, and the island if full of wild animals which can easily be hunted with the rifle. Crusoe offers Friday the use of the rifle on the condition that Friday is to provide to Crusoe half of all his kills. Friday agrees because he will be better off hunting with a rifle rather than by some more primitive mode. He will have more food with less effort, and more leisure. Here we have a situation in which Crusoe reaps a profit from Friday without doing any work himself. We can also call this an employer-employee relationship.
My point here is that you can have a market economy without slavery, serfdom, or wage-slavery. Or, put otherwise, a market economy can exist without Proletarianism (aka Capitalism).
What prevents Friday from making his own rifle and bullets?
On the island, nothing.
On the mainland, a government with a patent law!