29 April 2007

The ‘C’ Word

In response to Curtis White’s Two-part Article Series The Idols of Environmentalism and The Ecology of Work

I have one basic question for Mr. White, What is capitalism?

In my way of understanding what makes up a human society there are three basic components: consciousness, how we think about ourselves, others, the world and the relations between all of them; power, how we govern our own and other people’s behaviors for the common good; and economics, how we exchange goods with other people to get what we need.

In your article you refer to ‘capitalism’ but I can’t figure out what you really mean by the term except as a generic reference to all the bad things in the world today. We can’t stop exchanging with others to get what we need but you explicitly suggest that ‘capitalism’ is an all pervasive idea that must be eliminated without offering an alternative.

As best I can tell in the absence of a more concrete definition of what you mean by capitalism, it sounds like you are saying that “the humans among us” are the only ones who are really going to accomplish anything, and not by boycotting corporations or by being concerned scientists, but by living in some mysterious way that does not involve any of the bad things that capitalism does. I wholeheartedly agree with most of your judgments about the bad things in the world today, but I believe the moral obligation of social criticism is to offer people more than just a very long litany of complaints about the state of the world and a scant few suggestions.

I appreciate your thoughtful reflections on how we play out the organizing principles of our society in modern work, but please help me with the distinction between capitalist forms of exchange from other forms.

My follow-up to this post, The 'C' Word, Part 2.

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