Sunday, March 30, 2014

Marx and Labor

I find Marx’s approach to labor depressing. It detaches humans from the tasks they perform.  The very basis for human life is to reach satisfaction.  It is to be happy with what one has.  Marx replaces that rudimentary goal of life with the struggle to accumulate wealth.  I use the word struggle not only because there is a societal competition to claim finite, but also because it forces people to move past a state of comfort to a state of striving for more in perpetuity.  Marx says that when people perform a task for others, the product goes to the other person.  Satisfaction is gained in this transaction, but it is complicated.  People no longer are providing their own fulfillment.  This rings true into today’s culture where Marx’s logic has been complicated even more. Because this way of living has been successful thus far (for the most part), does that justify greed in people? 

Marx Day 2 - Jordan Scott

Men begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they start to produce their means of substance. The reason they are able to produce their means of substance before realizing their consciousness, is from their ability to physically organize. I think it's very interesting that by producing their means of substance, they are indirectly producing their actual material life. I'm not sure if I can compare this today, where if for example, by blogging and writing every day (putting in 'physical' labor to write) I am slowly gaining a following, and therefore am producing a way to make money/profit in the future? Or a better example may be that by growing corn, we are making a profitable business because by practicing farming, we get better, grow better crops, etc.? 

"As individuals express their life, so they are." I think this is a beautiful quote. They way you live your life each day, the work and effort you put in, is exactly what you're going to get out. Not just 'spiritually' or by feeling happy, I think Marx is saying materially also. 

Each new productive force develops the division of labor. So, with each new app making everything a little bit easier for us, we are increasing the productivity of our nation, and further developing the division of labor. 

The German Ideology - Marx (P.147-175) Presentation Questions

Questions to be considered:

What is the 'illusion' described by Marxof The German Ideology?
What is the difference between Old Hegelians and Young Hegelians?
Why does division of labor occur when there is a separation between mental & material labor?
How does the division of labor in The German Ideology different to the division of labor discussed by Adam Smith?
What are the conditions Marx believes should society be in when 'making history'?
Do you agree with how Marx used the idea of family relationship being a social relationship and how that is essentially simply a 'productive force'?

Marx & Engel: Political Economy imposing Self-Denial

"The less you eat, drink and read books; the less you go to the theatre, the dance hall, the public house; the less you think, love, theorize, sing, paint, fence, etc., the more you save -- the greater becomes your treasure which neither moths nor dust will devour-- your capital. The less you are  the more you have; the less you express your own life, the greater is your alienated life... things which you cannot do, your money can do.. it can appropriate for you" (Marx 95-96).

All of these things that Marx describes, the dancing, painting, theorizing, thinking, etc. are our passions and our talents, our humanist activities, our "species being." His argument is that capitalism and the force of money put blinders on us and give us a one-track mind: money, money, money. With these blinders on we are unable to see our essence, the wills and wishes that connect us to being human. The more we strive for success in the capital system, the more focused our tunnel-vision becomes, the less we succeed as a human. We deny ourselves our own humanity when we enter into a capitalist system.

Marx makes a powerful argument in that capitalism dehumanizes us. I find myself thinking about parents who never spend face time with their children because they are too busy making money to support themselves or the person working sixty hours a week that hates their job, and then I begin to agree with Marx. I think "Oh man, capitalist has turned us into robots who care more about our accumulation of wealth than about human interaction and compassion." But then I also feel myself wanting to disagree with Marx because there is a piece that he doesn't address. People have choices and freedoms , in choosing a career they love or in not working the extra hours and spending that time with friends. There is a compromise between an ambition to acquire money and also a need to fulfill our "species being."

Marx: The German Ideology - Questions

-Marx states that men can be distinguished from animals by religion (pg 150) and that material conditions and production determine religion/ideology, but he also states that the Hegelian system took the "dominance of religion" (148) for granted by pronouncing every "dominant relationship" as a "religious relationship" (148). In Marx's point of view, what role should religion have in society? Does he merely disagree with Hegelian beliefs based on how religion is determined, or does he also disagree about how religion should be regarded in society?

-How do Marx and Smith's ideas on the division of labor compare? What does the division of labor accomplish, according to Marx? Does he hold any negative views?

-How does the "antagonism of town and country" (151) compare to Kant's concept of "unsocial sociability?" Marx states that as a result of competition between the town and the country and between individual states, "the class relation between citizens and slaves" (151) develops. What does this "class relation" lead to?

Marx's critique of labor

In regards to our most recent reading of The Marx-Engels Reader, I found the critiques being made of Capitalism interesting. Instead of labor being viewed as a positive way to support a society, Marx views labor in a Capitalist society as an alienating agent. The way he describes this alienation almost seems like labor dehumanizes the laborer. By being stripped of the product we are making, our labor itself and our species being, the laborer becomes similar to a slave to the person receiving the labor. We have talked in class before about what it means to be human and the rights that come with it. I am interested in whether or not laborers would be considered human in the Marxist view of labor in a Capitalist society. What rights do we lose? Does the payment of money justify what we give up as laborers?

What is contemporary intellectual debate?

What is contemporary intellectual debate?

Amidst grading and keeping dry this weekend, I came across this blurb of a debate talking place between two journalists, which seems apposite to some of the things we will be discussing in the next few weeks.  I'm posting the debate in the Google Drive in a folder called "Debate".  

If you care about inequality and discrimination and what the answers might be to it (nice rhetorical gesture, no?), you should read this.  None of the pieces are that long.

I also watched a horrible horrible movie called "Amazing Racer" (also apparently known prosaically as "Shannon's Rainbow") with my son, which is on NetFlix (he selected it), but starts among others Eric Roberts (no stranger to B movies), Jason Gedrick and Louis Gossett Jr. (of Iron Eagle fame!), as well as Scott Eastman (Clint's son), Darryl Hannah and Michael Madsen (MM had no business being a movie that does not involve crime or swords or violence).  It had no connection to the preceding.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Women and Economics Presentation Overview

Questions from Gilman:
Where do women get their economic status from?
Are women partners to their husbands?
Are women employees to their husbands?
What causes the perversion of the sex-relation in humans?
What is the difference between self-preservation and race-preservation?  
How have the lines between self-preservation and race-preservation been blurred by humans?

Gilman - Women & Economics

Gilman's connection between the development of gender roles in society and social Darwinism is very striking, as I haven't thought about this issue in that way before - just as a species physically develops to fit with the needs of an environment, that species, too, must develop mentally in order to survive in a particular environment. This mental development, I feel, concerns the collapse, shift, and/or reevaluation of gender norms, for as society develops, so must the people and notions within said society.

I found this piece very interesting, particularly in the ways it reminded me of Nietzsche and the problems of language/representation. I saw these notions reflected in Gilman's argument that the inferior role of women in society is not inherent or ineradicable, but man-made, and self-imposed. Gender norms must shift with the needs of the people, just as religion; If religion remains rigid and unmoving, this religion will fall out of use or give rise to a new strain of this religion - the original belief system no longer serves those who created it (i.e. shift from Judaism - rise of Christianity). Furthermore, her argument that women trap themselves in these inferior positions by conforming to the patriarchal constructs of society, by pursuing only the role of mother and homemaker, is very interesting, as I feel the same could be said about women today in the analysis of gender advertising and stereotypes.

Women today, it has been proven, often seem to have the same stereotypes concerning gender as men. When an image is projected onto one enough, one may conform to the image - and it is this fact, I feel, that Gilman's discussion still applies to contemporary society and modern gender relations.

Friday, March 21, 2014

There's no excuse for not backing up your computer. Do it now.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Friedman's Capitalism Ch. 1 and 2 Summary

In Capitalism and Freedom Milton Friedman outlines the ideal values of Capitalism in a Democratic society. He argues for a free market with limited government roles. He says the only involvement government should have in society is protecting law and order, protecting property, monitoring monopolies and "neighborhood effects." He defines "liberals" as people who highly value freedom, and thus little government involvement. The ultimate goal behind Capitalism and Democracy should be economic and political freedom. He believes economic freedom can exist in a totalitarian state, but political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom--even to say that economic freedom is what lead to political freedom. Economic freedom is a part of freedom itself, but it also brings out political freedoms. For example, you cannot criticize the government if the government funds your business. In order for economic freedom to exist in a politically free society, participants must both know they equally benefit from transactions, and that one individual's action doesn't not impose on another's action. The biggest threat to freedom is coercion, which is why Friedman thinks it is very bad for government and business to consolidate. Separation of economic and politic powers are good (although it is more difficult to disperse political power). 

The government's role is to judge individual's free actions which impose on one another, for each person as a right to their own freedom, but should not impose on others too much. This is where the government plays a role in one aspect. This is why the government exists. Monitoring monopolies is another very important role because it imposes on individual's freedoms. Some monopolies, like technical monopolies, are natural. When these occur, there are three modes of dealing with them: private monopolies, public monopolies, and public regulation. Different situations better suit the different choices. "Neighborhood effects" are economic exchanges that effect a community, and the government needs to decide whether or not this exchange can exist without government involvement--which is difficult sometimes. Government has control of money because it has forever been generally universally accepted as a government role. Finally he describes the paternalistic ground for governmental activity due to children and madmen irresponsible, ergo do not have freedom. This is a difficult fact for liberals to accept. 

Midterm Review

Is anyone interested in getting together to do some review work tonight?

Sorry to spam the blog...I didn't know how else to contact everyone.

Hopefully someone sees this............

I'm sure we all check the blog regularly.....................

Monday, March 10, 2014


For me, I think Friedman's whole point boils down to opportunity.  Freedom-whether economic or political--exists when all have the same opportunities.  The success that is the product of people making use of said opportunities is circumstantial and unique to each individual, but for the most part, as long as those who are able to participate in society (mad men and children excluded) are all equipped with access to involvement in government and societal affairs, I think Friedman would appreciate that kind of society, a democracy.
The only way to secure this right for people is to make sure lines are clear so as to discourage infringement upon, or hindrance of, one person's success is to minimize majorities and the likelihood of them forming.
Overall, I agree that a limited government is ideal. I think in our society today, the fight against majorities and intimidating groups should be paid more attention to.

Harm Principle (Sorry for the late post. I fell asleep while I was typing.)

Mill's harm principle is when a person may be punished when his/her actions cause harm to others. Does Mill's harm principle make any sense? For example, there is a famous water brand called Fiji. Many people buy and drink Fiji water. What they don't know is that the actual people in Fiji can't get safe drinking water because they are buying it all. If we apply the Harm Principle here, everyone who purchases Fiji brand water causes harm to people of Fiji and should be punished. The problem here is that the buyers of Fiji water don't know that they're acquisition of the product causes harm to other people. In actuality one could list several situations where the actions of people cause harm to others, where the causers don't know that their actions cause harm to others. So the question to ponder, is should the ignorant causers be punished?

Thoughts on Economic Freedom

I also agree with Friedman and Jordan in saying that there needs to be inequality in a society because a completely equal society does not progress. In addition, it has been proven that the poorest people in countries with a decent amount of inequality have more than the people in completely equal societies. Since Friedman says that the government is in place to control what the market cannot, it makes sense that governmental control is what drives societies in the wrong direction; the market alone can manage to take care of balanced inequalities. Also, I once read that people only feel poor depending on how poor they are compared to those around them, so is it important to consider how people feel to determine if equality is something to strive towards. Does it matter how poor people consider themselves to be or how poor they are? If it is more important how people feel, then governmental control is ideal.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Thoughts on Friedman - Jordan Scott

I completely agree with Friedman's idea that the government is only supposed to exist according to the will of the people. We are not a patron of the government, nor do we serve our government. I know we discussed in class why inequality may be necessary, and I think that is the main point of Friedman in his writing. We need a free market that creates competition and inequality in order to advance in society. I really like his backup evidence of ideas like the Jews being officially persecuted in medieval times but they were still successful because they were allowed to be merchants. Once our political and economic freedom is taken away, even if it's in an attempt to make everyone more 'equal' no good can come from that. There needs to be inequality. When people argue that there needs to be more governmental control so that things like the Great Depression don't happen again, they are completely wrong because the Great Depression was exactly caused by government mismanagement. It truly should be freedom first, equality second.

Question for Friedman

Clearly Friedman is an advocate of Mill's individual in society. He says, in an example about social security: "True, the number of citizens who regard compulsory old age insurance as a deprivation of freedom may be few, but the believer in freedom has never counted noses" (9). Is freedom for the individual/minority, according to Friedman, based entirely in the ability, in a free market, to be able to acquire money to raise awareness for the individual's belief? Friedman makes off the greatness of capitalism being the ease at which to vocalize your belief just by, "convinc[ing] a few wealthy people," and, "it is only necessary to persuade [media groups] that the propagation can be financially successful" (17). But it seems to be Friedman is over-simplifying the injustices of class caused by money inequality. Take, for instance, one of the leading advantages people with money have over those who don't: education. Can the lesser educated poor man convince the wealthy educated man he both has a belief that's important and will make the wealthy man money? Do all beliefs worth fighting for even fall under a category of "profit"? Does that immediately make them unimportant to Friedman? What happened to the importance of the individual? Or consider other inequalities produced by money, such as "taste". If the man is dressed in overalls, instead of a "proper" suit and tie that all business men know to wear, going to even have the man's attention? And if so many individuals seek to win the rich man's attention and support, how does the poor man stand out? So much is dictated by problems of money.

Smith/Friedman Questions

1.) What is Smith's major concern with the government's economic intervention?
                   -Does the government's intervention only hinder fair trade between countries? What about one's natural liberty/natural rights? Why does Smith say that government regulation can both hurt someone's natural liberties, but also preserve them?; in what circumstances does Smith believe the government helps mitigate financial/social inequality?

                   -What are the differences between Smith's view on the government's economic intervention and Friedman's view? Do they both believe that the market can self-regulate?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Mill On Liberty Ch 3-4

Chapter 3:
Here Mill focuses on the importance of Individuality to the person and to society itself. He states through individuality creates character and diversity, which in turn help society to progress. He believes that Europe's attempt to conform the people will make society stagnant until it becomes like the Chinese regime.

Chapter 4:
He believes that a person should be able to pursue his own interests as long as he does not cause any harm to other people and as long has he follows his societal obligations. Society is held responsible to educate it;s youth as well. In response to his most difficult argument, Mill states that the majority should set rules and only make judgements if they were to be content with them if they were the minority.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Smith Day 2

How does the town and the country interact?
How do they have a give & take relationship?
What is the importance of gold & silver?
Why does Smith think gold & silver are not wealth?
How did the riches of a town contribute to the well-being of it's country?
Why are extravagant lifestyles of proprietors unsustainable?
Why is governmental regulation of gold and silver unnecessary?
What does Mill think about society and the individual?