• Art Doesn't Pay

    Mar 26 2014, 22:49

    Q: Art doesn’t pay? For whom?
    A: For the artist – as long as he doesn’t submit to the will of his audience.
    Q: Then, what would he live off?
    A: He could live off what audience or publishers are willing to pay anyway. He
    ---could also work his art alongside a primary profession; then he would be
    ---independent but would have to mainly care for his gainful employment,
    ---maybe losing time or motivation for the art.
    ---So for the artist, autonomous artistry tends to be breadless.
    Q: What about the audience?
    A: For them it isn’t. They take what they judge to be useful.
    Q: And if the artist submits to the audience…
    A: … he has to live off what value they assign to his product.
    Q: What does that mean to him?
    A: He exposes himself to the market.Whether his art pays off or not depends – the ---necessary talent provided – on his own decisions.
    Q: What choices would he have?
    A: The same as any independent manufacturer of commodities: To either satisfy ---demand or need.
    Q: Where’s the difference?
    A: Mostly in the spending power that can convert needs into demand.
    Q: But is that still a real choice?
    A: Naturally! He can choose whether the art serves him or those who cannot –
    ---or will not – pay for it. Thus he chooses between the ownership of his works and their ---substantial worth, their content.
    Q: What if he decides in favour of property?
    A: Then he’d become a producer of commodities; for a start he’d have to orient
    ---on what sells and he would have to produce for those that are capable of
    ---supporting him – under their conditions.
    Q: Must he necessarily serve their wishes?
    A: Not necessarily, no. But selling property is fundamentally different from
    ---selling content. You always have to ask yourself: What do I need from those people?
    ---If you need a livelihood, you’d have to reassure them – directly or indirectly –
    ---of their own lifestyle or worldview.
    ---If you want to change them, make them break with their old state or habits,
    ---you cannot expect money of them. That money they earn in this state and with
    ---these habits. You’d just as well ask a farmer to feed you from his lifestock for
    ---reprimanding him for hen caging.
    Q: What could I do to live off that criticism anyway?
    A: You’d find someone that has sufficient interest in the eradication of the
    ---denounced state of affairs. Staying with the example, that may be organic farmers or ---animal rights groups.
    Q: If I don’t find those…
    A: … you will, if still intent upon pursuing your art primarily, change topics – or sides.
    ---Start praising the cage housing as economically efficient or promote less radical ---changes than complete prohibition.
    Q: Wouldn’t that be rather soulless?
    A: True! As soulless as ware production. To its producer a commodity has no content, ---no inherent meaning, it merely represents a certain (in the case of the arts rather ---uncertain) amount of another commodity: money.
    Q: But it still has to have content, as any other product!
    A: And so it does. However, the content isn’t the prerogative of a maker of wares, not ---solely his at least.
    Q: So could he still identify with his work?
    A: Well, yes, but not with its substance. He learns to accept his pennies as the
    ---purpose of his labour.
    Q: That is a fairly hefty price.
    A: Every artist has to evaluate that for himself – But why would it be?!
    ---Every productive activity so far has been down this road: As survival in on the
    ---line, a factory worker doesn’t appreciate the content of his product but the
    ---wages it earns him.
    ---The sciences have progressed a fair bit along that road, too. A historian has
    ---to seek remuneration for his interpretations of history and a technical
    ---researcher for his developed processes.
    ---Why not art?
    Q: Because it has nothing but content?
    A: Art in itelf, yes. But the same goes for bread in itself or three hundred meters
    ---of country road. Those are all-content commodities, but only for the consumer.
    ---As the artist tries to sell his product for a living, this becomes his primary
    ---motivation and his art becomes just goods.
    Q: But there are many people and groups that support independent art!
    A: Correct. Yet those also have to be backed by currency that’ll sustain the artist.
    ---He is independent as long as a well-situated person allows him to.
    Q: So independent art isn’t necessarily breadless!
    A: As long as it gets sold as it is the conflict doesn’t surface. But even unseen
    ---the contradiction is present, and it resurfaces as art doesn’t find a buyer.

    ---Well then, we haven’t got all day. If you decide to apply for the design contract
    ---for our armoured personnel carrier “Daffodil” please submit a first draft inside
    ---of two months to room 4123, PR department. Just remember that it should
    ---look nicely peaceful and natural!
    Q: How would I do that?!
    A: Well, the form is your prerogative, we only determine the content and you’re
    ---filled in on that now.
    ---Have a nice day and much success – if you want that!
    Q: Thank you…?
  • The Imminent Extinction of Labour

    Mar 23 2014, 3:16

    Rumors of the extinction of the labouring class are greatly exaggerated. As of now this is mosty science fiction. A full mechanisation of the production processes is still far off.
    Take, for instance, construction work; find a construction site for an entire building and keep watching. There isn’t a single craft involved that can manage without manual labour, the reason being for one the seams between their respective works the managing of which demand active intelligence and the creation of machines as intelligent and versatile as humans is probably far off yet.
    Certainly, in the factories the automation seems more achievable but there isn’t only the final process of production to be considered, but also the production and ongoing maintenance of the machine tools themselves, the extraction and processing of resources and energy, the coordination of all of those and production quota and even the distribution of the commodities.
    But set aside all of those issues and imagine the fully mechanised dream world becoming reality, what happens now?
    Always assuming this would happen in a still capitalist society, there would be two severe consequences: The value of the product and the shift of the economy.
    The surplus of production, which in capitalism primarily takes the form of individual profit, is (always) a result of the difference between the amount of necessary labour put into a product (which constitutes its value) and the amount of labour required to replenish the labourer’s ability to work.
    The existence of this difference is neither an accomplishment of the capitalist economy nor a phantasm dreamt up by utopian socialism. It is the only reason that life in general and specifically human social evolution worked at all. For example imagine that it would take as much effort to hunt down a beast or till a field as the meat or crop would restore to the hunters or farmers respectively. Their entire life would be spent sustaining their energy expenditure, similar to the big herbivores, and they would never get the chance to produce nonessential goods thus innovating on their techniques and way of life. Thus any social progress would be impossible as well. Were the required effort even greater than the gain life itself would be impossible, id est evolutionary failure.
    Capitalist ware production now is based on the individual exploitation of that difference. The capitalist, owner of the production facilities (estate, buildings, machines, material), provides all of those to the labourers, owners of nothing but their own skills and abilities. Actually, he does not exactly provide the facilities, rather he seems to borrow the worker’s skills and abilities for a while. Once the contractual time to pay day is up, the capitalist is left with a certain amount of finished product (i. e. accomplished labour) and the labourer is left with what society (or he and the capitalist) agreed to be sufficient to replenish his expended ability to work, which is called wages.
    Of course, nowadays and in the industrialised world the wages tend to be a good bit more than what is necessary to merely sustain a body, put clothing on him and a roof above him. But also are there far more skills to learn and social or individual infrastructure (e.g. mobile phones, cars, public transportion) to use to be a participant of the production than were necessary centuries ago.
    But most of what the production process leaves as the social surplus is collected by the proprietor of the means of production as personal profit.
    Now if there were no human labour required anymore (which in itself sounds a bit silly, considering that full mechanisation of the entire process would essentially make our economy a perpetuum mobile from a purely labour-oriented view point), the basis of product value would disappear. While the worth (the use one can get out of them) of all commodities of the same quality remains unchanged, their value – which is not the same as their price – is a function of the amount and quality of labour required for their production. If anyone were to charge a price for a production process that literally takes care of itself, it would be equivalent to charging for rain water or air (which I am sure some idiot has already tried somewhere)*.
    So a fully automated economy would be the same as if the produce were just lying around in the streets, which would make them completely valueless, economically speaking, because the fabrication doesn’t need any input of human labour anymore. Yet in a capitalist society they would still require a price, since capital is property that ‘collects’ a profit in the production. That is the same kind of stupidity that (from the opposite end of society) demands a base income for every human, regardless of their work and additional to their real income. Both concepts are demanding an income independent of production.
    To be sure a capitalist might try it anyway, since they would certainly not give up ‘their property’ and would be neither inclined nor able to eliminate the now economically useless part of the population. The service sector and more recently the entertainment industry are often hailed as the save haven for all economically superfluous people, so a lot factory and construction workers and miners would have to become shoe polishers, hair dressers, street actors (or possibly gladiators?).
    This would be the aforesaid second consequence: the economic shift. Since the capitalists would hold all economic power, requiring a minimal (all things considered) staff of administration and probably quite a bit of manpower for paramilitary security (if that is not fully mechanised as well), the rest of humanity would be at their mercy, effectively making them slaves, struggling to ‘earn’ a living that has no tangible economic basis, thus being almost entirely negotiable.

    Since it is very much possible that some do not grasp the point of all this, here is a short version: It is not that society will collapse if the economy were ever fully mechanised, rather it is capitalism that will collapse.

    *Actually, googling ‘charging for rainwater’, I just found out that for years many western US states have outlawed private collecting of rainwater and are in fierce conflict with landowners over the proprietorial rights on rainwater. Consequent capitalism – picture my jaw flapping in the breeze.
    The San Francisco based Bechtel Corporation took over the water sevices in the Bolivian city Cochabamba in 1999,resulting in increases of the water rates of up to two hundred percent, prohibition of rainwater gathering and three months of popular revolt after which the company retreated. In 2000, they took over water and sanitation in Guayaquil, Ecuador. After more than six years, the complaints of protesters included: residential cut-off for debtors (even older and low-income residents), complete lack of water service especially in low-income neighbourhoods, health care and environmental problems due to lacking wastewater processing.
  • Let's Have a Race!

    Lug 14 2013, 3:05

    This is by no means a scholarly essay nor does it attempt to be, it is rather an extended brainstorming session, which accounts for its meandering structure and the abrupt end.
    I’m not an expert on the history of everything ever and so far I have only done some basic ad hoc research on the details and examples mentioned. So there will be some fragmentary or even inaccurate passages in it. But the basic line of reasoning seems quite sound to me.
    Any criticism, discussion or outright denial is welcome.

    Racism is a self-contradictory notion. The only reason mankind is susceptible to it, is that humans are not only capable of but to a degree prone to highly localised (on a topic) insanity.
    From a purely theoretical perspective species undergo a bipolar process.
    At one extreme is entropy/unification, at the other lies order/separation/diversification.
    The process of unification is socially motivated and thereby an inherently human one and a precondition for economy. Humans are capable of astounding feats of redefining their social identities, they may associate themselves with parents, peers, complete strangers, domestic animals and even the land they live upon. “Those belong to my tribe,” they say, “those are mine.”
    Nature on the other hand generally drives towards diversification which increases the natural separation into subspecies etc.
    Now the one thing that is historically evident about those tendencies is its general monodirectionality. That does not by any means imply a steady or even accelerated increase in the mere number of species. Species died off all over the course of natural history. In fact an evolutionary step in a species might facilitate the rapid extinction of its ‘mother species’, since then a less vunerable prey or a more effective predator would compete for the same supply of nutrition and shelter.
    But the diversification still went on. While extinction is rather common in nature reversions to previous evolutionary stages are not..
    In the socioeconomical process, since the last century frequently referred to as globalisation, the increasing interconnectedness of first economy, then culture and along with those politics has increased the mixing of complete strangers (i.e. entropy) to an irreversable level because of the huge benefits of it for scientific research, industries dependent on rare or unique resources, sales markets and relocation of the centralised industries to name but a few. Every one of the participating societies potentially benefits from at least some of those developments. That the process is organised and coordinated by expanding capitalist industries and therefore is modelled to gain them the essential benefits, leaving (comparatively) little for the majority of their own population and often much less for that of countries they expand into, does not invalidate the potential synergistic effects of an international economy and culture and shall have no part in this chain of reasoning.

    The breech of logic committed by the ideology of racism is the (rather furtive) attempt to create a middle path or rather walk both paths simultaneously.
    The concept of separating the ‘races’ sounds so very absolute that most people who abhor the idea actually believe themselves to be the voices of moderation. But this is not at all the case.
    A lot of ‘extremist’ ideologies, instead of being logically radical and uncompromising are quite the reverse indeed.
    So is racism. It is neither an attempt at complete fragmentation of mankind nor at its unification. It simply wants mankind to walk in different directions with either leg and hold an equilibrium – if it is not actually demanding the annihilation of all other races, that is. In the latter case you may make up your own mind about the notion and (depending on the result) either shoot yourself in the face or join the human race.
    Races are not the most natural groups for humans to identify with. In fact until one first comes into contact with a physically different human one would normally expect all humans to be alike.

    The first group you belong to is self-evidently the group of one, which you are physically unable to ever surrender completely.

    The second stage (of entropy) is at the same time the last natural development for mammals in general, the family, the band or the clan (the broadest non-endogamous group).
    This is the biggest group you naturally identify with, all individuals you are somehow geneticly related to or bonded with. It is the basic natural unit of cooperation, of shared labour – the first seed of a subsequently developing economy. The clan will share work, food, shelter, ritual/culture, comfort, threats and disaster and will be – exogamy aside – a practically indivisible (but structured) goup.

    The third stage is the joining of clans to tribes. The benefits of this are fundamentally similar to those of every following stage: differentiation of labour (as well as cooperation), trade and security.
    The tribe is built of (formerly separate) clans that have no strong genetic bonds to one another but through exogamy of the clans. However they still share a lot of their culture and its main feature, the language. Tribes do not necessarily live in one unit, particularly if they’re settled, but the clans will maintain some level of frequent contact for trade, news and possibly marriage arrangements. They might even hold ad hoc councils or regular ones, especially if the tribe holds a communal court and/or is pursuing a foreign policy of some sort.
    Tribes while having an internal exchange of economic goods and cultural developments, are not bound to do so altruisticly, as a sole clan might, but the trade, as long as it is still occasional, will not require a currency.
    The tribe may also have all sorts of relationships to other tribes. They can maintain a rich trade like the continental Celts generally did or some Germanic tribes. They may be expansionist, isolationist, nomadic or even indifferent or vary in behaviour.

    In the fourth stage, the nation, tribes (mostly) aren’t free to pursue individual policies anymore, neither towards other tribes of the nation nor towards strange tribes and nations. They will also need to adhere to a governmental body and a common body of law which will probably include many of the specific cultural commonalities. Judicial, executive and administrative bodies will have to become permanent institutions. The differentiation of labour may likely be solidified into formal structures like guilds or religious structures like castes, but in any case will be increased to the point where most people are specialised workers in one economic branch only. This in turn reinforces the demand for incessant regulated trade, currency and infrastructure.
    The nation will generally not be unified in a single culture but in several subcultures which may ‘cross-breed’ to some degree, due to regular contact, but rarely disappear altogether. At the same time the differentiation and centralisation of labour may begin to bring forth new kinds of subculture.
    The nation may even comprise several tribes of completely independent cultures and languages, like the Sorbs in Prussia or the Kurdish tribes in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. In order to belong to the nation those like all other tribes will have to be willing to at most accept a minority status, yet adhere to the indispensable components of the national culture as listed so far (government, language, law, administration, trade and currency).
    This is the first point where the problems of the cultural entropy become painfully obvious. Even in central Europe where lots of the native minorities weren’t numerous or liguisticly strange enough (in the eyes of the nation’s rulers) to warrant a public education in their language there was a lot of friction. Consider the problems of the spanish nation, or the ever-unresolved problems of Austria-Hungary (specificly on the Balkan Peninsula), the czarist Russian Empire and all the more the kemalist Turkish Republic – which tried, even in its contitution, to prohibit the Kurdish language, simply declaring the Kurds to be Turkish.
    There is, logically speaking, no simple solution to those conflicts. The nation needs a minimal amount of unity, which is not always achievable. Yet even the independence of a region settled coherently by the minority may be devastating to one side or the other or may be a merely formal sovereignty under a complete economical dependency.

    The next step – which has been taken for the first time comprehensively in Europe in the era of opening trade and colonisation (i.e. with the beginning consolidation of the nations’ independence from the Roman Church in a overall firmly divided Europe) – was the globalisation of the nations. The exact processes over the centuries are far too complex and diverse to go into here, so the broad outline above shall suffice.

    But as far as anyone can tell the pace of history will not change. Up until now every kind of social economy has borne the seed for its successor wthin itself. Exogamous clans formed tribes which began generating a surplus and trading and expanding, building nations that began to discard cultural bonds like churches (as political and economic factors). And they established trade as the sole purpose of their economies by means of the differentiation of labour.
    Each time the shared identity lost some of its commonality, yet gained a good deal of strength. In a manner of speaking each time they ended up being a little less themselves but a lot more of that. Make that more graphic: The German identity has admittedly less content than the identity of Berlin, but the former is much stronger in its numbers, capabilities and (if handled well) its impetus.
    The succeding development usually started with the beginning consolidation of the current one, and at the peak of the consolidation the new economical focus group began to shift the power structures of the slowly declining system.
    Powerful tribal lords like Chlodowig uniting tribes into nations to establish empires after the breakdown of the Western Roman Empire.. The boom of naval exploration in the fifteenth and sixteenth century that opened the way to colonisation of Africa and the Americas that was largely an attempt to avoid the growing Ottoman Empire on trade routes to India. The rise of trade unions over the course of the nineteenth century in the prime of the industrialisation process and its most unrestraint excesses against the labouring class. The onset of the information age with the telecommunication, satellite technology, electronic computers and the internet beginning to wrest the monopoly on immediate information from governments and the economic elites.
    Actually the first real seeds of the information age were sprouting in the sixteenth century with the invention of movable type printing. Yet this was far too limited in terms of distribution and too dependent on physical resources. So the virtually immediate and extremely cheap transmission of information really marks the ascent of a new era.

    Again, this step means a loss of substance in the shared identity in favour of an expansion of the community. Again this will be a long and intermittent process towards a basically unpredictable goal. And again there are those who ‘won’t stand for it!’ Regardless of the futility of reversing a process that is not only logical and irreversable but mostly beneficial (definitely for all parts of the driving societies, and in the long run probably as well for the driven and conquered ones).
    Some countermovements respond with a reactionary yet at least in its directionality rational or rather consequent ideology, an isolationist or supremacist nationalism. It has an irrational and futile goal but it at least actually is as radical as it appears to be and it orients itself toward an economic model, namely the national one.
    Racism on the other hand is either an isolationist or supremacist ideology that actually promotes a further (partial) unification of mankind in order to artificially fragment it again, which is in terms of economy as schizophrenic as it is in terms of pure logic.
    Meaning: Economy has always been the driving force behind the socialisation of humans (beyond the mere family). So the formation of social groups is based on the current production processes. Two hundred years ago the social group of marketing consultants didn’t exist since the industries weren’t yet overproducing on this scale, so they didn’t need to find ways to convince people to buy goods they didn’t need. On the other hand the institutions of slavery and serfdom have largely gone out of fashion (Break a leg!), so these social groups hasve dissolved into other classes.
    But races are not social groups, they are cultural ones (initially at any rate) similar to religions. With the ascend of modern industries entire professions like blacksmiths virtually dissappeared and social ranks like feudal lords and arch bishop were marginalised. But however the economy might change it will not change a single man’s colour (beg pardon Mr. Jackson), although social group can of course be made up mostly or entirely of people of a certain nation or religion.
    Countries like the US and Brazil for instance couldn’t possibly establish racially coherent economies. Granted, there are some countries that have traditionally had a purely white population until the migration from the former (quasi-/) colonial regions began to ‘flood’ the western world, but even so quite a few of those have been colonial conquerers. Those colonies have also been economic acquisitions, not just a bit of land to stick a flag into. So while brave little French and Dutch citizens never had to actually come into touch with ‘their’ nègres or kaffern, the native populations of their colonies did very much form part of their economy.
    Logically the globalisation isn’t much different, in that it incorporates foreign produce into the national society.
    If you don’t think that this has a cultural dimension check the shelf in your local grocery store and research how much of the food is from abroad and how much is native to your country. Alternatively you may reflect on foreign countries growing your native food… And that is even without touching the effects of mass media on the cultural entropy. Imagine apartheid on the world wide web.
    Yet all of this merged economy and ‘cultural contamination’ that brings about the mingling of races would be prerequisite even for the unification of single races. And once the language barrier is broken there is nothing much substantial left to divide by. ‘Racial heritage’ is a pretty hollow slogan considering Europe’s tribal ancestry of Germanic, Celtic, Romanic and Slavic tribes. Much of Africa doesn’t even have firm national identities yet, partly due to the arbitrarily drawn borders of the former colonies
    Where those tendencies actually exist internationally they are attempts to fortify against interference of foreign powers, like the gradually building Latin American unity front against the US supremacy, or the much more confused, divided and less purposeful Arab resistance against the western world. But those two examples show again that the fundamental lack of a lingustic barrier (in the case of the Arabs also of a religious barrier) vastly facilitated an international movement.
    The white population of industrial countries do not need such a united international front since they don’t have any foreign oppressors to fight. There are only two substantial goals behind an ideology of racial separation: The readiness of the nation to support geostrategic wars and expansionist policies. And the fortification against immigration - which is once again just an analgesic to the real problem: About two thirds of the world not being able to support anything even close to our living standards.
  • Traditionalists

    Giu 17 2013, 2:22

    Traditions are natural to societies of sentient creatures. (Probably not to hive insects, though.)
    As soon as creatures like apes and humans need to operate in herds, they need some rituals and/or more complex or subtle traditions to ensure a working social structure and to reduce friction in their hierarchies. Even relatively stupid animals like ungulate herd animal need grooming rituals and huddling against predators.
    Now, most of those rituals can superficially be explain away as ‘instinct’. But those aren’t far removed from rituals and traditions. Cats and dogs as the most common domestic pets can definitely acquire an understanding of basic traditions like ‘feeding time’, ‘going for a walk’ and disciplinary measures, only look into your cat’s eyes when he realises that you’ve just observed him shitting onto your laundry (which in turn may be a tradition for him). Also is a lot of for instance chimpanzee or bonobo social behaviour very much like tradition in the sense that it is not directly congruent with the necessities of the group’s survival.
    A lot of tradition like this serves to build, reinforce and redefine the social structure or the individuals’ respective positions in it. Those subjugations, struggles or rituals of dependency will take different forms and be of varying intensity, depending on species, participants and circumstances. Some fail to show strength or skill, some are challenged by renegades or rogues, some by advancing underlings. Some fight in single combat, some in coalitions, some fight to the death, some to submission, some postpone the decision by a timely retreat.
    Apparently the more evolved the social structures become, the more traditions abound and the more possibilities exist for their forms and intensities. So a defeated ape or human may be subjugated and reintegrated, exiled or even killed. We might associate this diversity in the social behaviour with intelligence, since it clearly shows choice beyond the instinctive reactions coded into the species.
    But despite being (from an evolutionary viewpoint) artificial those ‘individual’ or flexible traditions are not unnatural.

    Humans are traditionalists. Pretty much all of them.

    So what of people explicitely proclaiming themselves to be ‘traditionalists’?
    I recently had a debate about objective quality of music with such a person. The particular issue did not allow the closer examination of the concept of tradition, so here it is.

    Where and when does tradition begin? This is not a purely academic question.
    Academically speaking tradition is the first conception of society.
    In specific terms tradition starts off as the tribe’s hunting prowl and as the feast after the successful hunt and similar basic rituals.

    When aficionados of classical music talk about tradition they obviously mean their chosen tradition not just any other. It seems never to occur to them that there could have been tradition prior to their idea of proper culture.This general kind of world view predominates in all of human culture. (Leave aside for the moment all other examples of cultural supremacism) Even in music classes, involuntarily listening to Beethoven, we were instucted that “This is culture!”.
    Well?! So are trousers, curling and national anthems. Culture is the whole of the life style of a particular group.
    Then there is the ominous distinction between ‘serious/legitimate’ music and ‘popular/folk’ music, as I learned it in German: E(rnste)-Musik and U(nterhaltungs)-Musik. This implies that there is music that exists to entertain and music that ‘is serious’.
    What exactly does that mean? Serious music does not entertain? So the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg did not actually enjoy the compositions of his employee Wolfgang A. Mozart? So the works of Ludwig van Beethoven did not please his patrons, his live audiences or purchasers of his publications? And if not for enjoyment why ever else is there singing in the churches, when one could easily speak the prayers?
    No one should deny the great skill of classical composers, or the baroque or modern ones for that matter. While you can find them too boring, too subtle, too wild or too complex, it takes a great deal of skill to compose music for several instruments or even whole sections of instruments. But you don’t listen to music that you don’t enjoy if you’re not a very special kind of retard.
    Those celebrated composers of ‘high art’ wrote music for a living. Due to the social structures of their eras that meant their works had to please kings and dukes and bishops who could afford to provide their living.

    Why would this be the tradition?
    Compared to e.g. a raindance or a medicine chant the classical music does very poorly in terms of tradition. It is neither as old nor as ‘noble’ – it is not even as socially useful as those ancient uses of music.

    So: There are much older forms of music and some of those were and are of much more importance to society. The ‘classical music’ was also written by composers of varying skills and concepts. And even skill on its own would not make tradition.
    Essentially, fanciers of ‘classical music’ declare the aesthetics and technological potential of an arbitrarily chosen historical era and furthermore of only its economical elite to be tradition, while everything else is degenerate. But this ‘serious’ music did not just appear and disappear. It was developed from preceding genres and was itself not immune to perpetual evolution.
  • On the Origin of Misconceptions

    Mag 17 2013, 0:44

    On the Origin of Misconceptions

    Of course capitalist societies spread a lot of propaganda like any other organised body of people. Every ruling class relies heavily on shaping the conceptions of the whole community. Capitalism just doesn’t (much) need specialised institutions for public relations campains, like churches, political parties or youth associations. (Regardless is has those, too.)
    The conditioning is manifold. Schools, being expressly designed for the purpose of creating society members out of mostly blank slated children, make the most general and broad effort. The political class, as the façade of the system, bear a lot of the overt influence.
    Most parts of the economic structure advertises ‘life style’ and other behavioural patterns, using private media (like radio/tv channels, newspapers and magazines) and the public stage, like billboards.

    The most widespread propaganda concept is ‘Freedom’. Hardly new, indeed. But the stupid reverence to this construct bears thinking on. The idea of ‘Freedom’ has been artificially imbued with an incorporeal majesty that suggests indispensability. ‘Freedom’ is what every company advertises: tobacco, cars, sanitary towels, credit cards, insurances, ‘light’ food, fast food, building loans – the list goes on and on.
    Subjects to this conditioning – and it is conditioning in a very real sense – are so filled with the enormous volume of the promised commodity (i.e. ‘Freedom’), barely a one in hundred ever developes a clear understanding of the actual concept of freedom.

    Basically there are two general kinds of freedom one of which concerns us here.

    To be free of something is to not have something. Now you may be free of shackles, of bonds or of persecution. But you may also be free of food, of a home or of protection. So it’s not necessarily good to be free of some things. Furthermore, a lot of those freedoms tend to come in pairs, as indicated above: persecution/protection or bonds(e.g. work)/food. Societies generally impose participation and deliver benefits – just imagine producing food, clothing, shelter, in short: subsistence on your own.
    The crucial point here is that ‘freedom’ does not actually exist without the grammatical object. You cannot be ‘Free’, you’ll just be free of some things. But still the general propaganda usually omits the important bit.

    Capitalists or liberalist in particular demand the political deregulation of the economy and put this under the heading of ‘Freedom’, meaning their freedom to extract the maximum of surplus out of the production of goods and services. That necessarily reduces the labourer’s freedom to do the exact same thing.
    Lots of conservative politicians, intelligence services and citizens’ organisations demand more surveillance powers to ensure their society’s freedom of crime. but again that lessens the freedom of criminals and suspected criminals (which in a ‘democratic’ system have rights as well) and of course of all citizens in the course of widespread surveillances like possibly in the internet or security cameras in shops and public transport.
    The crucial point here is that ‘freedom’ does not actually exist without a point of view and commonly one’s freedom diminishes another’s freedom.

    But of course ‘Freedom’ is only one of many concepts portrayed from a crooked angle and in monochrome colouring but brightly flashing.
    And because this is about capitalism, I inevitably think of ‘social Darwinism’. Meant is obviously evolutionary theory, applied to social dynamics and the comparison has a certain appeal. Struggle for survival, for supremecy definitly dominates the history of human societies. Economical classes compete among themselves and between each other for economical and political influence. Nations struggle with one another over resources, markets and strategic positions. Capitalism in particular worships competition in all corners of society; every individual is urged to gain their ‚sunny spot’ on their own – whoever wins leaves all others in the shade.

    The concept is based on the slogan "Survival of the Fittest" (not even coined by Darwin but Herbert Spencer), which as a popular concept has come to mean that of any group of competitor the one prevails who has or uses the most superior abilities to increase his and his descendants' wealth and status.
    Some like and promote the concept of ‘social Darwinism’ and some are repelled by it. But does it apply to human society in the first place? After all, trying to equate societies with biological processes is bridging a very large gap, like trying to explain languages by means of physics...

    For a start the theory of evolution does not at all deal with the individual, since a single organism, however awesome, is incapable of genetically adapting itself to environmental changes or new improved prey or predators. The evolutionary progress takes place (or does not) by mutations that facilitate – or at least do not hamper – survival (until mating or after the nursing of the offspring). A lemming jumping off a cliff does not grow wings because it has run out of ground. However a freak lemming, born with skin folds like the australian petauridae may have higher odds of reaching the far shore and passing on that trait.
    For the single creature it is genetic roulette, coincidences and - for some - group work that ensure survival, while the evolutionary ‘war’ plays out between species.
    Additionally, the development of the species only makes sense, because it happened that way. There is no logic inherent in the result. Only in the method.

    So superimposing evolutionary patterns onto human societies might make a certain amount of sense if you thought of social groups as different species. Given that societies are in origin and prime function economical systems those groups would be primarily characterised by economical status, e.g. landowners, peasants, citizens, slaves, labourers etc. The particular complexity of the system will determine the number, importance and possibly allegiance of economically non-essential groups like clergy, bureaucracy and military.
    But those parallels are superficial.
    (First of all, the popular concept of ‘social Darwinism’ clearly does not refer primarily to class war as it is happening in reality, but first and foremost to the competition inside the classes and between individuals. So the objective is not given as the dominance of one class over another, but as the ascencion of an individual to a dominant position over their peers and – as goes the tale – eventually into a superior class. As if rabbits could become hawks by sheer diligence…)
    But even seen as the actual class struggle the evolutionary model displays some incongruities. In the long run the actual groups of people don’t have a ‘genetic’ capacity to adapt to a developing economic structure short of simply joining a superior group. Some of the feudal landowners may have become tenement owners or built or bought factories, but as a distinct class the feudalists lost their social dominance to the (urban) bourgeois. And this shift did not in essence occur as the result of better strategems by the capitalists or higher numbers (although in detail those would have been helpful), but quite simply because the dawn of the prolific industries made the feudal system obsolete. They allowed and - since trade is profitable - demanded large-scale trade, they strained against the bonds of the guild system and needed stabil and reliable governments.
    While the actual struggle may be a long (we’re talking about centuries here) and gruelling affair with leaps and relapses and baby steps, the result appears to be a foregone conclusion. A feudalist monarchy might hold on to the old structures, if it supresses the industrial economy, but that will entail the decay of its social structures and soon other classes (not least of them the flayed peasantry) will join the fight. Other nations that are expanding will try to extent their own ruling classes' interests and the feudalist nation, becoming hoplessly inferior on account of having hampered their own progress, will eventually crumble under internal and external pressure.
    A prominent example would be the downfall of the Western Roman Empire. The relatively uncultured Germanic tribes that accomplished the empire's destruction weren't even close to the Romans as regards technology or economy, or anything much. But they were thriving and expanding, they were not in social decay but had a lot of potential for development. Even though it took the better part of fifteen centuries to restore some of the highly developed civil structures of Roman culture, the process proved several times that a stagnating ruling system will inevitably erode.
    The original hypotheses of Spencer and others even try to determine the development of societies akin to a single organism, which shows a lot more parallels than the later on developed 'social darwinism' but is still problematic. For Instance there the constant antagonism between social classes and individuals that constantly disrupts any 'organic' social development. In any organic body the cells have genetically determined functions that they fulfill unless they're corrupted or exhausted. In extreme cases that can lead to a state of decay and near complete reinvention of social structures by external influences, as described.
    (As for the notion that both societies organically belong to the same organism, that is useless, since both developed mostly independently.)

    In conclusion, a lot of social progress is a direct and indirect function of technological and economical progress, which bears a certain resemblance to the principles of evolution.
    But the social 'species' cannot hold on to their supremacy if outdated, unless they became another 'species'
    (Whereas there doesn't seem to be a sound reason why birds couldn't become tool users.)
    The revered competition that capitalism claims to thrive upon is an issue of 'species' survival only in times of crisis and revolution.
    At all other times the competition is of an individual nature (internal fight over distribution) and doesn't substantially effect the class system.
    (Whereas in evolution individual efforts are mostly irrelevant until higher intelligence is involved.)
    And in evolution the possbilities are virtually limitless, whereas there are only so many possible foundations for an economy.

    Those who actually find the notion of 'Social Darwinism' and "competition" appealing should perhaps recall the last winners of the ecological competition, the dinosaurs. Consumption machines of immeasurable sizes adapt at fighting one another and other species, they were unable to avoid the effects a catastrophe.
    (There is a whole range of sociological and economic reasons why that kind of competition is obstructive, even devastating to the progress and the very structure of the society, but since this is about the applicability of the concept of ‘social Darwinism’, not about its methods, motives and consequences, I shall not digress.)

    Lastly I feel I owe an apology to anyone who actually read this whole thing. You may have noticed that I did not in fact talk much about origin. I just couldn’t resist the reference to Darwin.