Sunday, June 12, 2022

The Transaction

 





 


 

Those who make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.*

- As science advances weather prediction is becoming less accurate as human interference - pollution  - creates chaotic conditions. Do you think the same is happening in human history: is it becoming more difficult to predict?
- I think it is. The way nearly the entire world, within weeks, adopted from dictatorial China the unprecedented lockdown policy of quarantining the healthy seemed to come out of nowhere.
- Do you think there is some sort of interference in ordinary human behavior, something massive and uniform equivalent to pollution, that is creating chaotic, unpredictable conditions?
- Again, I do.
- And what is the human pollution?
- The transaction. Have you ever wondered why now this epidemic of people living on the street, said to number more than a million in the United States alone?
- Sure I have.
- If you don't have your own place to live and you live, not in the wild but in public, your every move is a transaction: there is no place to go where you won't have to negotiate being allowed there, either buying something or working to stay unnoticed by the police so as not to be moved on to someplace else. Consider this together with the utopian plan coming from the super rich meeting in Davos, The Great Reset: the masses of people will own nothing, everything they use will be rented, receiving in place of ownership a Buddhist-like spiritual feeling of detachment from the world's physical objects. But as the rich buy out more and more of the world's governments, as they eliminate regulations of business, with absolute monopolization of markets they will be able at will to raise prices, increase unemployment, raise interest rates on loans, so as the move the people of the Great Reset, who will own nothing and won't be able to pay rent any more, out of the class of renters and into the class of those living on the street.
- I never heard that before.
- Keep listening. A transaction, paying rent for example, has no history, doesn't develop; each side attempts to make the other compromise its demands, and then when all is settled: Next transaction, please! Giant pharmaceutical companies routinely pay the government billion dollar fines, making billions more than the fines in profit out of their fraudulently sold drugs: deal! they cry, and move on to the next compromise transaction. Compare how a human relates, adjusts, accommodates to the world. Do you give a gun you've been asked to hold back to its owner who's out of his mind on mind altering substances? No, you break the rule about keeping promises, but only this time, you keep in mind the reason why, which is to do good. The intention to do good persists, carries on to the next accommodation human beings must constantly make with the world. Which do you think acts like pollution in history: the transactions that pile one upon another without history, or the accommodation that adjusts to the world maintaining a single direction?
- You think transactions, capitalism in other words, unregulated capitalism, is creating the chaotic conditions to suddenly produce the 'extreme weather' of near universal adoption of lockdowns? 
- The lockdown removal of people from public places broke the continuity required for good life with others, favored the history-less commercial transactions that could continue to be practiced by each isolated individual.
- But we've suggested previously that the lockdowns were applied as a test to see how much repression people would accept, as a cover up of and diversion from the recession, bank and industry failure, that arrived in December 2019.
- I still think those are good theories. But the suddenness and universality of the lockdowns  requires its own explanation, 
- And that is the prevailing transactional nature of our times.
- It explains a lot. For example, blindness of the supporters of our former president to his obvious bad character, his putting on display every single evil a human being is subject to. He attempted to overthrow the government? But what about Biden, he's let gas prices double? All we need to know is which is the better transaction, the better exchange for our vote. Character - habit of behavior that is the influence of the past on the future - is invisible to the merely transactional. Creating chaos, the world's governments issue dictates, mandate fraudulent transactions, tells us: endure our lockdowns, take our vaccines, you'll be safe! A huge propaganda campaign is launched out of the news media, social media, academia, the government and international institutions against lockdown critique, against doubts of vaccine effectiveness and safety, against the lab leak hypothesis, against treatment with existing repurposed drugs. How wrong all this is, how remote from science! Scientists question, give up the part of their suppositions that prove to be untrue, move forward with the rest.

Further Reading:
__________________________
* Voltaire

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Hello, Starbucks!


- I was trying to be funny.* I know you don't believe me.
- You were more terrifying than funny.
- I'll try again.
- Start with explaining for me the title.
- 'Hello, Starbucks!'
- Yes.
- By mentioning the word 'Starbucks' I make sure our conversation will be entered into court records.
- Why?
- Starbucks, as a corporation, as a thing of ideas become mortal, as one of the legally defined lords of the territory of death, seems to believe that any sign of mortality I leave behind they'll be able to use against me in an ongoing lawsuit. 
- Your words are signs of mortality?
- Dead as can be, buried within thousands of pagers of legal documents produced so far.
- What's it all about?
- I can't tell you. Starbucks got a judge to issue a gag order.
- Why?
- You know how the Supreme Court has determined that corporations are not what they really are, which is abstractions, a product of ideas, but rather are people that have free speech, that is, the legal right to the material act of bribing politicians to act in their material interests of hoarding and domination? Human beings for most of written history have been endeavoring to move in the opposite direction, from mortality to immortality, from a state of being tied to material realities to freedom in the realm of ideas.
- Human beings, according to Starbucks, moving in the opposite direction to corporations, from out of the mortal world instead of into it, have no legitimate use of words? Excuse me, but what are you and me doing now but using words?
- We're not using words in the attempt to kill them entering them in the tomb of legal records.
- What are we doing?
- To be honest you and me, we are mere characters on the internet whose only business is to lay claim to the reality of ideas. Is this a little funny yet?
- No.
- I'l tell you about one of the regulars I spoke with once at the night cafe, and then again this afternoon, a man who describes himself as a reformed bad guy. He told me, back in the dark times of lockdowns, that he meditates and has made himself through meditation into a force of good in the world. For example, I ask, what good has he done lately? With every little thing he pays attention to he is doing good, he says. He's doing me good now? Yes. What's the nature of this good he's doing me? I ask. He'll buy me a steak dinner if I'm hungry, he says. He's flush with money tonight. How come? He helped out a friend, and the friend gave him in return a thousand dollars. What kind of help? He allowed his identity to be used to apply for government funds.
- He got a thousand, and his "friend" applied for and presumably got tens of thousands in unemployment and other so called stimulus funds? 
- Who was this friend?
- A family of gypsies who operate a fortune-telling salon in the neighborhood.
- Is this guy is some kind of idiot or what?
- He speaks with complete assurance of his reaching towards godhood. His reaching towards immortality, he tells me this afternoon, involves secreting away his spirit within the things of the world, invulnerably surrounding it in indifference to the things of the world. Invulnerable to the world? I ask. Yes. So if he stood in one of the villages in Ukraine being shelled by the Russians at the rate of one exploding missile every few seconds, nothing would happen to him? No. So if he gathered around him all the villagers and they stood close to him, they'd be safe too? He says, Yes.
- Why are you telling me this story?
- Because he is an example of just what human beings should not want to, which is do what the corporations are doing.
- Which is to bury an idea, which is immaterial, hiding it in the dross, in the protective shell of the material world.
- Yes. And do you know what was uppermost in my mind, listening to this spiritual identity criminal?
- What?
- That since I am not a corporation moving from immortality to mortality, rather moving in the other direction, I should be able to see in him the signs of the difference.
- How?
- By being able to recognize the form of what I am doing or trying to do and he is not.
- Is something like that visible?
- It can be. I was watching a video last night of a discussion between two very advanced in years Jewish philosophers, or rather since their actual knowledge specialities were elsewhere, say rather I watched two Jews advanced in years philosophizing. One observed that all people alike have to capacity to do evil. The other strenuously objects, No! We Jews could never create anything like the Holocaust. The first immediately retreated, agreed: No, we are spared that eventuality.**
- And do you agree?
- Yes.
- Why?
- Because Judaism codifies, and insures is put into practice, a technique that first appeared to history sometime in the first millenium BC. This is the trick of immortality, of movement out of the world of body into the world of mind.
- And what is that trick?
- I'll pretend this isn't the thousanth time I've been over this: when we act in the world we do it experimentally, with a sense of ourselves in a world that in flux is therefore undefined, and when we rest in contemplation of the world, we see only the whole, no passage of time no divisions of space.
- Neither in act or perception is there any sense of our being a thing in a world of things, because when we act we sense ourselves unrooted in any stillness able to fix a sense of reality, and when we rest in perception we don't see any divisions and therefore no particular things to locate ourselves within. Therefore acting in the correct form, seeing in the correct form, we are invulnerable to thoughts of mortality.
- Invulnerable to thought of mortality, but what about to the reality of mortality?
- That too, since mortality is an idea before it becomes a thing, armor for failed humanity to hide within.
- And the Holocaust?
- Isn't it obvious? People who believe and feel themselves immortal are not tempted to model the world into any form of mortality.
- I understand.
- Good. So I'm looking at the identity fraudster at the night cafe, asking myself, can I see this form, or rather, the absence of this form as I look at him?
- Could you?
- I could. I saw as he located himself in the things of the world in an intoxicated rushed blurring of words, I saw it in his self-attributed distinction of invulnerability to bombs, signified in the shell-shocked fixity of his expression.
- You saw a soul lowering itself to mortality. Or so you claim.

Further Reading:
_________________________
** 'Our culture is so, that even the most deranged of us will have certain limitations.' (Physiologist Eric Kandel, hastening to agree with Holocaust surviver Elie Wiesel.)

Monday, May 30, 2022

Computer Supply


For several years now, since before the COVID lockdowns, sometime after midnight and almost everyday I've been going to the coffee shop, sitting outside on their terrace with a box of their $2 pancakes and my computer. I'd listen to music, watch movies and videos, read novels from the Internet Library. There would be constant traffic, the people who live on the streets passing through the terrace on the way to dig into the restaurant garbage cans, many of them asking me for money or if they could have my pancakes (when asked directly like that I complied, I didn't really want them anyway, they were something to order). Every degree of human destitution would in the coming hours be on display on the terrace: the drug addict, the alcoholic, the schizophrenic, the demented. They'd come and go. They'd dance, they'd jerk, they'd mumble, they'd twitch. Some would scream. Some would lay out of the terrace pavement their finds that night dug out from the garbage, offer to sell me this or that, which merchandise would at times alarmingly be conveyed by a filthy hand into my line of sight betwen my face and the computer screen. All was well, if that was well, until the beginning of this year. I noticed little things disappearing from my bag. A cheap broken watch, things like that. A few times I found myself looking up from my computer to be looking in the eyes of one the regulars, bending down to get a good look at my face. This particular habitué was distinguished by his mechanical skill building luggage-carrying contraptions out of abandoned baby carriages and bikes he stole. I finally got the message: I was getting hypnotized by the pulsing of the screen and late hours, dozing off for a few minutes. I resolved to be vigilant. But apparently that was beyond me, because a couple nights later a song was over and I sit up to find my computer was gone, headphone jack disconnected. This is mildly disturbing. I have to change all my passwords. But this was not the war in Ukraine (my constant viewing these days). I buy a 7 year old Chromebook for 40 dollars, and the next evening I am back at my usual table ready for battle. But vigilence fails, I look up from the screen to see a tall hooded masked man with sunglasses with both his hand gripping the top of the computer screen. No! I shout, and take a grip on the sides of the screen. The masked and hooded apparition about faces and scurries away. You'd think I'd learn my lesson by this point. But just a couple nights later song over, I sit up, and computer is gone again! This time I admit I am more than a little disturbed. Not by the company I'm keeping, but by embarrassment I know I'm going to feel at having to tell this story. Am I really this stupid or do I really not care? I console myself that I can't go 6 months without drowning my computer in spilled coffee, and don't forget I find a lot of money riding my bike to the coffee shop so in a strict financial accounting I am still way ahead. I replace the computer in a couple days with a ten year old MacBook Air, thinking that if I have some respect for the computer I will better keep my eyes on it. The next skirmish comes three days later, when I look up and, yes, the computer is still there, but not my backpack with charger and all kinds of necessary things in it. I realize that now my inventory of earthly possessions comes down to: (1) bike (2) computer (no charger). With no bag bike transport involves tucking the solid metal MacBook under my sweater, for all the world like a bulletproof vest and I'm actually in Ukraine. That is a little funny. Next day I bought a backpack from a second hand shop and charger from computer repair. The next night wifi is off at the coffee shop. I decide to fortify myself with strong coffee, sit up strait, and wait and watch. And what do you think I see, or should I say, what have I done? Like in a nightmare or a zombie movie a convocation of the destitute is in progress, every ten or fifteen minutes another coming down the two streets (the coffee shop is on a corner) not in  the normal traffic pattern towards the trash cans or the restaurant doors but angling directly at me, coming to examine the state of my vigilance, me the supplier of free computers to the community and other valuable commodities.

Further Reading:

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Rituals Of Love & Hate

Great Seal of the United States (obverse).svg

- I can't tell if you are just keeping silence or have nothing to say.
- I can't either.
- But you'll respond to me if I come up with something new.
- Have you come up with something new?
- Is it true that democracy, all the way back to its experiments in ancient Athens, has been at risk from demagoguery, and from the beginning known to be at risk?
- Yes.
- And a demagogue, according to our own James Fenimore Cooper, writing in 1838, claims to represent the common people, incites intense passions among them, exploits those reactions to take power, and breaks or at least threatens established rules of political conduct, all this to serve the interests of the demagogue and his friends. Demagoguery, which can give the appearance of insanity of both leaders and led, works because it establishes ritual: tells a story of our past greatness but present weakness, identifies our enemy that is responsible for present weakness, but, the story goes, a leader has arisen who will eliminate the enemy and restore us to greatness. Alright?
- Go on.
- Here's my idea: of our two political parties, we have one that clearly is fascistic: in the story told of making the nation great again, the scapegoating, the lies, the appeals to emotion. But what if the other political party also is fascistic?
- How?
- You've explained that the difference between our political parties is that though both parties condone the silent rule of the class of the wealthy over the class of the not wealthy, one party accepts inequality among the not wealthy, the other advocates strict equality among the various sub-classes ruled over by the wealthy, the classes distinguished from each other by race, religion, sexuality, age, character. etc. Can it be that any one of these subclasses, identities we call them these days, can and does form itself into fascistic relation to other identities?
- When one identity is seen to have more power than another?
- Has more power in the limited power-world of the less wealthy in which they are locked into by the government controlled by the wealthy.
- Yet each identity commonly claims otherwise, claims to tolerate, love even, the other identities, to be flourishing in a society of identities, each tolerating the others.
- But is that true? Love requires knowledge, but isn't the relation between identity based groups that of individuals blinded by passion in the midst of a power struggle, individuals in each group competing with those in the other groups to get an equal share of the residual wealth left to them by the wealthy overlords in control of the government?
- Each identity group, in the blind passion of struggle against the other identity groups for power, though they may only get a few more crumbs fallen from the table of the wealthy, obtain the satisfaction of security from the practice of ritual.
- Yes. Outright falsehoods by members of identities are accepted because produced in the course of passion, passionate reenactment of ritual. Stolen elections, infinite number of different sexes, any number of obvious you'd think falsehoods, there is no arguing against what is the product of ritual performed passion, whether it is the passion of national revival or identity empowerment.
- And you'd like to know what I think?
- Yes.
- Aristotle believed that democracy was less liable to faction than oligarchy: the different oligarchs were every man for himself, while in democracy it was only the wealthy against the not. Do you know what happened to prove Aristotle wrong?
- The inclusion into the electorate, the stable middle class of Athens that was neither rich nor poor, that therefore could communicate calmly with reason, of all those groups that had been excluded from citizenship: immigrants, women, landless, the poor.
- We're living in this world of lies, lies that when challenged are only responded to with other lies. Maybe that's why I don't have much to say.

Further Reading:

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

War








- The COVID panic was bad enough.
- Yeah.
- And now this.
- The incomprehension we feel facing these public events is astonishing.
- Not only do we not understand what is happening but we can't understand why we're so confused, why we don't understand.
- We knew our leaders were the worst of human beings and were likely to make their decisions accordingly. But still....
- We forgot that evil can be creative. We saw that in the obvious mass destructiveness of the lockdowns, a new, on the face of it, idiotic policy, an unprecedented quarantining of the healthy rather than the sick. It took some time to see where the creativity was going, what profit was in the destruction of social and personal and economic life.
- Destruction of small business, and increase of monopolization of big business, graft in grabbing government benefits, cover up and distraction from the under-reported recession / bank failure of 2019, the trick of calling the financial system's bailout a COVID remedy.
- Already an old story. Now we have Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and the mind-boggling reluctance of our country and other supposedly anti-authoritarian countries to help Ukraine with the weapons needed to stop Russian civilian targeting bombing and missile strikes. What's going on?
- It can't be what they say, that air defense weapons would be seen as our nation entering into war with Russia.
- Why not?
- Because Russia, Putin has already said he considers military aid currently arriving an act of war on the part of the donor nations.
- Then what is it?
- Government officials in the corrupt employee of wealth and big business influences that will do anything for money.
- What are they doing?
- Trying to lengthen the war so as to both use up American produced weapons that will have to be replaced, paid for by the ordinary tax payers, most of the wealth of the rich hidden and untaxed, and at the same time result in the progressive, large scale destruction of the Russian military at the hands of the Ukrainians.
- Why?
- Why do they want to destroy Russia's military?
- Yes.
- The experience of COVID lockdowns teaches us: destruction used as the creative tool of monopolization, in this case of monopoly of military force serving political power serving economic interests.
- To keep the dollar the world's currency and keep foreign markets open.

Further Reading:

P.S. APRIL 24, 2022 KRAMATORSK, Ukraine  — Following the highest-level U.S. mission to Ukraine since the start of the war, the secretaries of State and Defense said Monday that the Biden administration was intent on helping the country win its war against Russia and on seeing Moscow “weakened to the point” where it cannot mount such aggression again. (From The Los Angeles Times)

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Notes From Court Ordered Settlement Conference













Starbucks' Imaginative New Business Model

Yes, I answered the Magistrate Judge, I have accused Starbucks and their former employee Freddy Ambriz, in a time (May 2021) of large scale public agitation against Israel and Jews in the neighborhood of the Starbucks store I visited daily, of acting on the basis of anti-Semitism in their claiming to be instituting a new policy of a ninety minute stay limit, twice in two days running threatening to call to the police and have me thrown out if I didn't immediately leave.

Starbucks Corp. claims that it allows its local stores to individually and orally only (no written records) set policy without the knowledge and approval of the corporate leadership. This is why neither Starbucks Corporate office that responded to my immediate emails asking for clarification, nor the West L.A. regional manager, responsible for the Beverly Hills store where the events at issue took place, knew anything about this store policy made pursuant to a corporate policy to allow individually determined new store policy without written record or notification of regional and higher level corporate management.

However, neither the corporate office nor the West L.A. Regional manager were aware of this claimed permission for stores to separately institute novel policy, without record or report to higher level management. The corporate office did not say to me when I asked them if there was a stay limit policy that they couldn't possibly know for sure because stores set their own policy. Rather categorically both the corporate office contacted by email and the West L.A. Regional manager spoken with by telephone confirmed to me that there was no such policy.

This so-called single store "experimental" policy Starbucks Corp. now claims was in effect at that store for only two days, the two days that I was told there was a ninety minute stay limit. According to Starbucks Corp. this ending of the policy was in response to my complaint. In other words, Starbucks Corp claims they allow their lowest level employees to make unreported, unrecorded (verbal only) policy, and claims that an ordinary customer is allowed to invalidate that policy merely by making a complaint. Starbucks Corp. claims this two day policy was to allow more patrons to sit down in the face of limited seating mandated by COVID-19 restrictions, this claim made despite the fact that I was usually the only customer in the store when I visited. It seems that Starbucks' supposed concern with limited seating vanished when I made a complaint.

According to Starbucks, acting in the pursuit of implementing this oral, non-reported, free of management supervision policy, two people in two days were told to leave. The two persons were me, and a severely mentally ill woman living on the streets and sleeping on the porch of the nearby Good Shepherd Church, who, I know from her communication with me, had already for a long time previously been forbidden from staying even one minute inside the store. There therefore could not be implementing of a new policy with regard to her (and even if there were, clearly it would be motivated by discrimination against someone mentally ill.)

I have spoken to three people who also were daily customers at this Beverly Hills Starbucks and who all usually stayed more than ninety minutes, all of whom said they were not told of a ninety minute rule. One of these people, a tenured professor at UCLA, has put in writing a statement that he was a daily visitor who stayed hours writing a book every day during the period in question and was never told of any 90 minutes stay limit. The selective enforcement of the rule provides evidence of discriminatory conduct; the large unprecedented agitation going on at this time and place show by context the specific form of discrimination involved: anti-Semitism.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Philosophers Who Kill










- A competitor kills the competition, in the language of sports, and elsewhere. You were complaining about how shocked you were by government repression in the name of COVID-19, the government's deliberately terrifying people and the people's consequent compliance.
- And you weren't surprised?
- You expressed yourself as astonished, caught off-guard. But, you know, not everyone was.
- Who could have predicted what we're going through?
- Philosophers. Walter Benjamin, writing in 1940, with regard to Germany legalizing Hitler's ascension to status of dictator:
The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. Then we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency, and this will improve our position in the struggle against Fascism. One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its opponents treat it as a historical norm. The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are ‘still’ possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge—unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable. (Theses on the Philosophy of History,VIII.) 
Picking up on the idea of continual state of exception, Michel Foucault described a 'biopolitics' in which government interfered in the lives of the people, managing the health of the bodies and mind that continually were in need of management. And then we have Georgio Agamben, who unlike the previous two is still among the living, who taught us that in a further state of exception not only are we stripped of the protection of the laws, but we become 'bare life', not only our health, not only sexuality, diet, exercise managed but the totality of life now up for grabs. Sound familiar?
- Lockdowns, masks, vaccine mandates.
- Yes. The state of exception of COVID-19 is not an exception; oppression in one form or another has been constant.
- Some examples of the continuous oppression?
- Regular economic crashes, with those who cause them being bailed out by the government they control, everyone else not bailed out; the unprecedented total surveillance of communications leading the populace into self censorship.
- Living in a time when Nazi Germany was actually using state of emergency law to change the rules so as to legitimize Nazi total control, 
Walter Benjamin didn't anticipate that a truly exceptional, innovative form of state of exception would be declared leaving the people in 'bare life', life without political power, in the name of protecting life from a virus, in the name of fighting which the people would be threatened with being stripped of all life activities, under house arrest, masked, facing the possibility of forcible vaccination.
- So even if it were true our political rights were always in various degrees in a state of exception, in this new, particular kind of state of exception, predicted by our philosophers, in the context of a government using the technique of biopower, in the name of 'bare life', life without protection of the laws, all forms of social and personal life were being abrogated. What do you think? Were these philosophers inadvertently writing the instruction manual being used by our leaders to reduce us all to 'bare life'? Or did our leaders make out the exceptional possibilities of biopower on their own?
- Who knows?
- If this 'bare life', lockdown life, mask and vaccine mandate life, really is not exceptional, what follows? More extreme states of exception, social and personal interference, or can we expect a return to a more comfortable political abrogation of rights?
- We can expect the situation to in some ways to get worse in a return to normal history, that is, ongoing war of the very rich against everyone else. For Agamben's particular case of Foucault's biopower involves not only that we are always more or less being stripped of the protection of laws, but in a second phase, the laws of supervision and control previously used to authorize supposed protection of 'bare life' in need of recovery now authorize the extermination of any and all people in the impoverished state of lacking the advanced value of political life, who living in 'bare life' have no right to exist.
- Excluding of course those who are managing the state of exception, the essential job of management entailing interests and rewards adding up to much more than bare life.
- Yes. See them march clothed in the significance of their work right ahead in the drive to transfer all the wealth of those who not being worthy of life certainly are not worthy to have possessions.
- Race is integrally involved here in this exceptional use of this special kind of biopower, government supervision threatening the very existence of 'bare life'.
- How?
- Our l
eaders, clothed with state of exception extra-legal political powers, are clearly distinguishable from those living in the abject condition of 'bare life': they are a superior race. If in our history, progress reflected in the rule of law is restricted by the countervailing force of class war, war of masters against slaves, this conception of race war is something new, something that requires some understanding, some consciousness of life bereft of political protections, something which our philosophers amazingly enough actually foresaw.
- So, with COVID-19 we are in a real state of exception this time?
- Our times, for our leaders, are open season for profits at any cost. Money breeding more money. As often observed, the word for interest in ancient Greek is "offspring". And what is money, and profit, but pure reproduction of something that is without content, is simple potential, power to persist, to continue going on.
- 'Bare life' again.
- Yes. And tied in again with the state of exception. For what is race but a tracing of that history of power to go on, mere persistence, without content?
- You think that our leaders' intimate practice of capitalism and racism was enough to show them the way to the great leap forward of present times COVID-19 repressions: lockdowns, vaccine and mask mandates, fear mongering, openly skewed statistics on deaths, risks, efficacy of treatments, vaccinations, etc.?
- Nevertheless our time's philosophers do seem to have had a special relation to the 
'bare life' of race and mass killings. Just yesterday a UCLA teacher of philosophy, a specialist in race and identity who had published an 800 page manifesto loaded with anti-Semitism and threats of mass shootings was arrested after he tried to buy a gun but was refused by the gunshop: his mother had days earlier reported him to the FBI which then put him on a no sale list. How many more philosophers had special connection to killing? I did a quick search on the terms 'philosophers' and 'killing' and found two professors, both with ties to anti-Semitism: a crazy 19th century Austrian who killed his professor, wrongly thinking he was Jewish, then appealing his murder conviction on the grounds that didn't all good German's believe that all Jews should be killed? The other was a 20th century French Marxist philosopher, apparently irrevocably mentally damaged by his experience in a Nazi concentration camp, who in a fit of madness strangled his wife.
- Anti-Semitism seems to show that a state of exemption has been always with us, the life of the Jews valueless 'bare life'. How do we know if our leaders will, like the history of the Jews shows happening regularly and often in the past, shift from naked in need of clothing to naked not deserving of life, from Foucault's care of and management of life, to Agamben's 'bare life' in which we are as 'bare life' of no value except as agents of their, the master race's, profit making?

Friday, January 28, 2022

Mutual Aid: Myths Of Beginnings & Ends













- Who said, 'Let's change the course of human history, starting with the past?'
'- The late David Graeber, anthropologist, author of Debt, The First Five Thousand Years, political activist, advocate of the anarchist form of social organization and co-author of the recently published book The Dawn Of Everything.
- Which book is supposed to change our understanding of the past?
- Yes. We're to understand that it is mere myth that agriculture and large population made it necessary that we live in states with inequality, exchange for profit, and obedience to orders.
- And the change in our historical understanding?
- In fact, agriculture was practiced a thousand years before the existence of states, that is, practiced by stateless people, and stateless people gathered together seasonally in groups of quite large numbers. But historically unnecessary as states are proven to be, we seem to be stuck with them now. The state the authors define as having a sovereign, a bureaucracy, and some sort of religion justifying its arrangements. History does not show a fall from a stateless golden age. That is another mere myth, they say. Rather our ancestors lived in groups combining communist mutual aid, leaders compelling the led, and (concluding individual relationships) selfish immediate exchange.
- The combinations change in proportion, that's all.
- Yes. There was no golden age.
- Nothing in history that tells us we can't get out from under our states by increasing the proportion of mutual aid and decreasing the proportion of obedience and selfish exchange.
- Yes. At any one time in history you could find a whole range of societies obedient, exchanging, or mutual aiding. And, reflecting the wealth of historical possibilities, within a society the very same practice could express mutual aid, selfish exchange, and obedience, an idea David Graeber developed in great detail in his book on debt.
- So we have variability within a single practice, within a single group, and between groups at any one time, and in the course of history itself.
- Doesn't that make you feel free, newly open to possibilities?
- No.
- Why not?
- Why was Graeber, along with virtually all of our modern day prophets claiming to be leading the way to a better world, silent about the lockdowns, a radical increase in our society's proportion of obedience and selfish exchange, decrease in proportion of mutual aid?
- He, they, considered the various proportions of mutual aid, selfish exchange and obedience they could apply in this time and place in history and made their choice. Shouldn't they have that freedom?
- In the story of the garden of Eden Eve is made as a help-meet for Adam, that is, made in a way suitable to help. What if the story is about the precedence of mutual aid?
- What difference would that make? One moment in history Eve aids Adam, the next she is obedient to him and he is at work growing grain for exchange.
- It matters that the help of Eve, who was made by god to help, is fundamental, while her obedience and Adam's work on the land is not, rather are mere consequences of historical acts that need not have been taken by her and him.
- And what difference does that make?
- In The Dawn Of Everything freedom is defined by the ability to not obey, to go, to be received with hospitality elsewhere by others. Note that to disobey on its own is nothing: if you can't go away you'll be caught and punished, and social animals that we are to go away means nothing if there is nowhere to go and be welcomed. Without mutual aid there is no freedom to disobey, no freedom.
- So David Graeber and our other prophets, one and all well established and secure in their state's bureaucracies, for whom mutual aid is not fundamental and must wait upon their free choice, at this contingent time in history have let us down. A golden age lost and to be remade, progress holding onto and building upon the prior choice of mutual aid is not a myth, is real, or can be real. Is that what you think?
- What do you think? Is there danger in seeing no direction to history?*
- What if history is off to a late start?

Further Reading;
____________________________
* Myths of beginnings and ends: the authors of The Dawn Of History make the common observation that it is dangerous to claim to know the utopia at the end of history because then every evil act can be justified as means to achieving that end. However an individual trying to hold onto the good in personal behavior and avoid the bad as time progresses and perhaps history as well does not necessarily make any such pictures and is not subject to that temptation. 

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Explaining & Explaining Away










- Look at that. The whole bench along the wall is occupied with them.
- By 'them' you mean those in Beverly Hills who sleep on the streets, or rather on the sidewalks.
- Riding my bike here I almost ran over one.
- Which one?
- How do I know? All I saw was a form buried under piles of filthy blankets.
- This Starbucks is incredible. Across the street is the Peninsula hotel, just behind the cafe building is the Waldorf Astoria, two of the most expensive hotels in the city. Look at those guys getting out of their Mclaren super car, hundreds of thousands of dollars. This place stinks. But that won't stop this country's intrepid rich from stepping right into the miasma for their coffee.
- The word 'evil' comes to mind. 
- Does calling the rich 'evil' explain anything?
- If we want an explanation of the orbits of planets, we find one in a law of gravity. But if we want an explanation of how an object moves from one place to another, we rely on what we call energy, force, momentum, sorts of things which we have no explanation of.
- Explanation meaning we can tell a story in the form of general rule relating one thing to another at one place or another.
- Yes. So if I offer an explanation of the indifference of the rich to the massive misery piling up around them, we place the rich in a certain orbit where they are subject to certain 'forces' of indocrination which convince them that it's those people's own fault, the misearable deserve to be miserable, by being punished for their error they are motivated to make corrections. Their indifference explained. Or not? Don't you still want to call them 'evil'?
- Absolutely. 
- So again: does calling the rich 'evil' explain anything, anything more than saying they are suffering from the disease of pleonexia: excessive or insatiable covetousness, from the Greek pleonektein (to be greedy), from pleion (more) + ekhein (have).
- I think it does. 
- But there's a paradox here. It seems possible to make the attribution of the word 'evil' come and go, depending on how one looks at the world. Something like when we are in the presence of beauty we see it, it gives us pleasure, it is seen as warranting the attribution 'beautiful'. Yet we can explain away the beauty by seeing instead regular relation, geometric forms, well-functioning, losing thereby both pleasure and the consideration of the object as beautiful. What if the same happens with evil? We see it, the evil in the object, we feel pain in the act of perception. Yet we can if we like shift our way of looking, see instead pleonexia, and lose both the sight of evil in the object and our pain felt in having the perception.
- How does that get us anywhere, your claiming that how we explain is up to us, is our own doing?
- It's not obvious.
- Not to me. Isn't it crazy, aren't we crazy, to be having this kind of conversation right in front of these people?
- Pretending our ideas are important when faced with all this evil going on around us?
- Yes. 
- Think about the two kinds of explanation we've talked about. One stops short of satisfaction, leaving us with unexplanable force, in the case of the indifferent rich the pleanexia 'forced' upon them by capitalism, the stock market, family, advertising, movies, etc. The other gives us a clear sight of a meaningful object and corresponding strong feeling.
- But, I don't understand. If explanation is telling a story, where's the story in choosing to see evil when we don't have to?
- When we see evil as evil we are not seeing the regularity of law, and the resulting mystification of forces responsible for the application of law to the individual, but instead, seeing evil we experience the perception as complete in itself, feel what it is to be a human being.
- The story is that the indifferent rich have chosen to live in a world they see wrong, and by calling them 'evil' we remind ourselves not to follow in their path.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Why They Did It













-Sorry to keep bothering you. No one else will talk with me about the lockdown.
- It's my pleasure.
- Is it? Good. Then here's what I want to know: How did it happen that practically the whole world suddenly adopted this absolutely new social policy of lockdown, invented only months earlier by the totalitarian, oppressive government of China. Within a few dozen days half the world was locked up in their homes, their places of business and almost all public places closed.
- We've already talked about why they did it: to get the population used to repression, to crush small business and foster monopoly growth, to cover up the speculation induced bank and corporate financial crash in progress.
- I know. I'm asking how the whole world jumped in unison in the same way, towards the same repressive device.
- The answer is right before our eyes. We see politicians everywhere discovering the technique of political organization of herding people* into rituals, enacting the embattled weak self being reborn strong and new in the company of other telling themselves the same story. As the leaders need to enhance insecurity so as to drive frightened and anrgy people into ritual enactments, rituals of 'us' battling 'them' have the failing that life among the reborn 'us' is not destabilized, and therefore is a potential source of rebellion against the political machinations being practiced on the people by their leaders. Follow so far?
- Yes.
- Then the rest should be obvious: when you make a disease the 'them' that is being fought against in ritual, there is no 'us' free from becoming an object of fear and attack. Everyone is a danger, an object of fear and aversion to everyone else.
- And therefore there's no room for security in which to wake up and rebel.
- Yes.
- So the world's leaders, already practicing the tactics of fear mongering and cult building for the purposes of repression, saw immediately the advantages being offered to them by an epidemic, even one as epidemics go not especially deadly.**

Further Reading:
__________________________
** Germany reports virtually the same number of people dying from all causes in 2020 as in 2019. Sweden, with no lockdown, reports, depending on how the calculation is made, between 0 and 7,000 more deaths in 2020, that is, a maximum increase in number of deaths in the year of epidemic of about 1 per 1,000 population (1/10th of 1%). 

Sunday, November 7, 2021

While We Wait









- So you're at Jimmy's, the North Campus cafe up at UCLA, and the manager comes over to say to you he's been watching you for a while, letting you get away with a lot, not wearing a mask, but now...
- I told him I don't have to wear a mask while I'm drinking coffee. I hold up my coffee theatrically.
- And he told you the rule was when not actively drinking or eating you have to put back on the mask.
- And I said, what is the time constraint? Replace the mask after one minute, one second? And I am the whole time I'm here know that someone is watching my every movement, counting the seconds before I either have to raise the cup to my lips or replace the mask?
- And the manager said?
- Why can't I just cooperate like everyone else?
- I can't, I won't, I said. In Los Angeles during the past week there have been on the average of 13 deaths a day attributed to the epidemic in a city of 10 million people. That's about one out of a million risk of death. And in response to that risk, starting Monday if you want to enter any restaurant, movie theather, nightclub, gym, you'll have to show proof of vacination - this while vacination efficacy has declined to less that 50 percent - or show a negative test result within three days. At this point a girl-student, between bites of salad, sitting over against the wall, shouts over at me that I'm putting everyone in danger by my selfishness.
- And you said?
- 'You're the one breaking the rules! Anyone exhaling, proving it audibly by producing words, or not actually swallowing has to be masked.' The manager says:
- Those are the rules. Why can't you just obey them?
- Because rules about how many seconds I have between swallows I'm allowed to remain unmasked is just the latest in impositions following upon the closing down of almost all public places; completely unjustified. 
- That's just your opinion.
- Yes, I have an opinion, based on information coming from the government. You don't have an opinion, or even source of information. You simply obey. You, like that little girl student over there, want to force others to obey. How are you both not fascists?
- Are you going to comply with the rules or not?
- Can't you see? I'm packing up to leave.
- I think of fascism as a government's attempt to control our every thought and act. You went a little too far there. The people of the epidemic, let's call them that, don't care to control your thought and act except with regard to their pet ritual, the observance of epidemic related decrees.
- And if there is some kind of logical, causal relation between ritual performance and totalitarianism?
- Is there?
- There are two. When a government understands the technology of ritual,* satisfying the love of power that drives leaders into politics, it progressively takes upon itself more and power to instruct the public in new rituals, to the point that eventually every aspect of life is directed by ritual.
- And we have totalitarianism.
- Yes. You might think that the greater the imposition of new ritual and new control, the people would begin to wake up and complain. But the opposite is true.
- Why?
- Ritual has its beginning in the story of an old god dying and a new god born. The story can be that of any particular god, but ultimately it is the ritual participants putting themselves in the place of particular gods that does the job. But like our politicians understand ritual and are capable of self-consciously managing them, our not too distant ancestors figured out that if they imagined there was only one god, then all of history would be a single ritual. And once this idea has arisen, something very important, something essential happened.
- They invented totalitarianism?
- Not so fast. They invented ethics. Because always in the midst of ritual, every act would have to have its rule; the rules they had would always be insufficient; because they didn't know when the ritual was going to end...
- They couldn't be told what to think.
- Nor what to do, because new situations would keep arising, they couldn't know for sure which rule would apply. Do you give a friend gone crazy back the weapon he loaned you when he was still sane? An entirely new relation to the world had appeared to us human beings out of the former polytheistic ritual. Immersed in the single ritual monotheistic history, we are neither old god nor new; we don't know who we are, what habits, what character to take on.
- We don't know what are our rules.
- Yes. We take on an experimental relation to the world which is unfolding, the end not in sight, the utopia of everyone following the same rules and universal peace reign. But this experimental practice, searching for the best relation of character to the world, in the logic of the situation, is going one time or another to have to meet its challenge.
- Which is?
- People beginning to see the single ritual coming to a close. A time when rule determination, finding out who you are, no longer is important, rebirth is at hand, soon we'll see how the world looks in recovered strength, all peace and love and fairness!
- In short, Christianity arrives with its claim to complete Judaism.
- That's right. And then what happens?
- The Mulim's messiah arrives claiming to be the true and final savior. History isn't open; isn't about to end, it is at its end, all that is to be is already written, there is nothing further to be done but follow the rules and bear witness to a world that's reached its final form. If politicians have woken up to the knowledge of how to use ritual to add to their power, wouldn't the people of monotheism, waking up to the knowlege of what ritual is were able to transform religion to ethics, wouldn't we - for we're talking about our world here - wouldn't we see ahead to the two further stages? And take the suggestion of our imagination?
- Is there anything that makes us? Why should a Jew become a Christian or a Muslim?
- No reason. But ask instead why should not a politician guide a monotheistic people in the direction that gives leaders more control over the led?
- Is that what you think is happening?
- I do.

Further Reading:
__________________________

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Evolutions









(Continued from How Could We Be So Blind?)

When you questioned me last time on my participation in social media, stock market speculation, populist political party membership, adherence to neoliberal economic theory and obedience to its practice, enthusiastic compliance with lockdowns and business closures, you left out a certain other, ritual based crowd behavior, the most prominent of them all.
- Which one is that?
- Evolution, survival of the fittest by means of chance mutation. Were you afraid of being thought a crackpot?
- Guilty.
- Chance in Darwinian evolution being equivilent to the self-forgetting at the heart of crowd behaviors, the self-renewal made possible by the dying of the old in the passion of following the crowd, whether that is guided by social media, stock market speculation, populist political party membership or capitalist war-like negotiations between buyer and seller.
- I've heard that fully thirty percent of biologists privately express doubts about Darwin's theory.*
- They doubt his specification of chance as the mechanism of mutation.
- Yes.
- Hard to believe. And what about chance mutation and doubting Darwin do you want to say? 
- Movement for life in general is towards complexity; movement for the individual is towards knowledge. A clear difference exists between the kind of gap that is of self forgetting, created by editing out experience through the mechanism of ritual, and the gap of not knowing what gives direction to evolution, not knowing what force is, what energy is, what gravity is, what passage of time is. In fact, we don't know what movement is at all, can't break it down into parts except by series of still pictures, leaving movement between those pictures still undefined.
- The self's change is obscure in the crowd behaviors, but in the case of scientific description, it is the world's movement, towards complexity or towards being known, that is the difficulty.
- Yes. 
- I know all this from past conversations but wanted to go over it again.
- Now we've done that.
- Sorry for boring you. But I think you'll like this, a doctrine, as far as I can make out, of illusory or at least problematic movement, from a thousand or more years ago, from the other side of the world, found in an academic paper: There is That: The Association of Space and Cause in Niyati Kañcuka, Joel H. Posner: 
Cause-and-effect is in KŚ an exclusively māyic operation. As such it is qualitatively different from, subordinate to, and entirely contingent on the underlying creative or causative mechanism that drives the unfoldment of reality through all its stages, spawns the emergence of governing principles at every stage, and ultimately enables within any given stage each and every manifestation. That “primary” or “present” causality, if you will, is a spontaneous act that transpires timelessly without condition or limitationas willed and enacted by a first cause, namely supreme consciousness, which is not itself an effect. The notion of a supreme agent that is at once active, in extroversion (unmeṣa), as well as quiescent, in introversion (nimeṣa),is a stunningly advanced formulation, and a radical departure from other schools, including perhaps most notably Advaita Vedānta as propounded by Śaṅkarācārya. KŚ breaks sharply from, among other things, a conventional doctrinaire understanding of causality. 
 KS is Kashmir Saivism.** Also from the article:
In the Trika ideology of Kashmir Śaivism (KŚ), māyā is the sixth in the hierarchy of thirtysix tattvas, or ontological (and in this formulation equally epistemological) principles. It is the stage in the creative descent at which consciousness assumes the existential mantle that eclipses its essential unity and sovereignty, and governs everyday experience. That mantle is comprised of five husks (kañcuka-s), each of which imposes a specific limitation with respect to the following: 1) efficacy (kalā); 2) knowledge (vidyā); 3) inclination (rāga); 4) time (kāla); 5) space and cause (niyati). Thus are the powers of universal consciousness by its own doing fragmented and diminished in the individual personal experient, alienated in embodiment from the boundlessness of supreme Self. 
Were you aware such writings existed?
- Yes.
- Oh. Anyway, this is the idea I have: that should science come around and correct itself, self consciously sort out theories that have their origin in crowd behavior and the forgetting of self, the world might get itself educated and strengthened against this fatality of crowds. What do you think?
- People who won't listen to philosophy talking mysteries will listen to science. Could be. Do you know how music works?
- Know why we like music?
- Yes.
- The vibrations please us.
- That's all?
- Music awakens in us moods, experiences, emotions.
- And not both together, rhythm and melody? Doesn't music have exactly the same gap, or rather gaps, we've been talking about?
- How?
- Sound, then silence, then sound. The movement of change occurs in the silences.
- Ruling out, I guess, sirens, crying babies, screaming electronic music.
- Some rhythms are produced with the intention to put listeners into a trance-like loss of self awareness. But other rhythms, becoming the foundation to melody, express our repeated passage through the world of undefinable movement back to the stillness and immobility of knowledge; while melody offers in detail one particular story of movement on its way to rest.
- Silence bears the mystery of movement.
- Yes. Silence has its laws relating where we can expect what to be at any one moment; the story of the discovery of those laws is a sort of melody played to the rhythm of scientific progress.
- The music of science, with its progressing rhythm of melodies, stories of experiment and hypothesis, you think may soothe the crowd-loving beast in us?
- It's an idea.

Further Reading:
Machines & Consciousness
________________________
* A claim made by Michael Behe.
** Śiva (Skt., ‘auspicious’). Major deity in Hinduism, the third in the Hindu trinity (trimūrti), along with Brahmā and Viṣṇu. In the Vedas, Siva appears as an epithet of Rudra, not as separate manifestation of divine power. The joint form, Rudra-Śiva appears in the gṛhya (household) rites, which suggests that there was a gradual process of assimilation, and that Śiva has roots and origins in the pre-Vedic period. By the 2nd cent. BCE, Rudra was waning in significance, and Śiva began to obtain a powerful separate identity. In Rāmāyaṇa, he is a mighty and personal god, and in Mahābhārata he is at times the equal of Viṣṇu, perhaps even the creator of Viṣṇu and Brahmā, worshipped by other gods. He became associated with generation and destruction, especially in conjunction with Śakti, and is therefore worshipped through the power of the liṅga. The Mahādeva image in the Elephanta caves already depicts Śiva in the threefold guise of creator, destroyer, and preserver: in this and other such images, the two faces on either side represent (apparent) opposites—male and female (ardhanārī); terrifying destroyer (bhairava) and active giver of repose; mahāyogi and gṛhasta—while the third, serene and peaceful, reconciles the two, the Supreme as the One who transcends all contradictions. The three horizontal marks which Śaivites put on their foreheads represent the triple aspect of Śiva. As a personal god (iṣta-deva), he is worshipped in many forms of manifestation, important examples being Nāṭarāja (lord of the dance) and Dakṣiṇāmūrti, spiritual teacher. His mantra is ‘sivo ʾham’. Śiva is particularly associated with the river Gaṅgā (Ganges) which flows through his hair and with Mount Kailāsa in the Himālayas.(Encyclopedia.com)

Saturday, October 23, 2021

How Could We Be So Blind?

- I've got some questions for you.
- Ask away.
- Do you speculate on the stock market?
- No.
- Do you use social media?
- No.
- Not at all?
- Not at all.
- Have you ever joined a political party that promises to take back your country from its enemies and make it great again? Practiced political correctness, cancel culture?
- Of course not.
- Do you see all economic transaction as occasions to get the better of your trade partner? And do you subscribe to market fundamentalism, the belief that markets free of regulation benefit rich and poor alike, though you can't help knowing, if you thought about it, that it was obviously not true?
- No, and no.
- Finally, were you surprised at how rapidly and near totally the population of this country, as well as many others in the world, complied with unreasonable lockdowns, physical distancing, mask mandates?*
- Yes. Though I did understand that lockdown was allowing people to get away from each other, enjoy a truce in the war of neoliberal life in which everyone is an enemy of everyone else.
- And when the lockdown kept coming back?
- I was shocked by the continued near total compliance.
- I asked you questions about your participation in social mechanisms that guide individuals into groups of shared passions, fears, hatreds. Why didn't you see that the epidemic was providing such a mechanism; or would you not agree that that is what has happened, and is the explanation of the rabid complicity we see all around us?
- I agree we're dealing with crowd formation by means of ritual practice.
- So why didn't you see it? We'd talked about ritual many, many times.
- The requirement in ritual of weakness at the beginning I saw, fear of infection, and the required passion in the acting out of ritual I saw too, in the irrationality of the measures taken, passion as always creating blindness. What I didn't see was the - necessary to ritual - deliberate choice to enter upon its practice, and the expectation at the end of the ritual performance of being reborn from weakness to strength.
- Do you see that now?
- Do you think that neither you nor I saw this coming because we, not being past participants in ritual crowd formation, didn't immediately see how the government and media's management of the epidemic was of the same form as stock speculation, social media use, populist political party creation, market fundamentalist trading?
- And those who participated in those mechanisms, being practiced in those mechanisms, did see what was in it for themselves when they complied with government decrees and mandates.
- Is that your conclusion?
- Yes. Experience with the ritual practice of everyone following everyone else at the cost of damage to human nature but promising a sense of renewed safety and strength in the sight of everyone around you doing the same.
- They saw it and we didn't.
- We see it now. 
  
Further Reading:
__________________________
* On the manipulation of COVID statistics - e.g., false positives and testing of asymtomatics: what percentage testing positive have symtoms, what percentage hospitalized die, what percentage hospitalized have 'co-morbidities' - see: Prof. Norman Fenton. On the efficacy of lockdowns, see: Summary of Academic Studies on Lockdowns, & What HappenedDr. Jay Bhattacharya on 19 Months of COVID. According to the World Health Organization, more than 3 million people died as a result of harmful use of alcohol in 2016. This represents 1 in 20 deaths. Traffic accidents caused an estimated 1,350,000 deaths worldwide in that year; last year 800,000 people killed themselves, 500,000 died from drug overdose, 400,000 by murder. Depression typically affects every year 264 million people, but that number along with the number of other 'diseases of despair', including obesity, has greatly increased in our times of COVID-19. And who cares? It's said that it's a choice whether to kill yourself, to drink or drug yourself to death. Just so it's a choice to go into public and expose yourself to disease and crime, not to mention streets infested with reckless, drunk, suicidal, murderous, drugged, and depressed drivers.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

We Didn't Love Freedom Enough









And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?... The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If...if...We didn't love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation.... We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.* 
- I have this sort of crazy idea.
- I'm listening.
- Off and on we have talked about the origins of social role, class, master and slave. We wondered if their origin was not in sedentary farming, of both plants and animal, in which each additional plant and animal represented in the counting mind of the farmer additional security.
- Yes. Whereas for the forager and hunter security was in knowing how and where to forage and hunt.
- Ten thousand or so years later we have capitalism, where the increasing count of symbols of security - money - dominates every aspect of our lives. Human beings are farmed both for the power represented by that act alone, and for the farmed humans being the instrument of the business of farming money.
- By which you mean profit. Money 'planted' to grow into more money.
- Yes. Am I correct in assuming you've been as shocked as I was by the unquestioning compliance** of hundreds of millions of people with lockdown restrictions.?
- You're correct.
- I think I have the explanation. You know how the former president used to call the press the enemy of the people, even admitting in an interview that this accusation had the function of discrediting any criticism of him? It does that, obviously, but if you've ever tried to argue with one of his supporters you find you can catch them in a contradiction and the only satisfaction you'll get out of it is their hasty retreat: you'll do no convincing, never. What is said in the news, or you winning an arguement with them, is irrelevant. Relevant is only that you and they are enemies. Enemies serve the function of creating a crowd. In the crowd the sight and words of each like-minded member produces a sense of increasing power and security. But what if the millions of compliant citizens imagine that they are the farmer and the farmed both at the same time? They have discovered they can enlarge their herd by communicating to those not yet with them their complaint. They farm themselves in their stock market investments, hoping that others seeing them run to a stock will join them in that run, bringing others with them who see them do it; in social media, which has been engineered to promote this sort of increasing herd flight and power in numbers of interactions, creating a sense of threat, promoting feelings of anger or fear and suggesting the alleviation of that fear and anger in finding on their sites others making the same complaint; in political parties, where one side complains of injustice, the other of threats to their independence...
- By defenders of their independence you mean the Republicans. Why then did they not complain of the lockdown if their feared enemy was those who would cause the loss of independence?
- Because they as capitalist humans are herd animals that are both herd members and managers of the herd; each has contempt for others in the capitalist herd who are their competitors and enemies in the capitalist economic struggle for survival.
- They don't love each other. They competitively herd each other. 
- The hundreds of millions were happy to stay at home in isolation from those contemtible herd animals out there.
- As long as the government made that allurement financially viable. 
- Yes. There were unemployment subsidies, the promise for large corporations of vastly increasing monopoly as small business went bankrupt...
- What about those small businesses? Why didn't they complain?
- To whom? Who was listening?
- Why didn't they complain to their herd? I see. They didn't have a herd. Why not?
- The political parties, the stock market, the social media, the largest grazing grounds as it were, all are in control of the people whose money is behind all three institutions, all of which have flourished during this time of epidemic lockdown. They all were on the side of monopoly profits.
- So no herd for small business. 
- We are accustomed to thinking of capitalist managers herding*** their money, making it increase, feeling power and security in that increase. Workers, formerly only members of a herd, have learned from capitalism to be herders too.
- Herding themselves.
- Herding themselves in their political participation, in their social media use, in their stock market speculations.

Further Reading:
_______________
* Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Friday, September 10, 2021

A Provocation













- Identity politics, white privilege, social justice warriers, cancel culture, political correctness, wokeness, safe space, critical race theory...What is critical race theory?
- Critical theory is the view that all institutions are the disguised vehicle of power struggle, the strong against the weak. Critical race theory is the view that all institutions are disguised vehicles for oppression of blacks by whites.
- What about the use of institutions by men to oppress women, the rich to oppress the poor?
- Not the concern of those involved in critical race theory.
- How can that be?
- Because like with religion what is involved here is a play of symbols, not reality. This is what Karl Marx had to say about religion in 1844:
[....] The criticism of religion has been essentially completed, and the criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticism.

The profane existence of error is compromised as soon as its heavenly oratio pro aris et focis [“speech for the altars and hearths,” i.e., for God and country] has been refuted. Man, who has found only the reflection of himself in the fantastic reality of heaven, where he sought a superman, will no longer feel disposed to find the mere appearance of himself, the non-man [Unmensch], where he seeks and must seek his true reality.

The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
Because a play of symbols is involved, not reality, we can interpret what is going on here as ritual practice. Inviduals who feel weak in personal life get together with others of their kind to rehearse a story of death and rebirth, fighting an enemy to the group, a story of their group dying of their weakness but reborn in the strengh of victory, and in the course of the secure practice of the known-in-advance action of the ritual in the company of others recover a sense of security and personal power. This script or story telling is unchallengeable because it is the vehicle of security and strength of those practicing the ritual. Thus the demand for safe space (free of micro-agressions) for blacks in which to rehearse their rituals, that whites be sensititve to this need for safe space (wokeness), that speech be censored of any criticism of themselves (blasphemy), that whites never make a claim to be invidivually guiltless (white privilege), etc.
- If all institutions are the carrier of racism, what exactly do these social justice warriers want? Anarchy?
- Far from it. What they want is the same as neoliberals: a marketplace left to itself, free of restrictions on efficiency that institutional interference brings with it. When all institutions have been purged of their prejudiced members (cancel culture) the free market will finally be just to members of all races.
- That's absurd. We know after 50 years of practice that when you end government regulation of the market you get monopoly, corporate capture of the government to force privitazation resulting in even more monopoly and control of the market. Don't the critical race theory people know this?
- They don't. They can't.
- Why not?
- Because their identity is tied up with, is in actual fact produced by rehearsal of the ritual in which the innocent blacks die at the hands of whites yet are reborn in their successful striving to equalize their place in the free market.
- You and many others have claimed that the world of international corporations has supported identity politics because it is divisive, since as long as one oppressed group is at the throat of another nothing is done about the rich using the captured government and monopoly to transfer to themselves the wealth of the rest of the country. Now you are arguing that identity politics is directly a form of free market, neoliberal politics. Is that correct?
- Yes.
- Yet the claim that all whites are guilty and that all whites must watch every word they say is made not only or primarily because white words and deeds restrict access to markets, but because they interfere with the practice of ritual story telling which produces racial identity. Maybe these social justice warriers, Black Lives Matter activists believe that once they've freed up the market to themselves and whites have attoned for their original sin, at this judgment day they will be able to put aside their racial, tribal identity.
- Not a chance. In the history of the human species, before the dominance of the state, individuals living in tribes were fierce defenders of their individual autonomy while having little or no self-affirmation, vanity: they valued instead humility. They collectively took measures to block the emergence of hierarchy, by obedience to leaders being made entirely voluntary, by making leaders subject to total tax on their wealth or making them the constant butt of jokes.* These stateless tribes understood the danger to themselves of hierarchical institutions developing. Not so the cancelling, safe space tribalists. They are the opposite. They see themselves only through a ritual of changed places in hierarchy; only within the group of ritual practice do they feel a sense of personal power, can they gloat in getting fired from their jobs those guilty by original sin whose words interfere with the ritual practice of the eternally innocent.

Further Reading:
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Monday, August 16, 2021

Karl Polanyi: The Great Transformation

      


(from Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation, Chapter IV: Societies And Economic Systems, Rinehart & Company, Inc, 1944)

Before we can proceed to the discussion of the laws governing a market economy, such as the nineteenth century was trying to establish, we must first have a firm grip on the extraordinary assumptions underlying such a system. 

Market economy implies a self-regulating system of markets; in slightly more technical terms, it is an economy directed by market prices and nothing but market prices. Such a system capable of organizing the whole of economic life without outside help or interference would certainly deserve to be called self-regulating. These rough indications should suffice to show the entirely unprecedented nature of such a venture in the history of the race. 

Let us make our meaning more precise. No society could, naturally, live for any length of time unless it possessed an economy of some sort; but previously to our time no economy has ever existed that, even in principle, was controlled by markets. In spite of the chorus of academic incantations so persistent in the nineteenth century, gain and profit made on exchange never before played an important part in human economy. Though the institution of the market was fairly common since the later Stone Age, its role was no more than incidental to economic life. 

We have good reason to insist on this point with all the emphasis at our command. No less a thinker than Adam Smith suggested that the division of labor in society was dependent upon the existence of markets, or, as he puts it, upon man’s “propensity to barter, truck and exchange one thing for another." This phrase was later to yield the concept of the Economic Man. In retrospect it can be said that no misreading of the past ever proved more prophetic of the future. For while up to Adam Smith's time that propensity had hardly shown up on a considerable scale in the life of any observed community, and had remained, at best, a subordinate feature of economic life, a hundred years later an industrial system was in full swing over the major part of the planet which, practically and theoretically, implied that the human race was swayed in all its economic activities, if not also in its political intellectual, and spiritual pursuits, by that one particular propensity. Herbert Spencer, in the second half of the nineteenth century, could without more than a cursory acquaintance with economics, equate the principle of the division of labor with barter and exchange, and another fifty years later, Ludwig von Mises and Walter Lippmann could repeat the same fallacy. By that time there was no need for argument. A host of writers on political economy, social history, political philosophy, and general sociology had followed in Smith's wake and established his paradigm of the bartering savage as an axiom of their respective sciences. In point of fact, Adam Smith's suggestions about the economic psychology of early man were as false as Rousseau's were on the political psychology of the savage. Division of labor, a phenomenon as old as society, springs from differences inherent in the facts of sex, geography, and individual endowment; and the alleged propensity of man to barter, truck, and exchange is almost entirely apocryphal. While history and ethnography know of various kinds of economies, most of them comprising the institution of markets they know of no economy prior to our own, even approximately controlled and regulated by markets. This will become abundantly clear from a bird's-eye view of the history of economic systems and of markets, presented separately. The role played by markets in the internal economy of the various countries it will appear, was insignificant up to recent times and the changeover to an economy dominated by the market pattern will stand out all the more clearly. 

To start with, we must discard some nineteenth century prejudice, that underlay Adam Smith's hypothesis about primitive man's alleged predilection for gainful occupations. Since his axiom was much more relevant to the immediate future than to the dim past, it induced in his followers a strange attitude toward man's early history. On the face of it, the evidence seemed to indicate that primitive man, far from having a capitalistic psychology, had, in effect, a communistic one (later this also proved to be mistaken). Consequently, economic historians tended to confine their interest to that comparatively recent period of history in which truck and exchange were found on any considerable scale, primitive economics was relegated to prehistory. Unconsciously, this led to a weighting of the scales in favor of a marketing psychology, for within the relatively short period of the last few centuries everything might be taken to tend towards the establishment of that which we eventually established, ie., a market system, irrespective of other tendencies which were temporarily submerged. The corrective of such a “short-run" perspective would obviously have been the linking up of economic history with social anthropology, a course which was consistently avoided. 

We cannot continue today on these lines. The habit of looking at the last ten thousand years as well as at the array of early societies as a mere prelude to the true history of our civilization which started approximately with the publication of the Wealth of Nations in 1776, is, to say the least, out of date. It is this episode which has come to a close in our days, and in trying to gauge the alternatives of the future, we should subdue our natural proneness to follow the proclivities of our fathers. But the same bias which made Adam Smith's generation view primeval man as bent on barter and truck induced their successors to disavow all interest in early man, as he was now known not to have indulged in those laudable passions. The tradition of the classical economists who attempted to base the law of the market on the alleged propensities of man in the state of nature, was replaced by an abandonment of all interest in the cultures of "uncivilized” man as irrelevant to an understanding of the problems of our age. 

Such an attitude of subjectivism in regard to earlier civilizations should make no appeal to the scientific mind. The differences existing between civilized and "uncivilized" peoples have been vastly exaggerated, especially in the economic sphere. According to the historians, the forms of industrial life in agricultural Europe were, until recently, not much different from what they had been several thousand years. Ever since the introduction of the plow – essentially a large hoe drawn by animals – the methods of agriculture remained substantially unaltered over the major part of Western and Central Europe until the beginning of the modern age. Indeed, the progress of civilization was, in these regions, mainly political intellectual and spiritual; in respect to material conditions, the Western Europe of 1100 AD had hardly caught up with the Roman world of a thousand years before. Even later, change flowed more easily in the channels of statecraft, literature, and the arts, but particularly in those of religion and learning, than in those of industry. In its economics, medieval Europe was largely on a level with ancient Persia, India, or China, and certainly not rival in riches and culture the New Kingdom of Egypt, two thousand years before. Max Weber was the first among modern historians to protest against the brushing aside of primitive economics as irrelevant to the question of the motives and mechanisms of civilized societies. The subsequent work of social anthropology proved him emphatically right. For, if one conclusion stands out from the recent study of early societies it is the changelessness of man as a social being. His natural endowments reappear with societies of all times and places; and the necessary preconditions of the survival of human society appear to be immutably the same. 

The outstanding discovery of recent historical and anthropological research is that man's economy, as a rule, is submerged in his social relationships. He does not act so as to safeguard his individual interest in the possession of material goods; he acts so as to safeguard his social standing, his social claims, his social assets. He values material goods only in so far as they serve this end. Neither the process of production nor that of distribution is linked to specific economic interests attached to the possession of goods; but every single step in that process is geared to a number of social interests which eventually ensure that the required step be taken. These interests will be very different in a small hunting or fishing community from those in a vast despotic society, but in either case the economic system will be run on noneconomic motives.

The explanation, in term of survival, is simple. Take the case of a tribal society. The individual's economic interest is rarely paramount for the community keeps all its members from starving unless it is itself borne down by catastrophe, in which case interests are again threatened collectively, not individually. The maintenance of social ties, on the other hand, is crucial. First, because by disregarding the accepted code of honor, or generosity, the individual cuts himself off from the community and becomes an outcast; second, because, in the long run, all social obligations are reciprocal, and their fulfillment serves also the individual's give-and-take interests best. Such a situation must exert a continuous pressure on the individual to eliminate economic self-interest from his consciousness to the point of making him unable, in many cases (but by no means in all), even to comprehend the implication of his own actions in term of such an interest. This attitude is reinforced by the frequency of communal activities such as partaking of food from the common catch or sharing in the results of some far-flung and dangerous tribal expedition. The premium set on generosity is so great when measured in terms of social prestige as to make any other behavior than that of utter self-forgetfulness simply not pay. Personal character has little to do with the matter. Man can be as good or evil as social or asocial, jealous or generous, in respect to one another. Not to allow anybody reason for jealousy is, indeed, an accepted principle of ceremonial distribution, just as publicly bestowed praise is the due of the industrious, skillful, or otherwise successful gardener (unless he be too successful, in which case he may deservedly be allowed to wither away under the delusion of being the victim of black magic). The human passions, good or bad, are merely directed towards noneconomic ends. Ceremonial display serves to spur emulation to the utmost and the custom of communal labor tends to up both quantitative and qualitative standards to the highest pitch. The performance of all acts of exchange as free gifts that are expected to be reciprocated though not necessarily by the same individuals – a procedure minutely articulated and perfectly safeguarded by elaborate methods of publicity, by magic rites, and by the establishment of "dualities" in which groups are linked in mutual obligations – should in itself explain the absence of the notion of gain or even of wealth other than that consisting of objects traditionally enhancing social prestige. 

In this sketch of the general traits characteristic of a Western Melanesian community we took no account of its sexual and territorial organization, in reference to which custom, law, magic, and religion exert their influence, as we only intended to show the manner in which so-called economic motives spring from the context of social life. For it is on this one negative point that modern ethnographers agree: the absence of the motive of gain; the absence of the principle of laboring for remuneration; the absence of the principle of least effort; and, especially, the absence of any separate and distinct institution based on economic motives. But how, then, is order in production and distribution ensured? The answer is provided in the main by two principles of behavior not primarily associated with economics: reciprocity, and redistribution. With the Trobriand Islanders of Western Melanesia, who serve as an illustration of this type of economy, reciprocity works mainly in regard to the sexual organization of society, that is, family and kinship; redistribution is mainly effective in respect to all those who are under a common chief and is, therefore, of a territorial character. Let us take these principles separately. 

The sustenance of the family - the female and the children - is the obligation of matrilineal relatives. The male, who provides for his sister, and her family by delivering the finest specimens of his crop, will mainly earn credit due to his good behavior, but will reap little immediate material benefit in exchange; if he is slack, it is first and foremost his reputation that will suffer. It is for the benefit of his wife and her children that the principle of reciprocity will work, and thus compensate him economically for his acts of civic virtue. Ceremonial display of food both in his own garden and before the recipient's storehouse will ensure that the high quality of his gardening be known to all. It is apparent that the economy of garden and household here forms part of the social relations connected with good husbandry and fine citizenship. The broad principle of reciprocity helps to safeguard both production and family sustenance. 

The principle of redistribution is no less effective. A substantial part of all the produce of the island is delivered by the village headmen to the chief who keeps it in storage. But as all communal activity centers around the feasts, dances, and other occasions when the islanders entertain one another as well as their neighbors from other islands (at which the results of long distance trading are handed out, gifts are given and reciprocated according to the rules of etiquette, and the chief distributes the customary presents to all), the overwhelming importance of the storage system becomes apparent. Economically, it is an essential part of the existing system of division of labor, of foreign trading, of taxation for public purposes, of defense provisions. But these functions of an economic system proper are completely absorbed by the intensely vivid experiences which offer superabundant non-economic motivation for every act performed in the frame of the system as a whole. 

However, principles of behavior such as these cannot become effective unless existing institutional patterns lend themselves to their application. Reciprocity and redistribution are able to ensure the working of an economic system without the help of written records and elaborate administration only because the organization of the societies in question meets the requirements of such a solution with the help of patterns such as symmetry and centricity. 

Reciprocity is enormously facilitated by the institutional pattern of symmetry, a frequent feature of social organization among nonliterate peoples. The striking “duality” which we find in tribal subdivisions lends itself to the pairing out of individual relations and thereby assists the give-and-take of goods and services in the absence of permanent records. The moieties of savage society which tend to create a “pendant”, to each subdivision, turned out to result from, as well as help to perform, the acts of reciprocity on which the system rests. Little is known of the origin of "duality"; but each coastal village on the Trobriand Islands appears to have its counterpart in an inland village, so that the important exchange of breadfruits and fish, though disguised as a reciprocal distribution of gifts, and actually disjoint in time, can be organized smoothly. In the Kula trade, too, each individual has his partner on another isle, thus personalizing to a remarkable extent the relationship of reciprocity. But for the frequency of the symmetrical pattern in the subdivisions of the tribe, in the location of settlements, as well as in intertribal relations, a broad reciprocity relying on the longrun working of separated acts of give-and-take would be impracticable. 

The institutional pattern of centricity, again, which is present to some extent in all human groups, provides a track for the collection, storage, and redistribution of goods and services. The members of a hunting tribe usually deliver the game to the headman for redistribution. It is in the nature of hunting that the output of game is irregular, besides being the result of a collective input. Under conditions such as these no other method of sharing is practicable if the group is not to break up after every hunt. Yet in all economies of kind a similar need exists, be the group ever so numerous. And the larger the territory and the more varied the produce, the more will redistribution result in an effective division of labor, since it must help to link up geographically differentiated groups of producers. 

Symmetry and centricity will meet halfway the needs of reciprocity and redistribution; institutional patterns and principles of behavior are mutually adjusted. As long as social organization runs in its ruts, no individual economic motives need come into play; no shirking of personal effort need be feared; division of labor will automatically be ensured; economic obligations will be duly discharged; and, above all, the material means for an exuberant display of abundance at all public festivals will be provided. In such a community the idea of profit is barred; higgling and haggling is decried; giving freely is acclaimed as a virtue; the supposed properisity to barter, truck, and exchange does not appear. The economic system is, in effect, a mere function of social organization. 

It should by no means be inferred that socioeconomic principles of this type are restricted to primitive procedures or small communities; that a gainless and marketless economy must necessarily be simple. The Kula ring, in western Melanesia, based on the principle of reciprocity, is one of the most elaborate trading transactions known to man; and redistribution was present on a gigantic scale in the civilization of the pyramids. 

The Trobriand Islands belong to an archipelago forming roughly a circle, and an important part of the population of this archipelago spends a considerable proportion of its time in activities of the Kula trade. We describe it as trade though no profit is involved, either in money or in kind; no goods are hoarded or even possessed permanently; the goods received are enjoyed by giving them away; no biggling and haggling, no truck, barter, or exchange enters; and the whole proceedings are entirely regulated by etiquette and magic. Still, it is trade, and large expeditions are undertaken periodically by natives of this approximately ring-shaped archipelago in order to carry one kind of valuable object to peoples living on distant islands situated clockwise, while other expeditions are arranged carrying another kind of valuable object to the islands of the archipelago lying counterclockwise. In the long run, both sets of objects - white shell armbands and redshell necklaces of traditional make - will move round the archipelago, a trajectory which may take them up to ten years to complete. Moreover, there are, as a rule, individual partners in Kula who reciprocate one anothees Kula gift with equally valuable armbands and necklaces, preferably such that have previously belonged to distinguished persons. Now, a systematic and organized give-and-take of valuable objects transported over long distances is justly described as trade. Yet this complex whole is exclusively run on the lines of reciprocity. An intricate time-space-person system covering hundreds of miles and several decades, linking many hundreds of people in respect to thousands of strictly individual objects, is being handled here without any records or administration, but also without any motive of gain or truck. Not the propensity to barter, but reciprocity in social behavior dominates. Nevertheless, the result is a stupendous organizational achievement in onomic field Indeed, it would be interesting to consider whether even the most advanced modern market organization, based on exact accountancy, would be able to cope with such a task, should it care to undertake it. It is to be feared that the unfortunate dealers, facing innumerable monopolists buying and selling individual objects with with extravagant restrictions attached to each transaction, would fail to make a standard profit and might prefer to go out of business. 

Redistribution also has its long and variegated history which leadsup almost to modern times. The Bergdama returning from his hunting excursion, the woman coming back from her search for roots, fruit, or leaves are expected to offer the greater part of their spoil for the benefit of the community. In practice, this means that the produce of their activity is shared with the other persons who happen to be living with them. Up to this point the idea of reciprocity prevails: today's giving will be recompensed by tomorrow's taking. Among some tribes, however, there is an intermediary in the person of the headman or other prominent member of the group; it is he who receives and distributes the supplies, especially if they need to be stored. This is redistribution proper. Obviously, the social consequences of such a method of distribution may be far reaching, since not all societies are as democratic as the primitive hunters. Whether the redistributing is performed by an, influential family or an outstanding individual, a ruling aristocracy or a group of bureaucrats, they will often attempt to increase their political power by the manner in which they redistribute the goods. In the potlatch of the Kwakiutl it is a point of honor with the chief to display his wealth of hides and to distribute them; but he does this also in order to place the recipients under an obligation, to make them his debtors,' and ultimately, his retainers. 

All large-scale economies in kind were run with the help of the principle of redistribution. The kingdom of Hammurabi in Babylonia and, in particular, the New Kingdom of Egypt were centralized despotisms of a bureaucratic type founded on such an economy. The household of the patriarchal family was reproduced here on an enormously enlarged scale, while its "communistic" distribution was graded, involving sharply differentiated rations. A vast number of storehouses was ready to receive the produ-ce of the peasant's activity, whether he was cattle breeder, hunter, baker, brewer, potter, weaver, or whatever else. The produce was minutely registered and, in so far as it was not consumed locally, transferred from smaller to larger storehouses until it reached the central administration situated at the court of the Pharaoh. There were separate treasure houses for cloth, works of art, ornamental objects, cosmetics, silverware, the royal wardrobe; there were huge grain stores, arsenals, and wine cellars.

But redistribution on the scale practiced by the pyramid builders was not restricted to economies which knew not money. Indeed, all archaic kingdoms made use of metal currencies for the payment of taxes and salaries, but relied for the rest on payments in kind from granaries and warehouses of every description, from which they distributed the most varied goods for use and consumption mainly to the nonproducing part of the population, that is, to the officials, the military, and the leisure class. This was the system practiced in ancient China, in the empire, of the Incas, in the kingdoms of India, and also in Babylonia. In these, and many other civilizations of vast economic achievement, an elaborate division of labor was worked by the mechanism of redistribution.

Under feudal conditions also this principle held. In the ethnically stratified societies of Africa it sometimes happens that the superior a consist of herdsmen settled among agriculturalists who are still strating the digging stick or the hoe. The gifts collected by the herdsmen usare mainly agricultural - such as cereals and beer - while the gifts distributed by them may be animals, especially sheep or goats. In these cases there is division of labor, though usually an unequal one, between the various strata of society: distribution may often cover up a measure of exploitation, while at the same time the symbiosis benefits the standards of both strata owing to the advantages of an improved division of labor. Politically, such societies live under a regime of feudalism, whether cattle or land be the privileged value. There are "regular cattle fiefs in East Africa." Thurnwald, whom we follow closely on the subject of redistribution, could therefore say that feudalism implied everywhere a system of redistribution. Only under very advanced conditions and exceptional circumstances does this system become predominantly political as happened in Western Europe, where the change arose out pof the vassal's need for protection, and gifts were converted into feudal tributes.

These instances show that redistribution also tends to enmesh the economic system proper in social relationships. We find, as a rule, the process of redistribution forming part of the prevailing political regime, whether it be that of tribe, city-state, despotism, or feudalism of cattle or land. The production and distribution of goods is organized in themain through collection, storage, and redistribution, the pattern being focused on the chief, the temple, the despot, or the lord. Since the relations of the leading group to the led are different according to the foundation on which political power rests, the principle of redistribution will involve individual motives as different as the voluntary sharing of the game by hunters and the dread of punishment which urges the fellaheen to deliver his taxes in kind. 

We deliberately disregarded in this presentation the vital distinction between homogeneous and stratified societies, i.e., societies which are on the whole socially unified, and such as are split into rulers and ruled. Though the relative status of slaves and masters may be worlds apart from that of the free and equal members of some hunting tribes, and consequently, motives in the two societies will differ widely, the organization of the economic system may still be based on the same principles, though accompanied by very different culture traits, according to the very different human relations with which the economic system is intertwined.

The third principle, which was destined to play a big role in history and which we will call the principle of householding, consists in production for one's own use. The Greeks called it oeconomia, the etymon of the word "economy." As far as ethnographical records are concerned, we should not assume that production for a person's or group's own sake is more ancient than reciprocity or redistribution. On the contrary, orthodox tradition as well as some more recent theories on the subject have been emphatically disproved. The individualistic savage collecting food and hunting on his own or for his family has neverexisted. Indeed, the practice of catering for the needs of one's household becomes a feature of economic life only on a more advanced level of agriculture; however, even then it has nothing in common either with the motive of gain or with the institution of markets. Its patterrn is the closed group. Whether the very different entities of the family or the settlement or the manor formed the self-sufficient unit, the principle was invariably the same, namely, that of producing and storing for the satisfaction of the wants of the members of the group. The principle is as broad in its application as either reciprocity or redistribution. The nature of the institutional nucleus is indifferent: it may be sex as with the patriarchal family, locality as with the village settlement, or political power as with the seigneurial manor. Nor does the internal organization of the group matter. It may be as despotic as the Roman familia or as democratic as the South Slav zadruga; as large as the, great domains of the Carolingian magnates or as small as the average peasant holding of Western Europe. The need for trade or markets is, no greater than in the case of reciprocity or redistribution.

It is such a condition of affairs which Aristotle tried to establish as a norm more than two thousand years ago. Looking back from the rapidly declining heights of a world-wide market economy we must concede that his famous distinction of householding proper and moneymaking, in the introductory chapter of his Politics, was probably the most prophetic pointer ever made in the realm of the social sciences; it is certainly still the best analysis of the subject we possess. Aristotle insists on production for use as against production for gain as the essence of householding proper; yet accessory production for the market need not, he argues, destroy the self-sufficiency of the household as long as the cash crop would also otherwise be raised on the farm for sustenance, as cattle or grain; the sale of the surpluses need not destroy the basis of householding. Only a genius of common sense could have maintained, as he did, that gain was a motive peculiar to production for the market, and that the money factor introduced a new element into the situation, yet nevertheless, as long as markets and money were mere accessories to an otherwise self-sufficient household, the principle of production for use could operate. Undoubtedly, in this he was right, though he failed to see how impracticable it was to ignore the existence of markets at a time when Greek economy had made itself dependent upon wholesale trading and loaned capital. For this was the century when Delos and Rhodes were developing into emporia of freight insurance, sea-loans, and giro-banking, compared with which the Western Europe of a thousand years later was the very picture of primitivity. Yet Jowett, Master of Balliol, was grievously mistaken when he took it for granted that his Victorian England had a fairer grasp than Aristotle of the nature of the difference between householding and moneymaking. He excused Aristotle by conceding that the "subjects of knowledge that are concerned with man run into one another; and in the age of Aristotle were not easily distinguished." Aristotle, it is true, did not recognize clearly the implications of the division of labor and its connection with markets and money; nor did he realize the uses of money as credit and capital. So far Jowett’s strictures were justified. But it was the Master of Balliol, not Aristotle, who was impervious to the human implications of money-making. He failed to see that the distinction between the principle of use and that of gain was the key to the utterly different civilization the outlines of which Aristotle accurately forecast two thousand years before its advent out of the bare rudiments of a market economy available to him, while Jowett, with the full-blown specimen before him, overlooked its existence. In denouncing the principle of production for gain "as not natural to man," as boundless and limitless, Aristotle was, in effect, aiming at the crucial point, namely the divorcedness of a separate economic motive from the social relations in which these limitations inhered. 

Broadly, the proposition holds that all economic systems known to us up to the end of feudalism in Western Europe were organized either on the principles of reciprocity or redistribution, or houscholding, or some combination of the three. These principles were institutionalized with the help of a social organization which, inter alia, made use of the patterns of symmetry, centricity, and autarchy. In this framework, the orderly production and distribution of goods was secured through a great variety of individual motives disciplined by general principles of behavior. Among these motives gain was not prominent. Custom and law, magic and religion co-operated in inducing the individual to comply with rules of behavior which, eventually, ensured his functioning in the economic system. 

The Greco-Roman period, in spite of its highly developed trade, represented no break in this respect; it was characterized by the grand scale on which redistribution of grain was practiced by the Roman administration in an otherwise householding economy, and it formed no exception to the rule that up to the end of the Middle Ages, markets played no important part in the economic system; other institutional patterns prevailed.

From the sixteenth century onwards markets were both numerous and important. Under the mercantile system they became, in effect, a main concern of government; yet there was still no sign of the coming control of markets over human society. On the contrary. Regulation and regimentation were stricter than ever; the very idea of a self-regulating market was absent. To comprehend the sudden changever to an utterly new type of economy in the nineteenth century, we must now turn to the history of the market, an institution we were able practically to neglect in our review of the economic systems of the past.