Thinking Out Loud: Are We Witnessing The Decadence in U.S. Society That Makes Disintegration Inevitable?
December 3, 2015 by Herbert Daughtry
Greed: The Root of All Evil?
Marxism, Communism, Socialism, and Capitalism.
Moses Hess came along and put it into a language all of us can understand. He believed that while man does alienate himself by projecting himself onto a God of his own creation, God was simply the mystification of man’s economic power. Man was at his best when he was producing, making, and creating things. Thus, man’s labor, and his creative activities become the alienated expressions in the form of money. We didn’t know about all of this philosophy when I was growing up, but we always talked about the Almighty Dollar.
Now, entered Marx. He picked up the ball and headed up the field. He said that money was the concrete God. It was the expression of man’s rented productivity. The difference between economics and religion was that in religion, the self-alienation was an ideal – the absolute of an ideal. Whereas in economics, this self-alienation was empirically manifested in the labor or creative process which ultimately ended up in commodities or products. This is the fall of man.
Man alienates himself by directing his creativity in the process of production.It ought to be simply the act of doing for its own sake, and the reward should be in the action. These products then capture man. The products themselves become the end to man’s creativity and not the creativity itself. All of man’s creative energy flows into the product, while man himself grows steadily impoverished. This antithetical relationship plays itself out along these lines. The more the worker produces, the poorer he becomes. As more value is attached to the product made by the worker, he himself becomes less valued.
The self-alienation of man in his labor takes the form of private property. The capitalist, who produces nothing and stands over the worker, takes what the worker produces. Thus, both are demeaned. The worker, because his creativity, that which makes him human, which gives life meaning, has been directed into a product from which he derives no satisfaction or further enhancement of self. The capitalist, because he produces nothing, his creativity and labor have never been cultivated. He is, in fact, inhuman. He lives as a parasite seeking the blood of what others have produced.
Now, this sets up a class conflict – a struggle between the haves and the have-nots, and the producers and non-producers. Marx then seems to leave the self-alienation question unresolved and moves to a more direct social relationship. In Marxist historical dialectics, the building up and breaking down of European societies (and, it ought to be said that his analysis is focused within the boundary of European societies), this process shows the influences of Hegel – thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.
There were certain stages. The first was communalism. In this stage, groups of hunters collectively went out to gather food, using their skills as hunters. In communalism, property is owned collectively. This is why it is nonsense and pure white racist fantasy to say that Indians sold land to Americans in the same sense as we think of selling. In primitive societies, land was not for sale. All owned it. Work was done in common, and all shared goods equally.
The second stage was slavery. This stage grew out of certain domineering elements in the former group that conquered other groups, thereby making them the property of the conqueror. The tasks of the slaves varied, but slaves were primarily used to produce food.
The next stage was feudalism. In feudalism, agriculture was still the principle means of livelihood. However, the land – necessary for that kind of economy, was in the hands of a few, and they took the biggest portion of the wealth.
In feudalism, the slaves became the serfs. They were not the property of the master as in the case of slavery, but their condition was not considerably altered because they were still tied to the land, manor, or estate. Although the manor might change hands, the serf was forced to stay there.
He received enough goods to survive, but the biggest portion went to the landowners. The children of the serfs, as with the children of the slaves before them, were also serfs. The class arrangement was seldom, if ever, broken.
The next stage – the stage we are presently in, was capitalism. In capitalism, the greatest wealth in society was not produced by agriculture, but by machines, factories, and mines. Like the preceding state of feudalism, capitalism consisted of power and ownership concentrated in the hands of the few. The ownership of the means of production, or producing wealth, was all owned and controlled by a few. The unequal distribution or commodity of labor was always to benefit the few. The few who controlled were the merchants and craftsmen of the feudal stage. In capitalism, they became the industrialists and financiers.
… to be continued.
(Originally published in the Daily Challenge on December 3, 2015.)