[OPE-L:8252] Re: 'entrepreneurial ability' in late capitalism

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@t-online.de)
Date: Tue Dec 31 2002 - 05:29:42 EST

Cologne 30-Dec-2002

Re: [OPE-L:8248]

gerald_a_levy schrieb  Mon, 30 Dec 2002 11:44:38 -0500:

> 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.

I agree that Aristotle could not think through capitalism, since Greek society
was not a capitalist society. And yet, money, money-making (chrematistics) and
the striving for riches were part of the Greek world. The limitless striving for
riches, in particular, was a phenomenon which unsettled Greek society and Greek

> 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.

I think there is too little willingness to enter into the abstract thinking that
is philosophy's strength and indispensability.

> > 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.

Such an analogy implies that many workers are imprisoned and insane. Insanity,
an unsoundness of mind, implies a distorted view of the world. The question is
how to get to the truth of capitalist society without falling into
Weltanschauung. Do you call people who enjoy their jobs insane prisoners of
capitalism? How do they respond?

> > 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.

The only coercion I see is the coercion to earn a living. In being a human,
there is also the 'coercion' to lead one's life, to bear this burden and cast
one's own existence in some more or less satisfying way, sharing it with others.
As human beings we also live under the 'coercion' to share a world with each

> > (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.

I make a distinction between leadership and the creative aspect of
entrepreneurship (seeing an opportunity and setting up an enterprise to take
advantage of it, with all the risk and trial and error involved). There is also
more to leadership than issuing commands in a military-like hierarchy. It is
doubtful whether a successful form of leadership of a capitalist enterprise can
be merely authoritarian. Good leadership is also capable of inspiring and must
have foresight. Moreover, the organization of an enterprise can involve
considerable ingenuity and creativity and may even provide a more or less
satisfying place to work. The final end of a capitalist enterprise, to make
profit, does not necessarily preclude it from providing satisfactory working
conditions. Pleasant working conditions may even enhance profitability.

> > 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.

Okay, capitalist exploitation has to be conceived more specifically. How do you
characterize human being under capitalism?

> > 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.

Before apportioning blame, and before trying to comprehend causes it could be
important to _simply_ consider phenomena such as stealing, cheating as kinds of
social exchange relations.

_-_-_-_-_-_-_-  artefact text and translation _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
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_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ Dr Michael Eldred -_-_-

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