From: Dogan Goecmen (Dogangoecmen@AOL.COM)
Date: Thu Oct 19 2006 - 15:15:22 EDT
"Well, a historical approach - historical thinking which traces the origins and development of things - is important and useful, I have no disagreement there. It is important to know that "things were not always this way, and will not always be this way" and that we can contextualise our lives in this way." Reply: Am I correct to read in this statement that you discard your claim that my approach is 'conservative'? "It is just that I think market relations should be understood dialectically in the sense that they imply both autonomy and coercion. Precisely because there is this contradiction, you get plenty of ideologies about markets and their functioning." I am not interested in what plenty of ideologies say about markets. Rather I am interested in the question what they are in temselves and think that the best analysis of them is given in the first chapter of the Capital by Marx. "And "realistic" utopias should, I think, base themselves more on what is maximally achievable within the society that exists. But you are correct, in some stormy periods of the past people had much bigger and bolder ideas about what human beings could achieve." Reply: Even in not 'stromy# times it is essential to combine short and long term aims. This means that in our aim to change the world we should combine quantity and quality, in Hegelian terms or reform or revolution in Luxemburgian sense. Only that would enable us to achieve the 'maximum' - even in capitalist society. "I wouldn't say so generally that "Markets are progressive compared to feudal institutions" - in some ways, e.g. a serf who was tied to the land could be better off than a propertyless proletarian. Moreover there were plenty markets in feudal societies as well. If we view markets historically, we can also see that markets themselves have changed a lot over time, in terms of what was traded, how it was traded, and under what conditions." Reply: I think you must give here more reason to enable me to understand you. "You argue: "All anti-capitalist-discussions can be traced back morally to the concept of mutual recognition or respect. This concept makes up the core of social ethics of anti-capitalism." I am not sure if that is true. Anti-capitalism in my experience can be motivated by many diffferent factors, some more honorable than others." Reply: I agree with you. There can be economic, cultural, political, ethnic etc factors. My statement was ment to reply to a particular question you raised. "You think utopian thought has had always something to do with emancipation rather than suppression. But how about the Zionist utopia? It seems to me that it contains both those elements. It has been argued e.g. that Zionism is a reactionary utopia insofar as it tries to build a Jewish home over the corpses of Palestinians. Or take Stalin's utopia of "socialism in one country" etc. or Hitler's Third Reich. Indeed there are authors who have argued that utopianism contains the seeds of totalitarianism. This is obviously going to far. But I think I am correct in believing utopias need not be progressive or emancipatory for everybody." Reply: The term utopia is sanctioned by Thomas More's introduction of the term in social political philosophy and it definitely emancipation. Reactionary notions about future are not utopian in Morean sense. They are positivist statement enlarging the present into the future. "You argue that "Utilitarian concept of ethics provides the ethical foundation of commercial exchange relations." But what is your proof? I travelled in quite a few countries, but in each country you find different postulated ethical foundations for the market. To engage in trade requires, to be sure, some basic behavioural norms such as consistency and reliability in making transactions, promise-keeping and so on. Otherwise there is no trust, and the trading system breaks down. But no specific ethical principles are implied by trade itself, other that what is required to settle transactions. Hence markets are compatible with all sorts of religions and ethical systems, and indeed all manner of property relations. If for example you compare the trading behaviour of the Dutch and the Moroccans, there are enormous differences, a world of difference, even although essentially the exchanges are of the same type." Reply: Here again I am relying on Marx's analysis of commodity and commercial exchange relations in the first chapter. I saw many countries and different social formations too. To me it is not important how people justify their exchange of commodities on the markets but what it realy means to human relations. Marx's analysis says that commercial exchange relations are necessarily utilitarian. "As long as people pay their bills and do not cheat too much, it does not matter what their precise ethics are for the purpose of trade. That is the basis of liberal philosophy, you can choose how you will live. Moreover an historical approach will show that perceptions of market ethics are subject to change with the evolution of markets themselves. Two hundred years ago it was perfectly acceptable to trade in slaves, now it is not. Happiness of the greatest number?" Markets have their own laws and these are utilitarian. If you do not stick to them you will come out as loser. It is not market ethics that chnage but subject of exchange - the deep and extend of commodification. "The establishment of market society requires the commodification of every thing." I am not sure about this either. In truth, market society is dependent on a lot of non-market activity to exist at all. If this non-market activity disappears, the society breaks down. A market society that reproduces itself on the basis of the economic laws of the market requires only that certain critical resources are commercially supplied. In Europe, this was the result of a long process of evolution and revolutions, through which obstacles to market trade in critical areas were gradually broken down. If strictly everything in life becomes commodified, however, it is likely society breaks down simply because we ordinary mortals cannot afford to buy it all. I am talking about a situation where e.g. everything I do, experience and consume depends on a commercial transaction. Reply: Yes I agree. Market societies depend on a lot of non-market activities. But this shows the limits of commodifications. For the rest I would like to refer to Marx's chapter on original accumulation in the Capital. I hope these make a sense. For further discussion I like proposing that we take one subject and go into deep and then go on to the next one and so on. How do you think about this? You can choose the subject. I thank you very much. Regards, Dogan.
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