Re: [OPE-L] How I got a bit of criticism

From: Dogan Goecmen (Dogangoecmen@AOL.COM)
Date: Sat Nov 18 2006 - 07:45:48 EST

'Being thought-provoking is not everything - you also have to really  solve
some problems of course, if you have intellectual integrity. It is one  thing
to say that problems aren't framed correctly, another to solve  them.  I want
to write up a book sometime with my conclusions, but I  don't know when yet
at this stage. It's a question of some more personal  experience before
things settle into place, I expect. I don't have the  opportunity right now
to read and research all I need.'

Dear Jurrian,
I think that in our discussions we solve lots of things, though we cannot  
appreciate every single thing. They me be first little things. But without this  
we cannot solve big problems and for solving big problems we have to take 
time.  From our discussion a learnt a lot, for example, I was pushed to develop a 
more  consistent conception of utopia and also to think about the concept of 
utility  in much broader historical context. From your, Jerry's and others'  
contributions I learnt that the issues relating to historical and dialectical  
materialism are more problematic than I thought before. You want to write a  
book? Why not discuss the problems you want to raise with us then? Every book 
is  in one way or another a collective work. Names on books are not there to 
say  this my intelletual property. They are there to say that I am the person 
who put  the last full stop and therefore I am the person who is primarily 
responsible  for the content. I will send you my book - with great pleasure. But 
think about  it again. 
To be provokative these are some ideas of mine below if you want to reply,  
to bring me down to the earth.

Now, one may pose the question: what is irrational in the functioning of  
capitalism? These philosophers, as I have already suggested above, formulated a  
total critique of capitalist society. When they formulate their comprehensive  
critique they develop it by starting from the analysis of the sphere of  
production. The main category in their critique is the category of labour. To  
find out whether or not and how and to what extent a society is rational we need  
according to these philosophers particularly to focus on social relations in 
the  sphere of production. All other forms of evils in a given society arise 
directly  or indirectly from the relations of production. In order to find out 
whether we  live rationally or not we have to consider above all how we work. 
In other  words, these philosophers make use of causality as a methodological 
device in  its broad sense. I think that Robert Owen summarises the principle 
of their  methodological approach accurately when he asserts that ‘[i]t is … 
an important  step gained when the cause of evil is ascertained. The next is 
to devise  a remedy for the evil, which shall create the least possible 
inconvenience. To  discover that remedy, and try its efficacy in practice, have been 
the  employments of my life’._[1]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftn1)  
Now, how do we work in capitalist society or what does ‘civilised labour’  
looks like, in order to use one of Fourier’s fundamental categories? The answer 
 to this question may also answer the question why Fourier and others dealt 
with  civilisation as an ‘inverted world’. When these philosophers criticise 
the way  we labour in capitalist society they rely on a certain conception of 
human  nature – a conception of human nature, as Owen puts it, ‘not indeed as 
it is  explained in legendary tales of old, but as it now may be read in the 
living  subject – in the words and actions of those among whom we exist.’_[2]_ 
(aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftn2)  When Owen started publishing his 
four  essays in 1813, which were collected in 1816 under the title of A New  
Society, he declared that his essays ‘have been dictated by a  comprehensive view 
of human nature’_[3]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftn3)  - a 
comprehensive view which attacks the very  basis of traditional European philosophy at 
least since Descartes, which teaches  that bodily and intellectual capacities 
were at variance and that bodily  capacities can be ignored or even repressed. 
This comprehensive view is also  very fundamental to Fourier’s and Saint Simon’
s teaching. What does human nature  mean? ‘Human nature’, Owen asserts, ‘is 
created, with its organs, faculties, and  propensities, of body and mind, at 
birth’. According to Owen ‘all of which  qualities and powers are necessary 
for the continuation of the species, and the  growth, health, progress, 
excellence, and happiness, of the individual and of  society.’_[4]_ 
(aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftn4)  That is to suggest that all individuals are  equipped 
potentially with all their intellectual and physical capacities which  they 
unfold and enjoy throughout their life. In other words, in order to use  another 
fundamental category of Fourier’s: human beings have bodily and  intellectual 
passions. These passions are nothing but needs in its most  comprehensive 
sense. According to Fourier to fulfil ourselves, that is, to enjoy  recognition 
among our fellow citizens, the passions must be satisfied rather  than repressed 
as Stoics since ancient times and rational philosophers in modern  times 
suggest. Fourier however highlights that the passions cannot be repressed.  
According to him this is ‘an opinion doubly absurd inasmuch as we can only  repress 
our passions by violence or absorbing replacement, which  replacement is no 
repression.’_[5]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftn5)  Therefore, Owen 
asserts that the ‘great object of  society is, to obtain wealth, and to enjoy it’
_[6]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftn6) , or elsewhere: ‘[t]he object of 
all human  exertions is to be happy’._[7]_ 
(aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftn7)  This is the end of life and all our toils  and labour serve to this end: 
to fulfil ourselves by satisfying our bodily and  intellectual passions and 
enjoy thereby according to our life-project  recognition among our fellow 
But the way ‘civilised labour’ is organised counteracts  this end of life. 
It can hardly serve to this end consciously. On the contrary,  in many ways it 
distorts and inverts this end. In that connection in the  writings of these 
philosophers we find analyses in at least two respects.  Firstly, particularly 
in the writings of Fourier there is an analysis of  the work of what we may 
call the middle class. In that connection Owen works out  how enterprises work. 
Secondly, particularly in the writings of Fourier  and Owen there is an 
analysis of the situation and labour of the working  classes. 
Firstly, Fourier refers to the work of the middle  class as ‘subversion’ 
causing an ‘opposition of two kinds of interest,  collective and individual.’
_[8]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftn8)   According to their situation 
every person belonging to this class is necessarily  ‘at war with the mass, and 
malevolent toward it from personal interest.’_[9]_ 
(aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftn9)   Let us for example take a physician. The purpose of the work of a 
physician is  to provide medical care and health. But in civilised society as 
Fourier puts it  ‘[a] physician wishes his fellow-citizens good, genuine 
cases of fever’ since  this is the source of his income. Let us take another case –
 the case of an  attorney. Instead of a good harmonious family life ‘an 
attorney’ wishes because  of the same reasons ‘good lawsuits in every family’. The 
same principle can also  be applied to the case of architects, glaziers, 
shoemakers and so on. Because of  the same reasons ‘[a]n architect has need of a 
good conflagration which should  reduce a quarter of the city to ashes, and a 
glazier desires a good hail-storm  which should break all the panes of glass. A 
tailor, a shoemaker, wishes the  public to use only poorly-dyed stuffs and 
shoes made of bad leather, so that a  triple amount may be consumed, - for the 
benefit of trade; that is their  refrain.’_[10]_ 
(aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftn10)   These people wish always the opposite from what their work aims  
Closely related to this is what Fourier called ‘anarchy’ in the  
organisation of production in civilisation. Robert Owen worked out this aspect  very 
nicely in his A Further Development of the Plan for the Relief of the  
Manufacturing and Labouring Poor in 1817. There he observes that every  manufacturer 
produces as a closed entity apart from the others, that is, without  any 
co-operation. ‘In the management of the workhouses, etc.,’ he continues,  that ‘there 
is no unity of action; each part is so placed as to feel an interest  at 
variance with the others; they are, in fact, a compound of the same errors  that 
pervade common society, where all are so circumstanced as to  counteract each 
other’s intentions, and thus render even extraordinary energies  and talents of 
no avail’. This anarchy in production leads to a wasteful  application of ‘
labour and expenditure’. If however production were organised on  the basis of 
the principle of co-operation or ‘combination’ it ‘would produce  the most 
extensive and beneficial effects’._[11]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftn11) 
Secondly, unlike the work of the ruling classes, the  labour of the lower 
classes is the only source of wealth as Owen puts it. In  other words, the labour 
of the labouring class is the only productive and useful  labour since this 
form of labour is the only one which provides the material and  intellectual 
wants of society. In relation to the improvement of the means of  production the 
productivity of the labour of the working classes increases. The  
introduction of manufacture for example has multiplied wealth and industry.  Thanks to 
the development of modern arts and sciences the invention of a ‘little  steam’ 
can perform the labour of 1000 men. Owen observes for example in his  Report 
to the County of Lanark that ‘[t]he increase of the steam-engine  and the 
spinning-machine added in an extraordinary manner to the powers of human  nature. 
In their consequence they have in half a century multiplied the  productive 
power, or the means of creating wealth, among the population of these  islands, 
more than twelvefold, besides giving a great increase to the means of  creating 
wealth in other countries.’_[12]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftn12)   
And he continues further down: ‘[t]he discovery of the distance and movements 
of  the heavenly bodies – of the timepiece – of a vessel to navigate the most 
 distant parts of the ocean – of the steam-engine, which perform under the  
control of one man the labour of many thousands – and of the press, by which  
knowledge and improvement may be speedily given to the most ignorant in all  
parts of the earth – these have, indeed, been discoveries of high importance to  
mankind’._[13]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftn13)  
However, to see the other side, these improvements and inventions  inflicted 
also ‘evils on society’. ‘They have created an aggregate of wealth,  and 
placed it in the hands of few, who, by its aid, continue to absorb the  wealth 
produced by the industry. Thus the mass of the population are become mere  slaves 
to the ignorance and caprice of these monopolists, and are far more truly  
helpless and wretched than they were before the names of Watt and Arkwright were 
 known.’_[14]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftn14)  Therefore, ‘[a]ll 
know, however, that these  beneficial effects do not exist. On the contrary, it 
must be acknowledged that  the working classes, which form so large a 
proportion of the population, cannot  obtain even the comforts which their labour 
formerly procured for  them…’_[15]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftn15)  
They are, as Fourier asserts, ‘far from sharing  in the increase of wealth, 
gather(s) from it only added privation’; they see ‘a  greater variety of 
commodities which’ they ‘cannot enjoy'; they are even not  sure of obtaining ‘
repugnant labour’ as Fourier calls wage-labour in capitalist  society._[16]_ 


_[1]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref1)  Owen,  R., A New View of 
Society, in: A New View of Society and Other Writings, p. 3  (italics added).
_[2]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref2)  Owen,  R., A New View of 
Society, in: A New View of Society and Other Writings, p.  8
_[3]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref3)  Owen,  R., A New View of 
Society, in: A New View of Society and Other Writings, p. 1  (italics added).
_[4]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref4)  Owen,  R., The Revolution 
in the mind and Practice of the Human Race, in: A New View of  Society and 
Other Writings, p. 365.
_[5]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref5)   Fourier, Ch., Selections 
from the Work of Fourier, p.  56.
_[6]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref6)  Owen,  R., Report to the 
County of Lanark, in: A New View of Society and Other  Writings, p. 268.
_[7]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref7)  Owen,  R., A Sketch of Some 
of the Errors and Evils Arising from the Past and Present  State of Society, 
in: A New View of Society and Other Writings, p.  159.
_[8]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref8)   Fourier, Ch., Selections 
from the Works of Fourier, p.  86.
_[9]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref9)   Ibid.
_[10]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref10)   Ibid.
_[11]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref11)  Owen,  R., A Further 
Development of the Plan for the Relief of the Manufacturing and  Labouring Poor, 
in: A New View of Society and Other Writings, p.  144.
_[12]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref12)  Owen,  R., Report to the 
County of Lanark, in: A New View of Society and Other  Writings, p. 263.
_[13]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref13)  Ibid,  p. 278.
_[14]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref14)  Owen,  R., Report to the 
County of Lanark, in: A New View of Society and Other  Writings, p. 264.
_[15]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref15)  Owen,  R., Report to the 
County of Lanark, in: A New View of Society and Other  Writings, p. 252.
_[16]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref16)   Fourier, Ch., Selections 
from the Works of Fourier, pp.  87.

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