Thursday, September 25, 2008

Experiences slightly like getting hit by a truck

1) Watching Hotel Rwanda
2) Reading Crime and Punishment
4) Getting hit by a car
5) Noticing that your closest friend is not only a violent fascist but intends to fully pickle himself in alcohol before the night is out.

So. . . here's the thing about reading Dostoevsky, or at least Crime and Punishment. As far as I can tell, there are three options; you can try to stonewall it and not feel anything, you can take it tongue in cheek, or you can read the whole thing literally and let the melodrama of it sweep you into its world.

I have a bit of a problem with taking things literally, so naturally my first reading was all about this third approach. . . hence, slightly like getting hit by a truck.

Lately I've been introduced a little into how the rest of the radical left carries its self. Some are just bitter and/or delusional; a few are very well read and insightful. Among the many ideas I'm not particularly familiar with yet is that socialism is the next stage in some sort of natural progressive order, to succeed our present system just as capitalism replaced monarchy.

It occurs to me that some people have a kind of literalist-Dostoevsky approach to the world; they see all the wrongs that come of this stage in that "historical order" in vivid detail, perhaps even exaggerated, but as a matter of perspective, not dishonesty. They walk the streets and meet a man whose family is starving, and over the course of a thousand pages they watch helplessly from a very slightly less precarious position as that family--and the various exceedingly human individuals in it--continue in their abject poverty until they are mercilessly crushed by the system in which they've no choice but to exist.

They experience all this in a sort of vivid technicolor detail, and for them life is rather like getting hit by a truck. I go through stages of being this kind of person, but most of the time I've only a relatively blunted underlaying awareness. Still, the awareness is there, and the emotional-truck people are impossible to discredit. After all, the world is much more full of Marmeladovs--people whose lives actually, rather than emotionally, resemble being hit by a truck; perhaps the world is a lot like Fyodor saw it after all.


___________________________ said...

Right, I do think that the radical left views the evils of the world in ultra-vision. Radical libertarians I think see the world with an arrogance. They think that they are obviously right, which is why they often fault their foes on economics. In their defense, the major proponents of libertarianism have traditionally been economists, there have been a few philosophers, but rarely are they noted by libertarians, I think, and I do not think that is odd for an ideological group anyway.

As for the nature of capitalism, do I think that this is utopia? No. On some level, I doubt the notion of utopia, no matter what we do, the tragedies will be scaled to the world we know. Do I think the current system is better than past systems? Yes, I do think that it is better than the past. Do I think it will improve? Yes, capitalism, for all of the growing pains it sometimes shows, pushes for growth, as noted by the capitalists, and even Karl Marx. Do I think it is better than it's competitors? Yes, I think the other plans will tend to underperform on a number of measures such as growth, matching the supply of a good with the demand, and so on. Is the current mix of capitalism and state power a bastard? Yes, it is.

As for the growth of socialism through capitalism, I do not see that. If anything occurs, I think we will see welfare capitalism.

Day said...

I agree that capitalism is mostly better than what came before.

I don't think a capitalist concept of "economic growth" matches up significantly with what I would consider "positive progress." Therefore, being better than it's competitors spawns only the question: Better at what?

I'm not pretending that communism=utopia, just suggesting that thoughtfully implemented, it could be much better than what we have. I'd also like to note that communism does not necessarily exclude the use of markets and market forces.

___________________________ said...

I think that research shows that economic growth brings a lot of benefits from most perspectives. Now, I recognize all things can be taken as subjective.

I know, there are notions of market socialism, mutualism, and things like that, however, I think that the logic of the market is one of the major things that propels the market forward, and that more purely market systems fit in best with that market. Then again, I don't think a pure market would prevent any theoretical system from being implemented by an interested group.

Day said...

I don't see post labor anarcho-syndicalism as less market driven than our current renditions of capitalism.

___________________________ said...

I am less familiar with post labor anarcho-syndicalism than you are.

Day said...

well Snap. :)


___________________________ said...

Well, to be honest, that was the first time I heard the term "post labor anarcho-syndicalism", so... perhaps I need to read more mainstream anarchist literature.

Day said...

hehe. .. to be fair, I do know that you are far more the econ guru than I.

Post-labor encompasses any form of anarcho-syndicalism that's structured in such a way that the idea of labor organizations as we know them is obsolete.

For instance, if we were to run on a market that were "free" in the ways it is now, but require that any and all corporations be owned by it's workers, in direct proportion to the number of hours they've contributed. . . it's a rough example, but I'm sure you get the idea.

mlh said...

WHAT? You never read the Communist Manifesto?!? I'm not inclined towards excessive punctuation, but young lady, what kind of leftist wanna-be radical are you?

Kenneth Burke (inspired by whom was my penultimate blog post) suggested that the hierarchization of Marx (capitalism is very different when defined in opposition to feudalism as it is when defined next to socialism) allows seemingly contradictory ideas to complement and support each other instead of compete. The whole feudal-->capitalism-->socialism thing.

And, Day, what you're describing here is essentially just Ricardoism.

mlh said...

I also love, too late, Crime and Punishment.

Day said...

I'm the kind of leftist radical who works 50 hours a week, volunteers in the community, blogs, maintains strong relationships, and goes to school half time. I'll get to it.

Also, to be fair, having not read it through, I have read parts of it and gone to seminar on it twice, so it's not like I have no idea what it says.


Two questions, then--

1)Google failed to enlighten me about Ricardoism--might you instead?

2)I'm not sure that the progression concept excludes competition. What's the standard work about this idea? Or, is there anything else you could mention right off that would help clarify it?

I believe there is a school of Marxism that tends to think that progression implies violence. .. Even if they are mostly South American (as opposed to being more widespread), the idea makes a certain amount of sense. .