[Editors Note: this is the “reading journal” that I kept over the course of my semester studying Marxist Political Economy, a graduate student class offered through the Wilf Family Department of Politics at NYU. My professor was Bertell Ollman, a communist who has spent his life dedicated to studying Marx. Ollman has a very detailed website with a number of essays/articles available for your study, I highly recommend it. I wrote this journal honestly, attempting to understand as much as I could about Marx from my semester of study. Comments are welcome.]
Dance of the Dialectic
“Marx’s words are like bats. One can see in them both birds and mice.” ~ Vilfredo Pareto. The Pareto problem, as Ollman describes it, is one which he seeks to solve by explaining Marx’s dialectical method. Ollman is using dialectics and the method of abstraction to quantify the philosophy of internal relations. Abstraction is a mental process, it draws a set of provisional boundaries in this relational world to arrive at parts that are better suited to explaining a particular problem within the world as it relates to everything else (this is how we narrow our scope while also considering the bigger picture). It appears that this is one of the ways that Ollman justifies claiming that Marx is a “scientist, critic, visionary, and revolutionary, with each of these qualities contributing to and feeding off the others” (Dance of the Dialectic, pg. 2). Marx’s dialectical method is what allows him to mix things that do not appear to mix, and is this also the answer to the Pareto problem?
The “philosophy of internal relations” is the way in which we understand the capitalist society/the world. Everything is interrelated and in order to understand how this works, we use a process called abstraction. Ollman describes the philosophy of internal relations as “The present, according to this relational model, becomes part of a continuum stretching from a definable past to a knowable (if not always predictable) future” (Ibid., 28). Ollman goes on to describe destiny of society is rooted in the destiny of money, “What will become of it (or, more accurately, what is likely to become of it) is pieced together by an examination of the forces, patterns, and trends that constitute the major existing Relations. It is the result of such research into any particular factor or set of factors that is conveyed by Marx’s concept of ‘law’” (Ibid.). Does this explain Ollman’s critique of the social sciences early in his book? On page 3 in the introduction he outlines:
More recently, the social sciences have reinforced this tendency by breaking up the whole of human knowledge into the specialized learning of competing disciplines, each with its own distinctive language, and then by studying almost exclusively those bits that permit statistical manipulation. In the process, capitalism, the biggest pattern of all [is it really the biggest pattern of all?] and one whose effect on people’s lives is constantly growing, has become virtually invisible. (Ibid., 3)
In class, Ollman is adamant that “what Marx thought” is more important for today than what Marx wrote. His argument for this is that the main aim of Marx is written in the preface of Kapital: “and it is the ultimate aim of this work, to lay bare the economic law of motion of modern society” (Kapital Volume I, 7). How is this related to dialectics? Perhaps this is how to justify the need for a dialectical method – Marx is deep and complicated with thousands upon thousands of pages of writing. The dialectical method is how Ollman interprets Marx’s analytical meanings from his superficial? But if that’s the case how serious should we take Marx? This seems to be a very convoluted way of getting your point across.
Because of Marx’s inconsistencies, Ollam arrived at the Philosophy of Internal Relations – something Hegel wrote about. “With relations rather than things as the fundamental building blocks of reality, a concept may vary somewhat in its meaning depending on how much of a particular relation it is intended to convey” (Dialectic, 7). The philosophy of internal relations bans finite parts from Marx’s ontology: “a set of concepts and categories in a subject area or domain that shows their properties and the relations between them.” “Learning how to use Marx’s dialectical method, especially becoming good at it, also requires a radical transformation in the way one thinks [why is this?] about anything, and the philosophy of internal relations – as we shall see – is the crucial enabling step in this process” (Ibid.) – The philosophy of internal relations is how we radically change how we think about the dialectical method.
Steps in dialectic – (First) philosophy of internal relations – it is an ontology (this is what the world/reality is really like). The reality does not consist of things, but can have relations, and can change over time. Think about Hume and the five senses. (Second) relations stretch out in all directions and relations are always changes. This is where the categories come into play because they represent patterns (can see anything and everything), they seem to exist in everything. A totality exists inside of another totality… capitalism exists in a world in which there are non-capitalist societies [those societies, at least in a macro-scale, always seem to fail – see Venezuela. It is possible, however, that smaller societies have succeeded – villages, towns, city-states], which exists on a planet amongst other planets, which exists in a solar system, which exists in a galaxy, which exists in a cluster, which exists in a universe, which might exist amongst infinite universes. Which perhaps begs the real question – does any of this really matter given the scale of how gigantic everything is compared to how small we are?
The process of internal relations works on any level, consider different periods of human history and their distinct law of motion at work. Ollman breaks up human history in five levels: (1) Human beings on the planet – hunters/gatherers necessary to survive. (2) Class, society, history, divisions (Middle East, China, India). Taken place with primitive types of farming which may have resulted in a surplus. This occurred in many places but took a variety of different forms. (3) Feudalism, the merchant classes, and serfdom. (4) Different stages of capitalism, each stage occurs more quickly than its previous stage. (5) A modern version of capitalism – containerization plays a major role in this, ships and planes are moving goods. Perhaps the next stage in capitalism and human history is the technological age, even more advanced – the singularity (The singularity is a term coined by futurists, it is the prediction that human evolution (with the aid of technology) will speed up to the point at which it no longer represents a curve on a graph but a straight-line. Advancing beyond whatever we might be able to predict now. Here is a fascinating outline: https://goo.gl/L0akXH). Technology enables automation, something Ollman has indicated might be the tool necessary for communism to thrive. I can’t help but wonder if man’s natural inclination towards tribalism will prevent that from happening? However, if anything is going to provide the perfect storm for communism it is almost certainly automation.
We (academics and the average person included) often only consider external relations. Ollman’s explanation of internal relations is a possible way of viewing the world (and he believes this) in a way in which we can connect the dots from aspects of the whole to the whole itself (abstraction?). Ollman quotes William Faulkner as a way of trying to analogize this: “The past is never dead. It is not even the past.” This relates nicely with an explanation of dialectics in Ollman’s book: “today” whenever it occurs, always emerges out of what existed yesterday. Today always leads to what can and will take place.
Ollman argues that Communism is what could be if the inhabitants overthrow their rulers and the rules that organize life. However, isn’t that really more about overthrowing the government than it is about overthrowing capitalism? Whereas government is the tool that “society” uses to manage its resources, natural or human – it matters not, capitalism is the tool that “society” uses to manage their voluntary transactions. Communism, meanwhile, has only ever existed in a system of government, and often to very tragic results to those forced to participate, but capitalism often exists outside of government. Black markets are an example of capitalism existing outside of government control: governments often wage prohibition wars on alcohol, drugs, vices, and so the market responds by operating outside of government. Would this be true inside a communist society as well? If so, what is the point communism? Marx’s subject matter is the internal relations between capitalism, communism, and history – thus these are fair questions to ask. History has shown that large-scale communism is dangerous to the liberty of individuals – although it is also fair to point out that the United States government has often compounded this danger by waging direct conflict and proxy wars against communism [fair to ask – would communism have been more successful without U.S. interference? Almost certainly yes, but would these nations be as fruitful as the U.S.? Impossible to know]. I would argue that history has shown capitalism quite capable of lifting people out of poverty, extending lives, and creating a high quality of life. In fact, it is because of globalization that we’ve seen a drastic reduction in the number of people living in hunger since the mid-90s – of course, many of these people have been exploited for their labor as a result. Does this relationship between exploited labor and a reduction in poverty and hunger benefit just the capitalist, or also the worker? Is the conversation “who benefits more” really productive or necessary?
Thus far my understanding of dialectics is that it is supposed to provide a systematic way of studying a complex organism such as modern society, the practice for updating the study is “class struggle.” What dialectics is not: “a rock-ribbed triad of thesis-antithesis-synthesis that serves as an all-purpose explanation; nor does it provide a formula that enables us to prove or predict anything; nor is it the motorforce of history” (Dialectics, 12). Dialectics is a way of thinking that brings into focus the full range of changes and interactions that occur in the world. Ollman goes on to outline that, “reality is more than appearances and that focusing exclusively on appearances, on the evidence that strikes us immediately and directly, can be extremely misleading” (Ibid., 13). This a great way to go about understanding our everyday experience in relation to everything else around us, providing context into a larger system of experience and understanding. As a history student, I have attempted to apply this to my life, although in a rudimentary way – not fully understanding it was dialectical – through my knowledge of the human condition, juxtaposed by our modern experiences. Ollman explains that dialectics is an attempt in expanding the process of understanding a long history of interrelated connections, studying a history of an “encompassing system” which can teach us about our human condition (but particularly as it relates to capitalism?)
Dialectical research is an attractive option for an interdisciplinary student such as myself. I HATE starting out my research with “small parts of problems” – which is how every social scientist trains their progeny to research – looking at the relationships between concepts is always a more beneficial and fulfilling way of understanding a problem. Why wouldn’t one want to understand the whole context before tackling the “function” being investigated within that context? Perhaps the important consideration to make here is that social scientists are assuming that the whole context is already understood. This assumption allows for social scientists to take a number of liberties with their research, perhaps the most important being that their shared world-view is automatically the correct one and is assumed by all of their peers. I believe this is true whether the social scientist is a Marxist or not, whether they believe in socialism/communism or capitalism. They all make assumptions which assume the “other side” is wrong.
Ollman argues that “history of” topics are undialectical (examples given are religion, culture, and economics). Is this because the “history of” topic is too narrow? Perhaps his explanation of the kinds of relations of dialectical research provides an answer to this: (1) identity/difference, (2) interpenetration of opposites, (3) quantity/quality, (4) contradiction (Ibid., 15). Ollman outlines that contradiction is the most important element and is understood as: “the incompatible development of different elements within the same relation, which is to say between elements that are also dependent on one another” (Ibid., 17). Ollman continues, “A lot of effort of bourgeois ideology goes into denying, hiding, or otherwise distorting contradictions” (Ibid., 18).
How can I possibly approach this statement without assuming what these contradictions are or which of the contradictions are with/without merit? It is quite possible that this is true of communism as well – perhaps every guiding philosophy is not without its own contradictions. We cannot choose to participate in the class struggle, we simply represent the sum of the contradictions between workers and capitalists (Ibid., 20). But what if the worker chooses to be a capitalist even after acknowledging that a class struggle exists? If I acknowledge the fact that I am indeed a worker, and continue the path of being a worker, I have chosen to engage in capitalism. If I one day become the owner of the means of production and exploit the worker’s labor, becoming a capitalist, is this a choice or an inevitability? There must be room for debate within this narrative.
Ollman argues that dialectics receives a significant amount of abuse from even those generally friendly to Marxist philosophy, and a reason for that is because the philosophy of internal relations is, essentially, mind-bogglingly huge in scope. Thus one must use the process of “abstraction” to break the whole down into mental units to make special consideration for each part(Ibid., 20). Ollman describes abstraction as, “In effect, a piece has been pulled from or taken out of the whole and is temporarily perceived as standing apart” (Ibid., 60). The process of abstraction outlined by Ollman is much too detailed to unpack fully in this journal but it involves considering vantages points (understanding what to abstract, and a place for which to view the abstraction), an extension for which to understand the abstraction – Ollman outlines that Marx favors “large units” (Ibid. 75) and expands upon that: “Abstracting such large spatial and temporal extensions for class is considered helpful for analyzing a society that is rapidly developing toward a situation where everyone either buys labor-power or sells it” (Ibid., 81). Next, understanding levels of generality (which actually comes first in the process, but Ollman outlines it comes last when explaining the process of abstraction). Ollman outlines that there are seven levels of generalities (plains of comprehension) which Marx uses to subdivide concepts (Ibid., 88-89): (1) The here and now, (2) distinguishes what is general to people in capitalism over the last 25 years, (3) Capitalism as such, (4) class society, (5) human-society, (6) animal world, (7) material nature, the most general level of all.
I have no idea what to think about all of this. It seems impossibly difficult to comprehend without a significant amount of practice and mentorship in the dialectical method, as an amateur dialectical sleuth it seems I have little chance of discovering how to do this in just one semester of Marxist instruction. If one is not constantly using the process of abstraction in their methods how can they possibly create the mental muscle memory necessary to approach their work dialectically? This is going to take years of practice that I don’t have. Perhaps the best I can do at this point in my intellectual career is understand that this method exists and attempt to delineate how its proponents use it to make their points.
Dialectics and Systems Theory – in my attempt to understand dialectics further I’m going to infer some of the most important underlying themes from the handouts Ollman gave us in class. Richard Levin’s piece on using Dialectics in systems theory is an academic approach to dialectics “for the new century” as described by Ollman. Levin outlines that he is going to “limit myself to systems theory in the narrow sense” and that “some systems theorists are also Marxists or have been influenced by Marxism in their research contributions to the development of the theory” (Dialectics and Systems Theory, 27). Levins outlines as Ollman had that dialectics is a focus on wholeness and interpenetration, structures, levels, historicity, and contradiction (Ibid., 28). This focus is to be applied to the study of all things – for systems theory that is traditionally considerations in engineering and philosophical criticism of reductionism (wasn’t sure what this meant: reductionism is the practice of analyzing and describing a complex phenomenon in terms of phenomena that are held to represent a simpler or more fundamental level, especially when this is said to provide a sufficient explanation – this concept seems very dialectical). Thus, Levins is attempting to emphasize the purposefulness of systems in relation to their wholeness and interconnectedness of parts. For Levins, the process of dialectics in systems theory results in insights into the structure or process.
On Creativity – Bohm is looking dialectically on the way our brains function. He breaks this down from the whole to more identifiable functions (is this his vantage point?). He begins with “the art of perceiving movement” – he argues that we perceive, experience, and act in a fragmentary way. Human society is beset with problems which they attempt to solve in a downstream way with results in fragmentation as opposed to at its origin (no doubt he is referring to capitalism). Bohm regards man’s thought and language as “mental pollution” which might prevent us from acting sensibly. Next Bohm considers “the reality of thought” – thought and imagination is inward aspects of meaningful function, while language, communication, practical activity are outward aspects. He argues we cannot “merge with the whole of the reality in which we live” if we go on with a prevailing tendency towards fragmentation. Bohm, thus, is clearly arguing for examining the wholeness of everything in matters of study – even in the human brain. I think I understand his dialectical approach.
Having considered dialectics in detail, and having some understanding of how the dialectical approach and the philosophy of internal relations work, I’ll now consider the theory of alienation. Ollman argues that Marx’s conception of human nature is based on his theory of alienation, which is expressed in a capitalist society through private property (“everything costs money” – Ollman). Marx is focusing on people’s potential, this implies change and movement because he is analyzing the world dialectically (connecting everything to everything). Alienation is the connection he makes to the economic life of capitalism – the way it looks and works is the theory of alienation. Ollman outlines that Marx should have explained more, including a distinction between what is in Marx’s head and what he wrote down (in reference to economics). If Ollman believes this to be true it’s fair to ask why we should take Marx all that seriously from an economics perspective.
Because Marxist economists often limit their reading and understanding to what is accepted within economic academic circles, they rarely study scholars who subscribe to alienation/ dialectics.
Ollman outlines that in order to understand fully the theory of alienation we must first understand Marx’s conception of human nature. Ollman outlines human nature is the ability of all men have in common, “the ability to appropriate nature at the same time that we objectify themselves in it, developing themselves and altering nature simultaneously” (Alienation, 126). It’s curious that Ollman refers to “themselves” as opposed to “ourselves.” Is he outside of what all men have in common? Is the reader outside of this? No. Next Ollman outlines certain “vantage points” of major concepts used to understand the dynamic relationships between man, his powers/needs, and the world: power, need, appropriation, objectification, realization, work, creativity, freedom (Ibid., 127).
It looks like the central premise of this is that men are appropriators. We take the resources available to us on earth and “appropriate” a use for them. In doing so Ollman argues, rather Marx, that we objectify others in the process. Ollman stated that cooperation is a satisfying way to realize our powers and needs, it is also pleasurable to work with others and it increases our ability to succeed. This happens in capitalism all the time, we work not only with but also for others in a mutually beneficial exchange (services for trade). Appropriation is a key expression for Marx. Make what you are using a part of yourself. Extend yourself into whatever you have used, changed, or satisfied you. Appropriation occurs by making the nature of that part of the world a physical man-made reality. Clearly, the crux is that the capitalists are appropriating so much more than the workers. Is this because they are so greedy or because they have more ingenuity? If a government is involved in limiting the ability of the worker to keep up with or catch the capitalist perhaps the government is to blame.
Ollman outlines that Marx tries to avoid an ethical system “like the plague” – he even tries to avoid socialist morality. There is a school of Marxists who call themselves “Marxist-Humanists” who have communism for moral arguments. Marx is against moral arguments because it doesn’t convince anybody. It doesn’t sound like he has a credo than… Marx approach is to “show them what capitalism is and how it works.” Because people belong to different classes perhaps a lack of ethics allows people to make a transition from one class to another? If we show people what capitalism is and how it works, in a truly free market, absent force or coercion, maybe they’ll like it!
Marx argues that productive activity is our most important feature as human beings, in order to live as well as possible and serve whatever purposes we acquire. That activity begins in very early life and evolves into more and more sophisticated forms of that activity in order to serve our needs. The separation between worker and product is alienation. Alienation from other people is another form of Alienation. Separation is the key word in the theory of Alienation.
Why so much focus on “the product”? I know of many professions in which the worker is not responsible for a product, but a service. Do doctors suffer from alienation? What about lawyers? Do truck drivers, waitstaff, politicians, or teachers? In each instance, the product of their labor is a specific service they are being paid to provide for another individual. A doctor is providing some sort of care to the patient in exchange for a payment (in fact – we could just call this a trade). A lawyer is providing legal services to a client in exchange for a trade. A truck driver is providing transportation services in exchange for a trade. A politician is providing leadership and representation for a large number of people and is paid for via taxation – which many might consider a forceful exchange. Educators are providing their knowledge and leadership in exchange for a trade. In each instance, the product of their labor is a service and is almost always absent coercion.
The use of the word “forms” is crucial to Marx because each category of “capital” takes a different form. Ollman argues this is all about alienation. Private property is the alienation of the product, produced by the alienation of labor. Alienation is summarized in the word “value” – the “value in general” is alienation. Value is the form in which labor takes in all its products. Value introduces the fetishism of commodities, misunderstanding of what the consumer is looking out, this gives the commodity a great power over you.
However, not all “products” are commodities – many of the products in a capitalist economy are services. Would communism prohibit someone from providing a service to another person in exchange for a trade? If we took money out of the equation wouldn’t we simply be exchanging money for some other form of compensation (could labor be considered money if the exchange was labor for labor)? I still do not have a practical understanding of how communism can work when it comes to individuals or groups engaging in exchanges of services. Every product created, in fact, could be considered an exchange of services between the worker and employer (capitalist), or between the worker and worker, or between the laborer and laborer. But we could easily modify the lexicon, in a sense changing the forms, to reevaluate the relationship. If we create a hypothetical situation in which there are no longer capitalists in society (which might actually be a paradox), any exchange of services or goods recreates a situation in which a worker is alienated from their product.
In our traditional capitalist society, Ollman argues that the capitalists have the money with which to tell the worker what to do (very clear that it is not “ask” it is “tell”). This isn’t a voluntary exchange of services, labor for money because the worker is dependent on the capitalist for survival – thus, the capitalist is alienating the worker from the creation of the product or the labor of their work. It is not clear what the alternative is. Perhaps it is the elimination of “comfort goods” and the reprogramming of every human brain in America, “you do not need this good, it is not essential for your survival.” Does that mean that communism is about creating “essentials for survival” while simultaneously eliminating creature comforts which result in labor/wage alienation?
Ollman provided a quote by Anatole France to make a point about the theory of alienation: “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.” Ollman goes on to argue that stealing is illegal because private property is like the god of the capitalist society. But in actuality, stealing is illegal because it implies the initiation of force and force is violence against the individual. In fact, I would argue that the government is guilty of this more than any other entity. Much is stolen from individuals in the name of “patriotism.” The government, after all, legalized the greatest thefts in history – the theft of actual human beings, legalizing slavery. The rich don’t need to steal, as Ollman pointed out, and yet they do all the time – but I would argue mostly because the government allows them to steal.
Marx’s Theory of Economic Crisis
There is so much to unpack in this yet unfinished manuscript, I’m going to look at a few things that particularly interested me. One of Ollman’s observations comes from appendix I – “As an Organic System, Capitalism Develops Toward Its Totality by Creating the Organs It Still Lacks” (Ollman, Marx’s Theory of Economic Crisis, 276). What organs does capitalism lack? And when considering this it probably makes the most sense to analogize what organs make up its functioning body. Who or what is the brain of capitalism? Who or what makes up the heart? The nervous system? If capitalism is an organic system we have to know how it functions through specific examples.
On page 28 Ollman outlines one of perhaps the more interesting quotes on the crisis:
Direct production for personal needs does not take place. Crisis results from the impossibility to sell. The difficulty of transforming the commodity – the particular product of individual labor – into its opposite, money, i.e., abstract general social labor, lies in the fact that money is not the particular product of individual labor, and that the person who has effected a sale, who therefore has commodities in the form of money, is not compelled to buy again at once, to transform the money again into a particular product of individual labor… (Ibid., 28)
The direct production of personal needs does not, necessarily, need to take place. In fact, if that is the implication of communism than the purpose of every life will be nothing but the direct production of personal needs. There would be little spare time for anything other than the production of survival. Ollman has outlined, however, that the solution to this issue probably lies with automation. The machinery and technology provided to us by capitalism may prevent the need for individuals to focus their lives on survival.
Labor as a commodity, and thus a product to sell, is again noted. Ollman has inferred that automation, in addition to being a tool which may make communism an achievable reality, may also be the tool which brings about the downfall of capitalism. If automation does create an environment in which workers no longer have to labor in order to create goods, this will enable people more time to focus on their preferred pursuits. I think, however, that what automation might do instead is turn our capitalist economy away from a consumer based economy and toward a service based economy. As opposed to an obsession with menial things, workers might finally transition towards an economy in which they absolutely do pursue their interests in a way in which they can leverage those interests into a free-market of ideas and services. However, this will only ever be possible if the government gets the hell out of the way. If our government continues the trend of over-regulating every tiny thing that individuals want to do for themselves – I am thinking about regulations such as occupational licensing practices – this service based economy will be impossible to maintain.
The inevitability of crisis (Ibid., 38) is directly tied to the capitalist conception of production in relationship to the worker. For Ollman crisis will happen because overproduction is under consuming (from a dialectical point of view) if there is overproduction that infers that the workers cannot afford the cost of the products which they are creating. This split between buying and selling makes crisis possible. In order to increase market share in competition, the capitalist must decrease prices (which can create a crisis). What about innovation? Market driven products, such as smartphones, often don’t have price points based on a number of phones created but based on the number of phones in competition. In fact, often the consumer determines the price, the consumer also being the worker, based on their preferences. Often it is the quality of the product which the consumer prefers, not just the price of the product. If consumption of production is based on consumer preference, and not on the dichotomy between under/over production, perhaps crisis is not inevitable?
Ollman outlines that, “Once Workers Recognize – as Part of Their Growing Class Consciousness – That Capitalist Control Over the Products of Their Labor Has Been Forcibly Imposed, They Will Struggle to Recover Them” (Ibid., 219). This is a direct reference to class consciousness and is important to understanding how the revolution happens. Ollman argues that the approach of non-Marxist is to ask neutral questions and avoid leading people into directly understanding class consciousness – social scientists are careful to be non-influential. Ollman argues that the Marxist should basically forget that and work to raise the class consciousness of workers through their probing.
Ollman outlines six different distinctions of class in Marxist writings (each, of course, internally related). (1) – Class, a place within the capitalist system. For Marx, human beings are treated as personifications of a particular place they occupy within the capitalist system. Start with a place and a function. See them as a group of real people (they are individuals). (2) A notion of Class Interests; the kinds of things that people in a class practically all know unless they are completely clueless. It is in the interest of workers to get a job, they recognize they must do this for money and support families. A safe job is a part of their interests. A good salary is an interest. (3) Class Analysis; vantage point is important for analysis. The start of analysis should be with ‘the class.’ (4) Class Consciousness; must be treated as a group of relations, it also evolves. It evolves in different ways and different speeds. It can move both forward and backward. They can become more class conscious or they can lose their class consciousness (based on different variables). (5) Class Struggle; it has an objective existence (which comes from classes with different interests) and also a subjective identity. Based on the law of motion in a particular society. Apolitical workers are not external to class struggle, or a part of it, are actually not apart from it – they are just on the wrong side. Quite workers are perfect for the capitalists (but don’t all workers express their voice through purchasing). What happens in the society is the conflicting interests between competing classes. (6) Class based revolutions; this is what people do about it. A theory is what you believe, practice is what you do about it. That action involves a greater amount of consciousness and dependent on the conditions of the society. A crisis is an example of what happens to capitalism which helps the workers understand capitalism as a system by making it more transparent. The crisis also makes capitalism lose more of its allure because of the effects of its conditions. The longer the crisis the worse capitalism works. The role of Marx’s dialectical categories is important (the level of generality, level 2). Part of the use of the process of abstraction helps us see that Marx is working on contradictions and crisis. All contradictions exist in an interrelated way. Unemployment suggests that communism is a good alternative… if you shared the work then everybody could have a job and that would reduce the necessary working time for everybody (we already share work – that’s why the tech industry is booming – because of open source technology which ALL can benefit from, sell and service). We would also have to decrease wasteful expenditures that occur with luxuries (no luxuries under communism?). Marx is primary an analyst of communism and what is happening in capitalism (doesn’t spend much time working on the process of revolution).
Each of these six distinctions requires a prerequisite understanding of its predecessor in the list. Each leads to the next. You must understand them all to figure out how Communism develops. However, because everything is interrelated in a dialectic approach we can make connections, once we get a handle on them we don’t have to follow this order (thus – dialectics is essential in understanding classism). All of these evolve and are changing (hence internal relations). What is internally related is made up of both a relation and a cluster of interconnected aspects of reality, and a process (or a series of interrelated processes).
I am not sure I buy that crisis is bad for capitalism. A crisis is actually a useful tool for pointing out the weaknesses of any system. A crisis has also occurred in every communist or socialist country that has ever existed. China starved millions of people to death after it instituted communism. Millions in communist Russia starved to death (in fact, Stalin assumed control of the production of agriculture which resulted in countless deaths. He also committed a genocide in the Ukraine by seizing their agriculture, millions starved). People are starving in Venezuela right now. People in North Korea are starving and live under a dictator. The argument in these instances is often “that wasn’t real communism” or “that wasn’t real socialism” – point out “real” instances of those things and let’s study them. Yet my argument of these being crises on the surface is sound. Dialectically we would need to look at this from different angles, that is beyond the scope of this journal (however).
In Capitalism, however, crisis illustrates where the market has failed. After each crisis individuals become more intelligent with their buying decisions and innovate/ learn. If the crisis of capitalism was as dangerous as the unfinished manuscript would have us believe, the quality of life of individuals would go down. In almost every metric, however, our quality of life is increasing. There are fewer widespread outbreaks of diseases, people are living longer, fewer people live in poverty, fewer people live in perpetual state of hunger, the poorest families in America have access to the same technology as the richest families, even the poorest families have access to the “creature comforts” of the rich (air conditioning, cars, microwaves, washer & dryer, etc). There are more college educated individuals than at any other point in human history.
Even climate change is an area in which the capitalists are turning to the free market to address. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has created a new system for solar energy in which roofs can now be tiled 100 percent by solar panels which are guaranteed for life. Tesla created the first 100 percent electric cars, this innovation drastically cut down on carbon emissions. Other companies have started following suit. Facebook has created a solar-powered drone program which brings free internet access to several countries in Africa (expanding education for free). There are a number of companies which are collecting trash and plastics from the oceans and surfaces to create recycled ropes, jewelry, and even building blocks for low-cost housing. It seems like these free-market solutions are actually innovations that would not have been possible without capitalism.
While capitalism deserves its fair share of criticism… I’m not yet convinced that it is ready to meet its end. Even the rich and greedy capitalist who are guilty of hoarding so much money, and the nepotism of keeping that money within their immediate familial units, have created a significant amount of wealth for other people. The tech industry has helped create more millionaires than has ever existed. I am not convinced that the only solution to crises/ capitalism is communism. Reforms have worked, individuals have become more informed because of technology, and anyone who wants it has access to the whole of human knowledge in their pockets thanks to smartphones.