[OPE-L:8248] Re: 'entrepreneurial ability' in late capitalism

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Mon Dec 30 2002 - 11:44:38 EST

Re Micahel E's [8244]:

> If entrepreneurship as a function is part of the essence of capitalism, it
> makes  no essential difference how it is personified. I agree that 19th
> century capitalism looks very different from 20th century capitalism.
> The periodization of capitalism into early, middle and late in Marxism
> is one of those alibis for  overlooking and not understanding what the
> essence of capitalism is.

The essential character of capitalism can only be grasped as the subject
matter itself develops.  Thus a comprehension of capitalism could not be
developed before the subject matter itself developed into a coherent
form.  This is the fundamental reason why Aristotle could not grasp the
essential character of capitalism even if he wanted to. In any event, it is
important to grasp not only what the essential character of capitalism is
but also how it has developed and changed.  More generally, we have to
grasp contingencies in addition to essence if we are to comprehend the
subject matter as something more than an abstraction.

> The  philosophical problem of understanding what capitalism is is passed
> over in  favour of the sociological-historiographical task of periodizing
> stages of  capitalism, which of course presupposes that one knows what
> capitalism is. For  the most part, the obvious is overlooked, including in
> Marxism.

See above.

> Some workers enjoy their work, work willingly and well and do not need a
> supervisor to "extract" work from them.

Yes, indeed.  Some prisoners also enjoy being in prison and can't
imagine living outside of a prison.  Some residents of insane asylums
claim to be perfectly happy there and do not desire a change in residence.

> After all, the workers agreed to work  when they entered the employment
> contract.

This highlights the element of choice in the employment contract but
does not grasp the *essentially* coercive character of the relation.

> (snip, JL) Leadership, too, is professionalized in
> the shape of top executives. You seem to want to deny the phenomenon of
> leadership and creativity in a capitalist enterprise.

There is certainly "leadership" just as there is any hierarchical social
structure.  By associating 'leadership' with 'creativity' you seem to
assert this to be positive.   Yet,  'leadership' -- accompanied as it is
in this context by discipline and coercion -- is similar to 'leadership'
in the military.

> Yes, risk-aversion is a possible strategy, which may either enhance or
> simply  average out profitability. But to try to avoid risk presupposes
>  that there is a  phenomenon we call 'risk' which can be avoided, i.e.
> risk-_aversion_ is always  _risk_-aversion. The dimension within which
> something can be what it is must  always be brought into view. Mostly it
> is overlooked, taken for granted.

I agree that risk is essential  to the character of capitalism.

>  I think that exploitation has to be first
> understood in a broad sense as exploiting an opportunity, a situation.

I think that *capitalist* exploitation must be comprehended more
specifically. I.e.  we need to comprehend exploitation as it manifests
itself  within the subject matter in question.

> To take another example, the vast majority of sellers, dealers, pedlars,
> etc. in  Istanbul, it seems, ranging from the shoe-shine boy through the
> ticket-seller  for public transportation to cafe and restaurant staff, the
> oriental  carpet  dealers, etc. etc. all attempt to exploit tourists'
> ignorance of  the  prices and  the unfamiliar currency by shamelessly
> ripping them off,
> short-changing them,  lying about the quality of their goods, offering one
> price and demanding a  higher price on payment, etc. etc. The human
> tourist mass for exploitation  is  delivered from Istanbul airport. The
> poor  child even exploits the opportunity of  a poor old street hawker
> crossing  a busy road in Istanbul with his barrow of  socks by stealing
> a pair as he passes by in the crowd. Who is to blame for this  moral
> degeneracy?  The capitalist imperialists, of course. The poor themselves
> are inculpable, even when they steal from each other. When they steal from
> Western tourists, they are even performing an act of justice. Thus does
> any  understanding of justice become perverted, degenerate and depraved.

The first task is comprehension.  First, we must comprehend the causes
before we apportion blame.   And, yes, the value (and consequently class)
relation  must be comprehended before we can make sense out of the
behavior of the others you cite above.

In solidarity, Jerry

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