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How do I defend Agamben?

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...How does the alt solve Agamben?

 

Doesn't anything, like taxes that are necessary to do anything, necessarily involve some sort of state of exception?

 

Also, how do I A2 Cap K when defending biopower on aff?

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...How does the alt solve Agamben?

 

Doesn't anything, like taxes that are necessary to do anything, necessarily involve some sort of state of exception?

 

Also, how do I A2 Cap K when defending biopower on aff?

Go read some Agamben. If you're having alt troubles you need to read more before you should run it.

As for the second argument, biopower and the state are the principle promoters of capitalism and what prevent its contradictions from collapsing it. The affirmative deconstructs the state and is a necessary prerequisite to the alt, thus the perm is key.

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As for the second argument, biopower and the state are the principle promoters of capitalism and what prevent its contradictions from collapsing it. The affirmative deconstructs the state and is a necessary prerequisite to the alt, thus the perm is key.

 

I'm sure that's what authors say, but it makes no sense.

 

Sure, the state is the principle promoter of biopower, but its not for reasons of capitalism.  (Some of its reasons may lead it to promote capitalism, but the USSR was in virtually every way even more committed to biopower than even the modern US, especially when it was virulently opposed to Capitalism).

 

The principle promoter of capitalism is supply and demand.  And since supply and demand are fundamental properties of living economies (both human and non), it cannot 'collapse'.  (Capitalism itself is the simple belief that markets are the best at resolving issues of supply and demand).

 

Now, there are many modes of Capitalism.  They aren't all the same.  Some of them are quite compatible with biopower argumentation.  So, to address a Cap K I'd recommend:

 

1. general perms - no reason why critiquing or rejecting biopower and critiquing or rejecting "capitalism" are mutually exclusive.

1b. If they try to argue that we have to focus on capitalism first, Turn: Dogmatic control of thought destroys autonomy and dignity.  

2. perm, promoting capitalist policies like free trade speeds the collapse of capitalism (see both Marx and Lenin).

3. Types of Capitalism where the state interferes in and controls the markets is a form of biopower, and is bad, only your K of biopower solves.

4. Non-state capitalism is good. (Brennan's book Why Not Capitalism? would be a good starting point.  Also, the MLP FiM episode with the town that's suffering under imposed equal sign cutie marks)

5. No real K alternative (works best if you have a solid policy alt to a specified instance of biopower).

6. Alt necessarily links to the K of biopower.  (Deploy case harms against K).

Edited by Squirrelloid
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I'm sure that's what authors say, but it makes no sense.

 

Sure, the state is the principle promoter of biopower, but its not for reasons of capitalism.  (Some of its reasons may lead it to promote capitalism, but the USSR was in virtually every way even more committed to biopower than even the modern US, especially when it was virulently opposed to Capitalism).

 

The principle promoter of capitalism is supply and demand.  And since supply and demand are fundamental properties of living economies (both human and non), it cannot 'collapse'.  (Capitalism itself is the simple belief that markets are the best at resolving issues of supply and demand).

 

Now, there are many modes of Capitalism.  They aren't all the same.  Some of them are quite compatible with biopower argumentation.  So, to address a Cap K I'd recommend:

 

1. general perms - no reason why critiquing or rejecting biopower and critiquing or rejecting "capitalism" are mutually exclusive.

1b. If they try to argue that we have to focus on capitalism first, Turn: Dogmatic control of thought destroys autonomy and dignity.  

2. perm, promoting capitalist policies like free trade speeds the collapse of capitalism (see both Marx and Lenin).

3. Types of Capitalism where the state interferes in and controls the markets is a form of biopower, and is bad, only your K of biopower solves.

4. Non-state capitalism is good. (Brennan's book Why Not Capitalism? would be a good starting point.  Also, the MLP FiM episode with the town that's suffering under imposed equal sign cutie marks)

5. No real K alternative (works best if you have a solid policy alt to a specified instance of biopower).

6. Alt necessarily links to the K of biopower.  (Deploy case harms against K).

Authors in the field of biopolitics critique this notion of Capitalism; also, the economic definition of capitalism differs from the socio-political definition 

 

#floatingsignifiers 

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Authors in the field of biopolitics critique this notion of Capitalism; also, the economic definition of capitalism differs from the socio-political definition 

 

#floatingsignifiers

 

Sure.  That doesn't make them right or incontestable.

 

Foucault's criticism of biopower is firmly rooted in the state, and biopolitics is necessarily rooted in the state.  If you expand biopower to include non-state actors, biopower really is inevitable, so a K of biopower pretty much has to focus on condemnation of the state's use of biopower.  Otherwise you really do have no alternative.

 

And i disagree.  Capitalism is fundamentally the same whether we're talking about econ or socio-politics.  It makes no sense to treat them differently, and your 'socio-political' commentators certainly think they're critiquing an economic system, not just a socio-political one.  The problem is that continental philosophers are really sloppy when talking about capitalism - they commit the error of assigning a signifier to everything, and then assuming that all things labeled with that signifier are the same in all respects and are all intimately related to each other in some ineffable way that makes engaging in one mode of it identical to engaging in all modes.  (This isn't just a problem with critiques of capitalism).  That's of course nonsense, which is why there are pro-capitalist critiques of cronyism and other aspects of systems that the K authors all subsume under 'Capitalism' as if it were one monolithic and indivisible entity.

 

(And certainly the marxists don't distinguish between economics and socio-politics.  Which is why Soviet Russia under Lenin and Stalin worked so hard to stamp out 'bourgeois' stores and any hint of market operations.  They knew what capitalism was).

 

By analogy, if plan was 'buy a goldfish', our average K-style theorist thinking would object because it's pet ownership, and pet ownership causes children to be attacked and spreads disease.  And while yes, owning a dog may cause some child attacks, and dogs (rabies) and cats (toxoplasma) may contribute to some disease spread, none of those things apply to goldfish.

 

Differences matter.  There is certainly some value in grouping things by similarities, but the members of those groups are not identical, and may well differ in important respects because of those differences.

 

Wait, what?

My Little Pony has an episode critiquing communism. It's awesome. And generally, the economy of MLP FiM is utopian capitalist.

Edited by Squirrelloid
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Foucault says in Chapter 11 of Society Must Be Defended (March 1976), "One thing at least is certain: Socialism has made no critique of the theme of biopower [...] Ultimately, the idea that the essential function of society or the State, or whatever it is that must replace the State, is to take control of life, to manage it, to compensate for its aleatory nature, to explore and reduce biological accidents and possibilities . . . it seems to me that socialism takes this over wholesale. And the result is that we immediately find ourselves in a socialist State which must exercise the right to kill or the right to eliminate, or the right to disqualify. And so, quite naturally, we find that racism - not a truly ethnic racism, but racism of the evolutionist kind, biological racism - is fully operational in the way socialist States (of the Soviet Union type) deal with the mentally ill, criminals, political adversaries, and so on." Even Marxist analysis, claims Foucault, incorporates this type of racism whenever it conceives of struggle against class enemies. So much for state socialism.

 

This racism is similar to the kind described by Alenka Zupančič in her book The Odd One In (2008):

 

In the contemporary ideological climate it has become imperative that we perceive all the terrible things that happen to us as ultimately something positive—say as a precious experience that will bear fruit in our future life. Negativity, lack, dissatisfaction, unhappiness, are perceived more and more as moral faults— worse, as a corruption at the level of our very being or bare life.

 

There is a spectacular rise of what we might call a bio-morality (as well as morality of feelings and emotions), which promotes the following fundamental axiom: a person who feels good (and is happy) is a good person; a person who feels bad is a bad person. It is this short circuit between the immediate feelings/sensations and the moral value that gives its specific color to the contemporary ideological rhetoric of happiness. This is very efficient, for who dares to raise her voice and say that as a matter of fact, she is not happy, and that she can’t manage to—or, worse, doesn’t even care to—transform all the disappointments of her life into a positive experience to be invested in the future?

 

There is an important difference between this and the classical entrepreneur formula according to which we are always broadly responsible for our failures and misfortunes. This classical formula still implies a certain interval between what we are and the symbolic value of our success. It implies that, at least in principle, we could have acted otherwise, but didn’t (and are hence responsible for our failures or lack of happiness).

 

The bio-morality mentioned above is replacing the classical notion of responsibility with the notion of a damaged, corrupt being: the unhappy and the unsuccessful are somehow corrupt already on the level of their bare life, and all their erroneous actions or nonactions follow from there with an inexorable necessity. In other words, the problem is not simply that success and efficiency have become the supreme values of our late capitalist society (as we often hear from critics of this society)—there is nothing particularly new in this; social promotion of success (defined in different ways) has existed since time immemorial. The problem is, rather, that success is becoming almost a biological notion, and thus the foundation of a genuine racism of successfulness. The poorest and the most miserable are no longer perceived as a socio-economic class, but almost as a race of their own, as a special form of life. We are indeed witnessing a spectacular rise of racism or, more precisely, of “racization.” This is to say that we are no longer simply dealing with racism in its traditional sense of hatred towards other races, but also and above all with a production of (new) races based on economic, political, and class differences and factors, as well as with the segregation based on these differences. If traditional racism tended to socialize biological features—that is, directly translate them into cultural and symbolic points of a given social order—contemporary racism works in the opposite direction. It tends to “naturalize” the differences and features produced by the socio-symbolic order. This is also what can help us to understand the ideological rise of the theme of private life, as well as of lifestyles and habits.

 

To take a simple example: if a “successful artist” is invited as a guest on a TV show, the focus is practically never on her work, but instead on the way she lives, on her everyday habits, on what she enjoys, and so on. This is not simply a voyeuristic curiosity; it is a procedure that systematically presents us with two elements: “success” on the one side, and the life that corresponds to this success on the other—implying, of course, a strong and immediate equivalence between the two. The objective surplus, the materialized work itself, is eliminated at the very outset. In other words, our ways of life, our habits, our feelings, our more or less idiosyncratic enjoyments—all these are no longer simply “private matters” exposed to scrutiny to satisfy our curiosity. They are one of the crucial cultural catalysts through which all kinds of socio-economic and ideological differences are being gradually transformed into “human differences,” differences at the very core of our being, which makes it possible for them to become the ground of a new racism. This is the process that aims at establishing an immediate connection between being (“bare life”) and a socio-economic value.

 

We are thus witnessing a massive and forceful naturalization of economic, political, and other social differences, and this naturalization is itself a politico-ideological process par excellence. As I said above, “naturalization” involves above all the promotion of a belief in an immediate character of these differences—that is to say, in their being organically related to life as such, or to existing reality in general. I could also put this in the following way: the contemporary discourse which likes to promote and glorify the gesture of distancing oneself from all Ideologies and Projects (as the Ideologies of others, and because they are necessarily totalitarian or utopian) strives to promote its own reality as completely non-ideological. Our present socio-economic reality is increasingly being presented as an immediate natural fact, or fact of nature, and thus a fact to which we can only try to adapt as successfully as possible.

 

Which brings us to Squirrelloid's libertarian apologetics. First we must conflate capitalism with markets, thereby 'naturalizing' capitalism. If capitalism is natural and the state is artificial, any economic crisis, up to and including the Great Depression, must be the result of government intervention - whence the revisionism of Milton Friedman and the Chicago school, drawing from the diagnoses of the business cycle by Ludwig von Mises and the Austrian school. Marx compared bourgeoisie economists like these in his own day to theologians "who likewise establish two kinds of religion[: e]very religion which is not theirs is an invention of [people], while their own is an emanation from God" (The Poverty of Philosophy, 1847). By implication, all attempts to create alternatives to capitalism are thus cast as "totalitarian or utopian" in Zupančič's phrasing - an ideological war on human nature itself, which one can dismiss as 'academic'. {Late Marx might well agree that there's no capitalism in general, but many capitalisms "occurring in different historical milieu, led to quite disparate results" - see Étienne Balibar's The Philosophy of Marx (1995) - yet he wouldn't consider capitalism as identical with chattel slavery simply because slaves were bought and sold at market. For him, industrial capitalism in Western Europe required a proletariat: a class of 'free-floating' workers not tied to the land like serfs, not owned as property, who could quit/be fired, who had to earn their living by selling their only asset - their labor - and who then had to buy back the products they produced, lest a crisis of overabundance run the economy into the ground. One of the key rebuttal's to Marx's theory, in fact, was the persistence of slavery in 19th-century America: why care for a slave until death when you could hire them for as long as they were useful then throw them out on the street? Gerald A. Cohen, proponent of the 'Non-Bullshit Marxism'-movement, attributes this to Marx's failure to take into account the importance of group identity - i.e., slavery's role in perpetuating white supremacy.}

 

In full contrast with such ahistorical anti-intellectualism, Foucault will say that biopower couldn't exist without capitalism, and vis versa, and investigated specific social practices while advocating political-cultural experimentation on our own terrain. Today multinational corporations - some as immense and as powerful as nation-states - provide us with paradigm cases of the biopolitical control of populations: millions die of AIDS in Africa while Big Pharma rigs 'free trade'-agreements enabling them to drastically raise the price of needed medicines, for an example. For his part, Foucault eschewed state-centricism, instead focusing on expert discourses proper: mental health professionals, pedagogues, prison officials, factory managers, sex researchers - diffuse networks of normalization. I doubt he'd argue that it's often decisions made by suits around a boardroom table who disqualify us, who segregate us, and who purify us; "as more and more of our number die, the race to which we belong will become all the purer," Foucault said in that same lecture when talking about colonial genocide and war, though today he could've been talking about CEO Martin Shkreli.

 

Anyway, to reply to the original post in this thread: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pR-dBE3p10. Agamben's concept of 'whatever-singularity' in The Coming Community is probably the closest he comes to an 'alternative' per se, but don't sleep on Bartleby! Zizek even uses the term "Bartleby politics": now, what would that look like?

Edited by Lazzarone
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In full contrast with such ahistorical anti-intellectualism, Foucault will say that biopower couldn't exist without capitalism, and vis versa, and investigated specific social practices while advocating political-cultural experimentation on our own terrain. Today multinational corporations - some as immense and as powerful as nation-states - provide us with paradigm cases of the biopolitical control of populations: millions die of AIDS in Africa while Big Pharma rigs 'free trade'-agreements enabling them to drastically raise the price of needed medicines, for an example. For his part, Foucault eschewed state-centricism, instead focusing on expert discourses proper: mental health professionals, pedagogues, prison officials, factory managers, sex researchers - diffuse networks of normalization. I doubt he'd argue that it's often decisions made by suits around a boardroom table who disqualify us, who segregate us, and who purify us; "as more and more of our number die, the race to which we belong will become all the purer," Foucault said in that same lecture when talking about colonial genocide and war, though today he could've been talking about CEO Martin Shkreli.

 

Saying things doesn't make them so, and your pharma examples are just factually wrong.  Today millions survive AIDS in Africa because the price of AIDS drugs has dropped from about $10,000/yr to about $100/yr; and millions survive AIDS anywhere because Big Pharma did the job of developing and testing commercial, safe anti-retrovirals.  E.g., http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/presscentre/pressreleaseandstatementarchive/2012/july/20120706prafricatreatment

 

And as for Mr. Shrkeli, his little trick was entirely exploitation of government regulation, namely the fact that it costs millions of dollars and takes years to get FDA approval for a generic equivalent. In a free market, when Shrkeli announced that he was hiking the price of Daraprim, one of the many generic pharmaceutical manufacturers in the world would have announced that they would be selling generic pyrimethamine at the original price within a month (and indeed, outside the U.S. and free from FDA overregulation, they already are).

 

Pharma in particular, and the real world in general, is better described by McCloskey's summary of the capitalist deal: "Let me innovate and make piles and piles of money in the short run out of innovation, and in the long run I'll make you rich."  While, to take a page from the most famous musical about AIDS, the activist professor who makes clueless philosophical pronouncements about things like "virtual reality" and engages in creative sabotaging protest...does nothing to actually cure anything.

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https://theejbm.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/the-untold-aids-story-how-access-to-antiretroviral-drugs-was-obstructed-in-africa/

 

A special report by UNAIDS states that AIDS-related deaths in Africa only began to decline in the year 2007. Why the gap? Why did AIDS deaths in the US begin to decline immediately after the development of ARVs, while AIDS deaths in Africa took over ten years longer? Millions of people in Africa died during the time between when ARVs came to market and when people in Africa had access to them.  Many of those deaths could have been prevented if people had had access to ARVs.  Why didn’t they?

 

Quoting your source, I hope that link settles that. And how you manage to displace blame from companies like Turing Pharmaceuticals to government regulation via the FDA is a case-in-point. As a hedge fund manager, Shrkeli urged the FDA not to approve drugs he was short-selling. State agencies are therefore damned if they do and damned if they don't follow 'free market' dictates. And the patent has elapsed on Daraprim, so there's little stopping a company from selling the generic, except sales judged as too paltry - which is what we'd expect from an economic system that values profits above people. Ideological commitments also cause you to a priori reject the very regulations which might help stop companies from drastically hiking the price of life-saving drugs in the future.

 

Pharmaceutical companies blocked access to lifesaving drugs for millions of people because they were afraid that allowing Africans to import generics would set a precedent that would ultimately diminish their own profits.  This was only overcome after years and years of hard work by activists, journalists and many others coming together to put pressure on Washington DC and other western governments to allow importation of generics.  Finally, Western countries turned a blind eye when South Africa began importing the generic ARVs, but this would not have happened if it were not for the intense amount of political pressure and criticism that they were facing.

 

Activism is the only cure. Cue the goofy professor...

 

Edited by Lazzarone
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https://theejbm.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/the-untold-aids-story-how-access-to-antiretroviral-drugs-was-obstructed-in-africa/

 

 

Quoting your source, I hope that link settles that.

 

Let me give you a better study on the effect of patents on ARV access in Africa; one published in a reputable medical journal rather than one written on a blog by a first year med student: Do patents for antiretroviral drugs constrain access to AIDS treatment in Africa?

 

Aside from that, without profit, where do you expect the lifesaving drugs to come from? We've seen the state of scientific advances in countries without profit; they're pretty good with military technology and awful with civilian technology.  How many miracle cures have come from the Soviet Union or Communist China?

 

And how you manage to displace blame from companies like Turing Pharmaceuticals to government regulation via the FDA is a case-in-point. As a hedge fund manager, Shrkeli urged the FDA not to approve drugs he was short-selling. State agencies are therefore damned if they do and damned if they don't follow 'free market' dictates. And the patent has elapsed on Daraprim, so there's little stopping a company from selling the generic, except sales judged as too paltry - which is what we'd expect from an economic system that values profits above people.

 

And the FDA had to listen to Shkreli why?  Shkreli is a tiny bit player in the pharmaceutical market, and the FDA rejects requests from much bigger, much more important players all the time.  And why does the FDA have the power to not approve drugs based on a market player's comments?  Without the FDA, Shkreli could yell all he wants and it wouldn't matter!

 

As for what's stopping the generic, even without patent protection, it's hard to get a generic drug approved.  The applicant still has to conduct clinical tests to show bioequivalence to the reference listed drug, which costs millions of dollars and takes years--and during that time, Shrkeli would have an opportunity to lower his price and make it unprofitable to compete again.  This post has a pretty good explanation of it.

 

Ideological commitments also cause you to a priori reject the very regulations which might help stop companies from drastically hiking the price of life-saving drugs in the future.

 

Nope.  I've suggested regulatory fixes that would help--either having the government operate a "pharmacy of last resort" for old orphan drugs, or allowing reciprocity of approval with countries that maintain sufficiently high safety standards for old orphan drugs.  On the other hand, ideological commitments cause you to a priori reject the possibility that in attacking capitalism, you'll kill the goose that keeps laying the golden ARVs and toxoplasma drugs.

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Apparently even a first-year medical student can read a report from UNAIDS, the same source Edgehopper linked to show that 'HIV treatment now reaching more than 6 million people in sub-Saharan Africa' - the key word of which is NOW. Why did it take so long? If you can't see the preventable deaths of millions as a moral failure, or concede the crucial role played by the ensuing global political mobilization, then you're truly missing the golden goose for Africans in this case: the decency of activists worldwide, including capitalist philanthropists, who did not wait around for 'free markets'.
 
Whilst indicting the credentials of a blogger, by the way, maybe don't cite a totally anonymous one with no credentials I can inspect (Scott Alexander is a pseudonym; "If you know my real name, please don’t use it on here"). That statements like "I am not a chemist, but the Daraprim molecule does not look very intimidating..." or "I’m not totally sure, but my best guess is..." or "I think this might be what’s going on..." passes for "a pretty good explanation" to Edgehopper perhaps explains our differences on what I thought were uncontroversial facts.
 
He cites a 2001 article in JAMA. A 2011 paper directly responded: "Although some argued that the absence of ARV patents in a number of African countries meant that intellectual property did not pose a barrier to HIV treatment, this perspective did not take into account the industrial reality that patents in a few producing countries (such as India) could hinder access to generic medicines in scores of importing countries," ultimately blaming the delay on not amending the 1994 TRIPS agreement.

A patent can be understood as a type of social contract: in exchange for exclusive rights, patent holders are expected to provide benefits, such as innovation, to society. If, however, these benefits are not forthcoming or not widely available, the contract is not being fulfilled. In the conventional model, R&D priorities are driven primarily by the potential profitability of the market for a medicine. This means that the health needs of those who do not comprise a sufficiently attractive market - because they are too poor or too few - will be neglected.

Sounds like the kind of common sense one has to be taught to deny. Still, it's optimism-inducing to read pro-capitalist commentators acknowledge the part that non-market institutions can play in addressing global health emergencies: Edgehopper suggests governments operate as 'pharmacies of last resort'. I suppose that's as nice a bit of socialism as any, or at least a promising resistance to what Foucault called 'state-phobia'. Of course, a full third of pharmaceutical R&D money is already federal (JAMA 2010). So we help pay for the drugs and Big Pharma reaps the profits, thereyby twisting your quotation of Deirdre McCloskey's motto: 'Make us filthy rich and we'll keep as many of you around as is profitable for us'. (McCloskey, incidentally, is far from an economic determinist, even of the right-wing variety, and attributes a lot of the West's advancement to the creation of a decent middle class. Marx wouldn't disagree.)
 

To return to the original theme of biopolitics, what was a bit slapdash in my previous posts was the connection of this example back to the work of Foucault and Agamben, because I think this actually points to a key difference in their points of emphasis. For Foucault, biopolitics is chiefly a problem for those living in more advanced countries, while biopolitics for Agamben incorporates homo sacer as its pivotal figure: those who aren't even lucky enough to get biopoliticked - the disposable ones. As Assistant Professor of Humanities at Shimer College, Adam Kotsko, explains in this interview, homo sacer "designates somebody who has been just radically excluded from the community; he is not able to executed or sacrificed, but if anybody happens to come across him and murder him, it's not murder in a legal sense - that he's just completely - he's been excluded from the law's protections and from its punishments - and this is considered to be kinda the very worst and most radical punishment in a way" (2m:46s) and "Agamben thinks that this particular kind of outsider is actually more important in the way that the state sets its own boundaries and defines itself than foreigners who just happen not to belong to the state, that the kind of signature gesture of the state is to exclude somebody in this way, and that this is the ultimate expression of its power" (5m:48s). As for those who've applied this concept to the countless victims of the AIDS epidemic, I might quote from this article: http://publicculture.dukejournals.org/content/19/1/197.citation - that is, if Duke University didn't disqualify me from reading it in full. #FirstWorldProblems

Edited by Lazzarone
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Foucault says in Chapter 11 of Society Must Be Defended (March 1976), "One thing at least is certain: Socialism has made no critique of the theme of biopower [...] Ultimately, the idea that the essential function of society or the State, or whatever it is that must replace the State, is to take control of life, to manage it, to compensate for its aleatory nature, to explore and reduce biological accidents and possibilities . . . it seems to me that socialism takes this over wholesale. And the result is that we immediately find ourselves in a socialist State which must exercise the right to kill or the right to eliminate, or the right to disqualify. And so, quite naturally, we find that racism - not a truly ethnic racism, but racism of the evolutionist kind, biological racism - is fully operational in the way socialist States (of the Soviet Union type) deal with the mentally ill, criminals, political adversaries, and so on." Even Marxist analysis, claims Foucault, incorporates this type of racism whenever it conceives of struggle against class enemies. So much for state socialism.

 

This racism is similar to the kind of described by Alenka Zupančič in her book The Odd One In (2008):

 

And as Foucault makes clear in History of Sexuality pt. 1 (and elsewhere), that Racism is born of the fundamental contradiction between the State's assumption of biopower (make live and let die) as its modus operandi, and its need to convince and compel citizens to kill in defense of its sovereign power.  Racism is what bridges the gap between a state which sees its function as regulating life and its need to kill, by making the target 'other' so that they are outside the life that the state claims power over.  Hence the Foucauldian K of biopower depends on the State as the agent of that biopower.

 

Which brings us to Squirrelloid's libertarian apologetics. First we must conflate capitalism with markets, thereby 'naturalizing' capitalism. If capitalism is natural and the state is artificial, any economic crisis, up to and including the Great Depression, must be the result of government intervention - whence the revisionism of Milton Friedman and the Chicago school, drawing from the diagnoses of the business cycle by Ludwig von Mises and the Austrian school. Marx compared bourgeoisie economists like these in his own day to theologians "who likewise establish two kinds of religion[: e]very religion which is not theirs is an invention of [people], while their own is an emanation from God" (The Poverty of Philosophy, 1847).

 

That may set a record for densest litany of fallacies I've ever seen.

 

Conflation of capitalism with markets - nonsequitur. I claimed that capitalism was a belief about the efficacy of markets, not that it was markets.

 

Strawmanning - never claimed anything was 'natural'.  (In fact, I would never use the qualification 'natural' as a value judgement, because...)

 

Naturalistic fallacy - natural =/= good.

 

Repeated Hobbes error in assuming the State of Nature is the natural condition, and that politics is artificially imposed over it, with no evidence.  (And Strawmanned me as claiming it.  Also, apparently markets exist in a State of Nature - also without evidence).

 

Ad hominem, even quoted ad hominem by Marx, does not refute argument.  Generally, it's a concession that you can't actually answer the arguments.  And it's an ad hominem directed at a non-sequitur, since I made no mention of von Mises nor Friedman nor even attempted any particular defense of capitalism, and only referenced Brennan's (which is a moral defense, not an empirical defense).  (Although both could be useful to the OP).

 

That's not even an exhaustive list.

 

By implication, all attempts to create alternatives to capitalism are thus cast as "totalitarian or utopian" in Zupančič's phrasing - an ideological war on human nature itself, which one can dismiss as 'academic'. {Late Marx might well agree that there's no capitalism in general, but many capitalisms "occurring in different historical milieu, led to quite disparate results" - see Étienne Balibar's The Philosophy of Marx (1995) - yet he wouldn't consider capitalism as identical with chattel slavery simply because slaves were bought and sold at market. For him, industrial capitalism in Western Europe required a proletariat: a class of 'free-floating' workers not tied to the land like serfs, not owned as property, who could quit/be fired, who had to earn their living by selling their only asset - their labor - and who then had to buy back the products they produced, lest a crisis of overabundance run the economy into the ground. One of the key rebuttal's to Marx's theory, in fact, was the persistence of slavery in 19th-century America: why care for a slave until death when you could hire them for as long as they were useful then throw them out on the street? Gerald A. Cohen, proponent of the 'Non-Bullshit Marxism'-movement, attributes this to Marx's failure to take into account the importance of group identity - i.e., slavery's role in perpetuating white supremacy.}

 

This whole analysis stems from a faulty premise - that capitalism = markets.  There will always be markets (even in the Soviet Union, where they tried to stamp them out, there were markets).  Capitalism is a specific belief about markets, and stemming from that the use of markets as an organizing principle, not their existence.

 

Slavery is not capitalism but a form of mercantilism.  (And no, they're not even remotely the same).  Nor would I say Slavery was an important rebuttal of Marx (although it may well have been employed as one), much less a key rebuttal.  The total failure of the LTV as an explanatory tool would be the key rebuttal.

 

I will however agree that alternatives to Capitalism which exclude capitalism from existing are either utopian or totalitarian or both, although not for the stated reason.  (A capitalist society would permit voluntary non-capitalist enclaves within it (and has), but such an arrangement does not exclude capitalism from the society). I shall deftly observe that you haven't provided a counter-example, and that's about the only viable rebuttal.  I will offer Hayek's excellent analysis on the necessity of including local information into pricing as strong evidence against any possible non-utopian non-totalitarian non-capitalist system.

 

Of course, this whole tendency of treating all modes of capitalism as identical is exactly the error i identify in my pet ownership analogy, and that's fatal to critiques which amalgamate them, because its a fundamental error in logic.  It's confusing the map with the territory, and then using a really bad map.

 

In full contrast with such ahistorical anti-intellectualism, Foucault will say that biopower couldn't exist without capitalism, and vis versa, and investigated specific social practices while advocating political-cultural experimentation on our own terrain. Today multinational corporations - some as immense and as powerful as nation-states - provide us with paradigm cases of the biopolitical control of populations: millions die of AIDS in Africa while Big Pharma rigs 'free trade'-agreements enabling them to drastically raise the price of needed medicines, for an example. For his part, Foucault eschewed state-centricism, instead focusing on expert discourses proper: mental health professionals, pedagogues, prison officials, factory managers, sex researchers - diffuse networks of normalization. I doubt he'd argue that it's often decisions made by suits around a boardroom table who disqualify us, who segregate us, and who purify us; "as more and more of our number die, the race to which we belong will become all the purer," Foucault said in that same lecture when talking about colonial genocide and war, though today he could've been talking about CEO Martin Shkreli.

 

He said it, and yet, he details exactly how biopower arose, and it has nothing to do with the specifics of capitalism and everything to do with the early modern states need to field professional armies and develop the material base to support them.  The ways in which states did the latter were generally profoundly non-capitalist.

 

 

Activism is the only cure. Cue the goofy professor...

 

Amusingly enough, Brennan's book is specifically a fatal refutation of Cohen, if you couldn't tell from the title.  So much so that I'll direct you to it. 

Edited by Squirrelloid

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Squirrelloid yesterday:

 

The principle promoter of capitalism is supply and demand.  And since supply and demand are fundamental properties of living economies (both human and non), it cannot 'collapse'.  (Capitalism itself is the simple belief that markets are the best at resolving issues of supply and demand).

 

Squirrelloid today:

 

Conflation of capitalism with markets - nonsequitur. I claimed that capitalism was a belief about the efficacy of markets, not that it was markets.

Strawmanning - never claimed anything was 'natural'.  (In fact, I would never use the qualification 'natural' as a value judgement, because...)

 

So I should not have read "fundamental properties of living economies (both human and non)" to mean 'natural'? Please give me another way to interpret that statement. Also I'm not sure I see the great relevance of inserting the qualification 'belief about X', but I'm happy to call you a market fundamentalist and a capitalist theologian, given your belief in capitalism's eternal future. :) How do you reply to Joseph Stiglitz's Nobel Prize-winning work on information asymmetries in markets? And more to the moral issue, when truckloads of fruit were left rotting in the sun during the Great Depression to drive the price up while thousands of people starved nearby, would you consider this an efficient distribution of resources? Likewise, was letting millions of AIDS sufferers in the developing world die for a decade while life-saving antiretroviral drugs were widely available in the developed world the best we were capable of? Why then, in both examples, was massive activist political pressure required to improve people's lots?

 

If one had to reduce Foucault's entire career to a single notion, a good candidate would be his insistence on focusing on specific social practices - 'the capillaries of power'. Yes, we can see the State as a set of historical practices. For this very reason Foucault wrote about governmentality, comprising technologies of the market as well. You appear to repeat the standard debater misconception that Foucault was an anti-statist, which comports with the neo-liberalism he criticized heavily in his later years. Even in his earlier work, however, from The Birth Of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception to Discipline & Punish, was it crucial whether the hospitals or asylums or boarding schools or prisons were privately-owned or public? To an anarchist or libertarian reader of Foucault maybe. But we already know what the factories were, extensively mentioned alongside citations from Marx's Capital. "He said [biopower couldn't exist without capitalism and vis versa], and yet and it has nothing to do with the specifics of capitalism...". That's simply false: "the two processes - the accumulation of men and the accumulation of capital - cannot be separated; it would not have been possible to solve the problem of the accumulation of men without the growth of an apparatus of production capable of both sustaining them and using them; conversely, the techniques that made the cumulative multiplicity of men useful accelerated the accumulation of capital." So NO, the Foucauldian critique of biopower does NOT depend on the State because

 

the state does not have an essence. The state is not a universal nor in itself an autonomous source of power. The state is nothing else but the effect, the profile, the mobile shape of a perpetual statification or statifications, in the sense of incessant transactions which modify, or move, or drastically change, or insidiously shift sources of finance, modes of investment, decision-making centers, forms and types of control ... it has no heart in the sense that it has no interior. The state is nothing else but the mobile effect of a regime of multiple governmentalities.

 

That's from The Birth of Biopolitics, worth the read. It also, on its face, greatly contrasts with Agamben's work on sovereignty, who does not refrain from a theory of the State in the classical sense. Perhaps why debaters are beginning to prefer the cut-and-dried distinctions of the latter?

 

{Oh, on the Jason Brennan-Jerry Cohen line. I'll need to go back and read more than snippets of Brennan's book, but I thought he was replying to Cohen's posthumous utopian argument for socialism, not his Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence. Cohen began as a more economically-grounded Marxist but later on tended towards a more spiritualistic-ethical perspective. To me, Marxism is a critique of just such utopianism (from Proudhon to anarchists to Christian socialists like the new Pope), so I'm happy to cede that label to those like Brennan: to believe state capitalism in its current form can continue like this indefinitely without threatening our long-term survival prospects on this planet is indeed wishful thinking. Personally I'm just a communist who doesn't believe in making the perfect the enemy of the good. If "attacking capitalism", in Edgehopper's words, saves lives, then the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse a la Brennan can stay in cartoon land.}

 

{{P.P.S., my immediate association with "Mickey Mouse" is what my father would call whatever toy or consumer good would break a minute after taking it out of the box.}}

Edited by Lazzarone
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So I should not have read "fundamental properties of living economies (both human and non)" to mean 'natural'? Please give me another way to interpret that statement. Also I'm not sure I see the great relevance of inserting the qualification 'belief about X', but I'm happy to call you a market fundamentalist and a capitalist theologian, given your belief in capitalism's eternal future. :) How do you reply to Joseph Stiglitz's Nobel Prize-winning work on information asymmetries in markets? And more to the moral issue, when truckloads of fruit were left rotting in the sun during the Great Depression to drive the price up while thousands of people starved nearby, would you consider this an efficient distribution of resources? Likewise, was letting millions of AIDS sufferers in the developing world die for a decade while life-saving antiretroviral drugs were widely available in the developed world the best we were capable of? Why then, in both examples, was massive activist political pressure required to improve people's lots?

 

First of all, that phrase applies to 'supply and demand', not markets.  Promoting something is not a claim of identity.  Gravity promotes people being cautious around cliffs, but you wouldn't call that caution 'gravity'.

 

Second of all, it's not a value judgement.  It's a statement of fact.  There is supply and demand in non-human systems.  Barnacles compete for limited space on littoral rock faces.  Plants compete for limited sunlight.  Predators compete for prey.

 

That doesn't necessarily lead to capitalism.  Plants don't determine sun exposure via markets, after all.  Politics (not necessarily a State) is a fundamental prerequisite for capitalism.  

 

Third, nothing in my statement promotes a natural / artificial binary.  Humans are not 'unnatural'.

 

Fourth, humans are 'naturally' (non-value judgement) political.  If you look at our closest relatives - chimpanzees and gorillas - you see a primitive politics.  Best theory on why humans evolved extreme intelligence is politics - attempting to out-smart other humans creating a positive feedback loop.  The state comes from politics.  

 

But capitalism is fundamentally a belief about how to distribute scarce resources in society.  As such, the existence of scarcity - mismatches of supply and demand - promote capitalism because it is the only solution to the problem we've found which doesn't make these determinations based solely on political favor and expediency of those in charge, and which actually allocates resources efficiently - according to the demands of society as a whole.  

 

-------------------

 

However, you're holding capitalism to a mistaken standard if you think the purpose is to improve people's lots.  It does that, empirically, but not because that's what it's "designed" to do.  Capitalism, by using markets to structure the distribution of resources, maximizes the returns on those resources.  This creates a ranking of relative desirability and availability (prices) that inform the actions of market-actors.  Without markets, political actors make unreasonable demands on resources, like when the US government attempted to requisition more osmium than existed in the world during WW2.

 

And the purpose to which these resources is put is determined by market actors.  That's all of us, by the way.  So the next time you complain about lack of AIDS medicine in Africa, or whatever other 'market failure' you care to identify, maybe reconsider that $10 movie ticket.  You can spend money to buy AIDS medicine for use in Africa.  (I'm 99% certain that charity exists and has existed for well over a decade).  Charities aren't an end-run around capitalism, they're a feature which allow people to spend resources on others.  It's not the market's job to make people's decisions on consumption for them, it's the people's job to make those decisions on consumption.  Companies produce what people will buy after all - if you want it, buy it. These supposed failures of capitalism are actually failures of human nature (which is one of the reasons why all alternatives to capitalism are either Totalitarian or Utopian, because they require human nature to change).  

 

And, amusingly enough, when you actually ask people in Africa, they want more capitalismhttp://time.com/4052700/un-sustainable-development-goals-africa/

 

As to the fruits rotting during the great depression, i'm going to need a citation.  Because capitalism doesn't result in that kind of behavior.  If I own a fruit shipment, letting it rot might increase fruit prices, but it also means I have less fruits to sell relative to my competitors, and decreases my profitability.  I have no incentive to do that. (See also, Saudi Arabia's decision to not decrease oil production last year). Only some agency who exerts control over the market would care to manipulate prices in such a way.  And since Ag Boards did (and still do - there was a recent supreme court case against them even!) that kind of thing, and are a form of government intervention, that sounds like a problem with state control, not markets.  Blame FDR's New Deal Ag Boards.

 

Finally, Stiglitz's work is hardly fatal.  I never claimed markets were perfectly efficient, just more efficient than any alternatives.  Nor would I necessarily rule out any government intervention in the markets.  (Not all government interventions are going to be acts of biopower either).  But Hayek pretty clearly shows that markets themselves provide information more effectively than any other mechanism, to the point that a number of businesses simulate internal markets to make decisions about resource use and production.  And ultimately, the problem with government intervention in markets is not that it's impossible to make useful limited interventions, but that it is people who are deciding what those interventions are, and generally not just for reasons of fixing externalities caused by information asymmetries.  So-called "Crony capitalism" (not actually capitalism) is what happens when political pull decides winners and losers in the market, and that's the inevitable end result of allowing government sweeping intrusive regulatory powers.  One would have to be a utopian to trust government to avoid doing that.

 

If one had to reduce Foucault's entire career to a single notion, a good candidate would be his insistence on focusing on specific social practices - 'the capillaries of power'. Yes, we can see the State as a set of historical practices. For this very reason Foucault wrote about governmentality, comprising technologies of the market as well. You appear to repeat the standard debater misconception that Foucault was an anti-statist, which comports with the neo-liberalism he criticized heavily in his later years. Even in his earlier work, however, from The Birth Of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception to Discipline & Punish, was it crucial whether the hospitals or asylums or boarding schools or prisons were privately-owned or public? To an anarchist or libertarian reader of Foucault maybe. But we already know what the factories were, extensively mentioned alongside citations from Marx's Capital. "He said [biopower couldn't exist without capitalism and vis versa], and yet and it has nothing to do with the specifics of capitalism...". That's simply false: "the two processes - the accumulation of men and the accumulation of capital - cannot be separated; it would not have been possible to solve the problem of the accumulation of men without the growth of an apparatus of production capable of both sustaining them and using them; conversely, the techniques that made the cumulative multiplicity of men useful accelerated the accumulation of capital." So NO, the Foucauldian critique of biopower does NOT depend on the State because

 

 

That's from The Birth of Biopolitics, worth the read. It also, on its face, greatly contrasts with Agamben's work on sovereignty, who does not refrain from a theory of the State in the classical sense. Perhaps why debaters are beginning to prefer the cut-and-dried distinctions of the latter?

 

When I say the K of biopower is rooted in the state, that doesn't make one an anti-statist.  Just that the problem of biopower as critiqued by Foucault is essentially a feature of the state.  Foucault identifies forms of the state before biopower, so it isn't a rejection of all States to reject biopower.  (The alt could well be limiting the government to the mode of sovereign power, for example).

 

And as Foucault's primary task in his analysis of biopower is to document the nature and history of it, we could decide that some acts of biopolitics are good and others are bad.  Although this doesn't resolve the fundamental contradiction in state aims that create Racism, it might limit the scope.  Or perhaps some enterprising thinker could provide an incisive analysis on how some limited forms of biopower manage to avoid this racism, and in doing so identify a new factor which gives shape to the discussion.

 

I'd note most minarchists demand a state which only engages in acts of sovereign power.  While i don't know of any who reach that conclusion based on Foucault, it is a startlingly similar result from very different starting points.

 

(Also, for present purposes, i'm not interested in all of Foucault's life, I'm interested in the arguments and thinking he was doing specifically about biopower.  He's allowed to change his mind over the course of his lifetime after all.  And I'm not interested in what he said because he said it.  I'm interested in what he said that is well-supported by evidence and logic.  I am not a parrot for Foucault, but I will use what there is in his thought which is useful and supportable and discard the rest.)

 

Which brings us to your quote about capitalism.  The existence of capital does not implicate capitalism.  The Soviet Union accumulated capital without capitalism.  The ways governments went about acquiring capital was rarely, if ever, through market action. During the critical formative years of state biopower in France there was little capitalism in France encouraged or engaged in by the government.  The birth of Capitalism in Great Britain was accompanied by a reduction in (non-sovereign) biopower.  (While sovereigns may have let live, the institution of serfdom was a non-sovereign biopolitical institution that controlled the lives of the serfs).

 

{Oh, on the Jason Brennan-Jerry Cohen line. I'll need to go back and read more than snippets of Brennan's book, but I thought he was replying to Cohen's posthumous utopian argument for socialism, not his Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence. Cohen began as a more economically-grounded Marxist but later on tended towards a more spiritualistic-ethical perspective. To me, Marxism is a critique of just such utopianism (from Proudhon to anarchists to Christian socialists like the new Pope), so I'm happy to cede that label to those like Brennan: to believe state capitalism in its current form can continue like this indefinitely without threatening our long-term survival prospects on this planet is indeed wishful thinking. Personally I'm just a communist who doesn't believe in making the perfect the enemy of the good. If "attacking capitalism", in Edgehopper's words, saves lives, then the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse a la Brennan can stay in cartoon land.}

 

{{P.P.S., my immediate association with "Mickey Mouse" is what my father would call whatever toy or consumer good would break a minute after taking it out of the box.}}

 

On Cohen / Brennan: 

I had assumed there was more continuity in Cohen's thought than that.  Yes, he's answering Cohen on a moral level.  I'd still recommend actually reading Brennan's book - it's a good moral defense of capitalism.  (Also, don't fixate too much on the Mickey Mouse part - he's only interested in the one TV Show as an example of some of the things he talks about, not all of Disney's corporate history).

 

On a practical level, Acemoglu and Robinson's Why Nations Fail is a pretty good historical and empirical defense of capitalism.  That is, it identifies economic freedoms, as a political institution, as fundamental for prosperity.  It also looks at the emancipatory history of capitalism.  The historical alternative wasn't some worker's paradise, it was serfdom. Capitalism freed the serfs from the land (in those countries which adopted it) because the opportunity cost was too high.

 

I might also point out there is no respected economist who is a Marxist.  Marxism is a fringe belief in economics, and Marxism (as per Marx) has been empirically disproven sufficiently that most economists can't even be bothered to mention it.  Cohen shifted to a moral defense of socialism because the empirical defense was impossible.

Edited by Squirrelloid
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 As to the fruits rotting during the great depression, i'm going to need a citation.  Because capitalism doesn't result in that kind of behavior.  If I own a fruit shipment, letting it rot might increase fruit prices, but it also means I have less fruits to sell relative to my competitors, and decreases my profitability.  I have no incentive to do that. (See also, Saudi Arabia's decision to not decrease oil production last year). Only some agency who exerts control over the market would care to manipulate prices in such a way.  And since Ag Boards did (and still do - there was a recent supreme court case against them even!) that kind of thing, and are a form of government intervention, that sounds like a problem with state control, not markets.  Blame FDR's New Deal Ag Boards.

 

I literally just came across this passage while reading some Marx:

"The old vine-growers of France in petitioning for a law to forbid the planting of new vines; the Dutch in burning Asiatic spices, in uprooting clove trees in the Moluccas, were simply trying to reduce abundance in order to raise exchange value. During the whole of the Middle Ages this same principle was acted upon, in limiting by laws the number of journeymen a single master could employ and the number of implements he could use. (See Anderson, History of Commerce.) [A. Anderson, An Historical and Chronological Deduction of the Origin of Commerce from the Earliest Accounts to the Present Time. First edition appeared in London in 1764. p. 33]"

- Karl Marx, the Poverty of Philosophy

 

Edit: Something else to note is that companies, even though they don't have an incentive to destroy all of their product, do in times of abundance, have an incentive to hold quite a bit back. You are right that they cannot then profit off of what they hold back, but their revenues actually do increase.

 

You can see this on this curve:

micro3.14.gif

 

The firm gains the most product where MC = MR (marginal cost equals marginal revenue). This is a widely established fact of economics. Take note, however, that this profit maximizing point is below the point where supply intersects demand. Back in the Depression, where refrigeration was usually in the form of ice boxes, which would have been very expensive to house large amounts of produce, it could have been cheaper to let some of it rot to raise prices. 

Edited by SnarkosaurusRex
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I literally just came across this passage while reading some Marx:

"The old vine-growers of France in petitioning for a law to forbid the planting of new vines; the Dutch in burning Asiatic spices, in uprooting clove trees in the Moluccas, were simply trying to reduce abundance in order to raise exchange value. During the whole of the Middle Ages this same principle was acted upon, in limiting by laws the number of journeymen a single master could employ and the number of implements he could use. (See Anderson, History of Commerce.) [A. Anderson, An Historical and Chronological Deduction of the Origin of Commerce from the Earliest Accounts to the Present Time. First edition appeared in London in 1764. p. 33]"

- Karl Marx, the Poverty of Philosophy

 

Edit: Something else to note is that companies, even though they don't have an incentive to destroy all of their product, do in times of abundance, have an incentive to hold quite a bit back. You are right that they cannot then profit off of what they hold back, but their revenues actually do increase.

 

You can see this on this curve:

micro3.14.gif

 

The firm gains the most product where MC = MR (marginal cost equals marginal revenue). This is a widely established fact of economics. Take note, however, that this profit maximizing point is below the point where supply intersects demand. Back in the Depression, where refrigeration was usually in the form of ice boxes, which would have been very expensive to house large amounts of produce, it could have been cheaper to let some of it rot to raise prices. 

 

The vine-growers, in petitioning for laws forbidding new vines, were attempting to limit entrants.  That destroys none of their productive capability, and limits the market against other players.

 

Similarly, the limit on journeymen kept supply of trained craftsmen down, which increased the value of each master's craft and that of his journeymen.  Again, it's a limit on entrants, not a destruction of an individual actors existing supply.

 

Both of which are instances of private actors attempting to use government to entrench their own business at the expense of would-be competitors.  Capitalists reject such regulation as illegitimate.

 

I'm sure a thorough investigation of the Dutch situation would show that the spice plants they destroyed were those they could neither own nor control, and thus they were reinforcing their control of the market against competitors, not destroying their own supply.

 

You're treating the entire market like it's one entity.  It's not.  There were hundreds, if not thousands, of fruit growers.  While the net profitability of fruit growers as a unit might increase by letting some produce rot (unlikely, but possible), the profitability of those whose fruits didn't make it to market would go down.  No individual fruit grower would choose to do that, and any attempt at joint action which wasn't backed by government force would be destroyed by defectors, who would reap extra profits by choosing not to destroy produce and only penalize those who sacrificed produce.  Such management of the US produce market is a hallmark of Ag Board interventionism, not free market activity, and that intervention continues to this day.  Ag boards routinely mandate the destruction of 'excess' produce and milk to keep prices higher than they should be, and confiscate these goods to ensure their destruction.  Seriously, there was just a Supreme Court case decided in May or June of this year which ruled Ag Board seizure of raisins was unconstitutional.

Edited by Squirrelloid
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You're treating the entire market like it's one entity.  It's not.  There were hundreds, if not thousands, of fruit growers.  While the net profitability of fruit growers as a unit might increase by letting some produce rot (unlikely, but possible), the profitability of those whose fruits didn't make it to market would go down.  No individual fruit grower would choose to do that, and any attempt at joint action which wasn't backed by government force would be destroyed by defectors, who would reap extra profits by choosing not to destroy produce and only penalize those who sacrificed produce.  Such management of the US produce market is a hallmark of Ag Board interventionism, not free market activity, and that intervention continues to this day.  Ag boards routinely mandate the destruction of 'excess' produce and milk to keep prices higher than they should be, and confiscate these goods to ensure their destruction.  Seriously, there was just a Supreme Court case decided in May or June of this year which ruled Ag Board seizure of raisins was unconstitutional.

Obviously the market is not one entity, however, your argument also is premised upon the idea of one specific types of market competition (perfect competition). http://financetrain.com/types-of-market-structures/

The problem is, while it is true that on a nationwide scale there were thousands of produce farmers and the like, most farmers wouldn't have had access to this market. This is mostly an academic point though, since I never disagreed that government policy was involved:

"The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 similarly restricted production to keep prices high. “Excess” output was destroyed or dumped abroad. While millions of Americans were going hungry, the government plowed under 10 million acres of crops, slaughtered 6 million pigs, and left fruit to rot. Production of milk, fruits, and other products was cartelized to boost prices under “marketing orders” begun in 1937"

http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/tbb-0508-25.pdf

 

But I don't think this can be divorced from the idea that capitalism and government tend to be tied together. While this rhetoric is inflammatory due to its CATO sourcing, it makes a valid point:

"New Deal interventions were not only bad for the economy, but favored fat cats over average families. Most farm subsidies went to major land owners, not small-time farmers. Required reductions in farm acreage devastated poor sharecroppers. Efforts to keep farm prices high led to the destruction of food while millions of families went hungry. Compulsory unionism led to discrimination against blacks because it gave monopoly power to union bosses who often didn’t want them hired. NIRA cartels prevented entrepreneurs from cutting prices for consumers. "

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I simultaneously agree with all your evidence, and think you're making some errors in logic.

 

1. yes, not all markets are perfect competition.  Two things:

 

a. Legitimate 'monopolies' and other less-than-perfect competitive situations that arise solely from market action tend to be beneficial to consumers.  When Alcoa was broken up by the federal government, the price of aluminum increased, hurting consumers.  Alcoa had become a monopoly because it had developed an aluminum extraction technology that let it underprice all of its competitors dramatically - and it kept prices low afterwards because raising them would have invited competitors into the market.  

 

Without legal barriers to entry, only modest price increases can be sustained by companies that find themselves in the enviable position of dominating a market.  

 

By contrast, the historically problematic monopolies, like the railroads, became monopolies because of legal protections and/or extensive federal handouts.  Those protections and handouts allowed them to grossly inflate prices with their monopoly status because there was no possibility of competition arising.

 

Which isn't to say that there aren't potentially some problematic monopolies that could arise naturally.  Utilities are maintained by local governments for good reason - running multiple sewer pipes to a household and competing for their service is just not feasible.  These kinds of situations are limited, and generally designated as public utilities because competition simply isn't possible.  (See, I'm not adverse to some government action)

 

b. Governments rarely intervene to make competition more perfect.  The only examples I can think of involve utilities (specifically telcoms), which was already noted as having physical problems that inhibited the possibility of competition.  That's cause to view government intervention with deep suspicion.

 

(And produce markets are pretty darn close to perfect competition, fwiw, at least historically).

 

2. Its not fair to hang cronyism on capitalism.  

 

a. It's caused by political disruption of capitalism, not capitalism.  If the market actors had been allowed to operate independently, there would have been no politicians choosing winners and losers in the market and rewarding their friends.  Cronyism overrides and replaces the market as a structuring tool. 

 

b. This kind of favor-mongering exists in the absence of capitalism too.  Distribution of goods and parts in the Soviet Union was dictated by political favor and pull.  So we can disentangle them - cronyism is a consequence of politicians making economic decisions based on favor-mongering.  That kind of abuse is and has been present in every historical economic and political system, probably since humans evolved.  The only practical solution is to strictly limit what actions government can take in the market, and we'll likely never eliminate it.  But handing governments more market power only encourages such abuse.

Edited by Squirrelloid
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I simultaneously agree with all your evidence, and think you're making some errors in logic.

 

1. yes, not all markets are perfect competition. Two things:

 

a. Legitimate 'monopolies' and other less-than-perfect competitive situations that arise solely from market action tend to be beneficial to consumers. When Alcoa was broken up by the federal government, the price of aluminum increased, hurting consumers. Alcoa had become a monopoly because it had developed an aluminum extraction technology that let it underprice all of its competitors dramatically - and it kept prices low afterwards because raising them would have invited competitors into the market.

 

I question whether this would have been true in the long run. High start up costs and increasing returns to scale mean that the price level needed to price someone out of the market can still be higher than the 'natural' price level (under perfect competition.)

 

Walmart makes a good counter example. When they move into a new area, they price out the local stores in the area, which, in the short run decreases the price level and benefit consumers. The problem is that once there achieved a monopoly, or close to it, then they raise the prices again because that strategy isn't sustainable in the long run. They just happen to be able to keep it up longer than anyone else.

 

I can't speak to whether that is true in the example of ALCOA, but there's a second point to be made that just because *some* monopolies can be beneficial in terms of price to consumers doesn't mean that they all are. This is a question of contingency that I don't think either of us can answer with examples divorced from the previous subject of debate.

 

 

 

Without legal barriers to entry, only modest price increases can be sustained by companies that find themselves in the enviable position of dominating a market.

 

By contrast, the historically problematic monopolies, like the railroads, became monopolies because of legal protections and/or extensive federal handouts. Those protections and handouts allowed them to grossly inflate prices with their monopoly status because there was no possibility of competition arising.

 

Which isn't to say that there aren't potentially some problematic monopolies that could arise naturally. Utilities are maintained by local governments for good reason - running multiple sewer pipes to a household and competing for their service is just not feasible. These kinds of situations are limited, and generally designated as public utilities because competition simply isn't possible. (See, I'm not adverse to some government action)

 

I believe Comcast makes a good show of what happens without that. We both agree that government action can be good or bad, so I raise the point to show that this is a matter that depends on context.

 

The problem is that I think we've diverted our focus away from the context that was originally being debated: do capitalist systems allow corporations to withhold public goods that they wouldn't in a non-capitalist system. This seems to me that we should return to the idea of the corporation withholding it's own product in the interest of profit. I actually thought of a non-disputable example of this with the diamond industry. We know that the (I believe) De Boer family withholds something like 90% of their diamond stock to force up prices.

 

Now, diamonds aren't exactly the same thing as AIDS medication. However, the recent news debacle over HIV/AIDS pills that were bought out and then had their prices raised by hundreds of dollars does suggest that this does happen. Now, would this happen under a purely socialist (or what have you system)? Maybe. I think it would be less likely, but I don't exactly have a host of empirics to draw from. Now, I know you'll probably tie this to cronyism, so I'll talk about that below.

 

b. Governments rarely intervene to make competition more perfect. The only examples I can think of involve utilities (specifically telcoms), which was already noted as having physical problems that inhibited the possibility of competition. That's cause to view government intervention with deep suspicion.

 

(And produce markets are pretty darn close to perfect competition, fwiw, at least historically).

 

2. Its not fair to hang cronyism on capitalism.

 

a. It's caused by political disruption of capitalism, not capitalism. If the market actors had been allowed to operate independently, there would have been no politicians choosing winners and losers in the market and rewarding their friends. Cronyism overrides and replaces the market as a structuring tool.

 

b. This kind of favor-mongering exists in the absence of capitalism too. Distribution of goods and parts in the Soviet Union was dictated by political favor and pull. So we can disentangle them - cronyism is a consequence of politicians making economic decisions based on favor-mongering. That kind of abuse is and has been present in every historical economic and political system, probably since humans evolved. The only practical solution is to strictly limit what actions government can take in the market, and we'll likely never eliminate it. But handing governments more market power only encourages such abuse.

So I think that a problem with this cronyism argument is that it presumes that the USSR was able to completly break from capitalism. If the tenants of socialism hold that goods should be distributed according to their needs then I think it'd be fair to make the argument that capitalism wasn't entirely absent. Instead, it might be possible that some of this cronyism is a result of an incomplete transition to capitalism. Now, this is probably a reason why the alternative is utopian, but I think to settle this question we'd need comparative evidence that non-capitalist governments are either just as corrupt or more corrupt than capitalist governments.

 

Another factor to consider is what your definition of capitalism is. If capitalism is a mode of thought at Deleuzians argue, then that basically would imply a lot of cronyism is just capitalism. I imagine you don't subscribe to such a definition however.

Edited by SnarkosaurusRex
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I question whether this would have been true in the long run. High start up costs and increasing returns to scale mean that the price level needed to price someone out of the market can still be higher than the 'natural' price level (under perfect competition.) 

 

Walmart makes a good counter example. When they move into a new area, they price out the local stores in the area, which, in the short run decreases the price level and benefit consumers. The problem is that once there achieved a monopoly, or close to it, then they raise the prices again because that strategy isn't sustainable in the long run. They just happen to be able to keep it up longer than anyone else. 

 

I can't speak to whether that is true in the example of ALCOA, but there's a second point to be made that just because *some* monopolies can be beneficial in terms of price to consumers doesn't mean that they all are. This is a question of contingency that I don't think either of us can answer with examples divorced from the previous subject of debate. 

 

To hit on the most relevant point, it isn't clear that Walmart has achieved a monopoly, nor that their final prices are too high.  Retail isn't something with a high barrier to entry (there are some legal barriers, and I'll talk about those below), so when Walmart raises its prices, you'd expect competitors to enter the market.  So why aren't they?  

 

1. Competition isn't just local.  In the modern economy, brick and mortar stores have to compete against e-stores.  Walmart's prices are constrained by Amazon and the like.  They get to charge a premium for convenience, but that premium has to cover the infrastructure that supports brick and mortar stores which a business like Amazon doesn't need to bother with.

 

2. The local stores weren't actually competitive before.  There's a long slide from profitable to closed.  Large businesses may accept underperforming stores so long as they aren't too much in the red, in the hopes that they'll turn around.  Small businesses will frequently hang on until staying in business becomes impossible.  (People aren't perfectly rational).  As the older population moves or passes away, you're left with a larger body of consumers who are comfortable with online vendors.  So rather than being the cause of their competitor's demise, Walmart may simply be hastening the process.

 

3. Zoning laws protect established businesses from competition.  The old stores buildings are either rezoned or taken over by different businesses, so a would-be competitor needs to either have the good fortune of finding a building that meets its needs which is properly zoned, or needs to deal with the city bureaucracy to properly zone a location.

 

Now, it's certainly the case that Walmart benefits from economies of scale that small businesses don't.  But the modern Walmart take-overs weren't happening even 30 years ago.  The major economic change between then and now is the rise of e-commerce, so i suspect that carries a large weight of causation here.  And there are other cases where brick-and-mortar businesses are collapsing entirely to online competition: Barnes and Noble - or just bookstores in general - are an instructive case.  The alternative to Walmart might not be local stores, it might be no physical stores.

 

The problem is that I think we've diverted our focus away from the context that was originally being debated: do capitalist systems allow corporations to withhold public goods that they wouldn't in a non-capitalist system. This seems to me that we should return to the idea of the corporation withholding it's own product in the interest of profit. I actually thought of a non-disputable example of this with the diamond industry. We know that the (I believe) De Boer family withholds something like 90% of their diamond stock to force up prices. 

 

Now, diamonds aren't exactly the same thing as AIDS medication. However, the recent news debacle over HIV/AIDS pills that were bought out and then had their prices raised by hundreds of dollars does suggest that this does happen. Now, would this happen under a purely socialist (or what have you system)? Maybe. I think it would be less likely, but I don't exactly have a host of empirics to draw from. Now, I know you'll probably tie this to cronyism, so I'll talk about that below.

 

Allow? Certainly.  Encourage?  Rarely.  I think we'd find most of those businesses which benefit from artificial scarcity are going to be luxury goods where the scarcity is the selling point.  (Ferrarri could make more sports cars and price them cheaper, but that would actually make them less desirable.

 

De Boers is in fact selling a luxury good, and one that has some issues with entry, since most of the diamond mines are in unstable countries, especially mines not owned by De Boers.  Blood diamonds, of course, are not generally an acceptable good.  It is, however, unclear to me why there aren't more competitors driving down the price - certainly there are some productive diamond locations which could be developed.  (De Boers bigger coup was convincing everyone they needed to buy a diamond ring for engagements, which is perhaps the most impressive piece of marketing on record, and a substantial contributor to the prices diamonds command).  Anyway, I am not about to become an expert on the diamond industry in an hour, but it would certainly be something worth looking at.

 

Re: AIDS medicine - assumes you would even have AIDS medications under a non-capitalist system.  One of the benefits of capitalism is rapid innovation.  Non-capitalist systems misalign research effort (generally in favor of military technology).  Only capitalism produces massive research investment in consumer goods, because the market forces businesses to compete for consumer dollars.  No other system incentivizes research which benefits society as a whole.

 

And fwiw, the AIDS drug buyout and price hike only makes sense in a socialized health insurance system such as obamacare, because it knows the government will pay it.  That action was inconceivable before Obamacare - private insurance wouldn't have tolerated it, and most consumers wouldn't have paid it.  It's basically exploiting the expanded Medicaid and Medicare, and the mandates on insurers on what they have to cover.

 

So I think that a problem with this cronyism argument is that it presumes that the USSR was able to completly break from capitalism. If the tenants of socialism hold that goods should be distributed according to their needs then I think it'd be fair to make the argument that capitalism wasn't entirely absent. Instead, it might be possible that some of this cronyism is a result of an incomplete transition to capitalism. Now, this is probably a reason why the alternative is utopian, but I think to settle this question we'd need comparative evidence that non-capitalist governments are either just as corrupt or more corrupt than capitalist governments.

 

It's not just a question of Capitalism vs. Socialism.  We can certainly agree that, if we define socialism to be distributing goods according to need, that the USSR was a very imperfect attempt at socialism.  However, Capitalism is not everything else.  Capitalism would be distributing goods according to the market - that is, according to people's willingness to pay for them and offer them at a given price.  When politicians determine the distribution of goods based on political favor (cronyism), it is neither of these things.

 

And the key innovation of capitalism is that it structures society around something which does not require the government to adjudicate outcomes.  Market prices arise from buying and selling goods - those that are underpriced will be bought and resold.  Those that are overpriced will not sell until their price comes down.  Cronyism is penalized because rewarding your favorites means less profitability for you, so capitalism intrinsically checks cronyism.  In order for Cronyism to dominate a capitalist system, the government must disrupt the operations of the market.  The primary source of externalities in the US economy today is government action.

 

A key problem for socialism is 'Who determines need?'  If its a politician, and it invariably has to be, then determinations of need are political decisions that will be influenced by favor.  Corruption is necessarily rife in such a system, because there's no reality to check it against.  In short, any system which isn't capitalism will default to a system that distributes goods based on political favor, no matter what the stated aims are.  The bureaucracy will dominate the decision-making to its benefit.  It doesn't matter if you say you're going to distribute goods based on need, beauty, athletic ability, or cherry-stem-tying-with-tongue skill - if a politician has to make the decisions on what these are, it will be a political favor system.  This is the fundamental problem of socialism.

 

Nor can this be solved in any simple way - individual preferences can be arbitrary, yet satisfying those preferences leads to more happiness.  If I dislike pears, a system which declares every person needs n pears a week is useless to me.  I don't need pears.  I don't want pears.  Maybe I like apples, but as more people have a preference for apples over pears, I'm unlikely to find someone who will trade me apples for pears.  Yet the production decisions, in the absence of a capitalist market, cannot access that preference information.  That is local information I communicate through my purchasing habits.  There are thousands of such relative preferences, and no authority can hope to plan an economy.   There's plenty of examples of failures like these in the Soviet Union, for those who are willing to learn from history.

 

Another factor to consider is what your definition of capitalism is. If capitalism is a mode of thought at Deleuzians argue, then that basically would imply a lot of cronyism is just capitalism. I imagine you don't subscribe to such a definition however.

You would not lose money making that bet.

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Yo can someone explain the coming community?

"The ‘coming community’ corresponds on a collective level to ‘whatever-singularity’. It is related to the ‘people to come’, a concept Deleuze and Guattari borrow from Bergson, and to messianic ideas of a coming liberation. Agamben refers to the coming community as a form of social togetherness which is also a ‘non-state’ and is counterposed to the logic of sovereignty. The coming community is defined in Agamben as a kind of post-consumerist condition, emerging from a passage through current forms of life, such as the indifference of mass media images and of commodities through which one can reshape one’s identity. It passes through and beyond such forms of life by radicalising their challenge to normativity and sovereignty. It is not a hybrid space – hybridity is already actualised in homo sacer and the sovereign – but rather, a negation, the ‘un-man’. It is based on ‘whatever-singularities’ in their antagonism with the state and sovereignty (hence it cannot seek to seize state power). Agamben believes that whatever-singularities can form communities without affirming ‘representable conditions of belonging’ (such as laws, norms, etc). It also does not rest on categories of identity (even the identity of excluded or marginalised groups), which for Agamben, remain trapped within old forms of politics which reproduce sovereignty (mainly because the recognition of an identity is necessarily separate from the processes of life which constitute it). In conditions of sovereignty, life has to separate itself from the orders of subjects and objects, to free itself from biopower and from hierarchical relations with living things, to become whatever-singularity and to attain radical immanence. In Potentialities, Agamben argues for an almost Buddhist stance of contemplative separation which preserves instead of deciding."

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Completely missed the replies to me in this thread, sorry, so let me just pick up a couple lines...

 

Squirrelloid and I (supposedly) agree on naturalism, and not much else. Industrial advances in farming technology in the early 20th century resulted in food surpluses - historian T.H. Watkins, writing about California specifically, in The Hungry Years:
 
[Agricultural richness] not merely in the quantity of things grown on its country-sized industrial farms but in their variety, which included everything from cantaloupes in the Imperial Valley to cotton in the San Joaquin Valley, from lemons in the San Fernando Valley to almonds in the Sacramento Valley, and a stunning cornucopia of cultivated species in between. But in the depression years there was little market for all this home-grown wealth, and the consequent waste was appalling - especially to the hungry, who saw food going to destruction all around them every day. In 1932 in the Imperial Valley alone, 1.4 million crates of cantaloupes, 2.8 million watermelons, and 700,000 lugs of tomatoes had been destroyed because they could not be sold. In the orange groves that stretched nearly unbroken for more than seventy miles from Arcadia to beyond Riverside, hundreds of tons of unsold oranges a week were piled up in huge mounds, covered in thick heating oil to discourage pilfering, and left to rot in the full view of those who could have used them. The California State Food Administration, the Parent-Teacher Association, various private charities, and the state chamber of commerce managed to persuade some of the less pathologically selfish growers to part with at least some of this surplus for school lunches and packages; in 1932, about 1,500 tons of surplus food were thus distributed in Los Angeles County. That was a trifling amount compared to what should have been made available...

 

Roosevelt wasn't in office until March 1933, and his Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) wasn't effective until May of that year, yet we're to "lame FDR's New Deal Ag Boards" for crop destruction carried out prior to his inauguration???

 
Us American commies chose a radically different approach during this era: organizing food cooperatives and so-called self-help societies, desegregating unions, stopping evictions... you know, useless Occupy Wall Street-type stuff. This account was taken up in works like Howard Zinn's A People's History Of The United States, which also offers a critical perspective on FDR's policies - chapter 15:

There were millions of tons of food around, but it was not profitable to transport it, to sell it. ... Also passed in the first months of the new administration, the AAA was an attempt to organize agriculture. It favored the larger farmers as the [National Recovery Act] favored big business. ... [T]he New Deal's organization of the economy was aimed mainly at stabilizing the economy, and secondly at giving enough help to the lower classes to keep them from turning a rebellion into a real revolution. ... Roosevelt's AAA was not helping the poorest of farmers; in fact by encouraging farmers to plant less, it forced tenants and sharecroppers to leave the land.

 

Just like the Obama administration post-crisis, the priority was to 'stabilize the system', as if after a near-fatal heart attack one measured their recovery by how soon they could go back to eating a cheeseburger a day. Zinn quotes from historian Bernard Bellush's book, The Failure of the NRA: "Indeed, private administration became public administration, and private government became public government, insuring the marriage of capitalism with statism."
 

That's part of the reason why I prefer the term 'state capitalism'. The free marketeer's contribution to debates surrounding the Great Depression tends to come down to the following notion: if only the economic problems had been allowed to have been more acute, then they wouldn't have been as chronic. (See Paul Johnson's A History Of The American People for a good example of this take.) Invariably this accompanies talk of letting prices find their 'natural' level (and I wonder if this use of the term offends Squirrelloid's suspension of the 'natural/artificial'-divide?). In his memoirs, President Hoover wrote that Andrew Mellon told him privately to "liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate... it will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up from less competent people." This quote might be apocryphal, and it's admittedly ironic advice from one of the richest men in America who'd spent over a decade as Treasury Secretary inflating the money supply and keeping interest rates low, but today we'd merely call his proposal a 'market correction', undesirables be damned. To return to Agamben, note the religious tone of ritual sacrifice at play here - Squirrelloid again:
 
[Y]ou're holding capitalism to a mistaken standard if you think the purpose is to improve people's lots.  It does that, empirically, but not because that's what it's "designed" to do. Capitalism, by using markets to structure the distribution of resources, maximizes the returns on those resources. This creates a ranking of relative desirability and availability (prices) that inform the actions of market-actors.

 

This is patently false ("the health needs of those who do not comprise a sufficiently attractive market - because they are too poor or too few - will be neglected" and "hundreds of tons of unsold oranges a week were piled up in huge mounds, covered in thick heating oil to discourage pilfering, and left to rot in the full view of those who could have used them" is not 'maximizing resources'), but leave that aside and focus on the religiosity; in this recent post, Adam Kotsko, translator and interpreter of Agamben's work, teases out the residual theology in this seemingly secular reasoning:

 

We got out from under God’s roof, but then we replaced him with the new God of the Market. ...In many ways, as Agamben suggests in The Kingdom and the Glory, it is the same God, working through the same indirect and providential means. The difference is that the old God made promises, and this one makes only demands. We don’t want economic growth because it will ultimately make everyone better off, we want economic growth because then there will be economic growth. We don’t seek efficiency to improve quality of life, we seek efficiency because that will put us in a position to seek further efficiency.

 

The first modern theorist to pursue just this line of criticism was Karl Marx himself, who appropriated Ludwig Feuerbach's critique of religious fetishism in The Essence of Christianity for the field of classical economics (even though, I concede, this methodology is more sociological than anything).
 
Edited by Lazzarone
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