In Response To Your Recent Article - CAPITALISM IS THE PROBLEM

I was so happy to see this article as I often complain that Richard Wolff doesnt often lay out his program in a clear concise format anymore. The radio show being mostly news updates and not much of a re-hash of old ideas, which is good. So this article was great for me to send around to my friends and family as an eye opener, I had hoped. Something to wake people up to the fact that hey maybe something isnt right here... Well here is my first response from an old college roommate, a self professed "scholar of political science" and this is his reply. I am curious what would be a constructive rebuttal as I am tempted to just call him names and move on. Said reply... "I see where he is going but he is super rosie about human nature. the trust and rational collective action necessary is beyond human capacity" My initial constructive response is that it is certainly NOT beyond human capacity as we have done it, look at Spain for example, both Mondragon and their civil war, but I am hoping for something more in tune with a lay persons experience with economics. Any thoughts or insights from anyone here are appreciated. Thank you

Official response from submitted

For thousands of years, the human race functioned in small family, tribal, village economies within which property was owned collectively, work tasks were organized democratically, and the distribution of output was managed in a collective, solidary way to support and protect the family, tribe, village. That's where phrases were born like "it takes a village to raise a child" and settled deep into our consciousnesses to rise again in later, different social organizations. 

What human nature consists of and what it may be capable of are topics about which human beings have long debated and never found any universal consensus. I dont know the answer, but neither do I believe anyone else does either. Thus for someone to tell me that he/she knows that human nature cannot accommodate something suggests to me that such a person does not like or want that something but instead of saying that simply and forthrightly, he/she instead seeks to strengthen his/her dislike by asserting (because that is all it is or can be) that the basis for collective/cooperative work places is beyond the capacity of human nature.

Lastly, consider this: for centuries in slave societies, it was believed that human nature divided some into masters and others into slaves, so that abolishing slavery was "against human nature." Most of us now believe that such arguments were little more than efforts to support and preserve slavery. It turns out abolishing slavery was not against human nature. The same applies to the feudal system of lords and serfs. So now we have people living in capitalist conditions - where participants in production are not divided into slaves and masters, nor lords and serfs, but rather into employers and employees. And the same ideologies that cannot imagine a different arrangement - such as cooperative workplaces - trot out the same old arguments about what human nature can and cannot be or support.

Human nature does not only shape social conditions; social conditions and their conflicts, contradictions, and tensions also react back to shape human nature. That nature and that society shape one another in constant change. Fixing either one into something asserted to be permanent and unchanging is actually the odd, artificial thing to do.


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  • responded with submitted 2017-01-16 19:29:19 -0500
  • published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2017-01-11 20:09:55 -0500

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