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March 30, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

Discourse of fetishism and the capitalism critique

Doesn’t debate, education, and politics fetishize words?
Doesn’t marxism fetishize theory? (although in the context of materialism & material harm)

Fetishize seems to be an empty buzzword.

If you don’t deliver VALUE to customers you don’t generally get money (abscent violating the rules of captialism & free trade). So you might say it also fetishizes VALUE and the CUSTOMER and the CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP. (Terrible, terrible, ideas I know. Wink, wink.)

And it fetishizes effort to reward relationship…..the idea of JUSTICE in exchange of goods. Wow! And where injustices exist–law, nonprofits, friends, family, religious groups, generous corporations, & other agents can and do step in.

Moreover, its not really the system that per se fetishizes it–its the people in the system. And they don’t intrinsically do it–they make a choice yes or no to fetishize money.

And…if its about fetization of objects….humans can be tempted to fetishize objects & money independent of an economic system. Saying “capitalism made them do it” just erases personal responsibility….which seems to erase the value of the K alternative and the ability for it to take place (without individual responsibility, who cares).

And you’ve imposed meaning on the situation….many entrepreneurs do it for any number of reasons besides money.

And a barter system of some sort is the pre-condition of trade, which means every system fetishizes something…


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  1. compassioninpolitics / Mar 30 2012 4:36 am

    First, I am one of you. I coached my kids to run the K. That probably created 75% of my coaching wins at the U of R and the U of W.

    Academics are taught to look the other way (or don’t know the difference)–i.e. a massive capitulation to the idea that all ideas are equally valuable (which means we perpetually don’t have the courage to actually do something–rethinking too much will leave you homeless on the street….unless you can sell your manifesto)

    The way the literature & debate works (at least in terms of the critique) we are taught to work through polarization. If we’ve learned anything through our time in debate…its usually that the truth is somewhere between the two poles…..not on one pole or other other per se. This heuristic or principle doesn’t always work….but negs. have an incentive to polarize the debate so they can answer the permutation. The uneven time constraints of the block versus the 1ar perceptually warp your idea of the viability of K ideas (methodologies & assumptions & alternatives).

    As I’ve pointed out before–capitalism isn’t perfect. Yes, it needs changed incentives and institutions….and certainly experimental attempts at resisting “the system” can be helpful in building up willpower (and perhaps even learning the weaknesses of the bad parts of capitalism) but individuals one by one overturning the system isn’t one which seems particularly viable (even on my most idealistic and utopian days).

    This same problem is being replicated in media and politics on the left and the right….with the “crazies” and extremists getting the most written about them. And let me say…its important to be a little bit crazy (Seal perhaps got it right).

    To my record non-violent protest in the last 12 months hasn’t gone anywhere in the US (to my knowledge). Attempts to stay entirely outside the system (except for media coverage & their use of capitalist technologies, food, & health care and housing)–didn’t work particularly well. Most of them ended up in jail…probably without pay. No reform happened on the issues they were talking about.
    Those outside the system–by its nature lack power and momentum.

    Those who think a radical/anti-captialist alternative society are possible on a large scale given current context and constraints are I think kidding themselves a bit. Maybe things will be different in 50, 100, 150 years–but in the mean time thats time that could have been devoted to saving the lives of millions in health care & with more customer and democracy centric policies. Elsewhere I’ve discussed how the Beliefs-Attitudes-and Values framework proves that this is a massive, massive, massive change in a massive, massive system.

    Lets say you get the US to do some Marxist-like alternative….chances are we’ll still have supra-national organizations (UN, WTO, IMF, and World Bank, which while perhaps changed are still beholden to the old frameworks).

    To my knowledge all the greatest reforms in American history have occurred within the system of the US government–and have heralded changes elsewhere because of their pragmatic appeal (and dare I say economic appeal).
    1) more rights to minorities
    2) slavery
    3) Constitution
    4) free speech
    5) civil rights era changes
    6) much of the progressive era
    7) environmental law
    They all involved creative uses of the system–some doing judo with the values of the system–mostly re-framing old values in terms of new ones.

    To Scu’s point on the market catering to the rich. Let me 100% concede that this is a problem.
    1) I’m not sure how to solve this externally, but that doesn’t mean there are ways to create incentives for the market to make shifts in this direction (perhaps subsidies or tax incentives for targeting these communities)
    2) Slowly but surely, its possible that up-market innovation or reverse innovation is at a viable point and companies will start doing it.

    * Caveat: to be fair–arguably the story has yet to be written on the protests entirely. And certainly the election might be a small test of sorts for its potential power. But could the same reform have happend by Stiglitz just writing more articles than in Vanity Fair?

    ** Problem 2: How do you quantify the impacts of the critique: 50,000 to 100,000 critiques run in a year (perhaps) times number of years of the critique has been in debate mainstream (we’ll say 12 to 14). The Title 7 topic & the development topic 2 years later were probably the largest influx….but what has become of all that re-thinking and change???? Don’t get me wrong, the academic exercise is helpful. And I think its good to ideologically re-route how society thinks about its values like justice and ethics….. By the way, I realize this is a short sighted way to look at the critiques influence, but feel that it provides a hint of what it does. People critique in debate….but besides smoking more cigarettes & eating vegan–don’t fundamentally change. And at a minimum, these two defeat each other–and I would argue the cigarette smoking is a net drain on the creative potential of the whole (slow death & debilitation). And its true…the activity resulted in both of these before the advent of the K, so its not really fair that it gets credit for either.

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