Saturday, January 22, 2011

Nowhere still ...

... Real Men Find Real Utopias.

The book is startling and depressing evidence of what has happened to American academic Marxism, at least its sociological variant, over the last thirty years. It has become turgid, vapid, and self-referential. Wright lives in a bubble of like-minded sociologists and political theorists. On page 322, he thanks Marcia Kahn Wright, his wife, for suggesting to him “the term ‘interstitial’” as a way of expressing something about “strategic logic,” whatever that is. Apart from Mrs. Wright, Erik Wright’s favorite source is Erik Wright. He has read all of his works and finds them remarkable. He moves fluidly between Wright of 1985 and Wright of 2010, as if history has not changed. Actually, for Wright, history has not changed. The issues that rivet Wright unfold in an eternal graduate sociology seminar where the clock has stopped. In a memoir elsewhere, Wright comments that every September since kindergarten in 1952 he has been in school. It might be time for him to take a break.

The Marxist notion of "capitalism" is itself a false idea. Commerce brings with it all sorts of problems, most of which derive from the problems of human nature -- greed and dishonesty, for example. To think that you can come up with a "system" of commerce that will necessarily cancel these human tendencies is pure fantasy. Forget about "real" utopias. Take a look at real people doing real things. Notice how some will cheat. Then figure out what might be done about that. Oh, and it just could be that government is not the best agent for addressing these problems. You see, the aforementioned problems of human nature -- greed, dishonesty, as well as a thirst for power and the potential to use force -- also apply to government. The real problems facing real people in the real world simply cannot ever be solved just by sitting on your ass and thinking about them.

1 comment:

  1. I never understood the argument that capitalism is a modern construct, when commerce has developed ever since a man took a pot from point A, walked it to point B, and sold it for more than he paid for it.

    Once that was established, the hierarchical organizations and all the problems that came from that is just a detail.

    (This article reminded me of the Washington Post article from years back. Seems someone ran a business delivering bagels to D.C. offices. It ran in some places on the honor system, in some where the honor box was in an exposed place and some in which someone was in charge. By studying the amount of theft in each of the circumstances, it appeared that, where the bagels were tucked away and people stood a good chance of lifting a bagel without paying, people paid up 80% of the time.

    That gives you a baseline for honesty, at least among middle-class DC office workers. YMMV