Re: MD the ideology of capitalism

From: Matt Kundert (
Date: Sat May 07 2005 - 19:42:59 BST

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    Hey Sam,

    You formulated the "ideology of capitalism" as "the fully realised human
    being, envisioned as one which is able to act without restraint ... would
    not be exploitative."

    Given this and Mark's own formulation, you quoted two pieces from Bush's
    inaugural address, remarking on their similarity. In prep for my own
    interlocution into this thread, I want to point out that two Bush quotes
    _don't match up with themselves_, only one of them reflects the "ideology of
    capitalism," in fact, only part of one of them. The other is something a
    little different, something a pragmatist might say.

    Bush 1:
    "Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do
    not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the
    possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it."

    The first part, "Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and
    every soul," reflects the ideology. The call of freedom comes to everybody.
      Simple. The second, however, is a little different. Bush doesn't say
    "the existence of permanent tyranny is impossible," presumably because
    freedom will come to every mind and soul. No, he says, "_We_ do not
    accept." _We_ do not except permanent tyranny and permanent slavery because
    _we_ will do something about it. This, unlike the first part, doesn't
    reflect the logical necessity of freedom. It makes _us_ important players
    in the enactment of freedom. And the last makes it importantly clear:
    "Liberty will come to those who love it." Not, "liberty will come to
    everyone," as the first statement said, but "liberty to come to those who
    love it." You have to want liberty before you can have it because if you
    don't want it, we can't force it on you. (I'm not commenting on foreign
    policy, I'm commenting on his speech, mind you.) The first and the last
    sentence seem to be in direct conflict: "the call of freedom comes to every
    mind" and "Liberty will come to those who love it." The first says it will
    come to you no matter what, the second says there's a condition for it

    Bush 2:
    "We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom.
    Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices
    that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God
    moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the
    permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the

    In this quote, there is no sign of the logical neccessity of the demand for
    freedom. "_We_ go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph
    of freedom, _not_ because history runs on the wheels of inevitability, _not_
    because we consider ourselves a chosen nation. _We_ have confidence because
    freedom is the _permanent hope_ of mankind."

    Permanent hope. Freedom is the greatest idea civilization has ever come up
    with and democracy the greatest government yet realized. _That_ is the
    ideology of democracy. You can't really argue with it because belief in
    freedom and democracy is simply the way we are. But then, we can't really
    argue with the way other people are either, which is why liberty springs
    from those who want it.

    My basic criticism of MacIntyre and the "ideology of capitalism" is that it
    conflates Enlightenment philosophy with Enlightenment politics. We don't
    need Kant's transcendental categorical imperative to have Mill's On Liberty.
      What pragmatists like myself argue is that, pace Horkheimer and Adorno,
    democratic politics doesn't rise and fall with the philosophy used at the
    time of its inception. What is weird about MacIntyre is that he seems to
    basically argue the same way as the Critical Theorists in After Virtue, that
    liberalism is caught in a contradiction, and since it can't hold itself up
    philosophically, politically it must be scrapped. But on the other hand,
    he's a keen enough post-modern to realize that part of his argument about
    the neccessity of traditions for thinking is that, though some traditions
    may have built-in self-effacing doctrines, that doesn't allow them to escape
    their traditionhood--that would be part of _their_ argument. But he spends
    so little time on the notion of Enlightenment liberalism as a tradition in
    Whose Justice? Which Rationality? that its hard to specify how his argument
    _against_ liberalism moved forward from the pointing out of an easily
    remedied philosophical contradiction.

    Now, I haven't spent a lot of time on MacIntyre, so its distinctly possible
    that I have him a bit wrong in places, or haven't seen his bigger punch to
    liberalism, but it seems to me that much of MacIntyre can be summed up as a
    lamentation over the loss of morality. I think MacIntyre argues quite well
    that liberalism can't have morality like it was in the old days, but I don't
    think this is an argument against liberalism. The reply on the tip of the
    liberals tongue is, "So much the worse for morality." The reason, I think,
    we can say this is because politics has replaced morality, and I think in
    the liberal democratic vision of freedom, which is the negative liberty
    vision of "I'll stay out of your hair if you stay out of mine," politics
    _had_ to replace morality. I'm not so sure that morality is destroyed in
    the tradition of liberalism, but it has surely been changed, irrevocably so.
      But lamenting the loss of Augustine's pure, unchanged vision just sounds
    like so much nostalgia, the same kind of nostalgia that Rousseau had for
    Sparta. As much as the Greeks can teach us, we have to realize, as Rousseau
    did not, that things are different now. When we learn from the Greeks, we
    learn new tricks for Moderns; we are not learning how to be an Ancient.

    Now, you'll notice I didn't say alot about capitalism, but that's because I
    don't see how free-market, laissez-faire plays directly into it. Hume,
    Smith, and the Scots built freedom and democracy in with capitalism, but I
    don't see why that's exactly necessarily so. In my opinion, the Soviet
    experiment displayed our worst fears of getting rid of some sort of free
    market and making it entirely state controlled. So the best idea we have is
    some sort of capitalistic economy. But there are many sorts, and pretty
    much every sort in contemporary, North Atlantic nations has substantially
    more gov't involvement then at the end of the 19th century (as I think Mark
    more or less pointed out recently somewhere). In my opinion, the real topic
    at hand isn't capitalism, but democracy and other options.


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