What do you think produces inequality in society

What do you think produces inequality in society

Postby broken robot » Mon Dec 10, 2012 3:17 am

It's 1am and the end of the quarter, let's go for a simple and big question.

Basically, as a dyed in the wool radical I used to think capitalism was responsible for pretty much everything. Meaning, the class structure inherently produces inequality. But then I was thinking about something a (decidedly non-Marxist) friend said the other day, which is that capitalism itself is distorted by other structures of inequality that in a sense have nothing to do with it. So the reason laborers are oppressed in India is not because you know, capitalists would prefer it that way, but because structures of caste, gender, regional, etc. inequality are inserted into the wider capitalist system and may be compounded by it until the appropriate institutional safeguards and procedures are put in place. So the task then isn't a radical overthrow of the system but to deepen and extend the procedural aspects of liberal democracy. Not sure whether I agree, but it made me think of the more basic question that enables these different political programs which is, how do you explain inequality?

I also ask this question because I'm often struck by the (lack of) reasoning some people have for their positions on politics and policies such as welfare. It seems people rely more on rhetoric, establishing an imaginary enemy or "root problem," rather than evaluating whether their position is established within a coherent theoretical framework, meaning whether it can actually explain its own assumptions and what the argument takes for granted. For example, if welfare is for people who are "just lazy," why is there a consistent statistical aggregate of the population that is lazy, and what connection do these individuals have among each other that keeps producing this pattern of laziness? I guess you could then claim there's a "culture of poverty," but that's a whole nother level of explanation. Meaning, how did this supposed culture originate? did it originate in relation to other cultures, say a culture of rich people success? what's the historical relationship among these normative frameworks and how then did they co-evolve? I could keep arguing against my own rhetorical figure of average joe conservative, but better to just get internet people involved.

Anyways, stuff that keeps me up at night and when I'm procrastinating.
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Re: What do you think produces inequality in society

Postby OGPhilly » Mon Dec 10, 2012 3:34 am

I unfortunately don't have a link but a study I wrote a paper on in college argued that the correlative factor in the level of one's wealth accumulated over a lifetime is not level of education, IQ, or even one's income. It is the wealth of your parents. Generational wealth and generational poverty are most likely to determine what socioeconomic class you will end up in.

When we talk about equality, conservatives like to say that they believe in equality of opportunity, but not equality of outcome, the latter of which they often claim liberals aim to achieve. But if generational wealth is the largest indicator of where one ends up, then our society lacks social mobility and equality of opportunity is a myth.

Regarding your comments on welfare; redistributional policies are not all the same. Certain types of support provided to the poor by the government are really just there to keep them afloat because we've collectively decided that we aren't the type of society that is going to have millions and millions of homeless people living on the streets and eating out of trash cans. But other redistributive programs -- such as social security and minimum wage laws -- do help build up a larger and more affluent middle class, increasing chances for equality.
Last edited by OGPhilly on Mon Dec 10, 2012 3:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What do you think produces inequality in society

Postby JDHURF » Mon Dec 10, 2012 3:39 am

So the task then isn't a radical overthrow of the system but to deepen and extend the procedural aspects of liberal democracy.


Excuse me while I vomit.

:ymsick:

Okay, better now.

The question (what produces inequality?) is centered upon the form of inequality being evaluated. There is no question that there are forms of inequality that are unrelated to class issues: inequality between the sexes or various ethnicities are obvious examples. Social inequality and various forms of hierarchy and domination long predate capitalism and the particular forms of class inequalities inherent therein. Hierarchy and domination emerged from relative parity within tribal communities in the form of gerontocracies, shamanistic/priestly castes and so on. The development of various forms of hierarchy and domination is mixed and uneven, it is sometimes reversed (the two forms of inequality already cited have undergone sustained dismantling), but with the development of capitalism inequality was tremendously exacerbated in the form of class inequality. That is undeniably an inherent feature of capitalism.

Marxists are mistaken, however, to focus so singularly upon class inequality and its economic origins. Anarchists are concerned with unjustified forms of hierarchy and domination in every sphere of life. I went over this extensively in response to the ISR:

In what is perhaps Murray Bookchin’s enduring masterpiece, The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy, he demonstrates how anti-hierarchical ideology in anarchism differentiates it from Marxism by tracing the socially constructed origins of hierarchy back through patriarchic social constructions and gerontocracy, among other forms. Bookchin defines hierarchy as “the cultural, traditional and psychological systems of obedience and command, not merely the economic and political systems to which the terms class and State most appropriately refer. Accordingly, hierarchy and domination could easily continue to exist in a ‘classless’ or ‘Stateless’ society. I refer to the domination of the young by the old, of women by men, of one ethnic group by another, of ‘masses’ by bureaucrats who profess to speak in their ‘higher social interests,’ of countryside by town, and in a more subtle psychological sense, of body by mind, of spirit by a shallow instrumental rationality, and of nature by society and technology.” To be sure, for the sake of clarity for those unfamiliar, Bookchin was a conscious descendent of the secular Enlightenment and by sprit he meant a deep, conscious-feeling and awareness and contrasted reason with instrumental rationality, the former imparting “meaning and coherence to reality at all levels of existence” while the latter “reduced reason to rationalization…to a mere technique for achieving practical ends.” As the founder of social ecology he was also strongly opposed to anarcho-primitivism and its anti-technics, he insisted upon a rational, humane balance between natural ecology and human social technology.

Whereas Marxism is entirely predicated upon the economic realm of exploitation and oppression, anarchism is an open opposition to all forms of unjustified hierarchy and domination wherever the roots may lie.

Rudolf Rocker summarizes this well when he writes that anarchism “recognizes only the relative significance of ideas, institutions and social forms. It is, therefore, not a fixed, self-enclosed social system, but rather a definite trend in historical development of [human]kind, which, in contrast with the intellectual guardianship of all clerical and governmental institutions, strives for the free unhindered unfolding of all the individual and social forces in life. Even freedom is only a relative, not an absolute concept, since it tends constantly to become broader and to affect wider circles in more manifold ways. For the Anarchist, freedom is not an abstract philosophical concept, but the vital concrete possibility for every human being to bring to full development all the powers, capacities, and talents with which nature has endowed him[/her], and turn them to social account.”


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Re: What do you think produces inequality in society

Postby broken robot » Mon Dec 10, 2012 3:45 am

Excuse me while I vomit.


See response in other thread, because this was so much fun the last time. Here's a trick: next time you're going to insult someone over the internet, put 5 cents in a jar. Who knows, we may help you get a car within the next couple of months.

Other response to the meat of the post forthcoming.
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Re: What do you think produces inequality in society

Postby JDHURF » Mon Dec 10, 2012 4:01 am

broken robot wrote:
Excuse me while I vomit.


See response in other thread, because this was so much fun the last time. Here's a trick: next time you're going to insult someone over the internet, put 5 cents in a jar. Who knows, we may help you get a car within the next couple of months.

Other response to the meat of the post forthcoming.


Jesus Christ you have thin skin. I was vomiting in response to a comment you didn't even make. How in the world are you able to make everything so personal?

Pretty unbelievable considering the rest of my post is essentially agreeing with you.
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Re: What do you think produces inequality in society

Postby broken robot » Mon Dec 10, 2012 4:03 am

JDHURF wrote:
broken robot wrote:
Excuse me while I vomit.


See response in other thread, because this was so much fun the last time. Here's a trick: next time you're going to insult someone over the internet, put 5 cents in a jar. Who knows, we may help you get a car within the next couple of months.

Other response to the meat of the post forthcoming.


Jesus Christ you have thin skin. I was vomiting in response to a comment you didn't even make. How in the world are you able to make everything so personal?


Oh that's my bad then, I didn't realize you were vomiting at the position I thought it was another swipe at the language I use. No, I'm just basing my responses off past experience but you're right, I shouldn't assume just for that 1% of the time. Okay, back on topic in a minute here.
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Re: What do you think produces inequality in society

Postby Stratego » Mon Dec 10, 2012 4:05 am

It's due to a combination of luck and quality of gene.
Sigmund Freud defined four parts of a psyche; the id, the ego, the superego and the stratego. The Stratego being the highest form of morality and scientific thinking.

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Re: What do you think produces inequality in society

Postby pricklysponge » Mon Dec 10, 2012 5:17 am

Ooh goody. Its 530am and I'm doing some finishing touches on an essay advocating intensified militarization of American imperialism in Uganda so (1) i can't give as detailed a response as I'd like and (2) this is a nice little vacation from the utter bullshit ive been regurgitation in this f**k essay for this f**k department of international affairs for a f**k grade i need to get. ive been writing for years and this probs wont be terribly coherent. but, you know. anything to procrastinate proofreading this piece of imperialist garbage i just wrote.

in any case. The recognition that multiple forms of oppression are operating in the world at any given time is not anathema to Marxism. On the contrary, it is essential to Marxism. Thing's like patriarchy, homophobia, racism, and the caste system all predate capitalism; at the same time, we can imagine a possible world where an idealized capitalist mode of production operates completely free of patriarchy, racism, etc etc. That is to say, these other modes of oppression operating within the world are not essential features of capitalism.The only essential mode of oppression to an idealized capitalist system is the oppressive relationship between bourgeois and proletarian.

However, Marxism's great insight is the recognition that all history is one great structure of interrelations. You can call them dialectical. You can call them whatever you want. But different modes of oppression will come into contact with eachother.

So lets suppose that a capitalist mode of production emerges in a society where some other mode of oppression - say, patriarchy - is heavily operating within the superstructure. Lets say that in this patriarchal system its established practice that the man is supposed to be a laborer of some sort in a communally owned field or artisans shop or whatever. And he has a good amount of legal agency. The woman is saddled with reproductive labor, has no rights, is expected to cook the meals, endures getting raped every day when her husband comes home from a long day at the office, etc etc etc. Basically the European model.

Capitalism is perfectly happy to take that patriarchal system and mold it for its own purposes. And so boom, all of a sudden you've got a nice little capitalist society where men go work as a free agent on land owned by the capitalist - or maybe in a cute little pre-industrial capitalist workshop. The woman is saddled with all the same work as before, but now we can see that her reproductive labor and labor around the house, cooking meals, etc serves the capitalist because it has the objective result of reproducing the working class. And she performs this labor without recompense.

So the capitalist is perfectly happy to maintain this state of affairs, to maintain the patriarchy. Note that he did not create the patriarchy. He just found it, and noticed that it worked pretty well for his profit margin, so why f**k with it? But lets say that one day he runs out of men to exploit. Oh deary me. What is he to do? Lets also assume that he lives in a vacuum and cant begin exporting capital to the phillipines to start exploiting their labor. In that case, our capitalist will be driven to start recruiting women into his ranks. But that creates a problem, because now the traditional mode of patriarchy, which says that women arent fit to be working for the capitalist, comes into contact with and fetters the interests of the capitalist. Thus begins a period of struggle between the logic of the capitalist on one end and, on the other end, the logic of the heavily embedded patriarchial system. Over the course of that contradiction both our imaginary society's traditional norms of patriarchy and traditional norms of capitalist exploitation will necessarily be transformed.

My point is that Marxism is not about crudely reducing everything to economic class. Rather, Marxism is about the recognition that nothing stands above economic class. Every mode of oppression, every theory, every cultural tendency, everything - is conditioned by the class structure of the society in which it exists. Thus our understanding must derive from our historical understanding of how any given mode of oppression has developed over time and the ways in which it has intersected with other modes of oppression and thereby altered and been altered by that intersection including with, yep, the economic base.

I would refer you to the role of women in Peru's Shining Path movement in the late 80s/ early 90s, and in India's Naxalite movement, where concrete measures are consciously taken in order to do battle with patriarchy. By consciously elevating women to top positions in the party, or by trying rapists in special womens courts, etc.

Furthermore, by consciously doing battle with patriarchy, these sorts of revolutionary movements get an added bonus in that they offer women a better deal than they could get under capitalism, thus swelling the ranks of the revolutionary movement, taking aim at at an Indian paramilitary from their jungle hideout in the name of womens liberation as much as in the name of communism (or rather, in the recognition that their party has fused the two).
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Re: What do you think produces inequality in society

Postby JDHURF » Mon Dec 10, 2012 1:24 pm

I can agree with most everything you wrote prickley, about how the capitalist system will incorporate various other forms of oppression as it suits the principle of profit over people and so on. However, I will have to disagree with your claim that nothing stands outside of the class structure. It is perfectly conceivable that capitalism could be overthrown, the class antagonism dissolved, the state dismantled and yet, it is equally conceivable that various forms of hierarchy, oppression and domination would persist (forms that, perhaps, we are not yet even aware of).
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Re: What do you think produces inequality in society

Postby exploited » Mon Dec 10, 2012 1:54 pm

JDHURF wrote:I can agree with most everything you wrote prickley, about how the capitalist system will incorporate various other forms of oppression as it suits the principle of profit over people and so on. However, I will have to disagree with your claim that nothing stands outside of the class structure. It is perfectly conceivable that capitalism could be overthrown, the class antagonism dissolved, the state dismantled and yet, it is equally conceivable that various forms of hierarchy, oppression and domination would persist (forms that, perhaps, we are not yet even aware of).


This. Marxism falls to account for the fact that sometimes people are just assholes, and what they do is just a symptom of being an asshole.
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