Monday, May 12, 2014

Slavery




1.
Labor, the subjective essence of private property as exclusion of property, and capital, objective labor as exclusion of labor, constitute private property as its developed state of contradiction.*

- Karl Marx, right?
- Right. I'm not one much for him ordinarily. But the association of private property with slavery is about as fundamental and revolutionary** an idea as you can get. But maybe you don't like his language, his resolution of the problem in communism?
- I don't.
- What if it is correct that private property results in a state of slavery for those without property?
- Is that what you think?
- I think that property, when made the foundation of human relations, leads to a constant threat of being enslaved. Life and freedom are dependent on having property. If you continue to exist without property, it can only be as a slave, dependent for life and freedom on the will of those who allow you to be on their land, eat their food, or use their tools. And the ever-present potential loss of life or liberty creates the sense that slavery, in those lucky enough to escape it, is part of the human condition.
- Then we'll just have to live with the threat of being enslaved, because private property, the need to be in control of things that are around us, is human nature.
- Could be it is. Still, we don't have to make private property the foundation of our societies. When we do, we are sure, if we avoid outright slavery, to be stuck with hierarchy, each level giving up some freedom to the direction of the higher level.
- Private property creates hierarchy?
- Private property when made the foundation of society. It can be present without being made the foundation of society.
- How?
- By putting cooperation before private property. Cooperation sees other people are a resource to be protected, their lives and their ability to do things freely benefiting everyone, with everything accomplished providing more material to work with.***
- What if people are not willing to share what they produce?
- But why wouldn't they? A creative person wants to get rid of what's been finished and move on to the next project.
- You're assuming we don't need to use everything we make.
- Assuming, yes, we are not on the verge of death. Our current worship of money and property, our "Neo-Liberalism", is the product of, is an attempt to make sense of being at real risk of death and slavery when without money and property.
- And what about private property in cooperative society?
- It enters into society as a means of cooperation, when it turns out people cooperate better with their own house and own tools and within their own family.**** Anthropologists are discovering that both hierarchical societies and cooperative societies can be found at all times, often in contact with each other. Neither is the destined outcome of history. Hierarchy and cooperation appear to be divergent paths, depending on whether property is primary or secondary to their foundation.*****

Further reading: The Game Against The Game
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* Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844
** See A Discourse On The Origin And The Foundation Of Inequality Among Mankind, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1754
*** Killer Metaphysics
**** Property Is Silence
***** The Golden Rule & The Deviant Path


2.

- What about Aristotle?
- What about him?
- He wrote that some human beings were born slaves, and some made slaves.
- Once slavery has been instituted, some 'by nature', those not disposed to violence, are going to be made slaves.
- Those with better nature. But that's not what he meant. Aristotle wrote that natural slaves are better off being slaves.
- Sure, in a slave society.
- Is there any other kind?
- Yes. We can be fairly sure of that. Anthropology and ethnography show* our first societies consistently had ranks reflecting achievement, but as ranks were not inherited they did not translate into slavery.
- Why not?
- Because in these societies generosity is prestigious. Achieved wealth in the form of food, shelter, tools is given away, not monopolized in families. Studies show that chimps too have rank societies, but ranking cannot be passed on by inheritance. Each generation has to acquire rank for itself. Humans though, developing from out of the earlier societies that rank by generosity, with the heightened foresight that language allows have learned to teach their descendants how to frighten outsiders into submission, and institutionalize slavery by monopolizing food, shelter, and tools. Slavery is not natural. It's our first, characteristically human, culture. 
- I've read that in Australia, dolphin mothers have been observed teaching tool use for hunting, not generally practiced in their group, only to their own offspring.
- Does the exclusivity establish social relations?
- Depends how you look at it. To favor family over outsiders is a social relation, in-group and out-group.
- But can we see the influence of foresight? A deliberate attempt to change social relations, rather than deepen existing relations?
- I don't know.
- To institute deliberately inherited social class division we need at minimum to imagine, define both classes, the frightening and the frightened.
- And the dolphins didn't have to do that.
- No.
- But why do you think making class inherited has to be deliberate?
- Partly because other species without our foresight didn't discover the behavior, partly because generosity was first. Generosity, when acted on is complete. Wanting a world where you and your ancestors and descendants have property, and others don't, requires acting, and then attention and adapting to results. Generosity can be by habit, not so imposing order on the world.**
- Maybe we just stumbled into it.
- But then why didn't other species? Our foundation myths tell the story of a fall, of evil appearing in our nature as a result of gaining knowledge.
- And evil is deliberately choosing what you know is wrong for the sake of rewards in a group.
- Yes. The anthropological and ethnographic evidence fits.***
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* See The Creation Of Inequality, Flannery and Marcus, 2012
*** See Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse On The Arts And Sciences 


3.

- I have this new idea. I was walking home from UCLA, passed the L.A. Country Club and had stepped onto the small pedestrian island at Beverly Triangle, the corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica Blvds...
- Where the Peninsula Hotel is...
- When someone squeezes in between me and the signal post and I look up with astonished recognition: a provocatively dressed extremely well taken care of beautiful young woman, smiling broadly at me. Beside her a middle aged man, not looking at her.
- An escort and her client.
- My conclusion also. 
- How did you know her? Do you have secrets I'm not aware of?
- My runaway wife told me how I looked when she looked at me looking at her: astonished recognition.
- Recognizing what?
- Something I appreciated.
- Your wife had been an escort for a while.
- So she hinted. In fact I had been thinking of her during my long walk. 
- You never get over her. What's there to appreciate in these women? 
- Thoughts of appreciation were circulating in my mind, along with conspiracy theories, economic and political, and how accumulation of property leads to a slave society.
- Nothing else?
- No. I thought that imagining people plotting against you left you powerless if you didn't have some model of why and how they were doing it, some way to analyze the situation that would suggest some action to take. And that might also be true on a basic level, and there was a logic to how accumulation of unused property in developed societies led into slavery.
- When accumulated property is inherited, monopoly ownership of property develops forcing those without property into slavery.
- But what if, besides this practical, historical likelihood, there is some inherent relation between the two practices?
- Like what?
- Accumulating unused property, not giving it away, keeping it to pass down to descendants continues the same practice of not sharing.
- Leaving them property is sharing with descendants.
- Life is not shared with those property is left to. 
- And?
- I think it might be important. In developed societies the donor of accumulated property continues to live with recipients. The value of accumulating unused property, not giving it away, is in the power it represents, and power can be transfered freely and arbitrarily after death since no sharing of life is involved. With no mental dissonance unused property can be transfered to the oldest son while leaving the other sons and daughters totally disinherited. 
- The transition from unused accumulated property to slavery comes about not merely out of a practical chain of events, but because of an arbitrary division of people into inheriting and not inheriting, neither class based on shared life.
- Waiting for the light to change on that Beverly Hills corner I turned a face of astonished appreciation, reminded of my wife who was wised up to the conspiracy of relations of men to women. How men wanted to buy women, but at the same time wanted to imagine that the women they bought like them. 
- You're going to say they wanted to imagine the money they're paying as a bequest to a descendant.
- Right. The men want to see the beauty they think they are buying as really theirs.
- They want to be women?
- They want to possess the power of the woman's beauty, as they have acquired unused property for the sake of the power it represents.
- Then slavery, as a product of imagination, develops directly out of inheritance of unused property. 
- That's my bright idea. 
- Interests conspire to wage wars, they transfer wealth from the poor and middle class to themselves, they care nothing for the destruction of the environment and of human lives, not because they are crazy, but because slavery is a natural consequence of acquiring unused property. 
- Yes. 
- Women who professionally use men know exactly what they are doing, are experts in giving men the impression power is transfered with their beauty. You admire these women because they're wised up, but they don't do anything about the male conspiracy except take the money and run.
- They reveal a vulnerability.
- They're tougher than the men.
- I mean the men's weakness. If what appears to be their conspiratorial madness is actually continual dependence on acts of imagination, and everyone wises up on a massive scale? Interfering with the imaginings might be a step towards bringing down the whole edifice of accumulated property and slavery.