Keith's NO EMPIRE Blog

A radical dissident perspective on various topics. Comments welcome at

Thursday, June 09, 2005


As a radical left dissident, I tend to associate with people who are advocates for change. Most of these people would agree that the United States is a capitalist country. Frequently, I perceive an undercurrent of anti-capitalist bias, at least at the rhetorical level.

Although I am anti-capitalist (as I define capitalism), I nonetheless have several problems with what I am seeing and hearing. For starters, I doubt that you could get much agreement on a common definition of capitalism (mine is somewhat unique) , hence, everyone thinks that they are talking about the same thing when in reality significant differences are hidden by conceptual vagueness.

Another problem I have with vague capitalism bashing is that I get the impression that many lefties suffer from the delusion that getting rid of "capitalism" (however defined) will solve most of our problems and usher in some vaguely perceived Golden Age. Capitalism didn’t invent war, empire, slavery, exploitation, subjugation, etc. Simply getting rid of capitalism guarantees nothing.

Additionally, many on the left tend to discuss the issues utilizing a sort of shop worn Marxism. Bourgeois. Unearned rents. Rentier class. Profits are evil. That sort of thing. In short, many seem conceptually stuck in a 150 year old intellectual cul-de-sac of dubious (at best) validity. The problem with this is that it inhibits serious intellectual discussion of social organizational dynamics.

Marxism’s fatal flaw is that it is primarily based upon economic theory. Capitalist economic theory developed in response to the onset of the Industrial Revolution and the rising power of the business/financial elites. At its most fundamental level, it evolved into a complex ideology which rationalizes and justifies the concentration of economic power (money) in the hands of the captains of industry and commerce. This economic power roughly translates into effective social control. Capitalist economic theory serves to facilitate and camouflage this social control.

Marx manipulated standard economic concepts to produce an alternative economic ideology. He hoped to unite the factory workers as a class (proletariat) in order to overthrow the capitalist elites and replace them with a communist dictatorship (of the proletariat, of course). Out with the oligarches, in with the commissars. Like capitalist economic theory, Marxism rationalizes and misrepresents the power relationships of the social system it seeks to justify. Marxism and capitalism have more in common than either would care to admit. Both rely on a vocabulary ill suited to describing or analyzing current social reality.

It’s not just that some of the vocabulary turns many people off, but that the vocabulary itself tends to pigeonhole the thought process. The vocabulary was developed to advance a different version of hierarchical domination and control. To understand what is really going on, we need to develop our own social organizational theory, and to understand the crucial role that money and finance play in modern society. Money is power. Economic power in fluid form. The primary instrument of social control. One cannot even begin to fathom the nature of corporate globalization by talking about worker control of the means of production. Nor can one deal with the reality that imperialism preceded and transcends capitalism by chanting slogans about socialist solidarity. In short, we need to make a conscientious effort to emphasize non-ideological straight-talk. We need more understanding, not ideology masquerading as theory.

Seattle Keith 6/6/04


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