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Economic Crisis: The Double Fallacy

  1. Oct 6, 2008 #1
    Economic Crisis: The Double Fallacy

    1) The ideologist “reduces the social relations to personal qualities, and then uses the latter to justify the former.”
    2) The ideologist “mistakes the appearance for reality. He so analyses the social relations that the rich and poor appear vastly unequal in their ‘endowments’, and on this flimsy basis he asserts that they are unequal.”

    A responder to my thread “Ideology: Humanity’s Weakest Link” wrote the following:
    “Capitalism is natural law. It should be the dominant ideology. Just like evolution is a dominant ideology, also because it's natural law. The free-market is to possessions as free-thought is to discussion. Would that we lived in a world where our minds were as free as our markets!”

    Ideology seems to be a domain of knowledge little discussed in today’s world. Anytime I place the word “ideology” in the title of an OP the viewership seems to drop off rather dramatically.

    What are the forms of thinking that are characteristic of ideologists? What are the most critical techniques and fallacies involved in the construction of an ideological, i.e. apologetic, body of thought?

    I have turned to Bhikhu Parekh, a political theorist and Centennial Professor at the Centre for the Study of Global Governance at the London School of Economics for assistance in trying to answer these questions. Parekh has studied the work of Carl Marx and authored the book “Mark’s Theory of Ideology” from which the quotes in this post are taken.

    To understand ideology one need understand the sense of infallibility of apologetics. The apologist provides a systematic argumentative discourse in defense of doctrine; the apologist provides a systematic attempt to justify the certainty with which s/he holds the views of the particular set of ideas in question.

    First, the ideologist removes from historical context the ideas and forms of thought of her ideology and seeks to universalize them. S/he generalizes a set of concepts thereby conferring universality on the underlying social relations and experiences. Such universalization is evident in the comment of the responder’s view that “capitalism is natural law”. Such views are seen when we hear that capitalism and democracy are the most rational means for organizing society and thus represent “the end of history”, i.e. the end of further critical thought in such matters.

    Secondly, the ideologist seeks to equate these ideological concepts as “just doing what comes naturally”. Such ideological views, practices, and social order are natural, or normal, or reasonable, or necessary and sufficient to human type creatures. All of which is intended to discourage any form of discussion or critical thinking.

    Examples of such practices might be the effort to say that a woman’s place is in the home, scarcity is a natural human predicament, we shall always have the poor in our midst, overpopulation is an act of nature, aggression is a part of the natural order, inequalities among a population is the will of God, societies are naturally hierarchal, intellectual skills are more valuable than manual. As Marx frequently puts it “the ideologists ‘eternalizes’, or ‘deifies’ a given social practice or order, and eliminates history.”

    Thirdly, the ideologist “constantly conflates the distinction between form and content.” In a production oriented society there are production relations and productive forces, the former representing the form of production while the latter represents the content. The ideologist’s primary concern is to legitimize the social form by presenting it in an appealing light whereas s/he attributes its evils to technology along with its evils.

    “The social relations of capitalism create alienation, unemployment and acute division of labor dehumanizes the worker, cripples his personality, etc. The ideologist explains all these in terms of the machines, and deflates the attack on the capitalist social structure to its technology. While producing the social evils, technology also eliminates poverty and disease, conquers nature, creates material abundance, and so on. The ideologist ascribes these benefits to the capitalist social relations.”

    Fourth and finally, the ideologist constantly reduces a relation to a quality. Also the ideologist prefers “quality-signifying to a relation-signifying vocabulary”. For example: the rich are rich because they are thrifty and disciplined, the poor are extravagant, undisciplined, and lazy.

    Capitalism has met its enemy and it is ideological laissez-faire capitalism. Can capitalism throw off this heavy hand of laissez-faire ideology?

    Quotes from “Marx’s Theory of Ideology” by Bhikhu Parekh.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 6, 2008 #2
    While I generally agree with your outline, I think the third one should be modified, at least in regards to the laissez-faire capitalist. The others are typically the line of thinking of the ideological-bound capitalist, however.

    1. Right-wing Libertarians do indeed remove historical context from capitalism, denying the influence that past systems such as feudalism and colonial slave societies had in constructing the conditions for the capitalist society. You could say they were the preconditions, I suppose, such as our concept of property. The capitalist class is far closer to the kings and queens of yesteryear, and the conscious worker is like the peasants in England who demanded that land be divded up and split evenly among them.

    They also claim that capitalism has "always existed" even quoting from the Bible, and Ancient Chinese text like the one from Lao-Tzu, and claim they were making Libertarian statements, even though Taoism is actually explicitly anti-libertarian, and if he were alive today he would have been anti-capitalist, if you've ever read his book..

    2. Capitalists do tend to claim capitalism is the natural order of things. This is getting more and more ridiuclous for them, however, as its well known in anthropological social studies that humans are essentially social creatures, and history tells us they can be egalitarian and free (their best times) or hierarchical and oppressive, like the capitalistic system.

    Interestingly, Hitler also spoke of "natural rights," and said: "According to the laws of nature, the soil belongs to him who conquers it."

    Hitler thought a lot of what he was doing was "natural" and probably believed a totalitarian society was natural as well, with certain individuals "making their way to the top." Hitler also applauded the capitalistic economic system.

    4. We know that capitalists claim that all people who have money earned it. That millionaires and sports players and so on earned it simply because there was a demand for their labor or their activity, and capital could be made.

    However, this does not take into account the fact that society had already been structured in such a way as to favor certain activities and events and money making schemes, and these all have been government backed and protected - whether it is the government constructing stadiums or the government funding certainly technology and privatizing the profits.

    This brings me to #3, though. The capitalist ideologue I don't think explains the failures of capitalism in terms of the machines, or at least the weaker propagandists do not.

    They generally claim the government system is to blame for not acting "capitalist enough" in a certain regard, and, as usual, their definitions of what is capitalist come to conflict, and a success is always generated only because of a free-market, even though a failure might be because the market was deregulated, while a success might be because the government played a more major role.

    Capitalists ideologues have a lot to try and explain away, and how they get away with it is pretty impressive.

    That said, I think all capitalist structures are pretty flawed, and a society built more on relations between members of communities and cooperatives are more appropriate. One based on contributions to the public good, perhaps, where an individual can receive more goods if it is noted by society that his contributions are worthwhile. People should be able to do what they want, and lower type jobs would get done when individuals who are otherwise non-productive need to request more resources.

    This would be a higher form of individualism than capitalism, which is a pseudo-individualism and authoritarianism, where your life becomes an issue for other people in regards to what is marketable, and obviously freer and more democratic.
  4. Oct 6, 2008 #3


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    Argumentum ad nazium? :grumpy:
  5. Oct 6, 2008 #4
    I have to run, I'll elaborate further tommorow.
    This seems to be an awful lot like capitalism in disguise...How is this any different then a market system where those supplying higher demand goods receive higher compensation? People do in essence, in a (relatively) free market capitalist system, award more to those whom they deem more worthwhile (regardless of arguments over our subjective judgement of what is worthwhile). I do not see how this would not turn into the strict division of labor seen in capitalist systems due to practicalities and specialization. Also, this seems to ignore theories of the mind rooted in neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, by removing much of the incentive necessary to achieve maximum productivity. Humans are indeed secondarily social beings, but they are primarily individualist, and for lack of a better word, selfish beings with an innate nature designed to survive in a hostile envirnoment to sexual maturity. Group interactions arose to help achieve this goal and led to phenomena such as reciprocal altruism and cohesive group mentalities. But we still are, at out core, still selfish and incentive driven and this is driven by evolutionary innatist tendencies.

    *just to clarify, I am not a raging right wing conservative proponent of unfettered capitalism. In fact, I am relatively liberal and sympathetic to many leftist causes, but I don't think we can ingnore human nature for the sake of a leftist utopia.
  6. Oct 7, 2008 #5


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    I personally believe that capitalism will end pre-maturely without a complete deployment of ethics. Capitalism is based on consumerism. The consumer can't consume if their environment is slowly killing them off. The consumer will revolt if their culture is being erased by the capitalist's version of culture. The consumer will obviously not be able to consume when they are under attack by a culture that has been sorely offended by the unethical practices of an unethical capitalism. Today there are companies that will take a capitalist concern and apply a complete eco/ethno/econo/ ethics package to its operations. It costs quite a lot of money. But it ensures the longevity of the company and its capitalist endeavors.
  7. Oct 8, 2008 #6
    Something I came across recently and find interesting is Georgism:
  8. Oct 8, 2008 #7


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    This is along the lines of ethical capitalism. I wonder if "nature" includes the specific genes that, today, have been patented by capitalist pharmaceutical companies, or if the family lineage that produce the genes owns the rights to the genes outright.

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