Capitalism, Morality & Markets (Readings, 54)

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He discovered that capital is not a thing, but a social relation between persons, established by the instrumentality of things. Peel had the foresight to bring with him, besides, 3, persons of the working-class, men, women, and children. Once arrived at his destination, 'Mr.

Why Capitalism Is Morally Superior to Socialism

Peel was left without a servant to make his bed or fetch him water from the river. Peel, who provided for everything except the export of English modes of production to Swan River! In the third volume of Das Kapital , Marx refers to the "fetishism of capital" reaching its highest point with interest-bearing capital because now capital seems to grow of its own accord without anybody doing anything:.

The relations of capital assume their most externalised and most fetish-like form in interest-bearing capital. The result of the entire process of reproduction appears as a property inherent in the thing itself. It depends on the owner of the money, i. In interest-bearing capital, therefore, this automatic fetish, self-expanding value, money generating money, are brought out in their pure state and in this form it no longer bears the birth-marks of its origin.

The social relation is consummated in the relation of a thing, of money, to itself. Instead of the actual transformation of money into capital, we see here only form without content. Wage labour refers to the sale of labour under a formal or informal employment contract to an employer. In Marxist economics, these owners of the means of production and suppliers of capital are generally called capitalists.


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The description of the role of the capitalist has shifted, first referring to a useless intermediary between producers to an employer of producers and eventually came to refer to owners of the means of production. Production is the act of making goods or services by applying labor power. Critics of the capitalist mode of production see wage labour as a major, if not defining, aspect of hierarchical industrial systems.

Most opponents of the institution support worker self-management and economic democracy as alternatives to both wage labour and to capitalism. While most opponents of the wage system blame the capitalist owners of the means of production for its existence, most anarchists and other libertarian socialists also hold the state as equally responsible as it exists as a tool utilised by capitalists to subsidise themselves and protect the institution of private ownership of the means of production.

As some opponents of wage labour take influence from Marxist propositions, many are opposed to private property , but maintain respect for personal property. The most common form of wage labour currently is ordinary direct, or "full-time", employment in which a free worker sells his or her labour for an indeterminate time from a few years to the entire career of the worker in return for a money-wage or salary and a continuing relationship with the employer which it does not in general offer contractors or other irregular staff.

Slavery, Race, Capitalism

However, wage labour takes many other forms and explicit as opposed to implicit i. Economic history shows a great variety of ways in which labour is traded and exchanged. The differences show up in the form of:. War typically causes the diversion, destruction and creation of capital assets as capital assets are both destroyed or consumed and diverted to types of production needed to fight the war.

Many assets are wasted and in some few cases created specifically to fight a war. War driven demands may be a powerful stimulus for the accumulation of capital and production capability in limited areas and market expansion outside the immediate theatre of war. Often this has induced laws against perceived and real war profiteering. The total hours worked in the United States rose by 34 percent during World War II, even though the military draft reduced the civilian labor force by 11 percent.

War destruction can be illustrated by looking at World War II. In Germany in , when air attacks were heaviest, 6. In Europe, the United States and the Soviet Union enormous resources were accumulated and ultimately dissipated as planes, ships, tanks and so on were built and then lost or destroyed. Germany's total war damage was estimated at about In the Berlin area alone, there were 8 million refugees lacking basic necessities. However, by the first quarter of European rail traffic, which was given assistance and preferences by Western appointed military governors for resources and material as an essential asset, regained its prewar operational level.


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  6. In retrospect, the rapidity of infrastructure reconstruction appears astonishing. Truman 's directive had been that no steps would be taken towards economic rehabilitation of Germany. In fact, the initial industry plan of prohibited production in excess of half of the level; the iron and steel industry was allowed to produce only less than a third of pre-war output. These plans were rapidly revised and better plans were instituted. The first big strike-wave in the Ruhr occurred in early —it was about food rations and housing, but soon there were demands for nationalisation.

    However, the United States appointed military governor Newman stated at the time that he had the power to break strikes by withholding food rations.

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    The clear message was "no work, no eat". As the military controls in Western Germany were nearly all relinquished and the Germans were allowed to rebuild their own economy with Marshall Plan aid things rapidly improved. By , German industrial production had overtaken the prewar level. The Marshall Aid funds were important, but after the currency reform which permitted German capitalists to revalue their assets and the establishment of a new political system much more important was the commitment of the United States to rebuilding German capitalism and establishing a free market economy and government, rather than keeping Germany in a weak position.

    Initially, average real wages remained low, lower even than in , until the early s while profitability was unusually high.


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    So the total investment fund, aided by credits, was also high, resulting in a high rate of capital accumulation which was nearly all reinvested in new construction or new tools. This was called the German economic miracle or Wirtschaftswunder. In Italy, the victorious Allies did three things in they imposed their absolute military authority; they quickly disarmed the Italian partisans from a very large stock of weapons; and they agreed to a state guarantee of wage payments as well as a veto on all sackings of workers from their jobs.

    In modern times, it has often been possible to rebuild physical capital assets destroyed in wars completely within the space of about 10 years, except in cases of severe pollution by chemical warfare or other kinds of irreparable devastation. However, damage to human capital has been much more devastating in terms of fatalities in the case of World War II, about 55 million deaths , permanent physical disability, enduring ethnic hostility and psychological injuries which have effects for at least several generations.

    Critics of capitalism associate the economic system with social inequality ; unfair distribution of wealth and power; materialism ; repression of workers and trade unionists ; social alienation ; economic inequality ; unemployment ; and economic instability.

    Many socialists consider capitalism to be irrational in that production and the direction of the economy are unplanned, creating many inconsistencies and internal contradictions. Marxian economist Richard D. Wolff postulates that capitalist economies prioritize profits and capital accumulation over the social needs of communities and capitalist enterprises rarely include the workers in the basic decisions of the enterprise.

    Some labor historians and scholars have argued that unfree labor —by slaves , indentured servants , prisoners or other coerced persons—is compatible with capitalist relations. Tom Brass argued that unfree labor is acceptable to capital. And when they are talking about capitalism, they are talking about slavery. Baptist and Sven Beckert , assert that slavery was an integral component in the violent development of American and global capitalism.

    According to Immanuel Wallerstein , institutional racism has been "one of the most significant pillars" of the capitalist system and serves as "the ideological justification for the hierarchization of the work-force and its highly unequal distributions of reward". Many aspects of capitalism have come under attack from the anti-globalization movement , which is primarily opposed to corporate capitalism. Environmentalists have argued that capitalism requires continual economic growth and that it will inevitably deplete the finite natural resources of Earth and cause mass extinctions of animal and plant life.

    Some scholars blame the financial crisis of — on the neoliberal capitalist model. The whole intellectual edifice, however, collapsed in the summer of last year", [] and that "I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in firms [ Many religions have criticized or opposed specific elements of capitalism.

    Traditional Judaism , Christianity , and Islam forbid lending money at interest , [] [] although alternative methods of banking have been developed. Some Christians have criticized capitalism for its materialist aspects and its inability to account for the wellbeing of all people. In his page apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium , Catholic Pope Francis described unfettered capitalism as "a new tyranny" and called on world leaders to fight rising poverty and inequality: [].

    Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.

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    Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. Proponents of capitalism argue that it creates more prosperity than any other economic system and that its benefits are mainly to the ordinary person. The term capitalism in its modern sense is often attributed to Karl Marx.

    However, Marx himself rarely used the term "capitalism" while it was used twice in the more political interpretations of his work, primarily authored by his collaborator Friedrich Engels. In the 20th century, defenders of the capitalist system often replaced the term capitalism with phrases such as free enterprise and private enterprise and replaced capitalist with rentier and investor in reaction to the negative connotations associated with capitalism.

    The majority of criticisms against the profit motive centre on the idea that the profit motive encourages selfishness and greed, rather than serve the public good or necessarily creating an increase in net wealth. Critics of the profit motive contend that companies disregard morals or public safety in the pursuit of profits. Free market economists counter that the profit motive, coupled with competition, actually reduces the final price of an item for consumption, rather than raising it.

    They argue that businesses profit by selling a good at a lower price and at a greater volume than the competition. Economist Thomas Sowell uses supermarkets as an example to illustrate this point: "It has been estimated that a supermarket makes a clear profit of about a penny on a dollar of sales. If that sounds pretty skimpy, remember that it is collecting that penny on every dollar at several cash registers simultaneously and, in many cases, around the clock". American economist Milton Friedman has argued that greed and self-interest are universal human traits.

    On a episode of The Phil Donahue Show , Friedman states: "The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests". He continues by explaining that only in capitalist countries, where individuals can pursue their own self-interest, people have been able to escape from "grinding poverty". Wage labor has long been compared to slavery.

    Similarities between wage labor and slavery were noted as early as Cicero in Ancient Rome, such as in De Officiis. Before the American Civil War , Southern defenders of African American slavery invoked the concept of wage slavery to favorably compare the condition of their slaves to workers in the North. According to Lawrence Glickman , in the Gilded Age "references abounded in the labor press, and it is hard to find a speech by a labour leader without the phrase".

    According to Noam Chomsky , analysis of the psychological implications of wage slavery goes back to the Enlightenment era. In his book On the Limits of State Action , liberal thinker Wilhelm von Humboldt explained how "whatever does not spring from a man's free choice, or is only the result of instruction and guidance, does not enter into his very nature; he does not perform it with truly human energies, but merely with mechanical exactness" and so when the laborer works under external control, "we may admire what he does, but we despise what he is".

    According to Graeber, such arrangements were quite common in New World slavery as well, whether in the United States or Brazil. James argued in The Black Jacobins that most of the techniques of human organisation employed on factory workers during the Industrial Revolution were first developed on slave plantations.

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