Time Heals All Wounds.. And Then Kills the Patient
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Sun Aug 1 19:03:34 2004
Bone in the Web

On Friday, on the way back from lunch, I ran into someone who was once a friend. As events have transpired between, apparently I am now a persona non grata with him -- he walked right by me twice, ignoring my saying hello, and only turned to look when he was well past me. There arn't too many things that can hurt me in day to day interaction, but yes, that hurts. It's one thing to decide that one doesn't have time or energy for a friendship, and I've occasionally done that, but quite another to become uncivil with someone.

I think I've read enough classic communist works to really decide what I think of the movement as a whole. This probably will be a repeat, at least partly, if you've read my previous musings on the topic. Still, philosophy does not spring like Athena from our heads -- a philosophical life should be one of constant chewing on ideas, and as in Open Source, we should release early, release often. Philosophy is indeed like Open Source Software -- we don't complain when new releases have a lot of code from the old. Anyhow.. back to the topic at hand. Before we consider Marx's system, let's first frame the question -- what are we analyzing, and what alternatives are on the table? It would be simple to decide that Capitalism and Communism are the only things available, and tempting to make class central to our understanding of political and economic systems. In my reading of Communist works, I find myself inspired to integrate a notion of class into my understanding of history and political theory more deeply than I had one before. How shall we seek to understand classes, what classes did Marx see, and what classes do we see today? The identity of a class, we can say, is tied to its means of sustenance, privileges it establishes in society for itself, and its relations to other classes. It is possible to describe much of society in terms of class relations, but not everything, and even when it is possible, the framework of class relations may not be the most elegant primary framework to view everything. In Marx's times, the classes were different than now, in number and power relations. Even by the early times of Soviet Russia, as Trotsky notes, the class arrangements had shifted to create new subtypes of classes. We can take note of, in Marx's times, the decaying noble/royal classes, the proletarians whose labour provides goods, the merchants who transfer goods from the proles and the consumers (whatever class they may be), and the capitalists who arrange the proles through investment into work prerequisities (e.g. a mill) and/or direction, to make finished products. In China and Russia, there were also peasants. There was additionally the clergy and the beginnings of the independant University system, both of which sit outside the normal means of production, extracting wealth from the state itself as well as the masses. In times since, changes in the nature of the state, have caused changes in the class system. The petty bourgeois has largely been consumed by the large-scale and global capitalists, but at the same time, this class has eaten itself in its organization into corporations. In this way, the capitalist has been abstracted from human to legal fiction, and the Carnegies and the Fords of the past, the "Age of Great Businessmen" is largely at an end. All the classes, in theory, have the opportunity to put their finger into that legal fiction, although the degree to which that control means anything is complex (although access to the profits becomes possible). This divide, between the money ties and the power/involvement ties, is tragic for the lower classes in that it further dehumanizes the process and alienates the on-paper owners from the management and associated responsibility, but also allows, in a sense, the proles to have a way to own their labour again, in the form of stock (by purchase or company programs), if they so choose. The clergy, at least in the United States, extract their wealth directly from the masses, and the nature of their political privilege has changed from being a direct political player to use of their influence over the minds of the people. The academes now are primarily supported by the state itself, now with additional strong ties to corporations, and have protection of traditions designed to insulate them from political and financial pressures. Nobility has been put to an end by political changes, while the most wealthy of the new investor/VC class attempt to emulate it with their similar levels of wealth. We could go on, but this is just a BLOG entry -- I'll take it further on my own. We immediately see an interesting change from Marx's theory -- the transformation of the relations of production, in particular the divorce of investor and specifics, and the possibility of individual investment, both challenge the traditional analysis, or at least suggest further work. Marx would have us identify with the working class, and the seperation from their labour, presuming that labour and value are inseperable. This is something we must evaluate in both parts. More analysis on this to come -- my hands are sore from rock climbing, and all this typing pains them. I skim over topics I'd like to dive into to greater depth..

Ahh, so today the road trip happened, but was fruitless because one of my friends got the date of the flea market wrong. Oh well. At least I got in some more cleaning of my apartment in, as well as rock climbing and a nice run around town. I am embarassed and pleasantly surprised to find that a number of my nice pants have been sitting in the back room of my apartment, in a pile with other clothes, long forgotten. To think that I was thinking to go buy new pants! Heh. I guess that's an argument for keeping one's place tidy. It's a bit of effort to start all those clothes through the wash, but it should be worthwhile :)