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’.__ (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.’__ (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’__ (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.’__ (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.’__ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftn5) Therefore, Owen asserts that the ‘great object of society is, to obtain wealth, and to enjoy it’ __ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftn6) , or elsewhere: ‘[t]he object of all human exertions is to be happy’.__ (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 creatures. 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.’ __ (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.’__ (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.’__ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftn10) These people wish always the opposite from what their work aims at. 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’.__ (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.’__ (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’.__ (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.’__ (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…’__ (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.__ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftn16) ____________________________________ __ (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). __ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref2) Owen, R., A New View of Society, in: A New View of Society and Other Writings, p. 8 __ (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). __ (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. __ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref5) Fourier, Ch., Selections from the Work of Fourier, p. 56. __ (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. __ (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. __ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref8) Fourier, Ch., Selections from the Works of Fourier, p. 86. __ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref9) Ibid. __ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref10) Ibid. __ (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. __ (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. __ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref13) Ibid, p. 278. __ (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. __ (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. __ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref16) Fourier, Ch., Selections from the Works of Fourier, pp. 87.
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