Privatisation is Privation

Cael

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A little etymology to get us started:

The word "private" comes from the Latin verb "prīvāre" to rob. The noun "prīvātus" was formed from the verb, and came to mean "taken away" (from public affairs.) Also the noun "prīvātiōn" meant "a taking away."

Nothing very surprising here, in capitalist society, privatisation means the taking of public enterprise away from the people, and leaving us either without it, or dependant on private profit (unless it's private loss, in which case, we have to pay for it.)

But, the story goes a good deal deeper than this prīvātiōn. In capitalist society, we are deprived of our very selves. Many people who are aware of Marx's writings think that he meant that the worker alienates himself through the selling of his labour, i.e. in becoming a wage-slave, he is no longer himself. But, as Marx points out, things are a great deal worse than this.

By the very fact that human labour has been turned into a commodity for sale at the "going rate," ALL labour in capitalist society has been commodified - including the labour of the unemployed. An unemployed person is regarded as simply a wage-slave who has not mangaged to find a buyer for his commodified labour. But, the capitalist economy does not forget his labour just because he cannot sell it. Not at all. He becomes part of the "reserve army of labour" as Marx terms it, which is always vital to capitalist growth (full employment can never be reached in capitalism, without throwing the whole system into recession - a point accepted by all economists, Marxist and bourgeois.) This unemployed wage-slave is paid a type of interest on his "unemployed" labour in the form of dole (and, of course, to stop him actually thinking too much about his situation.)

Of course, one of the biggest areas of labour in the capitalist system is the work carried out by, mostly women, in the home. Child rearing and caring for the sick, etc. The capitalist system has found it difficult to commodify this labour, so it has done all in its power to eliminate it. For example, by making homes so expensive that both partners have to go out to work, and pay commodified child minders to rear their children for them.

Hegel spoke of the Master-Slave dialectic, and spoke of the Master not seeing the slave as a full subject, but rather as a species of object. The slave, on the other hand, regards the Master as a full subject. Hegel, good Englightenment bourgeois that he was, felt that the selling of labour by a private worker was a definite improvement, as the worker faced the capitalist as an equal subject with something to sell that the capitalist wanted to buy, i.e. commodified labour.

Time, however, has proven Helgel's hope to have been misplaced. The modern capitalist regards the seller of commodified labour, i.e. the wage-slave, as no more a subject than the farmer regards his cattle as subjects. In fact, far less. The farmer at least, has some affection for his herd. The modern capitalist regards his workforce as merely objects of profit - "human resources." He gives no emotional recognition to these "human resources" whatsoever (indeed, he would regard doing so as highly "unprofessional." And, to regard another as a subject, one must regard the other with a degree of emotional recognition.) That being the case, the slave owner regarded his slaves far more as subjects than the modern capitalist does, as the slave owner regarded his slaves with a certain fear, perhaps even awe (we note the fact that slave owners in Barbados made strenuous efforts to subvert the Christianisation of the slaves by Protestant missionaries. If the slaves were Christians, how much more difficult was it going to be to treat them as slaves. This shows that the the Barbados slave owners had to struggle not to see their slaves as human beings just like themselves. Today's capitalists have no such struggle. The idea of treating "human resources" as human beings simply would never occur to them - except as some kind of deviant behaviour.)

And nor is this the end of the story. In a certain respect, the slave was always in a superior position to today's wage-slave. It was only in the moment of slavery that the slave's labour was alienated from him. If he escaped, or if he had been born outside of slavery, then the possibility of not being deprived of his labour, i.e. of himself, was open to him. Before the system of commodified labour became universal, a man or woman could simply work as part of being. Their labour had no price or opportunity cost. But, once the system of commodified labour became universal, then there was no escape from wage-slavery at all. One was born a slave, and one died a slave. Even if one never actually did any work, one's work was always already accounted for as opportunity cost.

In this way, modern capitalist society is the most extensive slave society that has ever existed. Our work is taken out of the realm of democratic community, we are deprived of it, and it is privatised into the sphere of private profit.
 


TonyB

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Bunkum.

Here's some etymology for you: At the close of the protracted Missouri statehood debates, on Feb. 25, 1820, N.C. Representative Felix Walker began what promised to be a "long, dull, irrelevant speech," and he resisted calls to cut it short by saying he was bound to say something that could appear in the newspapers in the home district and prove he was on the job. "I shall not be speaking to the House," he confessed, "but to Buncombe." Bunkum has been American English slang for "nonsense" since 1847.

All of society is relative. We all relate to one another. We are also all unequal. Some are better than others - whether that means faster, stronger, smarter, or whatever. That’s why Communism failed. We trade with others who have alternate or better resources than we have. And we trade labour just as we trade commodities. I will shoe your horse, if you give me ten bushels of wheat. Our labour has not been stolen, it has been traded. “Our work has been taken out of the realm of democratic community” – what in the blazes does that mean? Taken by whom? It remains in the community, because our work has done something for someone else. We are deprived of it? Come on, get a grip.

Capitalism – and liberal democracy for that matter – is not perfect. But Communism is a whole heap of mindless tosh spawned by a bunch of largely unemployed lower middle class people who were envious of those better off than them, which inspired poor people to revolt against the elites in many countries, in an extension of the French Revolution.
 

Cael

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Capitalism – and liberal democracy for that matter – is not perfect.
As we see, capitalism is an absolute failure. It fails, of course, because the earth and its people simply cant provide the endless "growth" that capitalism needs just to stay still. But, far more profoundly than this, capitalism fails because it turns human beings into things - it denies humanity - makes it no more than a commodified lifestyle choice.
 

TonyB

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I don't know if you can call capitalism an absolute failure. It has delivered extraordinary innovations, like the silicon chip, the Internet, and the sequencing of the human genome. Growth is often referred to as a bad thing in this kind of debate - but it is not a capitalist thing. The human race has been growing, progressing, evolving since the days of the old primeval ooze. We will continue to grow, and evolve.

How does "capitalism" turn human beings into "things", or "deny humanity"? Capitalism is an economic structure. We exist within that economic structure. Feudalism was an economic structure, and we existed within that too. So is Communism. The system is inanimate, and humans themselves express their humanity within that system. There will always be a system - and systems - though which we express ourselves, like families, communities, groups, companies.
 

Cael

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If Etymology is all there is to counter capitalism then I think the world is just fine :)
You obviously didnt manage to get past the first paragraph. Its that mental laziness that capitalism depends on to keep hobbling along in its undead state.
 

Cael

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I don't know if you can call capitalism an absolute failure. It has delivered extraordinary innovations, like the silicon chip, the Internet, and the sequencing of the human genome.
I think you'll fiond that all of those scientific break throughs came from public\state institutions.
 

Cael

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How does "capitalism" turn human beings into "things", or "deny humanity"?
I wrote this before in answer to that question:


You ARE what you DO

Kant's famous advice to the world on how best to live was to always treat human beings, including yourself, as an end and never a means to an end. That means never to exploit other people as a way to get money or fame or whatever, and, indeed, never to exploit yourself either. Of course, Jesus had also said: treat others as you would have others treat you. (Which is fine as long as your not a Sado-Masochist.)

Hegel and Marx pointed out that the human individual is what he or she does. The person\subject is not inside the human being, ready made and always the same no matter what that human being does. No, the person is always in the process of being created - by his or her actions. By their labour (and labour simply means any human activity, including thinking.)

So, is it not true that if you sell your labour as a means to an end (to get wages), that you are selling yourself, and treating yourself as a means to an end? After all, you spend most of your waking day getting ready to go to work, going to work, working, coming home from work, and then being too exhausted to do anything else after work.

If work is to be regarded as a means to an end, i.e. wages, then the people who do that work are also a means to an end.

And this holds for all types of human labour\activity. If we are not in the process of self actualisation in our everyday lives, then we are becoming alienated from ourselves, and becoming a pawn in someone else's game.

And that is the simple reason why capitalism must fail as people become more and more self aware, and demand that they be treated as an end in themselves and that they treat themselves as an end in themselves - not a means to the capitalists enrichment and their own daily survival.

Communism is the word for that form of society in which human beings treat themselves and others, in the words of Kant, as ends in themselves, and not means to an end.

And what is that end that the person must be? What is it to treat yourself as an end and not a means to an end? Hegel points out that:

"Mind is only what it does, and its act is to make itself the object of its own consciousness."

This sounds complicated but really it not. In the old days a carpenter made a table. He put his heart and soul into that work, like an artist, and he made a table that was an expression of himself. When he looked at that table he could see before him a physical manifestation of his own mind. As Hegel put it; the table had become, for that moment, the mind of the carpenter physically before him as he consciously regarded and appreciated it.

How different for the tens of millions who slave away for wages, making things that could never be regarded as an expression of themselves. What about the poor worker who makes police batons, decides to go on strike, and then has his head split by one of the very police batons he himself made. Thats what you call the alienation of labour.

Unfortunately, in the USSR and other states who aspired to Communism, the worker was very often also alienated from his labour. His labour was not an expression of himself, but, as in the capitalist system, was turned against him. The Workers State became the end to which the worker was a means to. Clearly this was not what Marx had in mind.

What todays Communists must do is create work practices and methods of production that put the productive forces in the hands and the minds of the workers themselves - so that our work becomes the physical manifestation of ourselves, and so that we work to see ourselves in our work. That is the great challenge which Capitalism must always shrink away in guilt from, and which Communism must happily make reality.
 

TonyB

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I think you'll fiond that all of those scientific break throughs came from public\state institutions.
The internet as a technology was developed by government initially, but the world wide web as we know it was only made possible by the Act passed by Clinton / Gore in 1991 with the Communications Act (leading to Al Gore's claim to have "invented the internet"...) which effectively permitted commercial exploitation of the Internet - hence Netscape, AOL, Yahoo, Google and all those other private companies that developed the web as we know it - and the connections and the fiber all laid by private telecommunications companies. The silicon chip was invented by Fairchild Semiconductor. I don't honestly know the detail of the genome project, but I do know that it required US presidential intervention to ensure that it did not become the property of private industry.
 

TonyB

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No, the person is always in the process of being created - by his or her actions. By their labour (and labour simply means any human activity, including thinking.)
Therefore, one must separate labour from the "task of working" - for we work, say stuffing envelopes in a marketing office; but our labour extends beyond the task of working - it is how we relate to and support our co-workers, how we interact, how we deliver our "task of work"...your later example of the carpenter is no different. The carpenter may have put his heart and soul into the table, but he did it to make money / trade for other resources with which to feed and shelter himself and his family.

And this holds for all types of human labour\activity. If we are not in the process of self actualisation in our everyday lives, then we are becoming alienated from ourselves, and becoming a pawn in someone else's game.
We all relate. Descartes' Cogito Ergo Sum could, and perhaps should be supplanted by the topically social networky Relato Ergo Sum - I relate, therefore I am (someone help my latin!). I only exist because I relate. Read my earlier post. Everything is social, and relative; if I do not relate to others - in a higher, lower or equivalent order according to whatever measure you like - we are all pawns in someone else's game, and others are all similarly chess pieces of various types in our own game. We work for people, people work for us. I work for the company, the dry cleaner works for me.

What about the poor worker who makes police batons, decides to go on strike, and then has his head split by one of the very police batons he himself made. Thats what you call the alienation of labour.
Oh come on, that's not the alienation of labour, it's just ironic!!!
 

Cael

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We all relate. Descartes' Cogito Ergo Sum could, and perhaps should be supplanted by the topically social networky Relato Ergo Sum - I relate, therefore I am (someone help my latin!). I only exist because I relate. Read my earlier post. Everything is social, and relative; if I do not relate to others - in a higher, lower or equivalent order according to whatever measure you like - we are all pawns in someone else's game, and others are all similarly chess pieces of various types in our own game. We work for people, people work for us. I work for the company, the dry cleaner works for me.
Then you're not relating to anybody. Your just buying and selling a commodity, i.e. labour. You may object that buying and selling is a type of relating, but, even in the example of the dry cleaner you gave, you probably have never even seen the owner of the dry cleaner shop. You have probably just seen some Polish woman, and you dont even know her name - or probably even want to know it.
 
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Telemachus

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A carpenter it is true can have pride in what he makes. But people who need to make a living from the proceeds of mass production can have only pride in that they are providing themselves the means to exist. You call these people slaves. Surely they can sometimes buy shares in the same company to have a stake in the company’s future and derive more pride from their jobs.

I think this element is lacking in western capitalism at the low end, but its because its a time-hungry thing to do.

A small company with 3 or 4 workers cannot have a system where workers have a possibility of buying into the Masters enterprise as its an impediment to efficiency of the Masters will. A distraction. They probably wouldn’t want to either as they are not aware of what work-pride is about in the first place. At the moment in Ireland a small business owner spends crazy hours looking after their business, especially now, allowing the slaaves a buy in is a headache.

How do you hope to incentivise business and economic activity?
 

subic

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If we are not commodities then we can't be taxed on our labour.
 

Luigi Vampa

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Previous Irish Privatisation "successes".

Let's See ;

Eircon ?
Irish Life ?
Greencore ?
Irish Steel ?
ESAT Digiphone ?
Shell Corrib ?
Etc.


No thanks.
 

TonyB

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Then you're not relating to anybody. Your just buying and selling a commodity, i.e. labour. You may object that buying and selling is a type of relating, but, even in the example of the dry cleaner you gave, you probably have never even seen the owner of the dry cleaner shop. You have probably just seen some Polish woman, and you dont even know her name - or probably even want to know it.
No - I was specifically thinking of Sean who owns the dry cleaning business - so with what was possibly a poor example, I was trying to think of a service that I consume from someone with whom I have a relationship. Perhaps I also fix computers for a living, and fix his anti-virus stuff every so often. I charge him €10. He charges me €10 to dry clean my suit. we could just as easily agree to barter. We are exchanging services, using currency as a value mediator.
 

TonyB

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Previous Irish Privatisation "successes".

Let's See ;

Eircon ?
Irish Life ?
Greencore ?
Irish Steel ?
ESAT Digiphone ?
Shell Corrib ?
Etc.


No thanks.
I think Cael is referring to all private industry; not just the privatisation of national resources. Therefore the question is not whether we should privatise national assets like RTE, the ESB or DAA, but whether we should nationalise (collectivise?!?!?!) everything that's not state owned!

Kim Jong Cael, eh...
 

atlantic

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Bunkum.

Here's some etymology for you: At the close of the protracted Missouri statehood debates, on Feb. 25, 1820, N.C. Representative Felix Walker began what promised to be a "long, dull, irrelevant speech," and he resisted calls to cut it short by saying he was bound to say something that could appear in the newspapers in the home district and prove he was on the job. "I shall not be speaking to the House," he confessed, "but to Buncombe." Bunkum has been American English slang for "nonsense" since 1847.

All of society is relative. We all relate to one another. We are also all unequal. Some are better than others - whether that means faster, stronger, smarter, or whatever. That’s why Communism failed. We trade with others who have alternate or better resources than we have. And we trade labour just as we trade commodities. I will shoe your horse, if you give me ten bushels of wheat. Our labour has not been stolen, it has been traded. “Our work has been taken out of the realm of democratic community” – what in the blazes does that mean? Taken by whom? It remains in the community, because our work has done something for someone else. We are deprived of it? Come on, get a grip.

Capitalism – and liberal democracy for that matter – is not perfect. But Communism is a whole heap of mindless tosh spawned by a bunch of largely unemployed lower middle class people who were envious of those better off than them, which inspired poor people to revolt against the elites in many countries, in an extension of the French Revolution.
excellent stuff TonyB+++
 


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