means of production

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pages: 51 words: 14,616

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx; Friedrich Engels

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Anton Chekhov, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, joint-stock company, means of production, Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Upton Sinclair

After years and years of laborious study, Marx answered in the affirmative: Yes, the law of social development existed and that law was economic in nature; it had to do with (1) who owned the means of production, (2) what kind of ownership prevailed, and (3) what was the method of production. In the simplest of terms, Marx proposed the following: Human society develops along certain lines; it progresses in a certain predetermined direction; it moves only one way, never going back, never regressing to a previously attained stage. Human society starts out as tribal, in which the means of production are collectively owned and the products of labor are equally and collectively shared by the tribe; it then moves to the next stage, that of slave-owning society, where the means of production—the slave and the land—are privately owned by the slave owner. The next stage is feudal society, where the principal owners (at times, the only owner) of everything are the king and the nobility.

Feudal society is followed by capitalism, where the means of production (the factories, the land, the banks) are privately owned by the capitalist class. And so it goes, from one stage to another, the movement typified by the method of production (tribal, slave, feudal, capitalist) and by the type of ownership of the means of production (collective, private), which is the central issue. With the exception of tribal society, where the products of collective labor are collectively shared, all other societies consist of haves and have-nots. None of these societies is capable of furnishing all its members with a decent livelihood, that is, of becoming a society consisting solely of haves. However, said Marx, such a society can be created. The way to do that is to abolish private ownership of the means of production (i.e., bourgeois private property) and turn it into public, collective property; in a way, that would be akin to returning to humankind's original state, but at a very different level of development, that of capitalist industrialization.

Whether or not his recipe for achieving that end through the abolishing of private property in favor of collectively owned property was correct or not remains to be seen. That judgment shall be made only when and if a society based on the collective ownership of the means of production is actually created. And that brings me to the subject of the Soviet Union which, as you recall, I promised to look into. What certainly did occur in the U.S.S.R. was the abolishing of private property. The same happened in Albania, Bulgaria, China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, the People's Republic of Korea, Poland, Romania, Vietnam. But in none of them was public, collective property instituted. What replaced private ownership was state ownership. All the means of production were both de jure and de facto owned, controlled, and run by the state. That fundamental and irreversible fact is what allows me to say unequivocally that neither socialism nor its supreme state of development, communism, ever existed in the Soviet Union or in any of the other so-called Communist countries.

The Communist Manifesto in Plain and Simple English (A Modern Translation and the Original Version) by Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels

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means of production

Subjection of Nature's forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground -- what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour? We see then: the means of production and of exchange, on whose foundation the bourgeoisie built itself up, were generated in feudal society. At a certain stage in the development of these means of production and of exchange, the conditions under which feudal society produced and exchanged, the feudal organization of agriculture and manufacturing industry, in short, the feudal relations of property became no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces; they became like chains. They had to be burst; they were burst. We see then: the means of production and of exchange, on whose foundation the bourgeoisie built itself up, were generated in feudal society. At a certain stage in the development of these means of production and of exchange, the conditions under which feudal society produced and exchanged, the feudal organisation of agriculture and manufacturing industry, in one word, the feudal relations of property became no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces; they became so many fetters.

It proved, incontrovertibly, the disastrous effects of machinery and division of labour; the concentration of capital and land in a few hands; overproduction and crises; it pointed out the inevitable ruin of the petty bourgeois and peasant, the misery of the proletariat, the anarchy in production, the crying inequalities in the distribution of wealth, the industrial war of extermination between nations, the dissolution of old moral bonds, of the old family relations, of the old nationalities. In its positive goals, however, this form of Socialism plans either to restore the old means of production and of exchange, and with them the old property relations, and the old society, or to cramp the modern means of production and of exchange, within the framework of the old property relations that have been, and were bound to be, exploded by those means. In either case, it is both reactionary and Utopian. In its positive aims, however, this form of Socialism aspires either to restoring the old means of production and of exchange, and with them the old property relations, and the old society, or to cramping the modern means of production and of exchange, within the framework of the old property relations that have been, and were bound to be, exploded by those means.

Subjection of Nature's forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalization of rivers, whole populations magically brought out of the ground -- what earlier century could even dream that such productive forces slept in the lap of social labour? We see then: the means of production and of exchange, on whose foundation the bourgeoisie built itself up, were generated in feudal society. At a certain stage in the development of these means of production and of exchange, the conditions under which feudal society produced and exchanged, the feudal organization of agriculture and manufacturing industry, in short, the feudal relations of property became no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces; they became like chains. They had to be burst; they were burst.


pages: 504 words: 143,303

Why We Can't Afford the Rich by Andrew Sayer

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But, as they own neither the so-called ‘means of production’ nor the output, they have little power and are dependent on those who do own them – the capitalists. (I’ll explain why I don’t use the more flattering term ‘entrepreneur’ in Chapter Eight.) We’ve seen that landlords and money lenders, as rentiers, get their money from controlling existing assets. Capitalists own already existing means of production, so are they any different from rentiers? The answer is yes and no. Almost everything we need has to be produced, and this almost always requires means of production. But apart from things like cooking equipment, most of us lack the means of production to produce the things that we need and hence are dependent on those who do own or control those means of production. So, most people, whether they consider themselves working class or middle class, are dependent on others – those who own means of production and who are willing to employ them – for making a living.

So, most people, whether they consider themselves working class or middle class, are dependent on others – those who own means of production and who are willing to employ them – for making a living. In a capitalist society, most means of production are privately owned by a minority. In the classic sense,83 a capitalist is someone who owns means of production and uses it to employ others to produce goods and services at a profit. (In public corporations the ownership is shared by shareholders, but what matters here is not whether ownership is vested in a single person or in a company on behalf of shareholders, but the origin of profit.) Capitalists can take advantage of this dependence and employ people to work with their means of production to produce goods and services for sale. But from the point of view of capitalists, there’s no point in doing this unless they can make a profit, and this depends on the workers producing goods and services that are worth more than what the capitalist spent on hiring them and paying for materials, equipment, energy and so on.

If anyone can help themselves to the cook’s equipment, the taxi driver’s car, the doctor’s stethoscope or the farmer’s land, the cook, the taxi driver, and so on, cannot do their work. But this situation where workers own or at least control the means of production they use is enjoyed by only a minority today. As Marx clearly saw, it’s very different from the kind of property in means of production that dominates modern capitalism. This allows a massive centralisation of the ownership and control of means of production into the hands of a minority, so that they can then extract unearned income from the majority as a condition of allowing them to benefit from the use of the technological inheritance. In Tawney’s words, the result is that the means of production become not ‘a means of work but an instrument of gain or the exercise of power, and . . . there is no guarantee that gain bears any relation to service, or power to responsibility’.8 Ownership is divorced from work, and from the workers.


pages: 369 words: 94,588

The Enigma of Capital: And the Crises of Capitalism by David Harvey

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In this case the capitalist starts the day with a certain amount of money, and, having selected a technology and organisational form, goes into the market place and buys the requisite amounts of labour power and means of production (raw materials, physical plant, intermediate products, machinery, energy and the like). The labour power is combined with the means of production through an active labour process conducted under the supervision of the capitalist. The result is a commodity that is sold by its owner, the capitalist, in the market place for a profit. The next day, the capitalist, for reasons that will shortly become apparent, takes a portion of yesterday’s profit, converts it into fresh capital and begins the process anew on an expanded scale. If the technology and organisational forms do not change, then this entails buying more labour power and more means of production to create even more profit during the second day. And so it continues, ad infinitum.

But these days the main problem lies in the fact that capital is too powerful and labour too weak, rather than the other way around. ——— When capitalists reinvest, they need to find extra means of production available in the market place. The inputs they require are of two sorts: intermediate products (already shaped by human labour) that can be used up in the production process (such as the energy and cloth needed to make a coat) and the machinery and fixed capital equipment, including factory buildings and the physical infrastructures such as transport systems, canals and ports that support the activity of production. The category of means of production is evidently very broad and complicated. But if any of these means of production turn out to be unavailable, then this constitutes a barrier to further capital accumulation. The auto industry cannot expand without more steel inputs, plastic and electronic components and rubber tyres, nor, incidentally, will its expansion make sense unless there are highways to drive on.

The trend towards falling profits (which Ricardo had identified) and the crises to which it inevitably would give rise were internal to capitalism and not explicable at all in terms of natural limits. But it is hard to make Marx’s theory of the falling rate of profit work when innovation is as much capital or means of production saving (through, for example, more efficient energy use) as it is labour saving. Marx himself actually listed a variety of counteracting influences to a falling rate of profit, including rising rates of exploitation of labour, falling costs of means of production (capital-saving innovations), foreign trade that lowered resource costs, a massive increase in the industrial reserve army of labour that blunts the stimulus for the employment of new technologies, along with the constant devaluation of capital, the absorption of surplus capital in the production of physical infrastructures, as well as, finally, monopolisation and the opening up of new labour-intensive lines of production.


pages: 265 words: 15,515

Nomad Citizenship: Free-Market Communism and the Slow-Motion General Strike by Eugene W. Holland

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capital controls, cognitive dissonance, Colonization of Mars, complexity theory, deskilling, Firefox, Frederick Winslow Taylor, full employment, informal economy, invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, means of production, microcredit, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, Naomi Klein, New Urbanism, peak oil, price mechanism, Richard Stallman, Ronald Coase, slashdot, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Wisdom of Crowds, transaction costs, Upton Sinclair, urban renewal, wage slave, working poor

“In the history of primitive ac­ cumulation,” Marx says, all revolutions are epoch-making that act as levers for the capital class in course of formation; but, above all, those moments when great masses of men are suddenly and forcibly torn from their means of subsistence, and hurled as free and “unattached” proletarians on the labor-market.55 Hence what the title of the first chapter of part VIII calls the “secret” of so-called primitive accumulation is that it really designates the ruthless des­ titution of the working poor, not the stockpiling of wealth in liquid form: The capitalist system presupposes the complete separation of the laborers from all property in the means by which they can realize their labor. . . .The process, therefore, that clears the way for the capitalist system, can be none other than the process which takes away from the laborer the possession of his means of production. . . . The so-called primitive accumulation, therefore, is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production.56 Indeed, classical political economy was often surprisingly forthright about the conditions required for working people to submit to wage labor (and hence capitalism), as Perelman has shown in his detailed study of “clas­ sical political economy and the secret of primitive accumulation” (as his subtitle has it).57 He quotes one German government minister who ac­ knowledged that when all land has passed into private ownership . . . and capital exerts [its] compulsion on liberated or free workers . . . the command of the slave owner has been replaced by the contract between worker and employer, a contract which is free in form but not really in substance.

Unlike capitalism, where “individuals are subsumed under social production, which exists outside them as their fate,” under communism, social production is to be “subsumed under the individuals who manage it as their common wealth.”21 Remarkably enough, Marx actually ac­ knowledges the Interest of organizing social production via the market: It has been said, and may be said, that the beauty and the greatness lies precisely in this spontaneously evolved connection, in this material and spiritual exchange, which is independent of the knowledge and wishes of individuals and presupposes their mutual independence and indifference.22 But he goes on to critique this view from the perspective of the third, communist stage of historical development, where “social relationships are their own communal [gemeinschaftlich] relations and therefore sub­ jected to their own communal control.”23 And in fact, Marx had already rejected this positive view of the market two pages earlier: “there can . . . be nothing more incorrect or more absurd than to assume, on the strength of exchange-value, of money, control by the associated individuals of their collective production.”24 And he does so in terms that betray the over­ confident Enlightenment modernism shared by most major Marxisms: communism, in this view, would represent “knowledge and will derived from reflection,” the “subordination” of social production by “commu­ nal control” of the means of production,25 a division of labor based on exchange-value being replaced by a social (i.e., nonmarket) organization of labor, “as well as the planned distribution of labor time over the vari­ ous branches of production.”26 It may be possible to read too much into a turn of phrase or two, but this is a watershed. The beauty and greatness of immanent self-organization are precisely what affirmative nomadology will affirm in distinguishing nomad markets from capitalist ones, even against the grain of a certain (major) Marxism.

Primitive Accumulation So-called primitive accumulation is a complex and problematic term in M arx’s oeuvre and in Marxism more generally. Scare quotes are often placed around the word primitive for a number of reasons, the least of which is that it is M arx’s German equivalent for Adam Smith’s origi­ nal term, which is simply previous accumulation—referring to the stock­ piled wealth the capitalist supposedly invested for the first time in means of production to initiate the dynamic of capital accumulation. The term itself thus designates the historical emergence of capitalism as a mode of production and also seems to raise questions about where the “first” stockpile of capital-to-be might have come from. The last part of Capital, volume 1 (part VIII, chapters 26-33), sets out to debunk Smith’s moral fable according to which the thrifty protocapitalist saves up money un­ til he is in a position to hire the profligate, who have nothing but their labor power to sell.


pages: 464 words: 116,945

Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism by David Harvey

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The capitalist starts the day with a certain amount of money (whether the money is borrowed or owned outright does not matter here). That money is used to purchase means of production (use of land and all the resources that lie therein, as well as partially finished inputs, energy, machinery and the like). The capitalist also finds a labour market at hand and hires workers under contract for a given period of work (say, eight hours a day for five days for a weekly wage). The acquisition of these means of production and of labour power precedes the moment of production. The labour power is, however, usually remunerated after production has occurred, whereas the means of production are usually paid for prior to production (unless purchased on credit). Plainly, the productivity of workers depends on the technology (for example, machines), the organisational form (for example, the division of labour within the labour process and forms of cooperation) and the intensity/efficiency of the labour process as designed by the capitalist.

After all, the extraction of surpluses from labour presupposes the domination and the relative unfreedom of labour under the rule of capital. As Marx ironically noted, labourers are free in the double sense: they are free to sell their labour power to whomsover they like, at the same time as they have been freed from control over those means of production (for example, the land) which would permit them to make a livelihood other than that defined by wage labour. The historical divorce of labour from access to the means of production entailed a long and continuing history of violence and coercion in the name of capital’s freedom of access to wage labour. Capital also required a freedom to roam the world in search of profitable possibilities and this required, as we earlier saw, the eradication or reduction of physical, social and political barriers to its mobility.

This ‘fairness’ rests on the conceit that labourers have an individualised private property right over the labour power they are capable of furnishing to capital as a commodity (a commodity which has the use value to capital of being able to produce value and surplus value) and that they are ‘free’ to dispose of that labour power to whomsoever they like. It is most convenient for capital, of course, that labourers be ‘freed’ of any access to the land or even to any means of production. They then have no option except to sell their labour power in order to live. When put to work, capitalists can see to it that labourers produce more in commodity values than the market value of their labour power. Labourers, in short, must add more value than they get if capital is to be created and reproduced. Capital pockets the added value as profit and can store that added value as an ever-increasing concentration of money power.


pages: 823 words: 220,581

Debunking Economics - Revised, Expanded and Integrated Edition: The Naked Emperor Dethroned? by Steve Keen

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‘Guilty of this or that inconsistency because of this or that compromise’ In the course of his attempt to preserve the labor theory of value proposition that labor-power is the only source of surplus value, Marx advanced three propositions which fundamentally contravene his general approach to commodities: that, in the case of the means of production, the purchaser makes use of their exchange-value, not their use-value; that their use-value cannot exceed their exchange-value; and that the use-value of commodity inputs to production somehow reappears in the use-value of the commodities they help create. Marx began with the simple assertion that the means of production can transfer no more than their exchange-value to the product. He next attempted to forge an equality between the exchange-value and the use-value of the means of production, by equating the depreciation of a machine to its productive capacity. Value exists only in articles of utility. If therefore an article loses its utility, it also loses its value. The reason why means of production do not lose their value, at the same time that they lose their use-value, is this: they lose in the labor process the original form of their use-value, only to assume in the product the form of a new use-value. Hence it follows that in the labor process the means of production transfer their value to the product only so far as along with their use-value they lose also their exchange-value.

These agents buy commodities – specifically, labor and raw materials – with money, put these to work in a factory to produce other commodities, and then sell these commodities for (hopefully) more money, thus making a profit. Marx stylized this as M – C – M+: Money→Commodity→More money The complete circuit, and the one which emphasizes the fallacy behind Walras’s Law, was M – C(L, MP) … P … C+c – M+m: Money→Labor and means of production … Production … Different commodities, of greater value than paid for the labor and means of production→Sale of commodities to generate more money This circuit specifically violates Say’s Principle and Walras’s Law. Rather than simply wanting to exchange one set of commodities for another of equivalent value, the agents in this circuit wish to complete it with more wealth than they started with. If we focus upon the commodity stages of this circuit, then, as Marx says, these agents wish to supply more than they demand, and to accumulate the difference as profit which adds to their wealth.

Suppose the weapon necessary to kill the beaver was constructed with much more labor than that necessary to kill the deer, on account of the greater difficulty of approaching near to the former animal, and the consequent necessity of its being more true to its mark; one beaver would naturally be of more value than two deer, and precisely for this reason, that more labor would, on the whole, be necessary to its destruction. (Ibid.) Thus the price of any commodity reflected the labor which had been involved in creating it, and the labor involved in creating any means of production used up in its manufacture. Ricardo gave many numerical examples in which the labor involved in producing the means of production simply reappeared in the product, whereas direct labor added additional value over and above its means of subsistence – because of the difference between labor embodied (which equaled a subsistence wage) and labor commanded (which included a profit for the capitalist).6 However, Smith and Ricardo were both vague and inconsistent on key aspects of the theory of value.


pages: 385 words: 111,807

A Pelican Introduction Economics: A User's Guide by Ha-Joon Chang

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In the case of the pin factory, its profit would be the difference between the revenue from selling the pins and the costs that it has incurred in making them – the steel wire that has been turned into pins, the wages for its workers, the rent for the factory building and so on. Capitalism is organized by capitalists, or those who own capital goods. Capital goods are also known as the means of production and refer to durable inputs into the production process (for example, machines, but not, say, raw materials). In everyday usage, we also use the term ‘capital’ for the money invested in a business venture.* Capitalists own the means of production either directly or, more commonly these days, indirectly by owning shares (or stocks) in a company – that is, proportional claims on the total value of the company – that own those means of production. Capitalists hire other people on a commercial basis to operate these means of production. These people are known as wage labourers, or simply workers. Capitalists make profits by producing things and selling them to other people through the market, which is where goods and services are bought and sold.

The Russian Revolution was an even bigger shock to the defenders of capitalism than the First World War, as it led to the creation of an economic system that claims to undermine all the cornerstones of capitalism. In the decade following the Russian Revolution, private property in the means of production (machines, factory building, land, etc.) was abolished. The big break came with the agricultural collectivization in 1928, in which the lands of large farmers, or kulaks, were confiscated and turned into state farms (sovkhoz) and small farmers were forced to join agricultural cooperatives (kolkhoz), which were state farms in all but name. Markets were eventually abolished and replaced by full-blown central planning by 1928, when the first Five Year Plan started. By 1928, the Soviet Union had an economic system that was definitively not capitalist. It ran without private ownership of means of production, profit motives and markets. As for the other cornerstone of capitalism, wage labour, the picture was more complicated.

Smith believed that competition among sellers in the market will ensure that profit-seeking producers will produce at the lowest possible costs, thereby benefiting everyone. However, the similarities between Smith’s capitalism and today’s capitalism do not stretch much beyond those basic aspects. There are huge differences between the two eras in terms of how these essential characteristics – private ownership of means of production, profit-seeking, wage employment and market exchange – are actually translated into realities. Capitalists are different In Adam Smith’s day, most factories (and farms) were owned and run by single individual capitalists or by partnerships made up of a small number of individuals who knew and understood each other. These capitalists were usually personally involved in production – often physically on the factory floor, ordering their workers about, swearing at them and even beating them up.


pages: 238 words: 73,824

Makers by Chris Anderson

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3D printing, Airbnb, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Apple II, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, Buckminster Fuller, Build a better mousetrap, business process, crowdsourcing, dark matter, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, death of newspapers, dematerialisation, Elon Musk, factory automation, Firefox, future of work, global supply chain, global village, industrial robot, interchangeable parts, Internet of things, inventory management, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, Lean Startup, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, Menlo Park, Network effects, profit maximization, race to the bottom, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Coase, self-driving car, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, slashdot, South of Market, San Francisco, spinning jenny, Startup school, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, The Nature of the Firm, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, trickle-down economics, Whole Earth Catalog, X Prize, Y Combinator

Somebody else runs these factories; we just access them when we need them, much as we can access the huge server farms of Google or Apple to store our photos or process our e-mail. The academic way to put this is that global supply chains have become “scale-free,” able to serve the small as well as the large, the garage inventor and Samsung. The non-academic way to say it is this: nothing is stopping you from making anything. The people now control the means of production. Or, as The Lean Startup author Eric Reis puts it, Marx got it wrong: “It’s not about ownership of the means of production, anymore. It’s about rentership of the means of production.” Such open supply chains are the mirror of Web publishing and e-commerce a decade ago. The Web, from Amazon to eBay, revealed a Long Tail of demand for niche physical goods; now the democratized tools of production are enabling a Long Tail of supply, too. The industrial artisan The Long Tail of things is around you already and has been for years, just not on this scale.

It used to be hard to change the world with an idea alone. You can invent a better mousetrap, but if you can’t make it in the millions, the world won’t beat a path to your door. As Marx observed, power belongs to those who control the means of production. My grandfather could invent the automatic sprinkler system in his workshop, but he couldn’t build a factory there. To get to market, he had to interest a manufacturer in licensing his invention. And that is not only hard, but requires the inventor to lose control of his or her invention. The owners of the means of production get to decide what is produced. In the end, my grandfather got lucky—to a point. Southern California was the center of the new home irrigation industry, and after much pitching, a company called Moody agreed to license his automatic sprinkler system.

And rather than competing on price in a commodity market that favors cheap labor, they compete on innovation. They invent their own designs and can charge a premium to their discriminating consumers who are intentionally avoiding mass-produced goods. So, back to the future. Today we are seeing a return to a new sort of cottage industry. Once again, new technology is giving individuals the power over the means of production, allowing for bottom-up entrepreneurship and distributed innovation. Just as the Web’s democratization of the means of production in everything from software to music made it possible to create an empire in a dorm room or a hit album in a bedroom, so the new democratized tools of digital manufacturing will be tomorrow’s spinning jennies. And the guilds they may break may be the very factory model that grew up in Manchester and dominated the past three centuries.


pages: 165 words: 45,129

The Economics of Inequality by Thomas Piketty, Arthur Goldhammer

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affirmative action, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, collective bargaining, conceptual framework, deindustrialization, Gini coefficient, income inequality, low skilled workers, means of production, moral hazard, purchasing power parity, Simon Kuznets, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, very high income, working-age population

The traditional left-wing position, passed down from nineteenth-century socialist theory and trade-union practice, holds that the only way to alleviate the misery of the poorest members of capitalist society is through social and political struggle, and that the redistributive efforts of government must penetrate to the very heart of the productive process. Opponents of the system must challenge the market forces that determine the profits of capitalists and the unequal remuneration of workers, for instance, by nationalizing the means of production or setting strict wage schedules. Merely collecting taxes to finance transfers to the poor is not enough. This left-right conflict shows that disagreements about the concrete form and desirability of redistributive policy are not necessarily due to contradictory principles of social justice but rather to contradictory analyses of the economic and social mechanisms that produce inequality.

Uncertainties such as these reveal the limits of our ability to correctly measure inequality with respect to employment, which is a fundamental feature of contemporary inequality. {TWO} Capital-Labor Inequality Since the industrial revolution, and in particular since the work of Karl Marx (1818–1883), the question of social inequality and redistribution has been posed primarily in terms of the opposition between capital and labor, profits and wages, employers and employees. Inequality is thus described as a contrast between those who own capital, that is, the means of production, and those who do not and must therefore make do with what they can earn from their labor. The fundamental source of inequality is thus said to be the unequal ownership of capital. Initially, the two terms of this basic inequality, capitalists and workers, are conceived as homogeneous groups, and inequality of income from labor is regarded as a secondary matter. This view of inequality as purely a question of capital versus labor has exerted, and will continue to exert, a profound influence on the way redistribution is conceptualized, even in countries that have not gone so far as to abolish private ownership of capital.

As discussed above, a low elasticity of capital/labor substitution makes the price system less useful. If the capitalist mode of production is simply a mechanism for matching fixed quantities of capital and labor, n workers per machine, why is it necessary for anyone to own the machine? If the owner of the machine does nothing but claim a share of what it produces, then he could be eliminated by collectivizing the means of production. Saving could be replaced by taking a sufficient sum out of national income for the purpose of increasing the stock of machines and matching them to an appropriate number of workers: there would be no need of capitalists to accomplish this. This is obviously what Marx concluded from his observations of the capitalist economy, whose operation seemed terribly simple. Conversely, to insist on the possibility of substituting capital for labor, as marginalist economists do, is to emphasize the complexity of the modern economy and introduce the existence of choices, which someone must make, and this allows one to argue that the price system and private property are legitimate in the absence of some other system for solving complex problems of allocation.


pages: 109 words: 29,486

Marx: A Very Short Introduction by Peter Singer

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clockwatching, means of production

To alter this, nothing short of a radical transformation of human nature would suffice. Here the materialist conception of history underpins the possibility of communism. According to Marx’s view of history, as the economic basis of society alters, so all consciousness alters. Greed, egoism, and envy are not ingrained forever in the character of human beings. They would disappear in a society in which private property and private means of production were replaced with communal property and socially organized means of production. We would lose our preoccupation with our private interests. Citizens of the new society would find their own happiness in working for the good of all. Hence a communist society would have a new ethical basis. It has been claimed – by Lenin among others – that Marxism is a scientific system, free from any ethical judgements or postulates. This is obviously nonsense.

But the working class is, because of the nature of capitalist production, more numerous and better organized. Eventually the dam will burst. The ensuing revolution will be, says Marx, lapsing into the style of his earlier writings, ‘the negation of the negation’. It will not mean a return to private property in the old sense, but to property based on the gains made under capitalism, that is, on co-operation and common possession of land and the means of production. Capitalism will make the transition relatively easy, since it has already expropriated all private property into its own hands. All that is now necessary is for the mass of the people to expropriate these few expropriators. The second and third volumes of Capital are much less interesting than the first. The second volume is a technical discussion of how capital circulates. It also discusses the origin of economic crises.

Here – Marx’s second lasting contribution to modern thought – his view of human nature – ties in with his idea of freedom. Marx’s theory that human nature is not for ever fixed, but alters in accordance with the economic and social conditions of each period, holds out the prospect of transforming society by changing the economic basis of such human traits as greed, egoism, and ambition. Marx expected the abolition of private property and the institution of common ownership of the means of production and exchange to bring about a society in which people were motivated more by a desire for the good of all than by a specific desire for their own individual good. In this way individual and common interests could be harmonized. Marx’s view of human nature is now so widely accepted that a return to a pre-Marxist conception of human nature is unthinkable. Though Marx’s own theory is not scientific, it laid the foundations for a new social science which would explore the relations between such apparently unconnected areas of life as the tools people use to produce food and their political and religious beliefs.


pages: 621 words: 157,263

How to Change the World: Reflections on Marx and Marxism by Eric Hobsbawm

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anti-communist, banking crisis, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, British Empire, currency manipulation / currency intervention, deindustrialization, discovery of the americas, experimental subject, Fall of the Berlin Wall, full employment, labour market flexibility, market fundamentalism, means of production, new economy, Simon Kuznets, Thorstein Veblen, Upton Sinclair, upwardly mobile

It must reach a point – and now adays not only Marxists will accept this – where ‘the bourgeois relations of production and exchange, bourgeois property relations, 117 How to Change the World modern bourgeois society, which has conjured up such gigantic means of production and exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the underworld he has called up . . . Bourgeois relations have become too narrow to encompass the wealth created by them.’ It is not unreasonable to conclude that the ‘contradictions’ inherent in a market system based on ‘no other nexus between human beings than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”’, a system of exploitation and of endless accumulation, can never be overcome; that at some point in a series of transformations and restructurings the development of this essentially self-destabilising system will lead to a state of affairs that can no longer be described as capitalism. Or, to quote the later Marx, when ‘centralisation of the means of production and the socialisation of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument’ and that ‘integument is burst asunder’. 25 By what name the subsequent state of affairs is described is immaterial.

Such general remarks as he made on the subject, as in the Critique of the Gotha Programme of the German social democrats, hardly gave his successors specific guidance, and indeed these gave no serious thought to what they considered would be an academic problem or a utopian exercise until after the revolution. It was enough to know that it would be based – to quote the famous ‘clause 4’ of the Labour Party’s constitution – ‘on the common ownership of the means of production’ which was generally understood as achievable by nationalising the country’s industries. Curiously enough, the first theory of a centralised socialist economy was not worked out by socialists but by a non-socialist 8 Marx Today Italian economist, Enrico Barone, in 1908. Nobody else thought about it before the question of nationalising private industries came on the agenda of practical politics at the end of the First World War.

It was soon realised that such views were likely to be developed by or to attract those who favoured equality, such as the disciples of Rousseau, and to lead to interference with property rights – the point was already made by eighteenth-century Italian opponents of the Enlightenment and of ‘socialists’17 –24 Marx, Engels and pre-Marxian Socialism but it was not entirely identified with a society based on the fully collective ownership and management of the means of production. Indeed, it did not become completely so identified in general usage until the emergence of socialist political parties in the late nineteenth century, and some may argue that it is not completely identified even today. Hence evident non-socialists (in the modern sense) could, even in the late nineteenth century, describe themselves or be described as ‘socialists’, like the Kathedersozialisten of Germany or the British Liberal politician who declared ‘we are all socialists now’.


pages: 400 words: 129,841

Capitalism: the unknown ideal by Ayn Rand

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Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Berlin Wall, British Empire, East Village, Ford paid five dollars a day, full employment, Isaac Newton, laissez-faire capitalism, means of production, minimum wage unemployment, profit motive, the market place, trade route, transcontinental railway, urban renewal, War on Poverty

As an example of this view and its consequences, I shall cite the article on “Capitalism” in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. The article gives no definition of its subject; it opens as follows: CAPITALISM, a term used to denote the economic system that has been dominant in the western world since the breakup of feudalism. Fundamental to any system called capitalist are the relations between private owners of nonpersonal means of production (land, mines, industrial plants, etc., collectively known as capital) [italics mine] and free but capitalless workers, who sell their labour services to employers. . . . The resulting wage bargains determine the proportion in which the total product of society will be shared between the class of labourers and the class of capitalist entrepreneurs. 1 (I quote from Galt’s speech in Atlas Shrugged, from a passage describing the tenets of collectivism: “An industrialist—blank-out—there is no such person.

Similarly, the United States Steel Corporation’s dominance of the steel industry half a century ago would have been eroded with or without the Sherman Act. It takes extraordinary skill to hold more than fifty percent of a large industry’s market in a free economy. It requires unusual productive ability, unfailing business judgment, unrelenting effort at the continuous improvement of one’s product and technique. The rare company which is able to retain its share of the market year after year and decade after decade does so by means of productive efficiency—and deserves praise, not condemnation. The Sherman Act may be understandable when viewed as a projection of the nineteenth century’s fear and economic ignorance. But it is utter nonsense in the context of today’s economic knowledge. The seventy additional years of observing industrial development should have taught us something. If the attempts to justify our antitrust statutes on historical grounds are erroneous and rest on a misinterpretation of history, the attempts to justify them on theoretical grounds come from a still more fundamental misconception.

THE NEW FASCISM: RULE BY CONSENSUS by Ayn Rand I shall begin by doing a very unpopular thing that does not fit today’s intellectual fashions and is, therefore, “anti-consensus”: I shall begin by defining my terms, so that you will know what I am talking about. Let me give you the dictionary definitions of three political terms: socialism, fascism, and statism: Socialism—a theory or system of social organization which advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production, capital, land, etc. in the community as a whole. Fascism—a governmental system with strong centralized power, permitting no opposition or criticism, controlling all affairs of the nation (industrial, commercial, etc.) Statism—the principle or policy of concentrating extensive economic, political, and related controls in the state at the cost of individual liberty.54 Based on a lecture given at The Ford Hall Forum, Boston, on April 18, 1965.


pages: 297 words: 77,362

The Nature of Technology by W. Brian Arthur

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Andrew Wiles, business process, cognitive dissonance, computer age, double helix, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, haute cuisine, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, locking in a profit, Mars Rover, means of production, railway mania, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, sorting algorithm, speech recognition, technological singularity, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

These can be fitted together in endless combinations that can be configured and reconfigured on the fly for different purposes as conditions demand. These too form building blocks available for continual combination. Modern technology is not just a collection of more or less independent means of production. Rather it is becoming an open language for the creation of structures and functions in the economy. Slowly, at a pace measured in decades, we are shifting from technologies that produced fixed physical outputs to technologies whose main character is that they can be combined and configured endlessly for fresh purposes. Technology, once a means of production, is becoming a chemistry. In attempting to come up with a theory of technology, our first challenge will be to see if we can say something general about it. It is not clear a priori that we can. Hydroelectric power, the process of plastic injection molding, and beekeeping, to choose three technologies at random, seem to have nothing in common.

It then uses a resonant circuit to extract a particular frequency from the signal (corresponding to a particular radio station, say); passes the result through a series of amplification stages; then separates out the voice or music (acoustic) information, amplifies the result again, and feeds this output to a loudspeaker or headphones. The radio processes the signal, and I mean this literally, not metaphorically. It pulls signals from the air, purifies them, and transforms them into sounds. It is a miniature extraction process, a tiny factory that these days can be held in the palm of a hand. All devices in fact process something. That, after all, is why economists refer to technologies as means of production. Does the correspondence work in the other direction? Can we view methods and processes as devices? The answer is yes. Processes and methods—think of oil refining or sorting algorithms—are sequences of operations. But to execute, they always require some hardware, some sort of physical equipment that carries out the operations. We could see this physical equipment as forming a “device” executing this sequence of operations.

The Economy as an Expression of Its Technologies The standard way to define the economy—whether in dictionaries or economics textbooks—is as a “system of production and distribution and consumption” of goods and services. And we picture this system, “the economy,” as something that exists in itself as a backdrop to the events and adjustments that occur within it. Seen this way, the economy becomes something like a gigantic container for its technologies, a huge machine with many modules or parts that are its technologies—its means of production. When a new technology (the railroad for transportation, say) comes along, it offers a new module, a new upgrade, for a particular industry: the old specialized module it replaces (canals) is taken out and the new upgrade module is slid in. The rest of the machine automatically rebalances and its tensions and flows (prices, and goods produced and consumed) readjust accordingly. This view is not quite wrong.


pages: 277 words: 80,703

Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle by Silvia Federici

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Community Supported Agriculture, declining real wages, equal pay for equal work, feminist movement, financial independence, global village, illegal immigration, informal economy, invisible hand, labor-force participation, land tenure, means of production, microcredit, neoliberal agenda, new economy, Occupy movement, planetary scale, Scramble for Africa, statistical model, structural adjustment programs, the market place, trade liberalization, UNCLOS, wages for housework, Washington Consensus, women in the workforce, World Values Survey

However, the return of “Primitive Accumulation” on a world scale, starting with the immense expansion of the world labor market, the fruit of multiple forms of expropriation, has made it impossible for me to still write (as I had done in the early 1970s) that WfH is the strategy not only for the feminist movement “but for the entire working class.” The reality of entire populations practically demonetized by drastic devaluations in addition to proliferating land privatization schemes and the commercialization of all natural resources urgently poses the question of the reclamation of the means of production and the creation of new forms of social cooperation. These objectives should not be conceived as alternatives to the struggles for and over the “wage.” For instance, the struggle of immigrant domestic workers fighting for the institutional recognition of “carework” is strategically very important, for the devaluation of reproductive work has been one of the pillars of capital accumulation and the capitalistic exploitation of women’s labor.

Similarly, the appearance of child-soldiers in the 1980s and 1990s would never have been possible if, in many countries, the extended family had not been undermined by financial hardships, and millions of children were not without a place to go except for the street and had someone to provide for their needs.11 War has not only been a consequence of economic change; it has also been a means to produce it. Two objectives stand out when we consider the prevailing patterns of war in Africa, and the way in which warfare intersects with globalization. First, war forces people off the land, i.e., it separates the producers from the means of production, a condition for the expansion of the global labor market. War also reclaims the land for capitalist use, boosting the production of cash crops and export-oriented agriculture. Particularly in Africa, where communal land tenure is still widespread, this has been a major goal of the World Bank, whose raison d’etre as an institution has been the capitalization of agriculture.12 Thus, it is hard today to see millions of refugees or famine victims fleeing their localities without thinking of the satisfaction this must bring to World Bank officers as well as agribusiness companies, who surely see the hand of progress working through it.

In contrast to UN-made feminism, with its NGOs, its income-generating projects and paternalistic relations with local movements, stand the grassroots organizations that women have formed in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to fight for basic services (like roads, schools, clinics), to resist the governments’ attacks on street vending which is one of women’s main forms of subsistence, and to defend each other from their husbands’ abuses.19 Like every form of self-determination, women’s liberation requires specific material conditions, starting with control over the basic means of production and subsistence. As Maria Mies and Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen have argued in The Subsistence Perspective (2000), this principle holds not only for women in the “Third World,” who have been major protagonists of land struggles to recover land occupied by big landowners but also for women in industrialized countries. In New York, women are defending from bulldozers their urban gardens, the products of much collective work that brought together entire communities and revitalized neighborhoods previously considered disaster zones.20 But the repression that has met even such projects indicates that we need a feminist mobilization against the intervention of the state in our daily life, as well as in international affairs.


pages: 142 words: 45,733

Utopia or Bust: A Guide to the Present Crisis by Benjamin Kunkel

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anti-communist, Bretton Woods, capital controls, Carmen Reinhart, David Graeber, declining real wages, full employment, Hyman Minsky, income inequality, late capitalism, liquidity trap, means of production, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, mortgage debt, Occupy movement, peak oil, price stability, profit motive, savings glut, Slavoj Žižek, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transatlantic slave trade, War on Poverty, We are the 99%, women in the workforce, Works Progress Administration

The temptation is to say that surplus value is merely Marx’s name for profit, but this would be to assume success where there is only speculation: surplus value (in commodities) can be realized as a profit (in money) only in the event of a sale, and this is the rub. A capitalist, in order to produce, must purchase both means of production (Marx’s “constant capital”) and wage-labor (or “variable capital”). After this outlay—C+V in Marx’s formulation—the capitalist naturally hopes to possess a commodity capable of being sold for more than was spent on its production. The difference between cost of production and price at sale permits the realization of surplus value. The production of any commodity, as well as the “expanded reproduction” of the system itself, can thus be described by the further formula C+V+S: to a quantity of constant capital, or means of production, has been added a quantity of variable capital, or labor power, with a bonus of surplus value contained in the finished commodity.

The production of any commodity, as well as the “expanded reproduction” of the system itself, can thus be described by the further formula C+V+S: to a quantity of constant capital, or means of production, has been added a quantity of variable capital, or labor power, with a bonus of surplus value contained in the finished commodity. The trouble is already there to see. Imagine an economy consisting of a single firm which has bought means of production and labor power for a total of $100, in order to produce a mass of commodities it intends to sell for $110, i.e. at a profit of 10 percent. The problem is that the firm’s suppliers of constant and variable capital are also its only potential customers. Even if the would-be buyers pool their funds, they have only their $100 to spend, and no more. Production of the total supply of commodities exceeds the monetarily effective demand in the system. As Harvey explains in The Limits to Capital, effective demand “is at any one point equal to C+V, whereas the value of the total output is C+V+S. Under conditions of equilibrium, this still leaves us with the problem of where the demand for S, the surplus value produced but not yet realized through exchange, comes from.”

Capitalism is better understood as designating a society that subordinates all processes—notably the metabolism between humanity and nature, the production and distribution of goods and services, the function and composition of government, and, of course, market exchange—to the private accumulation of capital. As for communism, perhaps it goes without saying, since Žižek doesn’t say so, that it means eliminating private capital on any large scale and realizing the Marxist goal of common ownership of the means of production. Yet would productive enterprises be owned by those who worked for them or by society at large—or somehow jointly between the two groups? Žižek doesn’t ask, let alone answer, such questions. Imagine, in any case, a society whose productive assets are, in one way or another, the property, as Marx said, of “the associated producers.” Such a society might also entail, let’s say, strict depletion quotas for both renewable and non-renewable natural resources; welfare guarantees not only for workers but for people too young, old, or ill to work; and democratic bodies, from the level of the enterprise and locality up to that of the state, wherever it hadn’t withered away.


pages: 167 words: 50,652

Alternatives to Capitalism by Robin Hahnel, Erik Olin Wright

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3D printing, affirmative action, crowdsourcing, inventory management, iterative process, Kickstarter, loose coupling, means of production, profit maximization, race to the bottom, transaction costs

Three ideal types of economic structures—capitalism, statism and socialism—can be differentiated in terms of the dominant form of power controlling economic activity3: •Capitalism is an economic structure within which the means of production are privately owned and the allocation and use of resources for different social purposes is accomplished through the exercise of economic power. Investments and the control of production are the result of the exercise of economic power by owners of capital. •Statism is an economic structure within which the means of production are owned by the state and the allocation and use of resources for different social purposes are accomplished through the exercise of state power. State officials control the investment process and production through some sort of state-administrative mechanism. •Socialism is an economic structure within which the means of production are socially owned4 and the allocation and use of resources for different social purposes are accomplished through the exercise of “social power.”

Nonetheless, there either will be or there will not be markets in the system Erik recommends. That is a “binary” choice, to use Erik’s words, about which we disagree. At the beginning of the twentieth century, virtually all who opposed capitalism saw the market system as a destructive force that required replacement by democratic planning. Not only did they believe we needed to replace private ownership with social ownership of the “means of production,” but also envisioned replacing the impersonal rule of market forces with a self-conscious system of democratic planning. During the middle third of the twentieth century, social democratic political parties changed their position on this issue, and came out in support of the view that Erik expresses above—a system that combines markets with state regulation and planning through the political system.1 During the last fifth of the twentieth century, many radicals from the generation to which Erik and I both belong reacted to the demise of the planned economies and free market triumphalism by joining social democrats in support of a vision of “socialized markets” while endorsing the “tacit knowledge” critique of comprehensive planning voiced by conservative champions of free market capitalism like Von Mises and Hayek fifty years earlier.

This is the strategy I will pursue here. A Social Socialism Both social democracy and socialism contain the word “social,” but generally this term is invoked in a loose and ill-defined way. The suggestion is of a political program committed to the broad welfare of society rather than the narrow interests of particular elites. Sometimes, especially in more radical versions of socialist discourse, “social ownership” of the means of production is invoked as a contrast to “private ownership,” but in practice this has generally been collapsed into state ownership, and the term social itself ends up doing relatively little analytical work in the elaboration of the political program. What I will argue is that the social in social democracy and socialism can be used to identify a cluster of principles and visions of change that differentiate socialism and social democracy from both the capitalist project of economic organization and what could be called a purely statist response to capitalism.


pages: 357 words: 95,986

Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work by Nick Srnicek, Alex Williams

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3D printing, additive manufacturing, air freight, algorithmic trading, anti-work, back-to-the-land, banking crisis, battle of ideas, blockchain, Bretton Woods, call centre, capital controls, carbon footprint, Cass Sunstein, centre right, collective bargaining, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, David Graeber, decarbonisation, deindustrialization, deskilling, Doha Development Round, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, Ferguson, Missouri, financial independence, food miles, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, full employment, future of work, gender pay gap, housing crisis, income inequality, industrial robot, informal economy, intermodal, Internet Archive, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, late capitalism, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, market design, Martin Wolf, means of production, minimum wage unemployment, Mont Pelerin Society, neoliberal agenda, New Urbanism, Occupy movement, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, patent troll, pattern recognition, post scarcity, postnationalism / post nation state, precariat, price stability, profit motive, quantitative easing, reshoring, Richard Florida, rising living standards, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Ronald Reagan, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, self-driving car, Slavoj Žižek, social web, stakhanovite, Steve Jobs, surplus humans, the built environment, The Chicago School, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, universal basic income, wages for housework, We are the 99%, women in the workforce, working poor, working-age population

A second position instead argues that technology is the basis for a postcapitalist order, but that any meaningful focus on changing our technology should wait until after the political project of post-capitalism is achieved.75 This would undoubtedly make our task simpler, but, given the pervasive entanglement of technology with politics, and given the latent potentials in current technology, we believe the far more prudent option is to look at how developments can be redirected today, and existing technology repurposed immediately. A third approach therefore focuses on invention and emphasises that the choice of which technologies to develop and how they are designed is primarily a political matter.76 The direction of technological development is determined not only by technical and economic considerations, but also by political intentions. More than just seizing the means of production, this approach declares the need to invent new means of production. A final approach focuses on how existing technology contains occluded potentials that strain at our current horizon and how they might be repurposed.77 Under capitalism, technology’s potential is drastically constrained – reduced to a mere vehicle for generating profit and controlling workers. Yet potentials continue to exist in excess of these current uses.78 The task before us is to uncover the hidden potentials and link them up to scalable processes of change.

Through the process called primitive accumulation, pre-capitalist workers were uprooted from their land and dispossessed of their means of subsistence.4 Peasants struggled against this and continued to survive on the margins of the emerging capitalist world,5 and it eventually took violent force and harsh new legal systems to impose wage labour on the population. Peasants, in other words, had to be made into a proletariat. This new figure of the proletariat was defined by its lack of access to the means of production or subsistence, and its requirement for wage labour in order to survive.6 This means that the ‘proletariat’ is not just the ‘working class’ nor is it defined by an income level, profession or culture. Rather, the proletariat is simply that group of people who must sell their labour power to live – whether they are employed or not.7 And the history of capitalism is the history of the world’s population being transformed into proletarian existence through the advancing dispossession of the peasantry.

Without full automation, postcapitalist futures must necessarily choose between abundance at the expense of freedom (echoing the work-centricity of Soviet Russia) or freedom at the expense of abundance, represented by primitivist dystopias.7 With automation, by contrast, machines can increasingly produce all necessary goods and services, while also releasing humanity from the effort of producing them.8 For this reason, we argue that the tendencies towards automation and the replacement of human labour should be enthusiastically accelerated and targeted as a political project of the left.9 This is a project that takes an existing capitalist tendency and seeks to push it beyond the acceptable parameters of capitalist social relations. Capitalism has long been synonymous with rapid changes in technology: driven by the imperative to accumulate, the means of production are continually transformed.10 In the nineteenth century, agriculture began to be mechanised, and small plots of land became increasingly centralised under larger and larger industrial farms. Craftwork was transformed too, with machinery appearing as an alien intervention into the production process. Work that had traditionally been undertaken by a skilled labourer was now broken down into its deskilled constituent tasks, and often carried out using machinery.11 Workers became assigned to partial tasks, and tools that had once been governed by workers became machines that rhythmically conducted the labourers.12 Work became increasingly repetitive, deskilled and ruled by machinery – with greater demand for cheap unskilled labourers (particularly women and children).13 In the early twentieth century, this tendency began to shift with the introduction of technologies that eliminated the most routine and mundane of manual tasks (such as hauling and conveying goods).


pages: 590 words: 153,208

Wealth and Poverty: A New Edition for the Twenty-First Century by George Gilder

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affirmative action, Albert Einstein, Bernie Madoff, British Empire, capital controls, cleantech, cloud computing, collateralized debt obligation, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, crony capitalism, deindustrialization, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, equal pay for equal work, floating exchange rates, full employment, George Gilder, Home mortgage interest deduction, Howard Zinn, income inequality, invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, job automation, job-hopping, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, labor-force participation, margin call, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, medical malpractice, minimum wage unemployment, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, Mont Pelerin Society, moral hazard, mortgage debt, non-fiction novel, North Sea oil, paradox of thrift, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, post-industrial society, price stability, Ralph Nader, rent control, Robert Gordon, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, skunkworks, Steve Jobs, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, upwardly mobile, urban renewal, volatility arbitrage, War on Poverty, women in the workforce, working poor, working-age population, yield curve

It stultified the works of Marx and other prophets of violence and envy. It betrays every person who seeks to redistribute wealth by coercion. It balks every socialist revolutionary who imagines that by seizing the so-called means of production he can capture the crucial capital of an economy. It baffles nearly every conglomerateur who believes he can safely enter new industries by buying rather than by learning them. It confounds every bureaucrat of science who imagines he can buy the fruits of research and development. The cost of capturing technology is mastery of the underlying science. The means of production of entrepreneurs are not land, labor, or capital but minds and hearts. Capitalism is a system that begins not with taking but with giving to others. PART ONE THE MANDATE FOR CAPITALISM CHAPTER ONE THE DIRGE OF TRIUMPH THE MOST IMPORTANT EVENT in the recent history of ideas is the demise of the socialist dream.

Wisdom on the subject can sometimes be found in strange places. Even Karl Marx knew enough not to stress, as the crux and keystone of capitalism, control over the means of consumption—or even of the supply of money. Marx, however, erroneously located the means of production in the material arrangements of the society rather than in the metaphysical capital of human freedom and creativity. The problem of contemporary capitalism lies not chiefly in a deterioration of physical capital, but in a persistent subversion of the psychological means of production—the morale and inspiration of economic man—undermining the very conscience of capitalism: the awareness that one must give in order to get, supply in order to demand. The trend seems to have begun in politics. In fact, our current situation recalls the world in which economic science gained its first triumphs.

This is known as ‘bad luck.’”2 President Obama confirmed the Heinlein view in a speech in Iowa: “We had reversed the recession, avoided depression, got the economy moving again, but over the last six months we’ve had a run of bad luck.” All progress comes from the creative minority. Even government-financed R&D, outside the results-oriented military, is mostly wasted. Enduring are only the contributions of mind and will and morality. If we continue to harass, overtax, and oppressively regulate the entrepreneurs, our liberal politicians will be shocked and horrified to discover how swiftly the physical tokens of the means of production dissolve into so much corroded wire, abandoned batteries, forlorn windmills, scrap metal, and jungle rot. More than thirty years ago, led by Art Laffer who famously inscribed his concept on a napkin in a congressional dining room, supply siders boldly proclaimed that by reducing tax rates Washington would be paradoxically rewarded with higher revenues. I wish I could report that Laffer’s subsequent vindication has in any way abated the mockery of his ideas.


pages: 964 words: 296,182

Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion by Gareth Stedman Jones

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anti-communist, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, British Empire, colonial rule, Corn Laws, deindustrialization, Fall of the Berlin Wall, feminist movement, joint-stock company, land reform, land tenure, means of production, New Journalism, New Urbanism, night-watchman state, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade liberalization, unemployed young men, wage slave

The downfall of the Reich and other repressive states in Europe would come about not as the result of the activities of this or that subversive party, but because the productive forces created by the capitalist mode of production had come into ‘crying contradiction’ with that mode of production itself: ‘To such a degree that if the whole of modern society is not to perish, a revolution in the mode of production and distribution must take place’.76 Engels also offered an opportune criticism of the ‘ultimate scientific insufficiency’ of the ambition to create ‘a free people’s state’.77 The bourgeoisie through its transformation of productive forces had replaced the means of production of the individual by social means of production only workable by ‘a collectivity of men’. In effect the means of production had already begun to be socialized to such an extent that the state had already begun to take over ‘the great institutions for intercourse and communication – the post office, the telegraphs, the railways’.78 In this way, the bourgeoisie, having transformed ‘the great majority of the population into proletarians’, was itself ‘showing the way to the accomplishing of revolution’. As a result, ‘the proletariat seizes political power and turns the means of production in the first instance into state property’.79 But, ‘The first act by virtue of which the state really constitutes itself the representative of the whole of society – the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society – this is, at the same time, its last independent act as a state.

Attention was also paid to the effect of ‘subsumption; upon rural and domestic occupations, originally pursued to meet the needs of the family, but progressively ‘transformed into independent capitalist branches of labour’.125 Reiterating a theme which he had first encountered in the 1840s, Karl stated that the ability of ‘objectified labour to convert itself into capital i.e. to convert the means of production into means of command over, and exploitation of, living labour, appeared under capitalist production as ‘an inherent characteristic of the means of production’ that was ‘inseparable from them as a quality which falls to them as things … The social form assumed by labour in money expressed itself as the qualities of a thing.’ In this perspective, ‘The capitalist functions only as capital personified … just as the worker only functions as the personification of labour … Thus the rule of the capitalist over the worker is … the rule of the object over the human, of dead labour over living, of the product over the producer.’

He was particularly struck by the development of agriculture, in which increasing productivity combined with the misery of agricultural workers was leading to an ever-increasing exodus to the towns: ‘The dispersion of the rural labourers over larger areas breaks their power of resistance while concentration increases that of the town operatives.’160 The final part, on ‘The So-Called Primitive Accumulation’, provided a historical account of the development of a capitalist economy in Britain from the dissolution of feudal relations at the end of the fourteenth century through to its triumph in the mid-Victorian period. It demonstrated the ambiguity of the notion of ‘freedom’ in the case of the early-modern peasant or artisan, freed from serfdom, but also free in the sense of being deprived of any independent access to the means of production. Possessing nothing therefore, except their labour power, these once independent peasants and artisans were compelled constantly to resell their labour power in order to survive. It traced how the separation of labour from means of production was maintained and reinforced by the process of primitive accumulation: ‘the spoliation of the church’s property, the fraudulent alienation of the State domains, the robbery of the common lands, the usurpation of feudal and clan property, and its transformation into modern private property, under circumstances of reckless terrorism, were just so many idyllic methods of primitive accumulation.


pages: 193 words: 63,618

The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich by Ndongo Sylla

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British Empire, carbon footprint, corporate social responsibility, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deglobalization, Doha Development Round, Food sovereignty, global value chain, illegal immigration, income inequality, income per capita, invisible hand, Joseph Schumpeter, labour mobility, land reform, market fundamentalism, means of production, Mont Pelerin Society, Naomi Klein, non-tariff barriers, offshore financial centre, open economy, Plutocrats, plutocrats, price mechanism, purchasing power parity, Ronald Reagan, Scientific racism, structural adjustment programs, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade liberalization, transaction costs, transatlantic slave trade, trickle-down economics, Washington Consensus

In fact, according to Brenner, in the line of Karl Marx and Karl Polanyi, the economic development model described by Adam Smith presupposes social relations of production that are specific to the 75 Sylla T02779 01 text 75 28/11/2013 13:04 the fair trade scandal capitalist system: private property and the ‘commodification’ of labour. Capitalism presupposes on the one hand a free labour force and on the other a separation between workers and the means of production. In the capitalist system, as Henri Nadel points out, ‘man with labour power must necessarily have no other commodity to sell but this strength, and no other means to survive without alienating it’ (1994: 129). Likewise, owners of means of production must compete with one another in order to preserve their means of production. These are the structural contradictions that would generate economic growth as well as its related exploitation and inequalities. Thus, according to Brenner, and contrary to the claims of Adam Smith and some neo-Marxist approaches (dependency and world-system theorists), the development of trade alone cannot be the historical ‘origin’ of capitalism: it ‘does not determine a transition to new class relations in which the continuing development of the productive forces via accumulation and innovation become both possible and necessary’ (Brenner, 1977: 40).

First, it assumes that the labour force can move freely in response to market signals. This is only possible when the labour force is free (no slavery, no servitude, and no forced labour). It also implies that the division of labour enables a labour productivity increase. This is the case only when free workers are gathered within production units with means of production made available for that purpose. Indeed, the existence of several small owners of means of production does not encourage specialisation or the adoption of new methods of production. Finally, it implies that there is continuous pressure towards an increase in labour productivity. This was not the case until the advent of capitalism. In fact, according to Brenner, in the line of Karl Marx and Karl Polanyi, the economic development model described by Adam Smith presupposes social relations of production that are specific to the 75 Sylla T02779 01 text 75 28/11/2013 13:04 the fair trade scandal capitalist system: private property and the ‘commodification’ of labour.


pages: 494 words: 28,046

Empire by Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri

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Berlin Wall, Bretton Woods, collective bargaining, colonial rule, conceptual framework, discovery of the americas, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, equal pay for equal work, European colonialism, Fall of the Berlin Wall, feminist movement, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, global village, Haight Ashbury, informal economy, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, labour mobility, late capitalism, low skilled workers, means of production, Monroe Doctrine, New Urbanism, open borders, Peace of Westphalia, post-industrial society, postindustrial economy, Scramble for Africa, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, union organizing, urban planning, William of Occam

The search for additional constant capital (in particular, more and newer materials) drives capital toward a kind of imperialism characterized by pillage and theft. Capital, Rosa Luxemburg asserts, ‘‘ransacks the whole world, it procures its means of production from all corners of the earth, seizing them, if necessary by force, from all levels of civilisation and from all forms of society . . . It becomes necessary for capital progressively to dispose ever more fully of the whole globe, to acquire an unlimited choice of means of production, with regard to both quality and quantity, so as to find productive employment for the surplus value it has realised.’’ 11 In the acquisition of additional means of production, capital does relate to and rely on its noncapitalist environment, but it does not internalize that environment—or rather, it does not necessarily make that environment capitalist.

And yet, despite such reservations, there is something real that foreshadows a coming future: the telos that we can feel pulsing, the multitude that we construct within desire. Now we can formulate a third political demand of the multitude: the right to reappropriation. The right to reappropriation is first of all the right to the reappropriation of the means of production. Socialists and communists have long demanded that the proletariat have free access to and control over the machines and materials it uses to produce. In the context of immaterial and biopolitical production, however, this traditional demand takes on a new guise. The multitude not only uses machines to produce, but also becomes increasingly machinic itself, as the means of production are increasingly integrated into the minds and bodies of the multitude. In this THE MULTITUDE AGAINST EMPIRE context reappropriation means having free access to and control over knowledge, information, communication, and affects—because these are some of the primary means of biopolitical production.

See also the glossary entry on immaterial labor at the end of the same collection, p. 262. 18. Peter Drucker understands the passage toward immaterial production in extreme terms. ‘‘The basic economic resource—‘the means of production,’ to use the economist’s term—is no longer capital, nor natural 461 462 NOTES TO PAGES 291 – 299 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. resources (the economist’s ‘land’), nor ‘labor.’ It is and will be knowledge.’’ Peter Drucker, Post-capitalist Society (New York: Harper, 1993), p. 8. What Drucker does not understand is that knowledge is not given but produced and that its production involves new kinds of means of production and labor. Robert Reich, The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st-Century Capitalism (New York: Knopf, 1991), p. 177. What is most important to Reich is in fact that advantage—and finally national dominance—will be won in the global economy along the lines of these new divisions, through the geographical distribution of these high- and low-value tasks.


pages: 565 words: 151,129

The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism by Jeremy Rifkin

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3D printing, additive manufacturing, Airbnb, autonomous vehicles, back-to-the-land, big-box store, bioinformatics, bitcoin, business process, Chris Urmson, clean water, cleantech, cloud computing, collaborative consumption, collaborative economy, Community Supported Agriculture, computer vision, crowdsourcing, demographic transition, distributed generation, en.wikipedia.org, Frederick Winslow Taylor, global supply chain, global village, Hacker Ethic, industrial robot, informal economy, intermodal, Internet of things, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Julian Assange, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, labour mobility, Mahatma Gandhi, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, market design, means of production, meta analysis, meta-analysis, natural language processing, new economy, New Urbanism, nuclear winter, Occupy movement, oil shale / tar sands, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer lending, personalized medicine, phenotype, planetary scale, price discrimination, profit motive, RAND corporation, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Stallman, risk/return, Ronald Coase, search inside the book, self-driving car, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart cities, smart grid, smart meter, social web, software as a service, spectrum auction, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, the built environment, The Nature of the Firm, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas L Friedman, too big to fail, transaction costs, urban planning, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, web application, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, WikiLeaks, working poor, Zipcar

Oskar Lange, a University of Chicago professor of the early twentieth century, captured a sense of the conundrum underlying a mature capitalism in which the search for new technological innovations to advance productivity and cheapen prices put the system at war with itself. Writing in 1936, in the throes of the Great Depression, he asked whether the institution of private ownership of the means of production would continue indefinitely to foster economic progress, or whether at a certain stage of technological development the very success of the system would become a shackle to its further advance.4 Lange noted that when an entrepreneur introduces technological innovations that allow him to lower the price of goods and services, he gains a temporary advantage over competitors strapped with antiquated means of production, resulting in the devaluation of the older investments they are locked into. This forces them to respond by introducing their own technological innovations, again increasing productivity and cheapening prices and so on.

Democratizing the Replicator The new 3D printing revolution is an example of “extreme productivity.” It is not fully here yet, but as it kicks in, it will eventually and inevitably reduce marginal costs to near zero, eliminate profit, and make property exchange in markets unnecessary for many (though not all) products. The democratization of manufacturing means that anyone and eventually everyone can access the means of production, making the question of who should own and control the means of production irrelevant, and capitalism along with it. Three-dimensional printing, like so many inventions, was inspired by science-fiction writers. A generation of geeks sat enthralled in front of their TV screens, watching episodes of Star Trek. In long journeys through the universe, the crew needed to be able to repair and replace parts of the spaceship and keep stocked with everything from machine parts to pharmaceutical products.

The textile trade fell into the hands of the capitalists and soon other trades followed. The historian Maurice Dobb makes the point that the subordination of production to capital, and the appearance of this class relationship between capitalist and producer is, therefore, to be regarded as the crucial watershed between the old mode of production and the new.2 The concentration of ownership of the means of production by the capitalists and the subjugation of labor to capital would come to define the class struggle by the late eighteenth century. Adam Smith penetrated to the very core of the contradiction that would plague capitalism until the end of its reign. Smith saw a correlation between the enclosure of land and the enclosure of the tools of craftsmen. In both cases, millions of people were separated from control over the means of their economic survival.


pages: 273 words: 93,419

Let them eat junk: how capitalism creates hunger and obesity by Robert Albritton

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Bretton Woods, California gold rush, clean water, collective bargaining, computer age, corporate personhood, deindustrialization, Food sovereignty, Haber-Bosch Process, illegal immigration, immigration reform, invisible hand, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, land reform, late capitalism, means of production, offshore financial centre, oil shale / tar sands, peak oil, price stability, profit maximization, profit motive, South Sea Bubble, the built environment, union organizing, Unsafe at Any Speed, upwardly mobile

According to Marx’s theory of the commodity, a capitalistic commodity in its purest form must have clear and definite boundaries, giving the owner absolute control, and thereby implying the absolute exclusion of the non-owner.7 “Good fences make good neighbours” can be translated into “good fences are required by capitalists”. What is central to capitalism is that well-defined pieces T H E M A NAG E M E N T O F AG R I C U LT U R E A N D F O O D 21 of private property constituting the means of production come to be fully controlled by capitalists, thus excluding workers from them. In its very constitution private property always implies a power relation between an owner and non-owner, and in the case of pure capitalism all means of production are private property owned exclusively by capitalists. The exclusion of workers from the means of production creates a structural power relation, which in principle, forces a worker in pure capitalism to accept the working conditions and wages set by the competitive labour market. Under the category “land”, Marx includes any natural resource that can be turned into private property and thereby monopolized by its owner (oil, minerals, real estate, water and so on).

Since sleep is unproductive of profit, from the point of view of capital, it is a waste of time and should be reduced to a minimum.20 The same can be said for home cooking and eating in general. It is natural, then, for capital to intensify, speed up and extend the production of profit to the limit of human endurance. A good capitalist worker should not go to bed until absolutely exhausted, for every minute of lost productivity is profits lost forever. In some cases, capital can keep its means of production working 24 hours a day (agrarian field labour is usually limited to daylight hours), and it can increase the intensity of its work and speed of its machines. When workers cannot be made to work any faster, it may be possible to replace them with robots that can. Since every minute of production time that is lost is lost forever, the linear sequential counting of time becomes central to capitalist economic logic.

Yet this commodification is the sine qua non of capitalism, since without it there could be no systematic basis for profit making that did not rely on either force or systematic unequal exchange. (Presumably no one would voluntarily and knowingly enter into an exchange where something of greater value is exchanged for something of lesser value.) As already mentioned, historically the commodification of labour T H E M A NAG E M E N T O F AG R I C U LT U R E A N D F O O D 39 power is brought about by the separation of workers from the means of production, primarily land, and the continued commodification of labour-power depends upon some means of maintaining an industrial reserve army so that when capital needs more hands, they can be hired. “Hands” is an appropriate metaphor because capital is indifferent to the distinct qualities of the worker as a person, but rather simply hires the quantity of hands that it requires at the lowest possible pay (“subsistence” in pure capitalism).


pages: 188 words: 9,226

Collaborative Futures by Mike Linksvayer, Michael Mandiberg, Mushon Zer-Aviv

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4chan, Benjamin Mako Hill, British Empire, citizen journalism, cloud computing, collaborative economy, corporate governance, crowdsourcing, Debian, en.wikipedia.org, Firefox, informal economy, jimmy wales, Kickstarter, late capitalism, loose coupling, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, Naomi Klein, Network effects, optical character recognition, packet switching, postnationalism / post nation state, prediction markets, Richard Stallman, semantic web, Silicon Valley, slashdot, Slavoj Žižek, stealth mode startup, technoutopianism, the medium is the message, The Wisdom of Crowds, web application

One example could be the young and relatively domain-specific collaboration so ware that this book is being wri en with, Booki. 113 So ware services have made “installation” of new so ware as simple as visiting a web page, social features a click, and provide an easy ladder of adoption for mass collaboration. They also threaten autonomy at the individual and community level. While there are daunting challenges, meeting them means achieving “world domination” for freedom in the most important means of production—computer-mediated collaboration —something the free so ware movement failed to approach in the era of desktop office so ware. 114 31. Science 2.0 Let the future tell the truth and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine. —Nikola Tesla Science is a prototypical example of collaboration, from closely coupled collaboration within a lab to the very loosely coupled collaboration of the grant scientific enterprise over centuries.

Put more boldly, distributed collaboration is a means to transgress the system of International apartheid condemned by Bonnardel and Olivier. The effect and effectiveness of transgression is always hotly debated. However, it is also possible that open collaboration could alter relationships between some workers and employers in the workers’ favor both in local and global markets. Control of the means of production Open collaboration changes which activities are more efficient inside or outside of a firm. Could the power of workers relative to firms also be altered? 133 “Intellectual property rights prevent mobility of employees in so far as their knowledge is locked in in a proprietary standard that is owned by the employer. This factor is all the more important since most of the tools that programmers are working with are available as cheap consumer goods (computers, etc.).

When the source code is closed behind copyrights and patents, however, large sums of money is required to access the so ware tools. In this way, the owner/firm gains the edge back over the labourer/programmer. This is were GPL comes in. The free license levels the playing field by ensuring that everyone has equal access to the source code. Or, pu ing it in Marxist-sounding terms, through free licenses the means of production are handed back to labour. […] By publishing so ware under free licences, the individual hacker is not merely improving his own reputation and employment prospects, as has been pointed out by Lerner and Tirole. He also contributes in establishing a labour market where the rules of the game are completely different, for him and for everyone else in his trade. It remains to be seen if this translates into be er working conditions,higher salaries and other benefits associated with trade unions.

On Anarchism by Chomsky, Noam

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anti-communist, crowdsourcing, feminist movement, land reform, means of production, Occupy movement, post-industrial society, profit motive, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

Anarchosyndicalists sought, even under capitalism, to create “free associations of free producers” that would engage in militant struggle and prepare to take over the organization of production on a democratic basis. These associations would serve as “a practical school of anarchism.”20 If private ownership of the means of production is, in Proudhon’s often quoted phrase, merely a form of “theft”—“the exploitation of the weak by the strong”21—control of production by a state bureaucracy, no matter how benevolent its intentions, also does not create the conditions under which labor, manual and intellectual, can become the highest want in life. Both, then, must be overcome. In his attack on the right of private or bureaucratic control over the means of production, the anarchist takes his stand with those who struggle to bring about “the third and last emancipatory phase of history,” the first having made serfs out of slaves, the second having made wage earners out of serfs, and the third which abolishes the proletariat in a final act of liberation that places control over the economy in the hands of free and voluntary associations of producers (Fourier, 1848).22 The imminent danger to “civilization” was noted by de Tocqueville, also in 1848: As long as the right of property was the origin and groundwork of many other rights, it was easily defended—or rather it was not attacked; it was then the citadel of society while all the other rights were its outworks; it did not bear the brunt of attack and, indeed, there was no serious attempt to assail it.

It is in this spirit that Daniel Guérin has approached the study of anarchism in Anarchism and other works.15 Guérin quotes Adolph Fischer, who said that “every anarchist is a socialist but not every socialist is necessarily an anarchist.” Similarly Bakunin, in his “anarchist manifesto” of 1865, the program of his projected international revolutionary fraternity, laid down the principle that each member must be, to begin with, a socialist. A consistent anarchist must oppose private ownership of the means of production and the wage slavery which is a component of this system, as incompatible with the principle that labor must be freely undertaken and under the control of the producer. As Marx put it, socialists look forward to a society in which labor will “become not only a means of life, but also the highest want in life,”16 an impossibility when the worker is driven by external authority or need rather than inner impulse: “no form of wage-labor, even though one may be less obnoxious than another, can do away with the misery of wage-labor itself.”17 A consistent anarchist must oppose not only alienated labor but also the stupefying specialization of labor that takes place when the means for developing production mutilate the worker into a fragment of a human being, degrade him to become a mere appurtenance of the machine, make his work such a torment that its essential meaning is destroyed; estrange from him the intellectual potentialities of the labor process in very proportion to the extent to which science is incorporated into it as an independent power. . . . 18 Marx saw this not as an inevitable concomitant of industrialization, but rather as a feature of capitalist relations of production.

Do you not see that, little by little, ideas and opinions are spreading amongst them which aim not merely at removing such and such laws, such a ministry or such a government, but at breaking up the very foundations of society itself?23 The workers of Paris, in 1871, broke the silence, and proceeded to abolish property, the basis of all civilization! Yes, gentlemen, the Commune intended to abolish that class property which makes the labor of the many the wealth of the few. It aimed at the expropriation of the expropriators. It wanted to make individual property a truth by transforming the means of production, land and capital, now chiefly the means of enslaving and exploiting labor, into mere instruments of free and associated labor.24 The Commune, of course, was drowned in blood. The nature of the “civilization” that the workers of Paris sought to overcome in their attack on “the very foundations of society itself” was revealed, once again, when the troops of the Versailles government reconquered Paris from its population.

What Kind of Creatures Are We? (Columbia Themes in Philosophy) by Noam Chomsky

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Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, Brownian motion, conceptual framework, en.wikipedia.org, failed state, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, means of production, phenotype, Ronald Reagan, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, Turing test, wage slave

Both Smith’s vivid excoriations of what the division of labor does to destroy our creative individuality and Dewey’s harsh words on the shadow cast by corporate interests on just about every aspect of public and personal life are invoked to establish this. The tradition of anarchism (from Bakunin to Rudolph Rocker and the anarcho-syndicalism of the Spanish Civil War period) combines socialist ideas with the liberal principles of the classical Enlightenment to construct an ideal—of cooperative labor, workers’ control of the workplace and the means of production, and a social life revolving around voluntary associations—that, if implemented, would sweep away the obstacles to the goal of human development that come from both free-market capitalism and Bolshevik tendencies to a “red bureaucracy.” Dewey’s ideas on education reveal how, by contrast with much of the contemporary practice found in educational institutions, the goal of human development can best be pursued from an early age.

No one took Dewey to be an anarchist. But consider his ideas.13 In his conception of democracy, illegitimate structures of coercion must be dismantled. That includes, crucially, domination by “business for private profit through private control of banking, land, industry, reinforced by command of the press, press agents and other means of publicity and propaganda.” He recognized that “power today resides in control of the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation and communication. Whoever owns them rules the life of the country,” even if democratic forms remain. Until those institutions are in the hands of the public, politics will remain “the shadow cast on society by big business,” much as we see today. But Dewey went well beyond calling for some form of public control. In a free and democratic society, he wrote, workers should be “the masters of their own industrial fate,” not tools rented by employers, nor directed by state authorities.

See also origin of language action at a distance, apparent absurdity of: ignoring of, by post-Newtonian physicists, xvii, 34, 98–99, 108; Locke on, 33; Newton on, xvi, 33–34, 83, 85, 86, 87–88, 98; parallel of, with consciousness arising from matter, 86–87; Russell on, 90 aesthetic theory, relation of scope and limits in, 56–57 Affordable Care Act, complexity of, as symptom of broken U.S. health system, 68–69 African Americans, exclusion of from U.S. personhood, 46 aitiational semantics, 43 Albert, David, 55 Albert, Michael, 72 Alperovitz, Gar, 72 American tradition, roots of anarchism in, 72–73 Analysis of Matter (Russell), 90, 99–100 anarchism: anarcho-syndicalism as goal of, 62; balance of socialist and libertarian elements in, xxiii; federations of self-governing communities under, 66–67, 72; and freedom from domination, 66–67; and freedom from economic exploitation, 64; and freedom from guardianship, 64–65, 80; as heir to principles of classical liberalism, 62, 63, 71; and human development, xxi; on necessity of state power to defend oppressed, 67; political goals of, 62, 64, 70; principles of, xxi; roots of, in American tradition, 72–73; as term, 63; and unjustified coercion, dismantling of, xxiii, 63–64, 66; workers’ ownership of means of production in, 71–72 anarcho-syndicalism: Rocker on, 62; of Spanish Civil War, xxi, 63 animal signals: causative link of, to external objects, xviii–xix, 41–42, 126; vs. human language, xviii–xix, 41–43, 48; as unlikely evolutionary source of human language, xviii–xix, 48 apes: global nature of association in, 42–43; and language as computational procedure, x–xi, 13 Aristotle: on democracy, 79; on form, 50; on nature of language, xi, xviii, 4, 6, 14; on words as mind-dependent concepts, 44, 45 atomic elements of computation: complex nature of, 126; lack of causative link of, to external objects, xix, 42, 126; lack of referential properties in, xviii, 43–46, 126; necessity of accounting for, in model of language origin, 41; origin of, as mystery, 125–26; parallels of, with phonetic elements, 43; as prior to words or lexical items, xviii, 41; questionable value of literature on, 41; as unique to humans, 59, 125 Bakunin, Mikhail, xxi, 64, 68 Basic Property of Language, viii, 4; and computational procedure, ix, 4; and early definitions of language, 5–7; formulation of, 3–4; issues exposed by clear formulation of, 9–12; Merge as optimal computational procedure for, 24; origin of, requirements for credible account of, 40; and principle of simplicity, 16–17; reformulation of, 13 Bernays, Edward, 76 Bilgrami, Akeel, 43 biolinguistic framework, 5; and mid-twentieth-century turn to generative grammar, 9 biological basis of I-language, ix, xiv, 5, 59; importance of investigating vs. computed objects, 8–9; provisional abstraction from, ix, 129n3.


pages: 362 words: 99,063

The Education of Millionaires: It's Not What You Think and It's Not Too Late by Michael Ellsberg

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affirmative action, Black Swan, Burning Man, corporate governance, financial independence, follow your passion, future of work, hiring and firing, job automation, knowledge worker, Lean Startup, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, meta analysis, meta-analysis, new economy, Peter Thiel, profit motive, race to the bottom, Sand Hill Road, shareholder value, side project, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Ballmer, telemarketer, Tony Hsieh

For knowledge workers in the developed world, the tools of their trade have become so ridiculously cheap that the “means of production” have once again become affordable to individual workers. These workers no longer have to depend on bosses or large organizations to furnish them with the means of production. They can quit the factory-style organizations and become “butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers” once again—that is, digitally connected entrepreneurs and solo-preneurs. Pink calls it “Digital Marxism: In an age of inexpensive computers, wireless handheld devices, and ubiquitous low-cost connections to a global communications network, workers can now own the means of production.”11 And increasingly, more and more of them (especially younger ones who have grown up with the Internet) are deciding to take their means of production, strike out on their own with their copy of The Four-Hour Workweek in their laptop bag, and flip a big, bad massive bird to their former employers.

However, writes Pink, “it was only when these things—the means of production, to use Karl Marx’s famous phrase—became extremely expensive . . . that large organizations began to dominate.... Capital and labor, once so intertwined the distinction scarcely mattered, became separate entities. Capitalists owned the equipment. Laborers earned their money by receiving a sliver of the enormous rewards those giant machines produced.”10 Pink argues that in the last decade, in one area of the economy—called “knowledge work”—a shift has occurred as massive and with implications as far-reaching as those during the shift from an agrarian to an industrial society. For knowledge workers in the developed world, the tools of their trade have become so ridiculously cheap that the “means of production” have once again become affordable to individual workers.


pages: 934 words: 135,736

The Divided Nation: A History of Germany, 1918-1990 by Mary Fulbrook

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Albert Einstein, banking crisis, Berlin Wall, centre right, collective bargaining, deindustrialization, Fall of the Berlin Wall, feminist movement, first-past-the-post, full employment, joint-stock company, land reform, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, open borders, Peace of Westphalia, Sinatra Doctrine, union organizing, unorthodox policies

It was clear that East Germany had suffered from numerous disadvantages in terms of economic development, and that her modest successes in comparison with other East European economies in themselves constituted something of an economic miracle, though never on the same scale of that of West Germany. But to what extent had the two Germanies developed into different societies in the period before 1989? Let us start with an attempt to compare the two Germanies in a number of different empirical respects. There was an obvious difference in the question of ownership of the means of production: in West Germany, capital remained predominantly in private ownership, while in East Germany between 1945 and 1989 private ownership of the means of production was to a major extent abolished. According to the GDR's official statistics, in 1983 out of 8,445,300 economically active persons, only 397,100 were engaged in privately owned concerns. 1 This effect was achieved in stages over the years; while, as we have Page 222 seen, there were radical changes in socio-economic structure in the occupation period, in 1952 over forty-five per cent of the economy was still in private hands. 2 In this fundamental respect, then, capitalist West and communist East were by definition quite different.

Concessions made by employers to workers, when the latter were relatively strong and the former feared a more radical revolution, were to be fundamentally queried and subject to sustained assault as was the political system that guaranteed those concessions when the relative circumstances of the parties had changed. By December 1918, the USPD had fallen out with Ebert's cautious course. The radical socialists had wanted to seize the opportunity for a thorough-going reform of the army, and for the socialization of the means of production; in short, they wanted to effect a genuine revolution, not to administer affairs on a temporary basis pending national elections. The USPD left the Page 28 government; and at the end of December, the far left formed the German Communist Party (KPD). In January 1919 the split between moderate Social Democrats on the one hand, and radical socialists and communists on the other, became an unbridgeable chasm.

By contrast, in 1939 the area which was to become West Germany had 43 million inhabitants; in 1980 despite fears in the 1970S about the declining birth-rate, and claims that the 'Germans were dying out' the population had risen to 61.7 million. 5 These figures, and the corresponding statistics concerning numbers of inhabitants per square kilometre, again give detail to the immediate impressions of relative emptiness and sparser population of East Germany in comparison to the West. Discussions of ownership or non-ownership of the means of production, and of the distribution of population among agrarian, industrial and service sectors of employment, or levels of urbanization, do not tell us very much about social structure, however. Central questions about stratification and social inequality must be addressed also. The German Democratic Republic was grounded in a political theory committed to the eradication of class differences; yet East German theorists admitted that social inequalities persisted, and certain inequalities of status, privilege and income were variably condoned or encouraged in East Germany.


pages: 153 words: 45,871

Distrust That Particular Flavor by William Gibson

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AltaVista, British Empire, cognitive dissonance, cuban missile crisis, edge city, informal economy, means of production, megastructure, pattern recognition, proxy bid, telepresence, Vannevar Bush, Whole Earth Catalog

The medium of the commercial audio recording changed that, and created an industry predicated on an inherent technological monopoly of the means of production. Ordinary citizens could neither make nor manufacture audio recordings. That monopoly has now ended. Some futurists, looking at the individual musician’s role in the realm of the digital, have suggested that we are in fact heading for a new version of the previous situation, one in which patronage (likely corporate, and nonprofit) will eventually become a musician’s only potential ticket to relative fame and wealth. The window, then, in which one could become the Beatles, occupy that sort of market position, is seen to have been technologically determined. And technologically finite. The means of production, reproduction, and distribution of recorded music are today entirely digital, and thus are in the hands of whoever might desire them.

The business of popular music, today, is now, in some peculiarly new way, entirely about promotion. Film, I imagine, is in for a different sort of ride up the timeline, primarily owing to the technology-intensive nature of today’s product. Terminator III Unplugged is a contradiction in terms. Hollywood is massively and multiply plugged, and is itself a driver of new technologies. The monopoly on the means of production (at least in terms of creation) can be preserved, in this environment, as the industry itself operates on something very near the cutting edge of emergent technology. For a while, at least. In terms of the future, however, the history of recorded music suggests that any film made today is being launched up the timeline toward end-user technologies ultimately more intelligent, more capable, than the technologies employed in the creation of that film.


pages: 209 words: 63,649

The Purpose Economy: How Your Desire for Impact, Personal Growth and Community Is Changing the World by Aaron Hurst

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3D printing, Airbnb, Atul Gawande, barriers to entry, big-box store, business process, call centre, carbon footprint, citizen journalism, corporate social responsibility, crowdsourcing, disintermediation, Elon Musk, Firefox, glass ceiling, greed is good, housing crisis, informal economy, Jane Jacobs, jimmy wales, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, Lean Startup, means of production, new economy, pattern recognition, Peter Singer: altruism, Peter Thiel, Ray Oldenburg, remote working, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Steve Jobs, TaskRabbit, Tony Hsieh, too big to fail, underbanked, women in the workforce, young professional, Zipcar

It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans. —Robert F. Kennedy, 1968 The Information Economy At the start of the 20th century, the name of the game was efficiency and output, which launched an obsession with building faster and more efficient means of production. By the middle of the 20th century, the marketplace was dominated by large corporations and institutions, which created a new kind of workplace built on hierarchy and development within an organization. Labor became increasingly segmented into narrow functional roles, and new vocational training and professional schools were created to respond to the need for more focused training within one specialization.

And it has inspired the purpose generation, Millennials, who are increasingly constructing their identities around purpose to make sense of the rapidly evolving world and their equally fluctuating role in it. And yet, this is not an economic or social evolution; it is how we manipulate the world to better serve our needs. Each new economy evolves out of a distinctive set of conditions and is characterized by an innate set of products and means of production. Just as the farmers of the Agrarian Economy made use of the earth to grow crops and raise livestock, the industrialists extracted raw materials for producing energy and fueling a new breed of powerful machines. The expertise developed in building increasingly sophisticated machines was key to the rise of the Information Economy. And though the computer was conceived by a mathematician, Alan Turing, it was built and commercialized by engineers.

Fair Trade USA: Fair Trade Consumer Products The Fair Trade movement is rooted in a growing sentiment that the food consumers and suppliers purchase should be produced in conditions that are safe, with wages that are fair, using practices that are sustainable to the environment and the communities they impact. This sentiment arises from disconcerting research and news reports. The simple stamp of approval, a “fair trade certified” Fair Trade USA icon (which can now be found on over 12 thousand products in 100 thousand U.S. retail locations), was effectively a campaign for more humane production methods and practices. This tactic has helped change public perceptions around ethical means of production. Leveraging these changing public perceptions, the group created a foundation that is now a vehicle for affecting policy, creating awareness, supporting transparency, and promoting best practices in the supply chain. 7. San Francisco Public Utility Commission: Utility Conservation the San Francisco Public Utility Commission is exemplary among American utility providers. Buttressed by public perception, policy, research, and new, renewable technologies, the Commission decided not merely to begin to incorporate sustainable technology and energy into their portfolio of provisions.


pages: 1,327 words: 360,897

Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism by Peter Marshall

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agricultural Revolution, anti-communist, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, clean water, collective bargaining, colonial rule, David Graeber, feminist movement, garden city movement, hive mind, Howard Zinn, invisible hand, laissez-faire capitalism, land reform, land tenure, Lao Tzu, Machinery of Freedom by David Friedman, Mahatma Gandhi, means of production, Naomi Klein, open borders, Plutocrats, plutocrats, post scarcity, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, the market place, union organizing, wage slave, washing machines reduced drudgery

It meant politically a society without government, that is anarchy, and economically, the complete negation of the wage system and the ownership of the means of production in common: ‘everybody, contributing for the common well-being to the full extent of his capacities, shall enjoy from the common stock of society to the fullest possible extent of his needs.’65 Moreover, Kropotkin believed ‘Anarchy leads to Communism, and Communism to Anarchy.’66 He felt that anarchist communism was the union of the two fundamental tendencies of his society, a tendency towards economic equality and a tendency towards political liberty.67 As he points out in the The Conquest of Bread, Kropotkin felt that economic communism is the only fair solution since wealth results from collective effort and the means of production are the collective work of humanity: Individual appropriation is neither just nor serviceable.

While his followers, the mutualists, tried to retain private ownership for agriculture (because of the individualism of the French peasantry), they accepted collective ownership for transport and proposed a form of industrial self-management. Proudhon himself thought that in the future, large-scale industry must be the fruit of association, that is to say, the means of production and exchange must be managed by associations of workers themselves. Making a distinction between possession and ownership, he proposed that the workers should possess their means of production, but not be their exclusive owners. They would exchange goods whose value would be measured by the amount of labour necessary to produce them. Workers would receive wages in ‘work vouchers’ according to the amount of work done. A People’s Bank would accept such vouchers and offer free credit. Adopting the assumptions of capitalism, Proudhon argued that competition and association are interdependent and should be allowed to find their equilibrium.

Bakunin used the term for the first time at the Second Congress of the League of Peace and Liberty at Bern in 1868. Collectivists believed that the State should be dismantled and the economy organized on the basis of common ownership and control by associations of producers. They wished to restrict private property only to the product of individual labour, but argued that there should be common ownership of the land and all other means of production. Collectivists in general look to a free federation of associations of producers and consumers to organize production and distribution. They uphold the socialist principle: ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to work done.’ This form of anarchist collectivism appealed to peasants as well as workers in the labour movement who wanted to create a free society without any transitional revolutionary government or dictatorship.


pages: 209 words: 89,619

The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class by Guy Standing

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8-hour work day, banking crisis, barriers to entry, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, call centre, Cass Sunstein, centre right, collective bargaining, corporate governance, crony capitalism, deindustrialization, deskilling, fear of failure, full employment, hiring and firing, Honoré de Balzac, housing crisis, illegal immigration, immigration reform, income inequality, labour market flexibility, labour mobility, land reform, libertarian paternalism, low skilled workers, lump of labour, marginal employment, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, mini-job, moral hazard, Naomi Klein, nudge unit, pensions crisis, placebo effect, post-industrial society, precariat, presumed consent, quantitative easing, remote working, rent-seeking, Richard Thaler, rising living standards, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, science of happiness, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, The Market for Lemons, The Nature of the Firm, The Spirit Level, Tobin tax, transaction costs, universal basic income, unpaid internship, winner-take-all economy, working poor, working-age population, young professional

They need to be able to contest unfair dismissals, unpaid or underpaid benefits, deal with debt and resolve problems while negotiating their way around increasingly complex procedures seemingly designed to make it as hard as possible to qualify for and obtain benefits. Reviving equality In the twentieth century, inequality was seen in terms of profits and wages. For social democrats and others, redistribution was to be achieved by controlling the means of production, through nationalisation, and obtaining a greater share of profits through taxation, which could then be redistributed in state benefits and public services. That model fell into disrepute and socialists are in despair. In a collection of essays on Reimagining Socialism by American socialists who saw the means of production going to China, Barbara Ehrenreich and Bill Fletcher (2009) wrote: ‘Do we have a plan, people? Can we see our way out of this and into a just, democratic, sustainable (add your own favourite adjectives) future? Let’s just put it on the table: We don’t’.

Let’s just put it on the table: We don’t’. A POLITICS OF PARADISE 171 They should take heart. The egalitarian ethos has moved on. The baton is being picked up by the precariat, the rising class in a tertiary society where means of production are nebulous and dispersed, and often owned by workers anyhow. Every Transformation has been marked by a struggle over the key assets of the era. In feudal societies, the peasants and serfs struggled to gain control of land and water. In industrial capitalism, the struggle was over the means of production, the factories, estates and mines. Workers wanted decent labour and a share of the profits in return for conceding control of labour to managers. But in today’s tertiary society, progressive struggle will take place around the unequal access to and control of five primary assets.


pages: 391 words: 105,382

Utopia Is Creepy: And Other Provocations by Nicholas Carr

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Air France Flight 447, Airbnb, AltaVista, Amazon Mechanical Turk, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, Bernie Sanders, book scanning, Brewster Kahle, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, centralized clearinghouse, cloud computing, cognitive bias, collaborative consumption, computer age, corporate governance, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, deskilling, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, factory automation, failed state, feminist movement, Frederick Winslow Taylor, friendly fire, game design, global village, Google bus, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Googley, hive mind, impulse control, indoor plumbing, interchangeable parts, Internet Archive, invention of movable type, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, job automation, Kevin Kelly, low skilled workers, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, Menlo Park, mental accounting, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, Nicholas Carr, oil shale / tar sands, Peter Thiel, Plutocrats, plutocrats, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Republic of Letters, robot derives from the Czech word robota Czech, meaning slave, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, SETI@home, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Singularitarianism, Snapchat, social graph, social web, speech recognition, Startup school, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, technoutopianism, the medium is the message, theory of mind, Turing test, Whole Earth Catalog, Y Combinator

The cover gives Grossman’s words a wry twist, offering a much darker view of the radical personalization of culture. Peer into the cover’s computer screen and all you see looking back at you is you. In a solipsistic world, every Lonely Girl is a Great Man. DIGITAL SHARECROPPING December 19, 2006 STRIP THE HAPPY-FACE EMOTICONS from the social web, and you’re left with a sad-face truth: By putting the means of production into the hands of the masses but withholding from those same masses any ownership over the products of their work, the internet provides an incredibly efficient mechanism for harvesting the economic value of the free labor provided by the very many and concentrating it into the hands of the very few. A new analysis of web traffic, published by the blog Read Write Web, underscores the point.

Ultimately, it’s a virtuous cycle—except when it’s vicious. THE LOOM OF THE SELF April 9, 2014 “IT IS HARD TO RESIST a technology that is also a tool of pleasure,” write Sarah Leonard and Kate Losse in the new issue of Dissent. “The Luddites smashed their power looms, but who wants to smash Facebook—with all one’s photos, birthday greetings, and invitations?” That’s on the money. Things do get messy, confused, when the means of production is also the means of communication, the means of expression, the means of entertainment, the means of shopping, the means of fill-in-the-blank. But out of such confusion comes, eventually, simplification, a concentration of effort and effect. Imagine if, at the turn of the nineteenth century, the power loom also served as a social medium. In weaving your quota of cloth, you also wove the story of your life and unfurled it in the public eye.

The goal is to create a system of “perfectly predictable interaction between individual and environment, in which nothing needs to be said along the way.” Beyond the efficiency gains, Silicon Valley would stand to profit from such a system. By developing a proprietary brain-computer network that renders human cogitation fully machine-readable, the tech industry would be able to transmit, store, parse, and hence to own, the entirety of our thoughts. “Industrial capitalism privatized the means of production,” Davies observed. “Digital capitalism seeks to privatize the means of communication.” That’s already happening. In digitizing human expression, the protocols of social networks are beginning to alter speech to make it more amenable to machine transmission and interpretation. Think of Like buttons, or other forms of online communication that involve, say, tapping an icon or clicking a checkbox or selecting an option from a drop-down menu.


pages: 320 words: 86,372

Mythology of Work: How Capitalism Persists Despite Itself by Peter Fleming

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1960s counterculture, anti-work, call centre, clockwatching, corporate social responsibility, David Graeber, Etonian, future of work, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, illegal immigration, late capitalism, Mark Zuckerberg, market bubble, market fundamentalism, means of production, neoliberal agenda, Parkinson's law, post-industrial society, profit maximization, profit motive, quantitative easing, Results Only Work Environment, shareholder value, The Chicago School, transaction costs, working poor

When we focus on the notion of work, we ought to see it as being only the concrete personification of a broader process. That process is, of course, capitalism. The accumulation of capital – in all its variants, including financial or fictitious capital – involves the use of a labour process that takes a variety of organizational forms. That labour process is in turn built around exploitation and class relations (i.e. who owns and controls the means of production). What we call work is the social embodiment and ritualistic calculus of that exploitation process. One reason that the ideology of work has got away with its recent exponential growth, becoming a ‘way of life’, is that it is still confused with survival and ineluctable necessity. This is one of the great ruses of neoliberal reason: it is able to impose an artificial regime based upon the pretext of organic self-preservation.

I term this the ‘I, Job’ function because work is transformed into something we are rather than something we simply do among other things. Work becomes an inescapable way of life, 24/7. For example, when we enter the workplace today we are not only selling our skills as potential labour power but also ourselves as certain kinds of people. Hence the popularity of ‘human capital’ in neoclassical economics, which is now a central component of the means of production in a totally commercialized society. We can note this emphasis on human and social capital in the following mainstream praise of the modern corporation. Under the title of ‘Sociability’s Value Added’, we are told by pro-business celebrants Goffee and Jones that sociability is often a boon to creativity because it fosters teamwork, the sharing of information, and an openness to new ideas.

For example, a large hotel chain does not directly employee anybody. Customer service staff, cleaners, catering, recruitment services, telephone operators and even managers are employed by a myriad of other firms, which then outsource their staff functions as well. In the end, the hotel is merely a building and a brand. Other than its owners, it is people-less. For is not the private ownership of the means of production liberated from the trouble of labour the perfect ideal of the current era? This is not an isolated case; it is the basic business model of late capitalism, especially for jobs that involve dangerous, controversial or undesirable work. It keeps wages low, enables large firms to bypass health, safety and employment regulations and defers the costs of employment in a never-ending chain of contractors.


pages: 345 words: 92,849

Equal Is Unfair: America's Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality by Don Watkins, Yaron Brook

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3D printing, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Apple II, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, blue-collar work, business process, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Cass Sunstein, collective bargaining, colonial exploitation, corporate governance, correlation does not imply causation, Credit Default Swap, crony capitalism, David Brooks, deskilling, Edward Glaeser, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, financial deregulation, immigration reform, income inequality, indoor plumbing, inventory management, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Jony Ive, laissez-faire capitalism, Louis Pasteur, low skilled workers, means of production, minimum wage unemployment, Naomi Klein, new economy, obamacare, Peter Singer: altruism, Peter Thiel, profit motive, rent control, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Skype, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, The Spirit Level, too big to fail, trickle-down economics, Uber for X, urban renewal, War on Poverty, women in the workforce, working poor

We have to think and produce if we want to live and achieve happiness, and as a result we must have the right to think and produce (and to keep what we produce) if we are to create a society in which individuals can flourish. What can violate those rights? What can stop us from supporting our lives through thought and production? Basically, just one thing: physical force. The only way human beings can coexist peacefully is if they “leave their guns outside” and agree to live by means of production and voluntary trade rather than brute violence. As Locke explained, this was the purpose of government: to protect the rights of the “industrious and rational” from violation by “the quarrelsome and contentious.”26 By making the government the guardian of our equal rights rather than a tool through which the politically privileged controlled and exploited the rest of society, the Founders transformed the state from an instrument of oppression into an instrument of liberation: it liberated the individual so that he was free to make the most of his life.

People were free to rise by their own productive efforts, even if this made them far richer than their neighbors. East Germany, however, conformed to Soviet-style totalitarian rule, economic central planning, and an egalitarian ideology that “stressed uniformity in outcomes, irrespective of individual differences in ability or effort.”40 The Socialist Unity Party of Germany oversaw virtually all production, most of the means of production were owned by the state, and prices and wages were placed under centralized control. The government dictated what to produce, how to produce it, and how to distribute what was produced. Although it allowed for some income gaps, those gaps were far narrower than in West Germany.41 But if we focus on living standards rather than income differences, it is clear that East Germany’s economic equality went hand in hand with poverty and stagnation, and West Germany’s economic inequality went hand in hand with prosperity and progress.

In the beginning of the 1800s, Sweden was among the poorest countries of Western Europe. By the mid-1900s, Sweden was one of the richest countries in the world. What made this possible? Freedom. Over the course of the first half of the nineteenth century, all major government restrictions, regulations, and controls were removed and the basic institutions of capitalism were established: private ownership of the means of production, freedom of competition, and free trade. The government was small (spending around 10 percent of GDP), and taxes were low.55 The 1870s would mark the beginning of what is known in Sweden as “The 100 Golden Years.” Between 1870 and 1970, Sweden enjoyed some of the highest economic growth, productivity growth, and wage growth in the world. By 1970, it was the third-richest country in the world, in terms of GDP per capita.


pages: 572 words: 134,335

The Making of an Atlantic Ruling Class by Kees Van der Pijl

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anti-communist, banking crisis, Berlin Wall, Boycotts of Israel, Bretton Woods, British Empire, capital controls, collective bargaining, colonial rule, cuban missile crisis, deindustrialization, deskilling, diversified portfolio, European colonialism, floating exchange rates, full employment, imperial preference, Joseph Schumpeter, means of production, North Sea oil, Plutocrats, plutocrats, profit maximization, RAND corporation, strikebreaker, trade liberalization, trade route, union organizing, uranium enrichment, urban renewal, War on Poverty

Title 337.4073 HF1532.5.U5 First published 1984 © Kees van der Pijl 1984 Verso 15 Greek Street London W1V 5LF eBook ISBN: 978-1-84467-936-2 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84467-871-6 v3.1 For Kiek, Margreet & Frank ‘Classes are large groups of people differing from each other by the place they occupy in a historically determined system of social production, by their relation (in most cases fixed and formulated in law) to the means of production, by their role in the social organization of labour, and, consequently, by the dimensions of the share of social wealth of which they dispose and the mode of acquiring it. Classes are groups of people one of which can appropriate the labour of another owing to the different places they occupy in a definite system of social economy.’ Lenin ‘Any general theory of classes and class formation must explain the fact that classes coexisting at any given time bear the marks of different centuries on their brow, so to speak — that they stem from varying conditions.

The criterion for this bifurcation is the fact that whereas all forms of capital represent modes of appropriation of surplus-value, only the productive form is engaged in its creation through the subsumption of living labour-power. As will be demonstrated below, this distinction is particularly important when it comes to reconstructing the ideological propensities of the functionaries of productive capital. This also goes for another distinction Marx deploys in Volumes Two and Three — the one between capital engaged in the production of means of production and capital engaged in the production of consumer goods: Departments I and II. Since Fordism in the era of Atlantic integration rested on the dynamic articulation of relative surplus-value production in the consumer-durables sector and a concomitant reorientation of key ‘Department I’ industries towards supplying this sector with semi-finished products (notably steel), the departmental division is relevant in this light as well.

‘Europe would have been Communistic if it had not been for the Marshall Plan’, Marshall Aid administrator Paul Hoffman claimed in February 1950.39 At the same time, the Marshall Plan aimed at laying the material foundations for an Atlantic economy based on the generalization of Fordism. Through the Technical Assistance and Productivity Program, the complete inventory of Taylorism and Fordism, like merit rating, job classification, shift labour in continuous processes, and so on, was exported to Western Europe. The key component of Marshall Plan hardware deliveries in this context was the technology of continuous wide-strip mills for the steel industry. These advanced means of production were capable of producing large quantities of cheap sheet steel for automobiles and household appliances, and, thus, were instrumental in subordinating the traditionally reactionary steel industry to the system of relative surplus-value production, while at the same time consolidating the subordination of the US steel industry to the powerful automobile groups by cheap exports.40 Twenty years after their introduction in the United States, the wide-strip mills with American aid broke the cartel barriers which hitherto had prevented their installation in Europe.


pages: 236 words: 66,081

Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky

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Andrew Keen, Brewster Kahle, Burning Man, citizen journalism, corporate social responsibility, Dean Kamen, experimental economics, experimental subject, fundamental attribution error, invention of movable type, invention of the telegraph, Kevin Kelly, means of production, meta analysis, meta-analysis, New Urbanism, Nicholas Carr, social software, Steve Ballmer, The Nature of the Firm, the scientific method, ultimatum game

A lot of new kinds of media have emerged since Gutenberg: images and sounds were encoded onto objects, from photographic plates to music CDs; electromagnetic waves were harnessed to create radio and TV. All these subsequent revolutions, as different as they were, still had the core of Gutenberg economics: enormous investment costs. It’s expensive to own the means of production, whether it is a printing press or a TV tower, which makes novelty a fundamentally high-risk operation. If it’s expensive to own and manage the means of production or if it requires a staff, you’re in a world of Gutenberg economics. And wherever you have Gutenberg economics, whether you are a Venetian publisher or a Hollywood producer, you’re going to have fifteenth-century risk management as well, where the producers have to decide what’s good before showing it to the audience.

But media is actually like a triathlon, with three different events: people like to consume, but they also like to produce, and to share. We’ve always enjoyed all three of those activities, but until recently, broadcast media rewarded only one of them. TV is unbalanced—if I own a TV station, and you own a television, I can speak to you, but you can’t speak to me. Phones, by contrast, are balanced; if you buy the means of consumption, you automatically own the means of production. When you purchase a phone, no one asks if you just want to listen, or if you want to talk on it too. Participation is inherent in the phone, and it’s the same for the computer. When you buy a machine that lets you consume digital content, you also buy a machine to produce it. Further, you can share material with your friends, and you can talk about what you consumed or produced or shared.


pages: 353 words: 81,436

Buying Time: The Delayed Crisis of Democratic Capitalism by Wolfgang Streeck

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banking crisis, Bretton Woods, capital controls, Carmen Reinhart, central bank independence, collective bargaining, corporate governance, David Graeber, deindustrialization, Deng Xiaoping, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, financial deregulation, financial repression, full employment, Gini coefficient, Growth in a Time of Debt, income inequality, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, knowledge economy, labour market flexibility, labour mobility, late capitalism, means of production, moral hazard, Occupy movement, open borders, open economy, Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances, profit maximization, risk tolerance, shareholder value, too big to fail, union organizing, winner-take-all economy, Wolfgang Streeck

Neo-Protestantism, whose adherents are proud of their lives of constant exhaustion minutely structured around ‘the compatibility of job and family’,32 and the human capital capitalism of self-commodification in contemporary labour markets, with its internalization of returns-to-education calculations in the life plans of whole generations, apparently have put an end to the ‘crisis of wage-labour’ and of the achievement principle, as has the ‘new spirit of capitalism’33 which, by drawing on newly created spaces of creativity and autonomy at the workplace, has deepened corporate integration and served as a vehicle for personal identification with the aims of profit extraction.34 Whereas the loyalty of workers and consumers to postwar capitalism held steady, the same was by no means true on the side of capital. The problem of the Frankfurt crisis theories of the 1970s was that they did not think capital capable of any strategic purpose, because they treated it as an apparatus rather than an agency, as means of production rather than a class.35 So they had to make their calculations without it. Even for Schumpeter, not to speak of Marx, ‘capital’ had been a constant trouble spot in modern economic society: the source of ‘creative destruction’36 until the socialism of bureaucracy would finally lay it to rest. That was how Weber saw and foresaw it too, and perhaps the peculiar lifelessness of capital in the theory of legitimation crisis goes partly back to him.

While correctives to the market based on social – political ideas of justice are disturbances to capitalist practice, they must be considered inevitable so long as it is possible that the born losers of the market refuse to play ball. Without losers there can be no winners, and without permanent losers, no permanent winners.27 Furthermore, capital could always react to social encroachments in the market that seemed to go too far. Crises develop if those who control essential means of production fear they will not eventually be rewarded in accordance with their ideas of market justice; their ‘confidence’ then sinks below the minimum level necessary for investment. Holders and handlers of capital may transfer it abroad or park it somewhere in the money economy, withdrawing it forever or temporarily from circulation in the economy of a polity in which they no longer trust. The result is unemployment and low growth – more than ever under today’s conditions of unfettered capital markets.

There is much to be said for the view that the emergence of finance capital as a second people – a Marktvolk rivalling the Staatsvolk – marks a new stage in the relationship between capitalism and democracy, in which capital exercises its political influence not only indirectly (by investing or not investing in national economies) but also directly (by financing or not financing the state itself). In the 1960s and 1970s critical crisis theory studied how postwar states more or less succeeded in securing their democratic legitimacy despite the special position occupied by citizens in command of the means of production and investment. The rapid, class-skewed decline of democratic organization and participation within the liberalization process, as well as the diminishing scope for political action in the crises of the past four decades, might signify that something similar may not be possible after the transition from the tax state to the debt state. I would now like to bring together a few stylized observations on the politics of the debt state and the constellation of interests operating within it, even if the underdeveloped state of research in this area means that they can be no more than impressions gleaned from news reports. 1) The rising indebtedness of the rich democracies has for some time been curtailing their effective sovereignty, by subjecting the policies of their governments to the discipline of financial markets.

The Economic Singularity: Artificial intelligence and the death of capitalism by Calum Chace

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3D printing, additive manufacturing, agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Airbnb, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, bitcoin, blockchain, call centre, Chris Urmson, congestion charging, credit crunch, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, Flynn Effect, full employment, future of work, gender pay gap, gig economy, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, income inequality, industrial robot, Internet of things, invention of the telephone, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, lump of labour, Lyft, Mark Zuckerberg, Martin Wolf, McJob, means of production, Milgram experiment, Narrative Science, natural language processing, new economy, Occupy movement, Oculus Rift, PageRank, pattern recognition, post scarcity, post-industrial society, precariat, prediction markets, QWERTY keyboard, railway mania, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Rodney Brooks, Satoshi Nakamoto, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, software is eating the world, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, TaskRabbit, technological singularity, Thomas Malthus, transaction costs, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Uber for X, universal basic income, Vernor Vinge, working-age population, Y Combinator, young professional

It would be foolish of us to take even that much for granted. A society comprising gods and the useless might turn out to be inherently unstable. In a full-on conflict between them it seems likely that the gods would have the means to protect themselves, but at what cost? Will capitalism remain fit for purpose? Private property is an essential feature of capitalism, and in particular, the private ownership of the means of production, exchange and distribution. In market economies, most people earn their living by selling their labour – their time and their physical and intellectual skills. People called entrepreneurs hire workers and combine their labour with the other major element of the capitalist economy – capital, which consists of money, machinery, land, buildings and intellectual property. The entrepreneurs use the labour and the capital to develop and make products and services which they hope will be bought by enough people to turn a profit.

This will be the case all over the world. If you can’t do paid work, it is very hard to accumulate capital. Second, if the rate of technological progress continues to accelerate, the elite may avail themselves of the means of cognitive and physical enhancement to diverge from the majority, both physically and cognitively. The obvious but difficult remedy for this is to end the institution of private property. The means of production, exchange and distribution would be placed into some kind of collective ownership to prevent the possibility of social and species fracture. As we saw in chapter 3.1, this conclusion is rejected by the two most popular books published so far about technological unemployment. I share their inclination, and it makes me extremely uncomfortable. I was in business for 30 years before becoming a full-time writer and speaker, and I remain convinced of the largely positive effects of a regulated market economy with a welfare safety net.

There is no enforcement of a rigid equality of personal outcomes across the lives of everyone in this society, but there is also no increasingly entrenched divergence between those with access to all the latest technologies and those without. In chapter 5.5, we confronted the possibility that this society has felt obliged to abandon our powerful attachment to the concept of private property, and has moved to some form of collective ownership of the means of production, exchange and distribution. In other words, socialism. Those of us who are convinced that the free market economy, suitably regulated, is an ingenious system that has demonstrably created the best standards of living that humans have ever enjoyed will find this hard to swallow. Certainly, the idea takes some getting used to. Advocates of capitalism who have thought this far ahead have suggested that their favourite economic model is the best system for an economy of scarcity, but that perhaps it won’t be appropriate for an economy of abundance.


pages: 251 words: 76,225

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley

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affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, clean water, desegregation, en.wikipedia.org, Ferguson, Missouri, game design, Google Hangouts, hiring and firing, Kickstarter, means of production, Skype, women in the workforce

When you are living in a postapocalyptic world of poisoned fertility and scarce resources, controlling the people who can have babies is of the utmost importance. Those who can bear them are the means of that production. Gain control over the means of production, and you can rule the world. And this is where this film gets all the violence-against-women stuff right, because it boldly and frankly positions it for what it is, stripping it of the male gaze, of sexuality, of uncontrollable male urges. There are no on-screen rape threats, rape attempts, or rapes because they would detract from the entire point. You have to strip all that away to see it for what it is: Sexism is about power. Sexism is about controlling the means of production. At its core, sexism has very little to do with the act of sex. It’s why we see a large room full of well-fed women hooked up to milking machines—yes, milking machines—because all anybody drinks in this world is water and milk, and all you ever see them eat is bugs and lizards.

It’s why we see a large room full of well-fed women hooked up to milking machines—yes, milking machines—because all anybody drinks in this world is water and milk, and all you ever see them eat is bugs and lizards. The animals are dead. That leaves us with those women. And these women are owned totally and completely by Immortan Joe, who controls all the means of production—he owns the water and the women. And, once he owns those two things, he owns everyone and everything. He has consolidated absolute power by turning people into chattel. In this world, those who can bear babies are chattel, used to breed more soldiers and provide life-sustaining milk to the elite. They are fodder used in production of more fodder. Max (who really is actually crazy in this one—not angry, but crazy) himself is chattel—captured and kept alive as a “blood bag” to give a much-needed blood transfusion to soldiers who are diseased and dying.


pages: 843 words: 223,858

The Rise of the Network Society by Manuel Castells

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Apple II, Asian financial crisis, barriers to entry, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, borderless world, British Empire, capital controls, complexity theory, computer age, Credit Default Swap, declining real wages, deindustrialization, delayed gratification, dematerialisation, deskilling, disintermediation, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, edge city, experimental subject, financial deregulation, financial independence, floating exchange rates, future of work, global village, Hacker Ethic, hiring and firing, Howard Rheingold, illegal immigration, income inequality, industrial robot, informal economy, information retrieval, intermodal, invention of the steam engine, invention of the telephone, inventory management, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, job-hopping, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, labor-force participation, labour market flexibility, labour mobility, laissez-faire capitalism, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, megacity, Menlo Park, new economy, New Urbanism, offshore financial centre, oil shock, open economy, packet switching, planetary scale, popular electronics, post-industrial society, postindustrial economy, prediction markets, Productivity paradox, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, RAND corporation, Robert Gordon, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, social software, South China Sea, South of Market, San Francisco, special economic zone, spinning jenny, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Ted Nelson, the built environment, the medium is the message, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, total factor productivity, trade liberalization, transaction costs, urban renewal, urban sprawl

Under capitalism, the separation between producers and their means of production, the commodification of labor, and the private ownership of means of production on the basis of the control of capital (commodified surplus), determined the basic principle of appropriation and distribution of surplus by capitalists, although who is (are) the capitalist class(es) is a matter of social inquiry in each historical context, rather than an abstract category. Under statism, the control of surplus is external to the economic sphere: it lies in the hands of the power-holders in the state – let us call them apparatchiki or lingdao. Capitalism is oriented toward profit-maximizing, that is, toward increasing the amount of surplus appropriated by capital on the basis of the private control over the means of production and circulation. Statism is (was?)

In the developing world, the informal economy represents a fundamental component of the labor market. In advanced economies, the public-service sector becomes the refuge of employment for an increasing share of the work force expelled from traditional good-producing sectors. And entrepreneurship and innovation continue to thrive on the margins of the corporate sectors of the economy, increasing the numbers of self-employed as technology allows self-reliance in the control of the means of production of knowledge-based services, from the desk-top quality printer to online services. In sum, the occupational structure of our societies has indeed been transformed by new technologies. But the processes and forms of this transformation have been the result of the interaction between technological change, the institutional environment, and the evolution of relationships between capital and labor in each specific social context.

Matter includes nature, human-modified nature, human-produced nature, and human nature itself, the labors of history forcing us to move away from the classic distinction between humankind and nature, since millenniums of human action have incorporated the natural environment into society, making us, materially and symbolically, an inseparable part of this environment. The relationship between labor and matter in the process of work involves the use of means of production to act upon matter on the basis of energy, knowledge, and information. Technology is the specific form of this relationship. The product of the production process is socially used under two forms: consumption and surplus. Social structures interact with production processes by determining the rules for the appropriation, distribution, and uses of the surplus. These rules constitute modes of production, and these modes define social relationships of production, determining the existence of social classes that become constituted as such classes through their historical practice.


pages: 695 words: 194,693

Money Changes Everything: How Finance Made Civilization Possible by William N. Goetzmann

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Albert Einstein, Andrei Shleifer, asset allocation, asset-backed security, banking crisis, Benoit Mandelbrot, Black Swan, Black-Scholes formula, Bretton Woods, Brownian motion, capital asset pricing model, Cass Sunstein, collective bargaining, colonial exploitation, compound rate of return, conceptual framework, corporate governance, Credit Default Swap, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, debt deflation, delayed gratification, Detroit bankruptcy, disintermediation, diversified portfolio, double entry bookkeeping, Edmond Halley, en.wikipedia.org, equity premium, financial independence, financial innovation, financial intermediation, fixed income, frictionless, frictionless market, full employment, high net worth, income inequality, index fund, invention of the steam engine, invention of writing, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, laissez-faire capitalism, Louis Bachelier, mandelbrot fractal, market bubble, means of production, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, moral hazard, new economy, passive investing, Paul Lévy, Ponzi scheme, price stability, principal–agent problem, profit maximization, profit motive, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, random walk, Richard Thaler, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, shareholder value, short selling, South Sea Bubble, sovereign wealth fund, spice trade, stochastic process, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, time value of money, too big to fail, trade liberalization, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, tulip mania, wage slave

Corporate dividends are derived from paying meager subsistence wages to laborers and then turning around and selling goods at higher money prices that no longer reflect their labor value. Capitalists control the means of production and use it to generate and hoard surplus labor. Mechanization and productivity gains generate higher profits and result in layoffs, which in turn lead to a reserve of cheap labor. Unemployment drives down demand, however, and profits suffer. This cycle of productivity gain and unemployment leads to periodic crises in the capitalist economy. At some point, the cycle will break down, and workers will control the means of production and thus be able to retain for themselves the surplus value of their own labor. With apologies to Marx and a century of Marxist scholarship, that’s the book in a nutshell. Generations of scholars have debated Das Kapital and pointed out key weaknesses in its argument—particularly with respect to the labor theory of value.

His work, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, depicted the Great War as the final clash of the great powers as they sought to carve up the globe into respective markets. In the spirit of Marx, Lenin envisioned this ultimate global battle as the end of capitalism itself; the transformative financial crisis predicted by Marx in Das Kapital that would reunite workers and the means of production to take back the accumulated labor value stored in the portfolios of the world’s moneybags. Imperialism, he argued, was the transition of competitive capitalism to monopoly capitalism, in which the means of production are finally controlled by a handful of powerful global financial giants who have divided the world into spheres of interest and thus reduced costly competition. At the outset, Lenin made it clear that his book was inspired by Hobson’s Imperialism—taking the 1902 treatise as an inspiration but throwing out Hobson’s bourgeoisie pacifism and replacing it with the iconoclastic vision of Marx’s end of capitalism.

While criticism of market forces, banks, stock markets, lending, and investment existed long before Karl Marx, the novelty of Das Kapital is that it redefines capitalism in its own terms and predicts its doom. He argued that the seeds of capitalism’s future failure lay in the business cycle. Eventually, a great recession in the industrialized economies would stir the proletariat to seize the means of production from the capitalists. In the meantime, capitalism would relentlessly and systematically drain the life blood of the working class. KAPITAL IN A NUTSHELL In Marx’s world, the value of everything is a function of the labor expended to create it. Marx adapted this view from the work of David Ricardo—a brilliant and influential political economist of the early nineteenth century who proposed a theory of value based on human input to the production process.


pages: 700 words: 201,953

The Social Life of Money by Nigel Dodd

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accounting loophole / creative accounting, bank run, banking crisis, banks create money, Bernie Madoff, bitcoin, blockchain, borderless world, Bretton Woods, BRICs, capital controls, cashless society, central bank independence, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, computer age, conceptual framework, credit crunch, cross-subsidies, David Graeber, debt deflation, dematerialisation, disintermediation, eurozone crisis, fiat currency, financial innovation, Financial Instability Hypothesis, financial repression, floating exchange rates, Fractional reserve banking, German hyperinflation, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, Hyman Minsky, illegal immigration, informal economy, interest rate swap, Isaac Newton, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kula ring, laissez-faire capitalism, land reform, late capitalism, liquidity trap, litecoin, London Interbank Offered Rate, M-Pesa, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, mental accounting, microcredit, mobile money, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, mortgage debt, new economy, Nixon shock, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, paradox of thrift, payday loans, Peace of Westphalia, peer-to-peer lending, Ponzi scheme, post scarcity, postnationalism / post nation state, predatory finance, price mechanism, price stability, quantitative easing, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, remote working, rent-seeking, reserve currency, Richard Thaler, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Satoshi Nakamoto, Scientific racism, seigniorage, Skype, Slavoj Žižek, South Sea Bubble, sovereign wealth fund, special drawing rights, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, trade liberalization, transaction costs, Wave and Pay, WikiLeaks, Wolfgang Streeck, yield curve, zero-coupon bond

This notion is money as mystification, and is the fountainhead of greed.15 Marx’s theory of credit is extended in Volume 3 of Capital, where he conveys the dynamics of credit inflation as a bubble. Specifically, he shows how capital must simultaneously assume various forms in order for capital accumulation, the “M–C–M” cycle, to continue. It must assume the form of money, the form of commodities, the form of means of production, and (back again) the form of money. This is where credit money and the financial system come into play. Now that we have all the key players of a credit crisis arranged on the stage, we can move on to the fifth key step in Marx’s analysis: the existence of fictitious capital makes it inevitable that capitalism goes through a repeat cycle of bubbles and crashes. Marx argues that speculative lending inevitably increases whenever financiers become more confident.

There is a defense of Marx, however, that deserves to be aired because it involves shifting attention away from the material properties of money and onto the social conditions of its production and exchange. Marx, as much as any thinker, drew attention to the crucial importance of the social life of money to any understanding of its nature, and in particular, its role in the dynamics of capitalism. Remember what he actually said: Monsieur le Capital and Madame la Terre are social characters as well as mere things. Likewise with money: “Capital is the means of production as transformed into capital, these being no more capital in themselves than gold or silver are money” (Marx 1894: 953). Hence Marx’s theory of money only makes sense if we take both parts of the formulation (social characters, mere things) together. When Marx wrote Capital, most forms of money, especially fiat money, were related to gold. But his account of money did not end there. For Marx, money is not a thing; rather, it is a fetishized social relation.

To grasp its full ramifications, we need to take a step backward to consider an aspect of his argument right at the end of the first volume of Capital that tends to be overlooked, particularly its implications for the theory of money. This aspect is the account of primitive accumulation. PRIMITIVE ACCUMULATION Marx defines primitive (originary: ursprünglich) accumulation as “the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production” (Marx 1982: 875). This divorcing is the process whereby producers lose ownership and control over the fruits of their labor. Harvey calls it “accumulation by dispossession” (Harvey 2005b: ch. 4). Historically, it has occurred in various ways: for example, through the seizure of land and the expulsion of the resident population. As Harvey notes, whatever form it takes, primitive accumulation invariably involves “appropriation and co-optation of pre-existing cultural and social achievements as well as confrontation and supersession” (Harvey 2005b: 146).


pages: 371 words: 36,271

Libertarian Idea by Jan Narveson

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centre right, invisible hand, means of production, Menlo Park, night-watchman state, Peter Singer: altruism, prisoner's dilemma, psychological pricing, rent-seeking

And it was Locke who held that the central mechanism here was the “mixing of our labour” with the thing that comes to be ours. But also it was Locke who insisted that there were important limits to what we can acquire in a “state of nature”, at least: no more than we can use without spoiling, and only what leaves “enough and as good for others”. The question quite properly asked by objectors to private property, especially as applying to the “means of production”, is how we can suppose that we could, starting with just the premises about self-ownership, wind up with the entire panoply of ownership rights familiar in contemporary nonsocialist societies. It is not clear, as will be seen in Part Three, just what that “panoply” really consists of, but let us suppose that what we are after are the rights of (1) exclusive use, and thus of permitting or refusing use by any others, except only on jointly agreed terms, and (2) transfer in the form of (a) sale, (b) exchange, (c) gift, and (d) bequeathal.

And he suggests that “Equality, more than any other baseline, reflects the fact that, other things being equal, nobody naturally deserves a larger or smaller share.”18 Of course, we should also use any baseline in which W (the worst-off person, remember) is better off than the worst-off 90 person would be in any other system, and so this might give us one of the others. What could the libertarian say in reply? Arthur suggests this. “One other line of argument is open to the libertarian. Suppose that private ownership of the means of production were far more efficient than public ownership, and suppose further that capitalism for some reason could not survive if individuals were required to compensate others when they appropriate a natural resource for their own use. How would these putative facts affect W‟s demand for compensation?” In response to this Arthur offers two points. “First, W still has an important argument on his side, namely the point that a baseline should reflect the fact that nobody deserves the resources any more than he.

With private property held by a number of people, various arrangements are possible, but ordinarily those arrangements have been made, and if they have not, we can expect trouble when the joint owners diverge regarding the use to which it is to be put. In the case of public property, however, ownership being totally “collective”, these problems are legion. It might be thought that public ownership gives unlimited “access” (as in the socialist‟s “access to the means of production”). But obviously a given thing cannot be completely available to all, or indeed to more than one. Rules will have to be framed so as to assure a fair shake for all potential users, say, or something of the sort. The point is that with public ownership, we must resort to politics to decide who is going to do what with it and when—with all the difficulties that entails. Libertarians often maintain that the very idea of public property‟ is nonsensical.


pages: 372 words: 152

The End of Work by Jeremy Rifkin

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banking crisis, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, blue-collar work, cashless society, collective bargaining, computer age, deskilling, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, employer provided health coverage, Erik Brynjolfsson, full employment, future of work, general-purpose programming language, George Gilder, global village, hiring and firing, informal economy, interchangeable parts, invention of the telegraph, Jacques de Vaucanson, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, land reform, low skilled workers, means of production, new economy, New Urbanism, pink-collar, post-industrial society, Productivity paradox, Richard Florida, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, strikebreaker, technoutopianism, Thorstein Veblen, Toyota Production System, trade route, trickle-down economics, women in the workforce, working poor, working-age population, Works Progress Administration

Cheaper wages will entice employers to hire additional workers rather than purchase more expensive capital equipment, thereby moderating the impact of technology on employment. 2 The idea that technological innovation stimulates perpetual growth and employment has met with stiff opposition over the years. In his first volume of Capital, published in 1867, Karl Marx argued that producers continually attempt to reduce labor costs and gain greater control over the means of production by substituting capital equipment for workers wherever and whenever possible. The capitalists profit not only from greater productivity, reduced costs, and greater control over the workplace, but also secondarily by creating a vast reserve army of unemployed workers whose labor power is readily available for exploitation somewhere else in the economy. Marx predicted that the increasing automation of production would eventually eliminate the worker altogether.

Issues of hiring and firing, promotions, discipline actions, health benefits, and safety concerns were brought into the collective bargaining process in every industry. Business Week warned that "the time has come to take a stand ... against the further encroachment into the province of management."28 Menaced by the increasing intensi ty of labor's demands and determined to maintain its long-standing control over the means of production, America's industrial giants turned to the new technology of automation as much to rid themselves of rebellious workers as to enhance their productivity and profit. The new corporate strategy succeeded. In 1961 a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee published statistics on the impact of automation on jobs in the preceding half decade. The Steel Workers Union reported a loss of 95,000 jobs, while production increased 121 percent.

Today, less than 3 percent of the price of a semiconductor chip goes to the owners of raw materials and energy, 5 percent to those who own the equipment and facilities, and 6 percent to routine labor. More than 85 percent of the cost goes to specialized design and engineering services and for patents and copyrights. 44 In the early industrial era, those who controlled finance capital and the means of production exercised near-total control over the workings of the economy. For a while, during the mid-decades of this century, they had to share some of that power with labor, whose critical role in production assured it some influence in decisions governing both the ways and means of doing business and the distribution of profits. Now that labor's clout has Significantly diminished, the knowledge workers become the more important group in the economic equation.


pages: 494 words: 132,975

Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics by Nicholas Wapshott

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airport security, banking crisis, Bretton Woods, British Empire, collective bargaining, complexity theory, cuban missile crisis, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, full employment, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, if you build it, they will come, Isaac Newton, Joseph Schumpeter, liquidationism / Banker’s doctrine / the Treasury view, means of production, Mont Pelerin Society, mortgage debt, New Journalism, Northern Rock, price mechanism, pushing on a string, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, Simon Kuznets, The Chicago School, The Great Moderation, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trickle-down economics, War on Poverty, Yom Kippur War

Socialism told us that we had been looking for improvement in the wrong direction.”1 Mises’s principal objection to a communist or socialist society was that it ignored the price mechanism he believed essential for any economy to operate efficiently. He argued in Economic Calculation that because in a socialist society the government owned the main industries—“the means of production”—and therefore set the prices of goods, the key purpose of prices, to distribute scarce resources, was made redundant. He claimed that “every step that takes us away from private ownership of the means of production and from the use of money also takes us away from rational economics.”2 Mises’s arguments went to the core of the debate that was to ensue between Keynes and Hayek, and they presaged one of Hayek’s eventual contentions, that by ignoring market prices socialism deprives individuals of their unique contribution to society—to express, through their willingness to pay a price, their opinion of the worth of an object or service.

Every increase of consumption, if it is not to disturb production, requires previous new saving.” Hayek also confronted another Keynesian remedy, that if an idle plant was brought into use it would spur a depressed economy back to life and increase employment. “What [economists like Keynes] overlook is that . . . in order that the existing durable plants could be used to their full capacity it would be necessary to invest a great amount of other means of production in lengthy processes which would bear fruit only in a comparatively distant future.”45 He went on, “It should be fairly clear that the granting of credit to consumers, which has recently been so strongly advocated as a cure for depression, would in fact have quite the contrary effect.” Such “artificial demand,” he suggested, would merely postpone the day of reckoning. “The only way permanently to ‘mobilize’ all available resources is, therefore, not to use artificial stimulants—whether during a crisis or thereafter—but to leave it to time to effect a permanent cure.”46 In brief, there was no easy way out of a slump.

Keynes, who, from the outset, analyses complex dynamic processes without laying the necessary foundations by adequate static analysis of the fundamental process.”34 As for substance, Hayek tangles with Keynes over definitions, preferring established Austrian terms for such basic concepts as “savings” and “investment” to those either already in use at Cambridge or newly minted by Keynes to describe what he believed to be freshly observed phenomena. Hayek’s main objection to Keynes’s treatise, however, is his ignoring Austrian notions of capital theory, in particular the implications to prices and demand of “roundabout” means of production of capital goods that he had so singularly failed to explain adequately in his lecture to the Marshall Society. Hayek drew attention to two notions at the heart of their conflicting views of how an economy works: Hayek could not agree with Keynes’s rejection of the need for an equilibrium between savings and investment; nor could he accept Keynes’s assertion that the importance of the divergence between investment and savings was that it adversely affected the stability of prices.


pages: 268 words: 89,761

Unhealthy societies: the afflictions of inequality by Richard G. Wilkinson

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attribution theory, clean water, correlation coefficient, experimental subject, full employment, fundamental attribution error, Gini coefficient, income inequality, income per capita, Indoor air pollution, invisible hand, land reform, means of production, purchasing power parity, rising living standards, upwardly mobile

He suggested that how hierarchical or egalitarian societies are depends as much upon control over the means of destruction as it does on control of the means of production. Some weapons—like stone tools, spears, bows and arrows—are essentially democratic in that anyone can make them and it is difficult to deny people access to them. On the other hand, guns can only be obtained from other sources, and if people manage to gain a monopoly in access to them (or to any other superior weaponry), they have the power to coerce others. Clearly the means of production are also important. Class systems depend on controlling access to the means of production in ways that necessarily differ at different stages of development. The strategy of controlling labour will differ according to the ease of gaining independent access to productive resources (Wilkinson 1973).


pages: 392 words: 106,532

The Cold War: A New History by John Lewis Gaddis

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anti-communist, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, British Empire, colonial rule, cuban missile crisis, Deng Xiaoping, European colonialism, full employment, land reform, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, Potemkin village, Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan: Tear down this wall, Sinatra Doctrine

The social alienation generated by economic inequalities could only result in revolution: “[N]ot only has the bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bring death to itself; it has also called into existence the men who are to wield those weapons—the modern working class—the proletarians.” Capitalism’s grave-diggers would sooner or later replace it with communism, a more equitable method of organizing society in which there would be common ownership of the means of production, and in which extremes of wealth and poverty would no longer exist. Neither, therefore, would resentment, so the happiness of the human race would follow. Communism, Marx’s collaborator Friedrich Engels claimed, would mark “the ascent of man from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom.”6 This was not just a profession of faith: Marx and Engels also saw it as science. The linkage Marx established between technological progress, social consciousness, and revolutionary consequences, they believed, revealed the engine that drove history forward.

Like the nuclear war that never came, the revival and eventual triumph of democratic capitalism was a surprising development that few people on either side of the ideological divide in 1945 would have foreseen. Circumstances during the first half of the 20th century had provided physical strength and political authority to dictatorships. Why should the second half have been different? The reasons had less to do with any fundamental shift in the means of production, as a Marxist historian might have argued, than with a striking shift in the attitude of the United States toward the international system. Despite having built the world’s most powerful and diversified economy, Americans had shown remarkably little interest, prior to 1941, in how the rest of the world was governed. Repressive regimes elsewhere might be regrettable, but they could hardly harm the United States.

It took time for these sails to catch wind and for these rudders to take hold, but by the late 1970s they had begun to do so. John Paul II and the other actor-leaders of the 1980s then set the course. The most inspirational alternatives the Soviet Union could muster were Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, and Konstantin Chernenko, a clear sign that dictatorships were not what they once had been. Meanwhile, communism had promised a better life but failed to deliver. Marx insisted that the shifts in the means of production would increase inequality, provoke anger, and thereby fuel revolutionary consciousness within the “working class.” He failed, though, to anticipate the kinds of shifts that would take place, for as post-industrial economies evolved they began to reward lateral over hierarchical forms of organization. Complexity made planning less feasible than under the earlier, simpler stages of industrialization: only decentralized, largely spontaneous markets could make the millions of decisions that had to be made each day in a modern economy if supplies of goods and services were to match demands for them.


pages: 310 words: 90,817

Paper Money Collapse: The Folly of Elastic Money and the Coming Monetary Breakdown by Detlev S. Schlichter

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bank run, banks create money, British Empire, capital controls, Carmen Reinhart, central bank independence, currency peg, Fractional reserve banking, German hyperinflation, global reserve currency, inflation targeting, Kenneth Rogoff, Long Term Capital Management, market clearing, Martin Wolf, means of production, moral hazard, mortgage debt, open economy, Ponzi scheme, price discovery process, price mechanism, price stability, pushing on a string, quantitative easing, reserve currency, rising living standards, risk tolerance, savings glut, the market place, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, transaction costs, Y2K

The serviceability of money is not increased by a bigger supply. Other goods deliver a more satisfying service to the public if their supply is increased. More cars can transport more people; more TV sets can entertain more people; more bread can feed more people. These things are goods because they have use-value, they can directly satisfy the needs of their owners. This holds likewise for the means of production, such as tools, plants, and machinery. Although they do not satisfy the needs of consumers directly, their usefulness lies in their ability to help in the production of goods and services that will ultimately satisfy the needs of consumers. However, to the extent that a good is used as money, its usefulness does not lie in any ability it may have to meet any needs directly but lies exclusively in its marketability, in its general acceptance as a medium of exchange.

In the new system, the economy was nominally capitalistic in that most enterprises were privately owned. Yet, the state played an important and over time increasingly active role, to be witnessed, among other things, by constantly rising levels of taxation, regulation, and public debt. With the collapse of communism in 1989, the mixed economy, meaning the combination of mostly privately owned means of production with democratically legitimized state interventionism, became the globally dominant societal model. That the state should supply the economy with its own paper money under a regional monopoly, that the state should thus control and flexibly adjust the supply of money and constantly expand it, had become unquestioned features of this system. The full effects of paper money expansion were not felt in the first two decades after World War II.

In Germany the Nazi economist Werner Daitz declared that “in future, gold will play no role as a basis for the European currencies, because a currency does not depend on what it is covered by, but rather it is dependent on the value which is given it by the state, or in this case by the economic order which is controlled by the state.”22 After the Second World War, and in particular after the disintegration of the Communist Soviet Bloc after 1989, the dominant global model of society became parliamentary social democracy, which combines capitalist elements, in particular private ownership of the means of production, with a democratically legitimized, interventionist state. Democratic states have all experienced on-trend growing state expenditure, rising levels of taxation and rising public debt. Against this backdrop it should come as no surprise that the attempt to limit the power of the state by subjugating it to the strictures of an immovable and inflexible system of commodity money turned out to be short-lived.


pages: 328 words: 92,317

Machinery of Freedom: A Guide to Radical Capitalism by David Friedman

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back-to-the-land, Fractional reserve banking, hiring and firing, jitney, laissez-faire capitalism, Machinery of Freedom by David Friedman, means of production, rent control, road to serfdom, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Stewart Brand, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, urban renewal, Vernor Vinge, Whole Earth Catalog

When he has gotten all the way around the circle, the politician throws fifty cents down in front of one person, who is overjoyed at the unexpected windfall. The process is repeated, ending with a different person. After a hundred rounds everyone is a hundred cents poorer, fifty cents richer, and happy. III You object that capitalism works too well, that more efficient means of production drive out less efficient, leaving everyone with sterile and repetitive jobs in a soul-killing environment. More efficient means of production do drive out less efficient means, but your definition of efficiency is too narrow. If under one arrangement a worker produces a dollar an hour more than under another, but the conditions are so much worse that he will gladly accept a wage of two dollars an hour less to work under the other, which is more efficient? For both the employer, who saves more on wages than he loses on production, and for the worker, the 'less productive' arrangement is the more efficient.

The right to trade only applies to a situation where the exchange is voluntary — on both sides. I would have no objection to such a socialist society, beyond the opinion that its members were not acting in what I thought was their best interest. The socialists who advocate such institutions do object to our present society and would probably object even more to the completely capitalist society that I would like to see develop. They claim that the ownership of the means of production by capitalists instead of by workers is inherently unjust. I think they are wrong. Even if they are right, there is no need for them to fight me or anyone else; there is a much easier way to achieve their objective. If a society in which firms are owned by their workers is far more attractive than one in which they are owned by stockholders, let the workers buy the firms. If the workers cannot be convinced to spend their money, it is unlikely that they will be willing to spend their blood.


pages: 445 words: 105,255

Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization by K. Eric Drexler

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3D printing, additive manufacturing, agricultural Revolution, Bill Joy: nanobots, Brownian motion, carbon footprint, Cass Sunstein, conceptual framework, crowdsourcing, dark matter, double helix, failed state, global supply chain, industrial robot, iterative process, Mars Rover, means of production, Menlo Park, mutually assured destruction, New Journalism, performance metric, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, Thomas Malthus, V2 rocket, Vannevar Bush

APM Revolution Will provide new means of producing material objects: Like the Agricultural Revolution, it will use atomically precise productive machinery. Like the Industrial Revolution, it will use artificial mechanical systems to make things. Like the Information Revolution, it will use high-frequency nanoscale devices to process and deliver patterns (but of atoms rather than bits). Like each of the prior revolutions, it will lead to deep changes in products, productivity, means of production, and human society. Able to multiply the productivity of agriculture, manufacturing, and computation by factors of ten to one million. Can radically extend the scope and scale of production, transforming the material basis of civilization and reducing its impacts on climate and the Earth as a whole. CHAPTER 5 The Look and Feel of the Nanoscale World IT’S HARD TO UNDERSTAND how molecules interact when they’re illustrated in so many different ways, sometimes as blobs or clouds of dots, sometimes as ball-and-stick models, sometimes as skeletal, structural diagrams, and sometimes as images in the popular press jumbled together with pictures of microbes and machines ten thousand times larger.

For example, in 1960, after half a century’s progress, an efficient aircraft could stay aloft for no more than tens of hours without refueling, yet even the earliest satellites could stay aloft for millennia. Satellites had quite literally entered a realm with new rules. Likewise with the future potential of manufacturing. Simple, conservative implementations of advanced APM can far outperform the most refined modern means of production, again because the new realm has new rules. Because location matters more than refinement, the cost structure changes. In product-oriented engineering, the costs of manufacture and operation typically dwarf the cost of design, and as a consequence, large investments in design can bring great rewards. In a production run of one hundred aircraft, for example, a bit of design work that shaves a kilogram from airframe mass can save a million dollars in fuel costs.

Speculations in this area may be worth undertaking if the results are regarded with sufficient skepticism, but here, such speculations would be out of scope. Consumer goods pervade our experience of life, yet they aren’t part of its deeper physical basis. My concern here is with developments at that deeper level, where some of the most basic driving forces for change can be expected with substantial confidence. TRANSFORMING THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION From where we stand today the coming transformation can best be understood through contrasts with current industrial technologies. As we’ve seen, the primary contrasts emerge from just two basic characteristics of APM-level technologies: the nanoscale size of components and the atomic precision of processes and products. As we’ve seen, there are several key implications of these from an applications perspective.


pages: 366 words: 94,209

Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity by Douglas Rushkoff

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3D printing, Airbnb, algorithmic trading, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Andrew Keen, bank run, banking crisis, barriers to entry, bitcoin, blockchain, Burning Man, business process, buy low sell high, California gold rush, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carbon footprint, centralized clearinghouse, citizen journalism, clean water, cloud computing, collaborative economy, collective bargaining, colonial exploitation, Community Supported Agriculture, corporate personhood, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, disintermediation, diversified portfolio, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, ethereum blockchain, fiat currency, Firefox, Flash crash, full employment, future of work, gig economy, Gini coefficient, global supply chain, global village, Google bus, Howard Rheingold, IBM and the Holocaust, impulse control, income inequality, index fund, iterative process, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, job automation, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, loss aversion, Lyft, Mark Zuckerberg, market bubble, market fundamentalism, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, medical bankruptcy, minimum viable product, Naomi Klein, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, Oculus Rift, passive investing, payday loans, peer-to-peer lending, Peter Thiel, post-industrial society, profit motive, quantitative easing, race to the bottom, recommendation engine, reserve currency, RFID, Richard Stallman, ride hailing / ride sharing, Ronald Reagan, Satoshi Nakamoto, Second Machine Age, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Snapchat, social graph, software patent, Steve Jobs, TaskRabbit, trade route, transportation-network company, Turing test, Uber and Lyft, Uber for X, unpaid internship, Y Combinator, young professional, Zipcar

For example, there is a great variety of small-scale food production systems which feed the greater part of the world’s peoples, using a modest amount of land and producing less waste, be it in small agricultural parcels, in orchards and gardens, hunting and wild harvesting or local fishing. Economies of scale, especially in the agricultural sector, end up forcing smallholders to sell their land or to abandon their traditional crops. Their attempts to move to other, more diversified, means of production prove fruitless because of the difficulty of linkage with regional and global markets, or because the infrastructure for sales and transport is geared to larger businesses. Civil authorities have the right and duty to adopt clear and firm measures in support of small producers and differentiated production.3 On and on he went, explaining the ways that monopoly control of capital and resources not only leads to their overextraction but also prevents a majority of people from participating in value creation.

It offers a strategy for individuals looking to make the transition from losing jobs to creating value in a peer-to-peer marketplace. And it suggests what governments can do to facilitate instead of hinder this transition to a postindustrial prosperity. Distributism should not be confused with leftism. It’s calling not for the redistribution of earnings or capital through taxes or state action after the fact but for the widest possible distribution of the means of production as preconditions for a healthy marketplace. Workers ought to own the tools they use, and their contributions to an enterprise should earn them an ownership stake in the business itself. Distributism also discourages the externalization of costs to other parties or government, the privatization of currency, the treatment of economics as an impartial physical science, and the way big business and big government drain the market of liquidity.

Recall the tetrad we developed for the industrial corporation: it amplifies extraction, it obsolesces the peer-to-peer marketplace, it retrieves empire, and, when pushed to the extreme, it flips into personhood. What might the tetrad for a genuinely digital, distributist business look like? One that could live up to the demands of a renaissance? It would amplify value creation from everywhere as much as from the center—distributed creativity. It would obsolesce centralized monopolies, working to break them up and share the means of production with customers. It would retrieve the values of the medieval marketplace, recovering inexpensive means of exchange between peers. Pushed to the extreme, well, a digitally distributed company would probably seek some sort of collective or spiritual awareness—another retrieval of a more familial or even tribal sensibility. (Where the traditional corporatists at Google seek to build an artificial intelligence and bring on the singularity, the digital-distributist equivalent would be to achieve a networked collective consciousness—but that’s another book.)


pages: 330 words: 91,805

Peers Inc: How People and Platforms Are Inventing the Collaborative Economy and Reinventing Capitalism by Robin Chase

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3D printing, Airbnb, Amazon Web Services, Andy Kessler, banking crisis, barriers to entry, bitcoin, blockchain, Burning Man, business climate, call centre, car-free, cloud computing, collaborative consumption, collaborative economy, collective bargaining, congestion charging, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, decarbonisation, don't be evil, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, ethereum blockchain, Ferguson, Missouri, Firefox, frictionless, Gini coefficient, hive mind, income inequality, index fund, informal economy, Internet of things, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, job satisfaction, Kickstarter, Lean Startup, Lyft, means of production, megacity, Minecraft, minimum viable product, Network effects, new economy, Oculus Rift, openstreetmap, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer lending, Richard Stallman, ride hailing / ride sharing, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Satoshi Nakamoto, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, six sigma, Skype, smart cities, smart grid, Snapchat, sovereign wealth fund, Steve Crocker, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, TaskRabbit, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Nature of the Firm, transaction costs, Turing test, Uber and Lyft, Zipcar

Poor countries that still have a large informal economy strive to do the same in their central business districts, ridding their cities and economy of this uncontrollable blight and pushing the informal economy to the edges and slums, where it remains an important part of the total economy. The Peers Inc structure transforms the economic logic and this once-sound societal-benefits argument. Remember, platforms give individuals the power of the corporation at very affordable prices (often for free). Productivity and quality-of-life gains are now not necessarily achieved only through government support of the big and wealthy. Peers now have access to the means of production themselves. We don’t have to stifle the informal economy, because platforms organize, improve quality, and even self-regulate. In Chapter 10, I profile G-Auto, an example of an Indian company that is cleaning up the disorganized auto rickshaw market. But for all that, the rise of the micro-entrepreneur requires reworking and rethinking laws that protect them and their rights to earn a living wage and to work in a safe and healthy environment.

And then, one early summer day, one person will build the first balanced stack of stones of the season. It stands alone, beautiful, inspiring, challenging. Return to that beach two weekend days later, and what was a beach in its rocky wild form has been transformed into a landscape of dozens of rock cairns. With each passing day visitors see the example, the template for what is possible. The means of production lie at hand. One hour of pleasant painstaking experimentation later, you take a photo to capture and share your proud accomplishment, then continue on your hike. Photo: Robin Chase Photo: Heidi Spencer See it, do it, share it—like the rocks on the beach of this Maine island, like videos on YouTube, like successful uses of GPS. EVERYONE CAN PLAY: FROM THE FORTUNE 100 TO RICKSHAW DRIVERS There is room and need for everyone to play.

Over the last two centuries, the industrial economy rewarded a specific type of capitalist. To survive and thrive involved becoming just a smidge smaller than a monopoly, controlling the market while avoiding regulation. Control was maintained by exclusive ownership of intellectual property, trade secrets, copyrights, equipment, and employees. Why? Because factories, tools, and other expensive means of production demanded organizations large enough to extract their full potential. Products and services were standardized because high volumes led to economies of scale and the ability to offer lower-priced products. Higher volumes also meant increased market share. Then the Internet happened. Those old barriers to entry—large privately held assets and closed intellectual property—no longer result in the greatest value.

The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape by James Howard Kunstler

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A Pattern Language, blue-collar work, California gold rush, car-free, City Beautiful movement, corporate governance, Donald Trump, financial independence, Ford paid five dollars a day, Frank Gehry, germ theory of disease, indoor plumbing, jitney, land tenure, means of production, megastructure, Menlo Park, new economy, oil shock, place-making, Plutocrats, plutocrats, postindustrial economy, Potemkin village, Ronald Reagan, urban planning, urban renewal, urban sprawl, Whole Earth Review, working poor, Works Progress Administration

� . � .��!!�!:-:C?f.te!lj9yed at the _ . workers' expense, ·es.eed$!.lly the .fancy .hl1ildings.. where J :hey lived, worked, and were e�t:ertained. It was reasoned, therefore, that the com­ ing evolutionary leap into utopia would include the uplift of the work­ ers, resulting in "the new industrial man. " Ultimately, reasoned Karl Marx, the new industrial man would attain control of "the means of production" and all class distinctions would be abolished in an ensuing reorganization of life. Thus exalted and elevated, this new industrial man would require a better place to live than the slums that had been his customary abode. 6 0 ... YE S TE R D A Y ' S T O M O R R O W In fact, he and everybody else would require a new architectural setting for everyday life to replace the structures of the decadent past-else the new industrial man would lose the edge of moral superiority that he had only lately achieved, his evolution having been mostly a moral leap.

Many were paved with �obblestone� which made for a bone-shaking ride. Trolleys hogged the major thoroughfares, which were further clogged by horse-drawn ve­ hicles. Traffic control meant an occasional cop at the busiest intersec­ tions. ( t' O F 8 8 ... J O Y R I DE Henry Ford did not invent the automobile, but with the Model T he developed a very reliable machine that "the great multitude" could afford to buy, and he dreamed up a means of production-the assembly line-that made his machine cheaper every year for two decades, even while wages, and the prices of other things, climbed. Ford offered the first Model T in the fall of 1908 at $825 for the "runabout" and $25 more for the "touring car. " This was a time when $1200 was an ex­ cellent yearly salary. By the summer of 1916, with his new factory at Highland Park in full swing, Ford offered the same models for $345 and $360.

The farmer now entered a precarious relationship with banks in which each year he literally bet the farm that he could bring in a profitable crop. The long-term result was the death of the family farm in America, the replacement of agriculture by agribusiness. By 1940, the percentage of the population on farms fell to 23 percent, and by 1980 it had dwin­ dled to 3 percent. In and of itself, this population shift might not have been a bad thing, but it was accompanied by another terrible cost. A way of life became simply a means of production. Human husbandry gave way to the industrial exploitation of land. Left behind was the knowledge of how to care for land, so plainly evinced in today's prob­ lems of soil erosion and in pollution from chemical pesticides and fer­ tilizers. The cycle of overproduction, debt, and foreclosure in the late 1920s was the first sign that accommodating a new technology like the motor vehicle in an established economy could be wildly disruptive.


pages: 144 words: 43,356

Surviving AI: The Promise and Peril of Artificial Intelligence by Calum Chace

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3D printing, Ada Lovelace, AI winter, Airbnb, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, barriers to entry, bitcoin, blockchain, brain emulation, Buckminster Fuller, cloud computing, computer age, computer vision, correlation does not imply causation, credit crunch, cryptocurrency, cuban missile crisis, dematerialisation, discovery of the americas, disintermediation, don't be evil, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, Erik Brynjolfsson, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, Flash crash, friendly AI, Google Glasses, industrial robot, Internet of things, invention of agriculture, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, life extension, low skilled workers, Mahatma Gandhi, means of production, mutually assured destruction, Nicholas Carr, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, Ray Kurzweil, Rodney Brooks, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Skype, South Sea Bubble, speech recognition, Stanislav Petrov, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, strong AI, technological singularity, theory of mind, Turing machine, Turing test, universal basic income, Vernor Vinge, wage slave, Wall-E

Many people remain sceptical about them, and other forces may emerge in the coming decades. Nevertheless they are the main focus of this book. Automation could lead to an economic singularity. “Singularity” is a term borrowed from maths and physics, and means a point where the normal rules cease to apply, and what lies beyond is un-knowable to anyone this side of the event horizon. (1) An economic singularity might lead to an elite owning the means of production and suppressing the rest of us in a dystopian technological authoritarian regime. Or it could lead to an economy of radical abundance, where nobody has to work for a living, and we are all free to have fun, and stretch our minds and develop our faculties to the full. I hope and believe that the latter is possible, but we also need to make sure the process of getting there is as smooth as possible.

The optimistic scenario is that AI-powered robots do all the work, creating an economy of what Peter Diamandis calls radical abundance, leaving humans to pursue self-fulfilment by reading, writing, talking, playing sports and undertaking adventures. Or perhaps playing endless video games in immersive virtual realities. Martin Ford envisages this as a modification to the market economy, with the UBI being funded by taxes on the rich. An alternative is some form of socialism, whereby the means of production – the AI systems and their peripherals, the robots – will be taken into common ownership. UBI is a noble vision, but it leaves three large problems outstanding: the allocation of scarce resources, the creation of meaning, and the transition. Even if radical abundance is possible without consuming and polluting the entire planet, there will still be scarce resources. Who gets the beachfront property with the palm trees and the white sand?

Masters of Mankind by Noam Chomsky

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affirmative action, Berlin Wall, failed state, income inequality, land reform, Martin Wolf, means of production, nuremberg principles, offshore financial centre, oil shale / tar sands, Plutocrats, plutocrats, profit maximization, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Silicon Valley, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, union organizing, urban renewal, War on Poverty, Washington Consensus

He saw the dangers of a “permanent inequality of conditions” and an end to democracy if “the manufacturing aristocracy which is growing up under our eyes,” “one of the harshest that has ever existed in the world,” should escape its confines. Or America’s leading twentieth-century social philosopher, John Dewey, who held that we cannot talk seriously about democracy in a regime of private power. “Power today resides in control of the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation and communication,” he wrote. “Whoever owns them rules the life of the country,” and politics is little more than the “the shadow cast on society by big business” as long as the country is ruled by ‘business for private profit through private control of banking, land, industry, reinforced by command of the press, press agents and other means of publicity and propaganda.”

However, a recent study by the International Monetary Fund indicates—to quote the business press—that perhaps “the largest US banks aren’t really profitable at all,” adding that “the billions of dollars they allegedly earn for their shareholders were almost entirely a gift from US taxpayers.”2 This is more evidence to support the judgment of the most respected financial correspondent in the English-speaking world, Martin Wolf of the London Financial Times, that “an out-of-control financial sector is eating out the modern market economy from inside, just as the larva of the spider wasp eats out the host in which it has been laid.”3 The term “capitalism” is also commonly used for systems in which there are no capitalists: for example, the extensive worker-owned Mondragón conglomerate in the Basque Country of Spain or the worker-owned enterprises expanding in northern Ohio—often with conservative support—a matter discussed in important work by Gar Alperovitz.4 Some might even use the term “capitalism” to include the industrial democracy advocated by John Dewey, America’s leading social philosopher. He called for workers to be “masters of their own industrial fate,” and for all institutions to be under public control, including the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation, and communication.5 Short of this, Dewey argued, politics will remain “the shadow cast on society by big business.”6 The truncated democracy that Dewey condemned has been left in tatters in recent years. Now, control of government is narrowly concentrated at the peak of the income scale, while the large majority “down below” are virtually disenfranchised.

Because We Say So by Noam Chomsky

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Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Chelsea Manning, cuban missile crisis, David Brooks, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Malacca Straits, Martin Wolf, means of production, Monroe Doctrine, Occupy movement, oil shale / tar sands, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, Slavoj Žižek, Stanislav Petrov, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, uranium enrichment, WikiLeaks

“Capitalism” is a term now commonly used to describe systems in which there are no capitalists: for example, the worker-owned Mondragon conglomerate in the Basque region of Spain, or the worker-owned enterprises expanding in northern Ohio, often with conservative support—both are discussed in important work by the scholar Gar Alperovitz. Some might even use the term “capitalism” to refer to the industrial democracy advocated by John Dewey, America’s leading social philosopher, in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Dewey called for workers to be “masters of their own industrial fate” and for all institutions to be brought under public control, including the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation and communication. Short of this, Dewey argued, politics will remain “the shadow cast on society by big business.” The truncated democracy that Dewey condemned has been left in tatters in recent years. Now control of government is narrowly concentrated at the peak of the income scale, while the large majority “down below” has been virtually disenfranchised.

Or perhaps, a little more kindly, it’s what legal scholar Conor Gearty calls “neo-democracy,” a partner to neoliberalism—a system in which liberty is enjoyed by the few, and security in its fullest sense is available only to the elite, but within a system of more general formal rights. In contrast, as Rocker writes, a truly democratic system would achieve the character of “an alliance of free groups of men and women based on cooperative labor and a planned administration of things in the interest of the community.” No one took the American philosopher John Dewey to be an anarchist. But consider his ideas. He recognized that “power today resides in control of the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation and communication. Whoever owns them rules the life of the country,” even if democratic forms remain. Until those institutions are in the hands of the public, politics will remain “the shadow cast on society by big business,” much as is seen today. These ideas lead very naturally to a vision of society based on workers’ control of productive institutions, as envisioned by 19th-century thinkers, notably Karl Marx but also—less familiar—John Stuart Mill.


pages: 301 words: 74,571

Idoru by William Gibson

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experimental subject, Kowloon Walled City, means of production, pattern recognition, place-making, telepresence

Eddie groaned, then, and the Russian kicked him. "Basis," the Russian said. "A public works project?" Rez raised his eyebrow. "A water filtration plant, something like that?" The Russian kept his eye on the big man's axe. "In Tallin," he said, "we soon are building exclusive mega-mall, affluent gated sub- urbs, plus world-class pharmaceutical manufakura. We are unfairly denied most advanced means of production, but we are desiring one hundred percent modern operation." "Rez," the man with the axe said, "give it up. This boon and his mates need that thing to build themselves an Estonian drug factory. Time I took you back to the hotel." "But wouldn't they be more interested in… Tokyo real estate?" The big man's eyes bulged, the scars on his forehead reddening. One of the upper arms of the micropore X had come loose, revealing a deep scratch.

Eddie groaned, then, and the Russian kicked him. "Basis," the Russian said. "A public works project?" Rez raised his eyebrow. "A water filtration plant, something like that?" The Russian kept his eye on the big man's axe. "In Tallin," he said, "we soon are building exclusive mega-mall, affluent gated sub-o 0 263 urbs, plus world-class pharmaceutical manufakura. We are unfairly denied most advanced means of production, but we are desiring one hundred percent modern operation." "Rez," the man with the axe said, "give it up. This hoon and his mates need that thing to build themselves an Estonian drug factory. Time I took you back to the hotel." "But wouldn't they be more interested in… Tokyo real estate?" The big man's eyes bulged, the scars on his forehead reddening. One of the upper arms of the micropore X had come loose, revealing a deep scratch.


pages: 235 words: 65,885

Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines by Richard Heinberg, James Howard (frw) Kunstler

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anti-communist, back-to-the-land, clean water, Community Supported Agriculture, deindustrialization, delayed gratification, demographic transition, ending welfare as we know it, energy transition, Fractional reserve banking, greed is good, Haber-Bosch Process, happiness index / gross national happiness, income inequality, land reform, means of production, oil shale / tar sands, peak oil, Plutocrats, plutocrats, post-oil, reserve currency, ride hailing / ride sharing, Ronald Reagan, the built environment, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, too big to fail, urban planning

“A Letter From the Future,” originally published in 2000, is of the genre of the classic novel Looking Backward: 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy, which imagined, from that writer’s perspective in the late 19th century, life in our time. Bellamy’s vision inevitably proved myopic: while Looking Backward was popular and influential (it sold over a million copies and inspired many Progressive reforms throughout the next two decades), it did not successfully anticipate the world of the early 21st century. Bellamy saw our era as one in which government would control the means of production and divide wealth equally between all people and in which all citizens would receive a college education and be given freedom in choosing a career, from which they would retire at age 45. In short, Bellamy foresaw a socialist utopia and entirely missed the realities of globalization, sweat shops, and environmental devastation. My own effort is likely to be just as inaccurate — though while Bellamy’s failed by being too sanguine, I hope mine proves too dire.

Of course, from a biological point of view, food is energy. And so what we are saying (once again, but in a slightly different way) is that understanding energy sources is essential to understanding human societies. Anthropologist Marvin Harris identified three basic elements that are present in every human society:• infrastructure, which consists of the means of obtaining and processing necessary energy and materials from nature — i.e., the means of production; • structure, which consists of human-to-human decision-making and resource-allocating activities; and • superstructure, consisting of the ideas, rituals, ethics, and myths that serve to explain the universe and coordinate human behavior.6 Change at any of these levels can affect the others: the emergence of a new religion or a political revolution, for example, can change people’s lives in real, significant ways.


pages: 330 words: 77,729

Big Three in Economics: Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes by Mark Skousen

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Albert Einstein, banking crisis, Berlin Wall, Bretton Woods, business climate, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, delayed gratification, experimental economics, financial independence, Financial Instability Hypothesis, full employment, Hernando de Soto, housing crisis, Hyman Minsky, inflation targeting, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Joseph Schumpeter, laissez-faire capitalism, liquidity trap, means of production, microcredit, minimum wage unemployment, open economy, paradox of thrift, price stability, pushing on a string, rent control, Richard Thaler, rising living standards, road to serfdom, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, rolodex, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, school choice, secular stagnation, Simon Kuznets, The Chicago School, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, Tobin tax, unorthodox policies

The diagram in Figure 3.1 reflects this Hegelian dialectic. Marx applied Hegel's dialectic to his deterministic view of history. Thus, the course of history could be described by using Hegelian concepts— from slavery to capitalism to communism. Figure 3.1 The Hegelian Dialectic Used to Describe the Course of History THESIS According to this theory, slavery was viewed as the principal means of production or thesis during Greco-Roman times. Feudalism became its main antithesis in the Middle Ages. The synthesis became capitalism, which became the new thesis after the Enlightenment. But capitalism faced its own antithesis—the growing threat of socialism. Eventually, this struggle would result in the ultimate system of production, communism. In this way, Marx was an eternal optimist. He firmly believed that all history pointed to higher forms of society, culminating in communism.

Today most sociologists recognize the important role economic forces play in society. Second is the issue of classes in society. Marx's theory of class consciousness and class conflict has engaged historians and sociologists. To what extent are behavior and thought reflections of bourgeois or proletarian values? To what point does the ruling class protect and advance its interests through the political process? Does the group that owns or controls property and the means of production dominate? Is it true that "law and politics are in the service of industrial capital"? If so, asks Wolff, "why are trade unions allowed? Why do universities have Arts Faculties as well as Engineering (indeed, why allow the teaching of Marxism)? Why don't the multinationals win every one of their court cases?" (Wolff 2002, 59) If the state is under the thumb of the capitalist interests, why did the Great Depression occur, since it severely harmed them?


pages: 236 words: 67,953

Brave New World of Work by Ulrich Beck

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affirmative action, Asian financial crisis, Berlin Wall, collective bargaining, conceptual framework, Fall of the Berlin Wall, feminist movement, full employment, future of work, hiring and firing, illegal immigration, income inequality, informal economy, job automation, knowledge worker, labour market flexibility, labour mobility, low skilled workers, McJob, means of production, mini-job, postnationalism / post nation state, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, rising living standards, Silicon Valley, working poor, working-age population

The most prominent feature of this new society will be the centrality of knowledge as an economic resource. Knowledge, not work, will become the source of social wealth; and ‘knowledge workers’ who have the capacity to translate specialized knowledge into profit-producing innovations (products, technological and organizational innovations, etc.) will become the privileged group in society. The basic economic resource – the ‘means of production’ to use the economist's term – is no longer capital, nor natural resources (the economist's ‘land’), nor ‘labour’. It is and will be knowledge. The central wealth-creating activities will be neither the allocation of capital to productive uses nor ‘labour’ – the two poles of nineteenth- and twentieth-century economic theory, whether Classical, Marxist, Keynesian or Neo-Classical. Value is now created by ‘productivity’ and ‘innovation’, both applications of knowledge to work.

Value is now created by ‘productivity’ and ‘innovation’, both applications of knowledge to work. The leading social groups of the knowledge society will be ‘knowledge workers’ – knowledge executives who know how to allocate knowledge to productive use; knowledge professionals; knowledge employees. Practically all these knowledge people will be employed in organizations. Yet unlike the employees under capitalism they own both the ‘means of production’ and the ‘tools of production’ – the former through their pension funds which are rapidly emerging in all developed countries as the only real owners, the latter because knowledge workers own their knowledge and can take it with them wherever they go. The economic challenge of the post-capitalist society will therefore be the productivity of knowledge work and knowledge worker.20 Many have objected that there is nothing new in this line of argument, since knowledge already played a central role in the industry and services era, perhaps in all epochs of work.


pages: 243 words: 66,908

Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Meadows. Donella, Diana Wright

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affirmative action, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Buckminster Fuller, clean water, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, game design, illegal immigration, invisible hand, Just-in-time delivery, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, peak oil, race to the bottom, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ronald Reagan, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas L Friedman, Whole Earth Review

• The agricultural revolution and all that followed started with the simple, shocking ideas that people could stay settled in one place, own land, select and cultivate crops. • “God created the universe with the earth at its center, the land with the castle at its center, and humanity with the Church at its center”—the organizing principle for the elaborate social and physical structures of Europe in the Middle Ages. • “God and morality are outmoded ideas; people should be objective and scientific, should own and multiply the means of production, and should treat people and nature as instrumental inputs to production”—the organizing principles of the Industrial Revolution. Out of simple rules of self-organization can grow enormous, diversifying crystals of technology, physical structures, organizations, and cultures. Systems often have the property of self-organization—the ability to structure themselves, to create new structure, to learn, diversify, and complexify.

Forest species extend beyond the edge of the forest into the field; field species penetrate partway into the forest. Disorderly, mixed-up borders are sources of diversity and creativity. In our system zoo, for instance, I showed the flow of cars into a car dealer’s inventory as coming from a cloud. Of course, cars don’t come from a cloud, they come from the transformation of a stock of raw materials, with the help of capital, labor, energy, technology, and management (the means of production). Similarly, the flow of cars out of the inventory goes not to a cloud, but through sales to the households or businesses of consumers. Whether it is important to keep track of raw materials or consumers’ home stocks (whether it is legitimate to replace them in a diagram with clouds) depends on whether these stocks are likely to have a significant influence on the behavior of the system over the time period of interest.

The Haves and the Have-Nots by Branko Milanovic

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Berlin Wall, Branko Milanovic, colonial rule, crony capitalism, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deglobalization, Deng Xiaoping, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial deregulation, full employment, Gini coefficient, high net worth, illegal immigration, income inequality, income per capita, Joseph Schumpeter, means of production, open borders, Plutocrats, plutocrats, purchasing power parity, Simon Kuznets, very high income, Washington Consensus

The reasons lie in a very corrupt privatization process that led to immense wealth for some and poverty and unemployment for many, and the fact that the 1990s, much more so than the 1970s or even 1980s, was a “decade of inequality.” Inequality rose almost everywhere and was not regarded as negatively as during the heyday of welfare capitalism. So the postcommunist countries just “imitated” their Western counterparts in letting inequality shoot up in the 1990s. How did socialism realize that greater equality? There were several things, like a package, that led to it. First, nationalization of the means of production and of land (or the agrarian reform in several countries) obliterated the large industrial and landowning fortunes. This was particularly the case in countries like Russia (after the revolution in 1917) and Hungary and Poland (after 1947) where large landholdings still existed. Private industrialists in all countries disappeared, their assets were nationalized, and stock markets were closed.

This “tripartite” view of the world—however inadequate in some particular cases1—was by and large not unreasonable and allowed us to organize, at least mentally, the world in a rather tidy fashion. It also corresponded broadly to a division in economic policies followed by the countries. The first world was capitalist but not monolithic. There were welfare-oriented central and North European countries and the more private-sector-dominated United States. The second world’s distinguishing characteristic was state ownership of the means of production, but heterogeneity existed there, too, between the centrally planned Soviet Union, on the one hand, and market-oriented Yugoslavia, on the other. The third world, it could be easily averred, was dominated by “developmentalist” policies, where the state played an active role, not only in taxation and spending (as in many Western economies) but also in production. State-led development and import substitution were guiding principles in countries as diverse as Brazil, Turkey, India, Tanzania, and Ghana.


pages: 302 words: 73,581

Platform Scale: How an Emerging Business Model Helps Startups Build Large Empires With Minimum Investment by Sangeet Paul Choudary

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3D printing, Airbnb, Amazon Web Services, barriers to entry, bitcoin, blockchain, business process, Clayton Christensen, collaborative economy, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, data acquisition, frictionless, game design, hive mind, Internet of things, invisible hand, Kickstarter, Lean Startup, Lyft, M-Pesa, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, multi-sided market, Network effects, new economy, Paul Graham, recommendation engine, ride hailing / ride sharing, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, social graph, social software, software as a service, software is eating the world, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, TaskRabbit, the payments system, too big to fail, transport as a service, two-sided market, Uber and Lyft, Uber for X, Wave and Pay

As we progress through this section, we will increasingly note that all platform design decisions are built around the core value unit. PLATFORM SCALE IMPERATIVE The age of the industrial economy accorded inordinate power to those who held the means of production. In the age of platforms, production is decentralized. Whether it is the decentralization of manufacturing through 3D printing, the decentralization of marketing and journalism through social media, or the decentralization of service providers in the collaborative economy, the means of production are no longer limited to large companies or entities. With decentralized production, the platforms that enable and aggregate this production are the new winners. In a platformed world, the people and processes that determine quality and quantity of value units determine success.


pages: 105 words: 18,832

The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future by Naomi Oreskes, Erik M. Conway

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anti-communist, correlation does not imply causation, en.wikipedia.org, energy transition, invisible hand, laissez-faire capitalism, market fundamentalism, means of production, oil shale / tar sands, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, stochastic process, the built environment, the market place

The fallacy rested on an incomplete analysis, which considered only physical by-products of combustion, particularly in electricity generation, and not the other factors that controlled overall energy use and net release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. capitalism A form of socioeconomic organization that dominated Western Europe and North America from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, in which the means of production and distribution of goods and services were owned either by individuals or by government-chartered legal entities called “corporations.” Typically these entities were operated for-profit, with the surplus value produced by workers funneled to owners, managers, and “investors,” third parties who owned “stock” in a company but had lia-bility neither for its debts nor its social consequences.


pages: 91 words: 26,009

Capitalism: A Ghost Story by Arundhati Roy

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Bretton Woods, corporate governance, feminist movement, Frank Gehry, ghettoisation, Howard Zinn, informal economy, land reform, Mahatma Gandhi, means of production, megacity, microcredit, neoliberal agenda, Occupy movement, RAND corporation, reserve currency, special economic zone, spectrum auction, stem cell, The Chicago School, Washington Consensus, WikiLeaks

That’s why in a nation of 1.2 billion, India’s one hundred richest people own assets equivalent to one-fourth of the GDP.1 The word on the street (and in the New York Times) is, or at least was, that after all that effort and gardening, the Ambanis don’t live in Antilla.2 No one knows for sure. People still whisper about ghosts and bad luck, Vastu and feng shui. Maybe it’s all Karl Marx’s fault. (All that cussing.) Capitalism, he said, “has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, that it is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the netherworld whom he has called up by his spells.”3 In India the 300 million of us who belong to the new, post–International Monetary Fund (IMF) “reforms” middle class—the market—live side by side with spirits of the netherworld, the poltergeists of dead rivers, dry wells, bald mountains, and denuded forests; the ghosts of 250,000 debt-ridden farmers who have killed themselves, and of the 800 million who have been impoverished and dispossessed to make way for us.4 And who survive on less than twenty Indian rupees a day.5 Mukesh Ambani is personally worth $20 billion.6 He holds a majority controlling share in Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), a company with a market capitalization of $47 billion and global business interests that include petrochemicals, oil, natural gas, polyester fiber, Special Economic Zones, fresh food retail, high schools, life sciences research, and stem cell storage services.


pages: 376 words: 118,542

Free to Choose: A Personal Statement by Milton Friedman, Rose D. Friedman

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affirmative action, agricultural Revolution, air freight, back-to-the-land, bank run, banking crisis, Corn Laws, Fractional reserve banking, full employment, German hyperinflation, invisible hand, labour mobility, means of production, minimum wage unemployment, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, price stability, Ralph Nader, RAND corporation, rent control, road to serfdom, school vouchers, Simon Kuznets, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, union organizing, Unsafe at Any Speed, Upton Sinclair, urban renewal, War on Poverty, working poor, Works Progress Administration

You are not free to raise funds on the capital markets unless you fill out the numerous pages of forms the SEC requires and unless you satisfy the SEC that the prospectus you propose to issue presents such a bleak picture of your prospects that no investor in his right mind would invest in your project if he took the prospectus literally. And getting SEC approval may cost upwards of $100,000—which certainly discourages the small firms our government professes to help. Freedom to own property is another essential part of economic freedom. And we do have widespread property ownership. Well over half of us own the homes we live in. When it comes to machines, factories, and similar means of production, the situation is very different. We refer to ourselves as a free private enterprise society, as a capitalist society. Yet in terms of the ownership of corporate enterprise, we are about 46 percent socialist. Owning 1 percent of a corporation means that you are entitled to receive 1 percent of its profits and must share I percent of its losses up to the full value of your stock. The 1979 federal corporate income tax is 46 percent on all income over $100,000 (reduced from 48 percent in prior years).

They reflected the change that had occurred earlier in the intellectual atmosphere on the campuses—from belief in individual responsibility, laissez-faire, and a decentralized and limited government to belief in social responsibility and a centralized and powerful government. It was the function of government, they believed, to protect individuals from the vicissitudes of fortune and to control the operation of the economy in the "general interest," even if that involved government ownership and operation of the means of production. These two strands were already present in a famous novel published in 1887, Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy, a Utopian fantasy in which a Rip Van Winkle character who goes to sleep in the year 1887 awakens in the year 2000 to discover a changed world. "Looking backward," his new companions explain to him how the Utopia that astonishes him emerged in the 1930s—a prophetic date—from the hell of the 1880s.

The failure of planning and nationalization has not eliminated; pressure for an ever bigger government. It has simply altered its direction. The expansion of government now takes the form of welfare programs and of regulatory activities. As W. Allen Wallis put it in a somewhat different context, socialism, "intellectually bankrupt after more than a century of seeing one after another of its arguments for socializing the means of production demolished—now seeks to socialize the results of production." 2 In the welfare area the change of direction has led to an explosion in recent decades, especially after President Lyndon Johnson declared a "War on Poverty" in 1964. New Deal programs of Social Security, unemployment insurance, and direct relief were all expanded to cover new groups; payments were increased; and Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and numerous other programs were added.


pages: 489 words: 148,885

Accelerando by Stross, Charles

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call centre, carbon-based life, cellular automata, cognitive dissonance, Conway's Game of Life, dark matter, dumpster diving, Extropian, finite state, Flynn Effect, glass ceiling, gravity well, John von Neumann, knapsack problem, Kuiper Belt, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, market bubble, means of production, packet switching, performance metric, phenotype, planetary scale, Pluto: dwarf planet, reversible computing, Richard Stallman, SETI@home, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, slashdot, South China Sea, stem cell, technological singularity, telepresence, The Chicago School, theory of mind, Turing complete, Turing machine, Turing test, upwardly mobile, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture, web of trust, Y2K

He believes in achieving True Communism, which is a state of philosophical grace that requires certain prerequisites like, um, not pissing around with Molotov cocktails and thought police: He wants to make everybody so rich that squabbling over ownership of the means of production makes as much sense as arguing over who gets to sleep in the damp spot at the back of the cave. He's not your enemy, I mean. He's the enemy of those Stalinist deviationist running dogs in Conservative Party Central Office who want to bug your bedroom and hand everything on a plate to the big corporates owned by the pension funds – which in turn rely on people dying predictably to provide their raison d'être. And, um, more importantly dying and not trying to hang on to their property and chattels. Sitting up in the coffin singing extropian fireside songs, that kind of thing. The actuaries are to blame, predicting life expectancy with intent to cause people to buy insurance policies with money that is invested in control of the means of production – Bayes' Theorem is to blame –" Alan glances over his shoulder at Manfred: "I don't think feeding him guarana was a good idea," he says in tones of deep foreboding.

"I don't understand," he says, genuinely puzzled. "What has the human condition got to do with economics?" The minister sighs abruptly. "You are very unusual. You earn no money, do you? But you are rich, because grateful people who have benefited from your work give you everything you need. You are like a medieval troubadour who has found favor with the aristocracy. Your labor is not alienated – it is given freely, and your means of production is with you always, inside your head." Manfred blinks; the jargon is weirdly technical-sounding but orthogonal to his experience, offering him a disquieting glimpse into the world of the terminally future-shocked. He is surprised to find that not understanding itches. Gianni taps his balding temple with a knuckle like a walnut. "Most people spend little time inside their heads. They don't understand how you live.


pages: 448 words: 116,962

Singularity Sky by Stross, Charles

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anthropic principle, cellular automata, Conway's Game of Life, cosmological constant, Doomsday Clock, Extropian, gravity well, Kuiper Belt, life extension, means of production, new economy, phenotype, prisoner's dilemma, skinny streets, technological singularity, uranium enrichment

Along with instructions for using it and a colony design library?" asked Burya, his pulse pounding. "Maybe. What will you give us?" "Mmm. How about a post-Marxist theory of post-technological political economy, and a proof that the dictatorship of the hereditary peerage can only be maintained by the systematic oppression and exploitation of the workers and engineers, and cannot survive once the people acquire the selfreplicating means of production?" There was a pause, and Timoshevski exhaled furiously. Just as he was about to speak, the telephone made an odd bell-like noise: "That will be sufficient. You will deliver the theory to this node. Arrangements to clone a replicator and library are now under way. Query: ability to deliver postulated proof of validity of theory?" Burya grinned. "Does your replicator contain schemata for replicating itself?

"Does your replicator contain schemata for replicating itself? And does it contain schemata for producing direct fusion weapons, military aircraft, and guns?" "Yes and yes to all subqueries. Query: ability to deliver postulated proof of validity of theory?" Timoshevski was punching the air and bouncing around the office. Even the normally phlegmatic Wolff was grinning like a maniac. "Just give the workers the means of production, and we'll prove the theory," said Rubenstein. "We need to talk in private. Back in an hour, with the texts you requested." He pressed the OFF switch on the telephone. "Yes!" After a minute, Timoshevski calmed down a bit. Rubenstein waited indulgently; truth be told, he felt the same way himself. But it was his duty as leader of the movement—or at least the nearest thing they had to a statesman, serving his involuntary internal exile out on this flea-pit of a backwater—to think ahead.

"Friends from Old Earth," Martin grunted. "Also hungry, dirty, shipwrecked survivors." "Well, you won't find any decent hospitality here." Rubenstein swept a hand around the clearing. "Old Earth, did you say? Now that is a long way to come with a parcel! Just what exactly is it?" "It's a cornucopia machine. Self-replicating factory, fully programmable, and it's yours. A gift from Earth. The means of production in one handy self-propelled package. We hoped you might feel like starting an industrial revolution. At least we did before we found out about the Festival." Rachel blinked as Rubenstein threw back his head and laughed wildly. "Just what exactly is that meant to mean?" she demanded irritably. "I've come forty light-years, at not inconsiderable risk, to deliver a message you'd have murdered for six months ago.


pages: 424 words: 115,035

How Will Capitalism End? by Wolfgang Streeck

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accounting loophole / creative accounting, Airbnb, Ben Bernanke: helicopter money, Bretton Woods, capital controls, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Carmen Reinhart, central bank independence, centre right, Clayton Christensen, collective bargaining, conceptual framework, corporate governance, credit crunch, David Brooks, David Graeber, debt deflation, deglobalization, deindustrialization, en.wikipedia.org, eurozone crisis, failed state, financial deregulation, financial innovation, first-past-the-post, full employment, Gini coefficient, global reserve currency, Google Glasses, haute cuisine, income inequality, invisible hand, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, Kenneth Rogoff, labour market flexibility, labour mobility, late capitalism, market bubble, means of production, moral hazard, North Sea oil, offshore financial centre, open borders, pension reform, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances, post-industrial society, private sector deleveraging, profit maximization, profit motive, quantitative easing, reserve currency, rising living standards, Robert Gordon, savings glut, secular stagnation, shareholder value, sharing economy, sovereign wealth fund, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, transaction costs, Uber for X, upwardly mobile, winner-take-all economy, Wolfgang Streeck

All of this presupposes the presence of a broad middle class willing to seek social integration through the labour market, accepting as a matter of course expectations of employers for full identification with whatever jobs they may be assigned and taking for granted the need for social life to respect the primacy of dedicated work and the pursuit of, it is hoped, life-structuring careers.81 Capital accumulation after the end of capitalist system integration hangs on a thin thread: on the effectiveness, as long as it lasts, of the social integration of individuals into a capitalist culture of consumption and production. Institutional supports having fallen into disarray, post-capitalist capital accumulation depends on culture lagging behind structure, or substituting for a structure that has long dissolved, and on the difficulties of an alternative culture developing under the combined pressures of fragmented competition and precarious, all-too-easily lost access to the means of production and consumption. Ideology, in particular the exaltation of a life in uncertainty as a life in liberty, is of central importance here. Neoliberal ideological narratives offer a euphemistic reinterpretation of the breakdown of structured order as the arrival of a free society built on individual autonomy, and of de-institutionalization as historical progress out of an empire of necessity into an empire of freedom.

This would seem to be another indication that the economy of the oligarchs has been decoupled from that of ordinary people, as the rich no longer expect to pay a price for maximizing their income at the expense of the non-rich, or for pursuing their interests at the expense of the economy as a whole. What may be surfacing here is the fundamental tension described by Marx between, on the one hand, the increasingly social nature of production in an advanced economy and society, and private ownership of the means of production on the other. As productivity growth requires more public provision, it tends to become incompatible with private accumulation of profits, forcing capitalist elites to choose between the two. The result is what we are seeing already today: economic stagnation combined with oligarchic redistribution.39 CORROSIONS OF THE IRON CAGE Along with declining economic growth, rising inequality and the transferral of the public domain to private ownership, corruption is the fourth disorder of contemporary capitalism.

In the final analysis, the transformation of the debt state into a consolidation state is to end the tendency, envisaged under both ‘Wagner’s Law’ and the Marxian conjecture of an increasing socialization of production, for a maturing capitalist-industrial society to require ever-rising levels of public support – of infrastructural investment and all sorts of collective repair work and compensation – up to a point where capitalist industrialism would become incompatible with private ownership in the means of production. Imposing public austerity on the debt state of the late twentieth century may be interpreted as an effort to escape this trend, in response to the growing resistance of capitalist society against being taxed for public provision. What results is a large-scale political experiment turning over to private enterprise the tasks of insuring against social risks, providing welfare, education and health, building and maintaining physical infrastructures, and even parts of government itself (warfare, the collection of intelligence).


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Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World by Deirdre N. McCloskey

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Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, BRICs, British Empire, butterfly effect, Carmen Reinhart, clockwork universe, computer age, Corn Laws, dark matter, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Donald Trump, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, European colonialism, experimental economics, financial innovation, Fractional reserve banking, full employment, George Akerlof, germ theory of disease, Gini coefficient, greed is good, Howard Zinn, income per capita, interchangeable parts, invention of agriculture, invention of air conditioning, invention of writing, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John Snow's cholera map, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, knowledge economy, means of production, Naomi Klein, New Economic Geography, New Urbanism, purchasing power parity, rent-seeking, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Scientific racism, Scramble for Africa, Shenzhen was a fishing village, Simon Kuznets, Slavoj Žižek, spinning jenny, Steven Pinker, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, total factor productivity, transaction costs, tulip mania, union organizing, Upton Sinclair, urban renewal, V2 rocket, very high income, working poor, World Values Survey, Yogi Berra

It doesn’t discover, except in the wide (and wise) sense that assigning goods to their highest valued user does. After all, trade is merely the moving of stuff from one place to another. Trade is good to do, and even at moderate markups it is profitable, too. Therefore it happens. But shuffling stuff about for a modest productivity gain (even if a large gain in the margin of profit) is not the same thing as revolutionizing the means of production. Shuffling resources around is not the way to get the (cautiously estimated) factor of sixteen. Anyway, as the historian John Chartres argues, Britain had “well before 1750 . . . an unusual flexibility in the employment of its factor endowments.”1 It had none of the internal tariffs that harried French businesspeople into the nineteenth century, and few of the obstacles to the employment of women in industry that stifled enterprise in China or the Arab world, and none of the class barriers to mobility among industries that shackled India (and especially did so after European theories of stages of development took hold under the British Raj).

All their other proposals took centuries to establish, in what Wootton calls an “extraordinary paradigm shift, which marks the birth of modern political theory” — manhood suffrage, a written constitution, non selfincrimination (freedom from waterboarding, one might say), right to counsel, liberty of religion, liberty of speech.9 But remarkably in England a definite if small move towards liberty of internal trade, for poor people as well as rich, a nation of shopkeepers, actually came to pass as early as in the old age of the last surviving Leveller of the 1640s. Clark, who admits that such rhetoric may transform economic attitudes, would nonetheless wisely urge us to push the problem back one more step: why the rhetorical change? A very good point, I repeat, always a good point. It would imply, if we were committed to historical materialism, that some cause for the rhetoric must be sought in the means of production or reproduction. Under the Materialist Postulate a rhetoric neverchanges independent of economics or demography — certainly not by causes within rhetoric itself such as the invention of the novel or the logic of Pascal-Nicole-Bayle in theology; not even by such causes as the political settlement in England of 1689 or the obsession with Protestant egalitarianism of all believers in Holland and Scotland from the midsixteenth century or the ordinary man’s involvement in politics in Holland, England, and Scotland 1585 to 1660 or the chances of war, some of them mere effective words (“I had rather have a plain russet-coated captain that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows,” wrote Cromwell in 1643, “than that which you call a gentleman and is nothing else”), that left the New Model Army in possession of the English king and his country in 1645.

Prudence is not the only virtue—so are courage and hope, supported by temperance, justice, love, faith, and hope. Through a “Bourgeois Revaluation” redefining such virtues, first in the Netherlands and then in Britain, people started accepting the creative destruction of innovation — and this for the first time. Habits of the heart did not change (contrary to Max Weber, for example). And the means of production itself cannot have produced such a stunning change endogenously (contrary to modern growth theorists). What changed were habits of the lip. It’s not a “rise of the bourgeoisie,” but a rise in other people’s opinion of the bourgeoisie that makes for economic growth — as it is now doing in China and India. When people treat the marketeers and inventors as having some dignity and liberty, innovation takes hold.


pages: 336 words: 90,749

How to Fix Copyright by William Patry

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A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, barriers to entry, big-box store, borderless world, business intelligence, citizen journalism, cloud computing, crowdsourcing, death of newspapers, en.wikipedia.org, facts on the ground, Frederick Winslow Taylor, George Akerlof, Gordon Gekko, haute cuisine, informal economy, invisible hand, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, lone genius, means of production, new economy, road to serfdom, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, semantic web, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, The Chicago School, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transaction costs, trickle-down economics, web application, winner-take-all economy

Francis Gurry, Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization, has rightly argued that successful copyright policy has to be based on neutrality to technology and to business models, and should not “preserve business models established under obsolete or moribund technologies.”69 The days of artificial scarcity are gone forever, replaced by abundance. It makes no sense in a world of digital abundance to complain about the loss of revenue resulting from monopoly power made possible only by analog means of production and distribution. The changes are even more profound, though, than a mere switch from analog to digital: Ordinary people, using the Internet and digital applications in ordinary ways, are unwittingly engaging in massive copying on a daily basis simply because of the way those technologies function. For good reason, the Internet has been called a giant copying machine, copying, of necessity, every step we take.70 Copyright laws that make everything we do an act of infringement make no sense.

Backyard Indian companies were “energetically recording and marketing all manner” of regional musical works that previously had been ignored by the dominant British record company. Rather than targeting the same broad national audience served by the large companies, the backyard companies were aiming at “a bewildering variety” of audiences, some quite narrow, such as Punjabi truck drivers. Local ownership of the means of production is “incomparably more diverse. . . . As a result, the average non-elite Indian is now, as never before, offered the voices of his community . . .”23 These passages are not about the present or about digital technology, but rather about the 1980s and the introduction of audiocassette tapes and players. Fast-forwarding to the present, India has a very strong domestic film market: half of the world’s tickets are sold in India, but Hollywood accounts for only 8 percent of the domestic market.


pages: 363 words: 107,817

Modernising Money: Why Our Monetary System Is Broken and How It Can Be Fixed by Andrew Jackson (economist), Ben Dyson (economist)

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bank run, banking crisis, banks create money, Basel III, Bretton Woods, call centre, capital controls, cashless society, central bank independence, credit crunch, David Graeber, debt deflation, double entry bookkeeping, eurozone crisis, financial innovation, Financial Instability Hypothesis, financial intermediation, floating exchange rates, Fractional reserve banking, full employment, Hyman Minsky, inflation targeting, informal economy, land reform, London Interbank Offered Rate, market bubble, market clearing, Martin Wolf, means of production, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, moral hazard, mortgage debt, Northern Rock, price stability, profit motive, quantitative easing, Real Time Gross Settlement, regulatory arbitrage, risk-adjusted returns, seigniorage, shareholder value, short selling, South Sea Bubble, The Great Moderation, the payments system, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, total factor productivity, unorthodox policies

Yet because money is simply another physical commodity, this lending has no real effects; rather, it merely transfers resources from one person to another: “Often is an extension of credit talked of as equivalent to a creation of capital, or as if credit actually were capital. It seems strange that there should be any need to point out, that credit being only permission to use the capital of another person, the means of production cannot be increased by it, but only transferred. If the borrower’s means of production and of employing labour are increased by the credit given him, the lender’s are as much diminished. The same sum cannot be used as capital both by the owner and also by the person to whom it is lent: it cannot supply its entire value in wages, tools, and materials, to two sets of labourers at once.” (Mill, 1909) So in this orthodox view, banks are mere financial intermediaries, passively waiting for depositors before lending.


pages: 308 words: 84,713

The Glass Cage: Automation and Us by Nicholas Carr

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Airbnb, Andy Kessler, Atul Gawande, autonomous vehicles, business process, call centre, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, Checklist Manifesto, cloud computing, David Brooks, deliberate practice, deskilling, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, Flash crash, Frank Gehry, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, Frederick Winslow Taylor, future of work, global supply chain, Google Glasses, Google Hangouts, High speed trading, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, Internet of things, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, Lyft, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, natural language processing, new economy, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, Oculus Rift, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, place-making, Plutocrats, plutocrats, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, robot derives from the Czech word robota Czech, meaning slave, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, software is eating the world, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, TaskRabbit, technoutopianism, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!

“My body is geared into the world when my perception provides me with the most varied and the most clearly articulated spectacle possible,” explained Merleau-Ponty, “and when my motor intentions, as they unfold, receive the responses they anticipate from the world. This maximum of clarity in perception and action specifies a perceptual ground, a background for my life, a general milieu for the coexistence of my body and the world.”13 Used thoughtfully and with skill, technology becomes much more than a means of production or consumption. It becomes a means of experience. It gives us more ways to lead rich and engaged lives. Look more closely at the scythe. It’s a simple tool, but an ingenious one. Invented around 500 BC, by the Romans or the Gauls, it consists of a curved blade, forged of iron or steel, attached to the end of a long wooden pole, or snath. The snath typically has, about halfway down its length, a small wooden grip, or nib, that makes it possible to grasp and swing the implement with two hands.

As we transform ourselves into creatures of the screen, we face the same existential question that the Shushwap confronted: Does our essence still lie in what we know, or are we now content to be defined by what we want? That sounds very serious. But the aim is joy. The active soul is a light soul. By reclaiming our tools as parts of ourselves, as instruments of experience rather than just means of production, we can enjoy the freedom that congenial technology provides when it opens the world more fully to us. It’s the freedom I imagine Lawrence Sperry and Emil Cachin must have felt on that bright spring day in Paris a hundred years ago when they climbed out onto the wings of their gyroscope-balanced Curtiss C-2 biplane and, filled with terror and delight, passed over the reviewing stands and saw below them the faces of the crowd turned skyward in awe


pages: 355 words: 92,571

Capitalism: Money, Morals and Markets by John Plender

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Andrei Shleifer, asset-backed security, bank run, Berlin Wall, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Black Swan, bonus culture, Bretton Woods, business climate, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, central bank independence, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collective bargaining, computer age, Corn Laws, corporate governance, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of the americas, diversification, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, eurozone crisis, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, fiat currency, financial innovation, financial intermediation, Fractional reserve banking, full employment, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, Hyman Minsky, income inequality, inflation targeting, invention of the wheel, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, labour market flexibility, London Interbank Offered Rate, London Whale, Long Term Capital Management, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, market bubble, market fundamentalism, means of production, Menlo Park, moral hazard, moveable type in China, Nick Leeson, Northern Rock, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, paradox of thrift, Plutocrats, plutocrats, price stability, principal–agent problem, profit motive, quantitative easing, railway mania, regulatory arbitrage, Richard Thaler, rising living standards, risk-adjusted returns, Robert Gordon, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, savings glut, shareholder value, short selling, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, spice trade, Steve Jobs, technology bubble, The Chicago School, The Great Moderation, the map is not the territory, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, time value of money, too big to fail, tulip mania, Upton Sinclair, We are the 99%, Wolfgang Streeck

These have seen the fastest rates of economic growth in history without any help from the Protestant religion. Yet, before writing off Weber it is important to remember that his concern here related to the very specific question of whether non-European traditions had religious and cultural characteristics that were capable of giving rise spontaneously to capitalist development in the way that Protestantism had done. The fact that non-Europeans subsequently borrowed the capitalist means of production from Europeans is not, in itself, a refutation of his thesis. The ultimate watershed on business’s long march from pariah status towards semi-respectability came when the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping declared, after starting to open up China’s economy in 1978, that ‘to get rich is glorious’. Nuances may have been lost in the translation, but this embrace of capitalist values by a hardened veteran of the Communist struggle definitively put the big battalions behind the materialist side of the moral argument and appeared to draw down the curtain on the socialist backlash.

The Austrian-born economist worried that capitalism’s tendency to monopolistic gigantism, inequality and the encouragement of envy would, with the connivance of an anti-capitalist intellectual elite, drive the world to state socialism. What has changed since Schumpeter’s time is that while those tendencies still exist, there is no longer any systemic alternative to capitalism. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, comprehensive public ownership of the means of production is discredited. To the extent that systemic choices are available, they lie on a spectrum that runs from the market-driven model of capitalism in the US, via the social democratic models of Europe, to the heavily statist, authoritarian form of capitalism that prevails in China and much of the rest of the developing world – a model nonetheless characterised by extensive exposure to the global trading system.


pages: 313 words: 95,077

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky

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Andrew Keen, Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, Brewster Kahle, c2.com, crowdsourcing, en.wikipedia.org, hiring and firing, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, Internet Archive, invention of agriculture, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invention of the telegraph, jimmy wales, Kuiper Belt, lump of labour, Mahatma Gandhi, means of production, Merlin Mann, Nash equilibrium, Network effects, Nicholas Carr, Picturephone, place-making, Pluto: dwarf planet, prediction markets, price mechanism, prisoner's dilemma, profit motive, Richard Stallman, Ronald Coase, Silicon Valley, slashdot, social software, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, The Nature of the Firm, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, transaction costs, ultimatum game, Yogi Berra

One view defines “journalist,” in the words of the Oxford English Dictionary, as “a person who writes for newspapers or magazines or prepares news to be broadcast on radio or television.” This is an odd definition, as it provides less a description of journalism than a litmus test of employment. In this version, journalists aren’t journalists unless they work for publishers, and publishers aren’t publishers unless they own the means of production. This definition has worked for decades, because the ties among journalists, publishers, and the means of production were strong. So long as publishing was expensive, publishers would be rare. So long as publishers were rare, it would be easy to list them and thus to identify journalists as their employees. This definition, oblique as it is, served to provide the legal balance we want from journalistic privilege—we have a professional class of truth-tellers who are given certain latitude to avoid cooperating with the law.


pages: 299 words: 19,560

Utopias: A Brief History From Ancient Writings to Virtual Communities by Howard P. Segal

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1960s counterculture, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, complexity theory, David Brooks, death of newspapers, dematerialisation, deskilling, energy security, European colonialism, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, full employment, future of journalism, garden city movement, germ theory of disease, Golden Gate Park, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, John von Neumann, knowledge economy, Louis Pasteur, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, Nicholas Carr, Nikolai Kondratiev, out of africa, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Skype, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, transcontinental railway, traveling salesman, union organizing, urban planning, War on Poverty, Whole Earth Catalog

During this time he was immersed simultaneously in complementary philosophical and political crusades to transform Confucius into a utopian political reformer and to persuade the emperor to modernize the civil service, to establish both Western-style provincial schools and Beijing University, and to give women basic rights. His was an avowedly modern vision of a democratic world state governed by a world parliament, extending equal rights to women and men, abolishing private property, developing a universal language, and 18 The Variety of Utopias powered both by atomic energy and by a love of science and technology. Institutions would be cooperative and international in scope, the means of production would be publicly owned, goods and services would be provided for all, obsession with money would thereby cease, education would be vocational in orientation, military institutions would be greatly diminished, and the numerous other scientific and technological advances would also be highly practical. Accepting the view that people are innately good, Khang concluded that history could be a story of unceasing progress leading toward utopia rather than the familiar tale of cycles of rising and falling; this constituted an extraordinary leap of faith in his time and culture.7 Chairman Mao’s utopian visions of the mid-twentieth century did not, of course, ultimately fulfill these dreams.

Morris was a socialist who went further than Carlyle and Ruskin in developing his utopian ideas. His prolific writings include News From Nowhere (1890), about a utopian communist society that was heavily influenced by both Ruskin and Marx. The narrator falls asleep after returning from a meeting of the Socialist League and awakens to find himself in a future society wholly different from his own Victorian London. Based on common ownership and democratic control of the means of production, this utopia lacks money, classes, governmental structures, congestion, poverty, crime, and industrial pollution. Like Ruskin, Morris envisions a prevalence of medieval buildings, clothing, and musical instruments. In News From Nowhere, all large towns have been downsized to increase the extent of the countryside; huge industrial cities such as Manchester have disappeared; and large-scale factories have given way to small workshops scattered throughout the land and catering to the exercise of craftsmanship and art.


pages: 350 words: 100,822

Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update by Donella H. Meadows, Jörgen Randers, Dennis L. Meadows

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agricultural Revolution, Buckminster Fuller, clean water, Climatic Research Unit, conceptual framework, dematerialisation, demographic transition, financial independence, game design, income per capita, informal economy, means of production, new economy, purchasing power parity, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ronald Reagan, University of East Anglia, urban sprawl, Whole Earth Review

The use of coal raised practical problems of earthmoving, mine construction, water pumping, transport, and controlled combustion. These problems were solved relatively quickly, resulting in concentrations of labor around mines and mills. The process elevated technology and commerce to a prominent position in human society-above religion and ethics. Again everything changed in ways that no one could have imagined. Machines, not land, became the central means of production. Feudalism gave way to capitalism and to capitalism's dissenting offshoot, communism. Roads, railroads, factories, and smokestacks appeared on the landscape. Cities swelled. Again the change was a mixed blessing. Factory labor was even harder and more demeaning than farm labor. The air and waters near the new factories turned unspeakably filthy. The standard of living for most of the industrial workforce was far below that of a farmer.

About local networks we can say little here; our localities are different from yours. One role of local networks is to help reestablish the sense of community and relation to place that has been largely lost since the industrial revolution. When it comes to global networks, we would like to make a plea that they be truly global. The means of participation in international information streams are as badly distributed as are the means of production. There are more telephones in Tokyo, it has been said, than in all of Africa. That must be even more true of computers, fax machines, airline connections, and invitations to international meetings. But once more the wonder of human inventiveness seems to provide a surprising solution in the form of the Web and cheap access devices. One could argue that Africa and other underrepresented parts of the world should attend first to their needs for many things other than computers and Web access.


pages: 518 words: 107,836

How Not to Network a Nation: The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet (Information Policy) by Benjamin Peters

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Albert Einstein, Andrei Shleifer, Benoit Mandelbrot, bitcoin, Brownian motion, Claude Shannon: information theory, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, computer age, conceptual framework, crony capitalism, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Graeber, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, double helix, Drosophila, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death, hive mind, index card, informal economy, invisible hand, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, linear programming, mandelbrot fractal, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, packet switching, pattern recognition, Paul Erdős, Peter Thiel, RAND corporation, rent-seeking, road to serfdom, Ronald Coase, scientific mainstream, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, stochastic process, technoutopianism, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, transaction costs, Turing machine

Some tenets of the Soviet answer are clear.5 All the means of industrial production were nationalized, and although Soviet citizens could own some “individual” (not “private”) property (including houses, apartments, and automobiles), few could afford to do so.6 The Soviet state appointed three state ministries to serve as the nation’s economic brains, budget-keeper, and managers of the nation’s vast property holdings and means of production—the Gosplan (State Planning Commission), the Gosbank (State Bank), and the Gossnab (State Commission for Materials and Equipment Supply). (Gos is short for gosudarstvo or Russian for state or government.) Gosbank, the central bank that prepared the state budget with the Ministry of Finance, played a transactional accounting role and the least critical role of the three. Gosplan and Gossnab carried out crucial and different roles.

The vertical bargaining process also penalized the future of productive factories by “planning in” their previous successes as the new baseline, ensuring that the plan would be ratcheted upward in perpetuity.40 Manuel Castells notes that the entrepreneurial managers and workers in the chemical complex of Shchenkino in Tula, Russia, “were trapped into being, in fact, punished with an intensification of their work pace while firms that had kept a steady, customary level of production were left alone in their bureaucratic routine.”41 This ratcheting effect, a kind of institutionalized variant of the tall poppy syndrome, has its corollaries in the mutually reinforcing relationship between demand and supply. In corporate and command regimes, if the supply of one’s quality goods meets demand, one must work harder to meet future elevated demand. If the supply of one’s goods falls short of the need, the capitalist market actor will adjust or go bankrupt, and the socialist administrative actor will be punished. So long as labor is isolated from those who manage the means of production—Marx himself railed against the doyens of exchange value (Tauschwert)—management profits and alternately pays or punishes workers for past productivity. Unlike market behavior, any deviations from the plan could send culpable ripple effects down or up the chain, and the plan itself could be understood in the context of its local knowledge. So the ideal standard of factory or firm behavior is to fulfill the plan by “exactly 100 percent, or perhaps 101 or 102 percent.”


pages: 261 words: 86,905

How to Speak Money: What the Money People Say--And What It Really Means by John Lanchester

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asset allocation, Basel III, Bernie Madoff, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, bitcoin, Black Swan, blood diamonds, Bretton Woods, BRICs, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Celtic Tiger, central bank independence, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collective bargaining, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, crony capitalism, Dava Sobel, David Graeber, disintermediation, double entry bookkeeping, en.wikipedia.org, estate planning, financial innovation, Flash crash, forward guidance, Gini coefficient, global reserve currency, high net worth, High speed trading, hindsight bias, income inequality, inflation targeting, interest rate swap, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Kodak vs Instagram, liquidity trap, London Interbank Offered Rate, London Whale, loss aversion, margin call, McJob, means of production, microcredit, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, moral hazard, neoliberal agenda, New Urbanism, Nick Leeson, Nikolai Kondratiev, Nixon shock, Northern Rock, offshore financial centre, oil shock, open economy, paradox of thrift, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, purchasing power parity, pushing on a string, quantitative easing, random walk, rent-seeking, reserve currency, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, Satoshi Nakamoto, security theater, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, six sigma, South Sea Bubble, sovereign wealth fund, Steve Jobs, The Chicago School, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, trickle-down economics, Washington Consensus, working poor, yield curve

The fact that it was the IMF announcing this, though, was a big part of the shock, since the IMF is the organization whose off-the-shelf package of measures for troubled economies always includes a huge dose of austerity. nationalization The taking into state ownership of private assets or industries. It used to be the central pillar of the Labour Party’s economic policy, in the form of clause 4f of the party constitution, calling for common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, until Tony Blair led the charge to abolish it in 1994. Nationalization had gone entirely out of favor in most of the developed world until governments found they had to nationalize banks in order to save the financial system in 2008. A partial list of nationalizations since 2008 would include AIG and General Motors in the United States; two of the UK’s four biggest banks, Lloyds-HBOS and RBS; the Belgian bank Dexia, much of the Spanish banking system; and so on.

Smith had something of a novelist about him, of the novelist’s ability to describe a society to itself, and it was this aspect of his work that gave it such power: he made modern life, the tangled web of relationships and producers and consumers and livelihoods and forces, comprehensible to the people who were tangled in its mesh. He came up with a way of looking at the whole of modern society as a single mechanism. socialism The system where the ownership of natural resources, property, and the means of production is held collectively. socialism for the rich The expression is supposed to be a joke, but in the aftermath of the credit crunch it looked a lot like the reality of the financial system, because the fact was that when banks were making huge profits, they paid themselves huge bonuses, but when they were facing collapse, taxpayers had no choice but to step in and bail them out to keep the financial system functioning.


pages: 323 words: 90,868

The Wealth of Humans: Work, Power, and Status in the Twenty-First Century by Ryan Avent

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3D printing, Airbnb, American energy revolution, autonomous vehicles, Bakken shale, barriers to entry, Bernie Sanders, BRICs, call centre, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, collective bargaining, computer age, dark matter, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, dematerialisation, Deng Xiaoping, deskilling, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Donald Trump, Downton Abbey, Edward Glaeser, Erik Brynjolfsson, eurozone crisis, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, falling living standards, first square of the chessboard, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, Ford paid five dollars a day, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, future of work, gig economy, global supply chain, global value chain, hydraulic fracturing, income inequality, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, interchangeable parts, Internet of things, inventory management, invisible hand, Jacquard loom, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, knowledge economy, low skilled workers, lump of labour, Lyft, manufacturing employment, means of production, new economy, performance metric, pets.com, price mechanism, quantitative easing, Ray Kurzweil, rent-seeking, reshoring, rising living standards, Robert Gordon, Ronald Coase, savings glut, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, single-payer health, software is eating the world, supply-chain management, supply-chain management software, TaskRabbit, The Nature of the Firm, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade liberalization, transaction costs, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Uber and Lyft, Uber for X, very high income, working-age population

They are not yet mounting a broad assault on liberalism and democracy – though that may come. The left, meanwhile, is advocating an end to austerity policies in some cases and expansions to the welfare state in others. Sanders campaigned on free college tuition and the creation of a single-payer health insurance system. They are not yet running on confiscatory taxation and nationalization of the means of production. Both political extremes might never have the opportunity to pursue their aims to their logical conclusion. But radicalism will become an increasingly real and powerful force in global politics until governments begin answering the difficult questions posed by the digital revolution. While people are dissatisfied and alienated, they will continue to demand something better. A fierce contest of ideas and ideologies will follow, as radicals wrest control of the levers of power from conservative elites and put their ideas into action, for better or for worse.

Even before labour unions were legalized across rich economies, the threat of collective action, of a political or even revolutionary nature, encouraged governments to take workers’ concerns seriously. Over time unions achieved legitimate political power. Britain elected its first Labour prime minister in 1924. Industrialized economies also used heavy taxes on the rich to pay for their world wars. And in the decades that followed those wars, the political power of labour led to the construction of expansive welfare states. Workers (in most countries) did not seize the means of production; they were not bashful about taking a healthy share of the returns from production, however. Coming to the present day, among the manifestations of social capital Robert Putnam cited as in decline in America in the 1990s and 2000s were labour unions. And, indeed, across many rich economies the share of jobs covered by unions shrank over the last generation. That contraction both reflected and exacerbated underlying economic trends.


pages: 350 words: 103,988

Reinventing the Bazaar: A Natural History of Markets by John McMillan

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accounting loophole / creative accounting, Albert Einstein, Andrei Shleifer, Anton Chekhov, Asian financial crisis, congestion charging, corporate governance, crony capitalism, Dava Sobel, Deng Xiaoping, experimental economics, experimental subject, fear of failure, first-price auction, frictionless, frictionless market, George Akerlof, George Gilder, global village, Hernando de Soto, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, income inequality, income per capita, informal economy, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, job-hopping, John Harrison: Longitude, John von Neumann, land reform, lone genius, manufacturing employment, market clearing, market design, market friction, market microstructure, means of production, Network effects, new economy, offshore financial centre, pez dispenser, pre–internet, price mechanism, profit maximization, profit motive, proxy bid, purchasing power parity, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, sealed-bid auction, second-price auction, Silicon Valley, spectrum auction, Stewart Brand, The Market for Lemons, The Nature of the Firm, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade liberalization, transaction costs, War on Poverty, Xiaogang Anhui farmers, yield management

The road to hell, as the saying goes, is paved with good intentions. Albert Einstein wrote an article in 1949 called “Why Socialism?”2 His answer: the market economy brings crisis, instability, and impoverishment. “The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil.” The only way to eliminate this evil, he concluded, was by establishing socialism, with the means of production “owned by society itself.” He advocated a planned economy, which “adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child.” At the time, Einstein’s position was widely shared. Forty years later, though, those living in the planned economies of the Soviet bloc dramatically dissented and threw out the planners.

Power corrupts, and the planners had absolute power over the economy. As Edmund Wilson put it in To the Finland Station, his sympathetic history of socialist thought, “Lenin’s aims were of course humanitarian, democratic and anti-bureaucratic; but the logic of the situation was too strong for Lenin’s aims.” The Communist Party “turned into a tyrannical machine.” Wilson concluded that the state’s taking over of the means of production can “never guarantee the happiness of anybody but the dictators themselves.”5 To pin the blame on the planners, however, is to overlook the deeper reasons for planning’s failures. Imagine yourself as a central planner. Your task is to design the entire economy. You want to do the best for your country: to ensure, as far as possible, that everyone’s needs are met. How do you go about doing that?


pages: 283 words: 85,824

The People's Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age by Astra Taylor

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A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, Andrew Keen, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, big-box store, Brewster Kahle, citizen journalism, cloud computing, collateralized debt obligation, Community Supported Agriculture, conceptual framework, corporate social responsibility, cross-subsidies, crowdsourcing, David Brooks, digital Maoism, disintermediation, don't be evil, Donald Trump, Edward Snowden, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Filter Bubble, future of journalism, George Gilder, Google Chrome, Google Glasses, hive mind, income inequality, informal economy, Internet Archive, Internet of things, invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Julian Assange, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, Naomi Klein, Narrative Science, Network effects, new economy, New Journalism, New Urbanism, Nicholas Carr, oil rush, Peter Thiel, Plutocrats, plutocrats, pre–internet, profit motive, recommendation engine, Richard Florida, Richard Stallman, self-driving car, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, slashdot, Slavoj Žižek, Snapchat, social graph, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, trade route, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks, winner-take-all economy, Works Progress Administration, young professional

Like new-media thinkers, with whom he shares a boundless admiration for all things high tech and Silicon Valley, he also shuns “organizational or institutional directives” while embracing the values meritocracy and openness. In Florida’s optimistic view, the demise of career stability has unbridled creativity and eliminated alienation in the workplace. “To some degree, Karl Marx had it partly right when he foresaw that the workers would someday control the means of production,” Florida declares. “This is now beginning to happen, although not as Marx thought it would, with the proletariat rising to take over factories. Rather, more workers than ever control the means of production, because it is inside their heads; they are the means of the production.”26 Welcome to what Florida calls the “information-and-idea-based economy,” a place where “people have come to accept that they’re on their own—that the traditional sources of security and entitlement no longer exist, or even matter.”

The Future of Money by Bernard Lietaer

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agricultural Revolution, banks create money, barriers to entry, Bretton Woods, clean water, complexity theory, dematerialisation, discounted cash flows, diversification, fiat currency, financial deregulation, financial innovation, floating exchange rates, full employment, George Gilder, German hyperinflation, global reserve currency, Golden Gate Park, Howard Rheingold, informal economy, invention of the telephone, invention of writing, Lao Tzu, Mahatma Gandhi, means of production, microcredit, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, Norbert Wiener, North Sea oil, offshore financial centre, pattern recognition, post-industrial society, price stability, reserve currency, Ronald Reagan, seigniorage, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, the market place, the payments system, trade route, transaction costs, trickle-down economics, working poor

On the other hand, we have not developed institutions or mechanisms to deal with the social dislocations that our new technologies lead us to. 'Here we stand, confronted by insurmountable opportunities!' Neither left, nor right, but forward? The traditional left-right debate is itself an inheritance of the Industrial Age economic framework. The origin of that debate had to do with private or public ownership of the 'means of production', i.e. the factories and machines. As the means of production are becoming knowledge, the new political and economic vocabulary to deal with these new realities doesn't yet exist. But how about changing the monetary framework itself? To understand this, let's first play a very simple game called the 'Sufficiency of Money Game'. The Sufficiency of Money Game The game can be played with one or several people. You can do it by yourself, with your family or a group of friends or strangers.


pages: 353 words: 91,211

The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History Since 1900 by David Edgerton

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agricultural Revolution, anti-communist, British Empire, conceptual framework, deglobalization, dematerialisation, desegregation, deskilling, global village, Haber-Bosch Process, interchangeable parts, knowledge economy, Mahatma Gandhi, manufacturing employment, means of production, megacity, microcredit, new economy, post-industrial society, Productivity paradox, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, spinning jenny, Upton Sinclair, urban planning, V2 rocket

Even in manufacturing trades, between one quarter and a third of workers in Germany and France around 1900 worked alone.27 Family-owned and run restaurants were serving 1 million meals a day in Paris in 1939, a figure which fell to 250,000 in 1950, due to the rise of factory and office canteens, though growth then resumed.28 A Sicilian farming family in 1931 lived in two rooms and a stable – they owned a mule and chickens and few possessions apart from some ‘rudimentary’ agricultural implements.29 In a proclamation issued in June 1944 a commander of the Greek resistance movement ELAS described the means of production of his community. He spoke of ‘The butcher with his knife, the grocer with his weights, the café owner with his chairs, the greengrocer with his scales’.30 In the 1980s the country-boats of Bangladesh were made by itinerant boat carpenters, traditionally Hindus (in a Muslim nation), so poor they could not buy the materials to make the boats, or sometimes even their own simple tools.31 10.

The Soviet historian Roy Medvedev plausibly claimed that Lenin would have been surprised to find that the USSR had not overtaken the capitalist world in technology by the 1980s. The classical Soviet view was that there was one technology, what mattered was the context in which it operated. It made all the difference in the world, they claimed, that although Soviet workers worked under the same division of labour as capitalist workers and were paid by the piece, they (indirectly) owned the means of production. Yet one finds some suggestions that Soviet technology took a different course from capitalist technology. Notably, it is argued that there was a particular tendency towards gigantism, the most recent expression of which is the Three Gorges dam in China. That seems doubtful as similarly gigantic projects can be found in the USA; indeed the Soviets were inspired by them. However, there may well have been much more pointless gigantism, such as the famous case of the White Sea Canal, extending for over 200km from Leningrad to the White Sea.


pages: 407 words: 103,501

The Digital Divide: Arguments for and Against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the Age of Social Netwo Rking by Mark Bauerlein

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Amazon Mechanical Turk, Andrew Keen, centre right, citizen journalism, collaborative editing, computer age, computer vision, corporate governance, crowdsourcing, David Brooks, disintermediation, Frederick Winslow Taylor, Howard Rheingold, invention of movable type, invention of the steam engine, invention of the telephone, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, late fees, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Network effects, new economy, Nicholas Carr, PageRank, pets.com, Results Only Work Environment, Saturday Night Live, search engine result page, semantic web, Silicon Valley, slashdot, social graph, social web, software as a service, speech recognition, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, technology bubble, Ted Nelson, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thorstein Veblen, web application

A lot of new kinds of media have emerged since Gutenberg: images and sounds were encoded onto objects, from photographic plates to music CDs; electromagnetic waves were harnessed to create radio and TV. All these subsequent revolutions, as different as they were, still had the core of Gutenberg economics: enormous investment costs. It’s expensive to own the means of production, whether it is a printing press or a TV tower, which makes novelty a fundamentally high-risk operation. If it’s expensive to own and manage the means of production or if it requires a staff, you’re in a world of Gutenberg economics. And wherever you have Gutenberg economics, whether you are a Venetian publisher or a Hollywood producer, you’re going to have fifteenth-century risk management as well, where the producers have to decide what’s good before showing it to the audience.


pages: 140 words: 37,355

Locke: A Very Short Introduction by John Dunn

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Isaac Newton, means of production

He does, it is true, recognize that the paid labour of a servant can be owned by his master. But this comparatively casual acknowledgement of what was, after all, a fairly central feature of English economic relations in his day can hardly establish an enthusiasm for the central role of wage labour in capitalist production. In particular Locke denies explicitly that a man who has been deprived of the means of production (given by God to all men) can be forced into subjection through control over these means (T I 41–2). Charity gives every Man a Title to so much out of another’s Plenty, as will keep him from Extream want, where he has no means to subsist otherwise; and a Man can no more justly make use of another’s necessity, to force him to become his Vassal, by withholding that Relief, God requires him to afford to the wants of his Brother, than he that has more strength can seize upon a weaker, master him to his Obedience, and with a Dagger at his Throat offer him Death or Slavery.


pages: 107 words: 33,799

The Meaning of It All by Richard P. Feynman

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means of production, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, the scientific method

And the effect this power has had need hardly be mentioned. The whole industrial revolution would almost have been impossible without the development of science. The possibilities today of producing quantities of food adequate for such a large population, of controlling sickness—the very fact that there can be free men without the necessity of slavery for full production—are very likely the result of the development of scientific means of production. Now this power to do things carries with it no instructions on how to use it, whether to use it for good or for evil. The product of this power is either good or evil, depending on how it is used. We like improved production, but we have problems with automation. We are happy with the development of medicine, and then we worry about the number of births and the fact that no one dies from the diseases we have eliminated.


pages: 102 words: 30,120

Why Wages Rise by F. A. Harper

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collective bargaining, fixed income, full employment, means of production, wage slave

For if all value comes from labor and is in proportion thereto, any share of the pie going to anyone other than the laborer, in proportion to his labor, must be the result of a parasitical attachment by capitalists. The devilment in the capitalist setup, according to Marx, is made possible by the private ownership of the land, materials, and tools with which labor does its work. The capitalist owner who holds title to these material means of production can, in this way, claim ownership of the product. He can then withhold any part of it he wishes from the laborer — the one who Marx claimed was the rightful owner of all of it because he is the one who created all its value in the first place. So pay for the use of capital is like loot from theft, as Marx saw it. He said that the absolute amount of profit is equal to the absolute amount of surplus value.


pages: 128 words: 38,187

The New Prophets of Capital by Nicole Aschoff

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3D printing, affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, Bretton Woods, clean water, collective bargaining, crony capitalism, feminist movement, follow your passion, Food sovereignty, glass ceiling, global supply chain, global value chain, helicopter parent, hiring and firing, income inequality, Khan Academy, late capitalism, Lyft, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, performance metric, profit motive, rent-seeking, Ronald Reagan, Rosa Parks, school vouchers, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Slavoj Žižek, structural adjustment programs, Thomas L Friedman, Tim Cook: Apple, urban renewal, women in the workforce, working poor

They don’t decrease the ecological footprint of firms (or humans). Sustainable practices enable firms to make bigger, deeper footprints as they expand into new markets and tap new sources of supply. As long as production is designed to increase profits, as it must be in capitalism, rather than to meet the needs of humans, the environment will never escape and never be healed. As geographer Neil Smith argued: In capitalism “nature becomes a universal means of production in the sense that it not only provides the subjects, objects, and instruments of production, but is also in its totality an appendage to the production process.”38 Competition is a defining feature of capitalism, one that will eventually steamroll all warm, fuzzy versions of capitalism, and even if long-term, virtuous growth were possible, the imperatives of the profit motive require that capitalism keep expanding and growing, consuming and destroying the planet as it goes.


pages: 768 words: 291,079

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell

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Berlin Wall, British Empire, Corn Laws, cuban missile crisis, full employment, James Watt: steam engine, Khartoum Gordon, laissez-faire capitalism, Louis Pasteur, means of production, Murano, Venice glass, Thomas Malthus, union organizing, Upton Sinclair, upwardly mobile, wage slave, Winter of Discontent, women in the workforce

‘The hundreds of thousands of pounds that are yearly wasted in well meant but useless charity accomplish no lasting good, because while charity soothes the symptoms it ignores the disease, which is–– the private ownership of the means of producing the necessaries of life, and the restriction of production, by a few selfish individuals for their own profit. And for that disease there is no other remedy than the one I have told you of––the public ownership and culti- vation of the land, the public ownership of the mines, railways, canals, ships, factories and all other means of production, and the establishment of an Industrial Civil Service––a National Army of Industry––for the purpose of producing the necessaries, comforts and refinements of life in that abundance which has been made possible by science and machinery––for the use and benefit of the whole of the people.’ ‘Yes: and where’s the money to come from for all this?’ shouted Crass, fiercely. ‘Hear, hear,’ cried the man behind the moat.

‘––The State would continue to pay to the shareholders the same dividends they had received on an average for, say, the previous three years. These payments would be continued to the present share- holders for life, or the payments might be limited to a stated number of years and the shares would be made non-transferable, like the railway tickets of today. As for the factories, shops, and other means of production and distribution, the State must adopt the same methods of doing business as the present owners. I mean that even as the big Trusts and companies are crushing––by competition––the individual workers and small traders, so the State should crush the trusts by competition. It is surely justifiable for the State to do for the benefit of the whole people that which the capitalists are already doing for the profit of a few shareholders.

They found it impossible to deny that this machinery is being used, not for the benefit of all, but to make fortunes for a few. In short, they were unable to disprove that the monopoly of the land and machinery by a comparatively few The Wise Men of the East persons, is the cause of the poverty of the majority. But when these arguments that they were unable to answer were put before them and when it was pointed out that the only possible remedy was the Public Ownership and Management of the Means of production,* they remained angrily silent, having no alternative plan to suggest. At other times the meeting resolved itself into a number of quar- relsome disputes between the Liberals and Tories that formed the crowd, which split itself up into a lot of little groups and whatever the original subject might have been they soon drifted to a hundred other things, for most of the supporters of the present system seemed incapable of pursuing any one subject to its logical con- clusion.


pages: 965 words: 267,053

A History of Zionism by Walter Laqueur

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Albert Einstein, anti-communist, British Empire, illegal immigration, joint-stock company, land reform, Mahatma Gandhi, means of production, new economy, Plutocrats, plutocrats, profit motive, strikebreaker, the market place, éminence grise

The Bund proposed solving social and economic problems by applying spiritual and cultural remedies. Borokhov was convinced that by a correct Marxist analysis he had found the only practical solution: the Jewish middle class would be drawn by spontaneous forces to Palestine, and gradually build up there the means of production. Expanding industry would attract the Jewish working masses to Palestine, and the industrial proletariat, pursuing a correct policy of class struggle, would establish itself as the vanguard of the national liberation movement. Borokhov’s writings are replete with references to the contradiction between the means of production and the relations of production, and to other concepts familiar to the student of orthodox Marxist economics. He was an adept in manipulating the tools of Marxist analysis, much to the chagrin of his ideological adversaries, who had been accustomed to disputations about Zionism with enthusiasts arguing in romantic-Utopian terms.

In their eyes Zionism was an embarrassment, not a potential ally. Much of the revisionist critique of the Zionist leadership had to do with economic and social policy. Jabotinsky had been interested in economics as a student, and under the influence of his Italian Socialist teachers had written in 1906 that class conflicts between employers and employed could not be reconciled, and that the nationalisation of the means of production was the only solution.* He had not belonged to a Socialist party but had certainly believed in Socialist ideals. Even twenty years later, when defining the revisionist programme, he wrote that the class struggle in Palestine was an inevitable, even healthy phenomenon. Revisionists would neither join the chorus of those who talked about the bankruptcy of the collective settlements nor would they attack the (‘bourgeois’) fourth aliya.

.‡ Gradually Jabotinsky retreated from his early views about Socialism and nationalisation: the class struggle was perhaps justified in other countries; however sharp the conflict between German workers and employers, it would not destroy the German economy, whereas the building of Palestine was only at the beginning and irreparable damage could be caused by major class conflicts.§ He saw no basic difference between Socialism and Communism, and wrote that nationalisation of the means of production, if realised, would result in a society where there was even less freedom and equality than in the present one. For some time he was influenced by the original theories on the ideal economic system developed by Josef Popper Lynkeus, a figure of some literary renown in Vienna who was in contact with Robert Stricker, Jabotinsky’s chief aide in Austria. A more lasting impact was exerted by some of his followers in Palestine, ex-Socialists who later turned sharply against Labour Zionism.


pages: 903 words: 235,753

The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty by Benjamin H. Bratton

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1960s counterculture, 3D printing, 4chan, Ada Lovelace, additive manufacturing, airport security, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, algorithmic trading, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, bitcoin, blockchain, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, call centre, carbon footprint, carbon-based life, Cass Sunstein, Celebration, Florida, charter city, clean water, cloud computing, connected car, corporate governance, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, dark matter, David Graeber, deglobalization, dematerialisation, disintermediation, distributed generation, don't be evil, Douglas Engelbart, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Eratosthenes, ethereum blockchain, facts on the ground, Flash crash, Frank Gehry, Frederick Winslow Taylor, future of work, Georg Cantor, gig economy, global supply chain, Google Earth, Google Glasses, Guggenheim Bilbao, High speed trading, Hyperloop, illegal immigration, industrial robot, information retrieval, intermodal, Internet of things, invisible hand, Jacob Appelbaum, Jaron Lanier, Jony Ive, Julian Assange, Khan Academy, linked data, Mark Zuckerberg, market fundamentalism, Marshall McLuhan, Masdar, McMansion, means of production, megacity, megastructure, Menlo Park, Minecraft, Monroe Doctrine, Network effects, new economy, offshore financial centre, oil shale / tar sands, packet switching, PageRank, pattern recognition, peak oil, performance metric, personalized medicine, Peter Thiel, phenotype, place-making, planetary scale, RAND corporation, recommendation engine, reserve currency, RFID, Sand Hill Road, self-driving car, semantic web, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Slavoj Žižek, smart cities, smart grid, smart meter, social graph, software studies, South China Sea, sovereign wealth fund, special economic zone, spectrum auction, Startup school, statistical arbitrage, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Stuxnet, Superbowl ad, supply-chain management, supply-chain management software, TaskRabbit, the built environment, The Chicago School, the scientific method, Torches of Freedom, transaction costs, Turing complete, Turing machine, Turing test, universal basic income, urban planning, Vernor Vinge, Washington Consensus, web application, WikiLeaks, working poor, Y Combinator

Firstly, nemein is the equivalent of the German nehmen, to take. Hence nomos means seizure. As the Greek legein-logos corresponds to the German spechen-Sprache, so too, the German nehmen-Nahme corresponds to the Greek nemein-nomos. At first, it meant the seizure of land, and later it also meant the appropriation of the sea, much of which is part of our historical review here. In the industrial sector, one speaks of the appropriation of the means of production. The second meaning is the division and distribution of what was seized. Hence also the second sense of nomos, the basic division and repartition of the soil and the resulting ownership order. The third meaning is to tend, that is, to use, exploit, and turn to good account the partitioned land, to produce and to consume. Seizing-dividing-tending in that sequence are the three fundamental notions of every concrete order.

In accounting for that transformation, it is not at all clear whether the computational technologies are more or less foundational than the economics that organized them and that they organize (even assuming that we could analytically separate the two, so as to put one in the fore and the other in back). Instead of locating global computation as a manifestation of an economic condition (as both its means of production and its superstructural expression), the inverse may be equally valid. From this perspective, so much of what is referred to as neoliberalism are interlocking political-economic conditions within the encompassing armature of planetary computation. The entwined polar positions of Sunnyvale, Caracas, Beijing, Brussels, Tribeca, and Tel Aviv don't integrate capital and resource markets into network societies on their own, but are themselves “computed” into these arrangements.

However, the clear homologies between the aspirations of Soviet cybernetics and the accomplishments of Google, for example, to model and govern superpower-scale digital economies, and the genealogies that link the latter to the former, at least testify against the notion of an intrinsic bond between capitalism and computational megaplatforms. We may anticipate that to some significant extent, the dovetailing of the future evolution of both agendas will transform one another and may even allow one to fully envelop the other: neither state as machine nor market as machine because the platform is state, market, and machine at once. Some Marxian articles of faith (such that once global technological means of production and valuation have reached some threshold level of efficiency and ubiquity, such that continuance of management by capital is not needed, then things will give way to a self-regulating infrastructural commonwealth) may have surprising interpretive value for the next century even if it works out in ways utterly different than originally and normally conceived. As many on the left and the right have postulated, the acceleration of capital flows through computational megaplatforms such as these may, in the long run, do as much to undermine the modern function of exchangeable property as it does to radicalize it (and perhaps the former because of the latter).


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Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy by Francis Fukuyama

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Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Andrei Shleifer, Asian financial crisis, Atahualpa, banking crisis, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, blood diamonds, British Empire, centre right, clean water, collapse of Lehman Brothers, colonial rule, conceptual framework, crony capitalism, deindustrialization, Deng Xiaoping, double entry bookkeeping, Edward Snowden, Erik Brynjolfsson, European colonialism, facts on the ground, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, first-past-the-post, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Francisco Pizarro, Frederick Winslow Taylor, full employment, Gini coefficient, Hernando de Soto, Home mortgage interest deduction, income inequality, invention of the printing press, iterative process, knowledge worker, land reform, land tenure, life extension, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, means of production, Menlo Park, Mohammed Bouazizi, Monroe Doctrine, moral hazard, new economy, open economy, out of africa, Peace of Westphalia, Port of Oakland, post-industrial society, Post-materialism, post-materialism, price discrimination, quantitative easing, RAND corporation, rent-seeking, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, Scientific racism, Scramble for Africa, Second Machine Age, Silicon Valley, special economic zone, stem cell, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, too big to fail, trade route, transaction costs, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, women in the workforce, World Values Survey

., rule of law) regime protecting their property rights that might or might not include formal electoral democracy (they were always more interested in the rule of law than in democracy); and the proletariat, once it achieved consciousness of itself as a class, wanted a dictatorship of the proletariat, which would in turn socialize the means of production, abolish private property, and redistribute wealth. The working class might support electoral democracy in the form of universal suffrage, but this was a means to the end of control over the means of production, not an end in itself. One of the most important scholars working in a post-Marxist tradition was Barrington Moore, whose 1966 book Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy has already been noted in connection with Japan (see chapter 23 above). This complex book presented a series of historical case studies, including Britain, Germany, Japan, China, Russia, and India, and tried to explain why democracy emerged in some countries and not in others.

A middle-class person, by contrast—someone, say, with a university education who cannot find an appropriate job and “sinks” to a social level he or she regards as beneath his or her dignity—is far more challenging politically. Thus, from a political standpoint, the important marker of middle-class status would be occupation, level of education, and ownership of assets (a house or an apartment, or consumer durables) that could be threatened by the government. Marx’s original definition of “bourgeoisie” referred to ownership of the means of production. One of the characteristics of the modern world is that this form of property has become vastly democratized through stock ownership and pension plans. Even if one does not possess large amounts of capital, working in a managerial capacity or profession often grants one a very different kind of social status and outlook from a wage earner or low-skilled worker. A strong middle class with some assets and education is more likely to believe in the need for both property rights and democratic accountability.

The Chomsky Reader by Noam Chomsky

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anti-communist, Bolshevik threat, British Empire, business climate, cognitive dissonance, conceptual framework, cuban missile crisis, Deng Xiaoping, European colonialism, feminist movement, Howard Zinn, interchangeable parts, land reform, land tenure, means of production, Monroe Doctrine, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, strikebreaker, theory of mind, Thomas L Friedman, union organizing, War on Poverty, éminence grise

When the legal system itself denies the natural rights of working people in the name of the prerogatives of capital, and this denial is sanctioned by the legal violence of the state, then the theorists of ‘libertarian’ capitalism do not proclaim institutional robbery, but rather they celebrate the “natural liberty” of working people to choose between the remaining options of selling their labor as a commodity and being unemployed. Considering such questions as these, we can hardly rest comfortably with the assumption that freedom declines as equality—for example, in control over resources and means of production—increases. It may be true that equality is inversely related to the freedom to dispose of and make use of property under the social arrangements of capitalism, but the latter condition is not to be simply identified as “freedom.” I do not even consider here the immeasurable loss incurred when a person is converted to a tool of production, so that, as Adam Smith phrased it, he “has no occasion to exert his understanding, or to exercise his invention” and “he naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become,” his mind falling “into that drowsy stupidity, which, in a civilized society, seems to benumb the understanding of almost all the inferior ranks of people.”

This claim merely restates, and does not contradict, the hypothesis that the behavior of a businessman in a capitalist society is governed by the pursuit of profit. Much the same is true of the vague musings about a “generalized drive for power” which often appear in discussions of American foreign policy. It may well be true that any autocratic system of rule will support and intensify the “drive for power” and give it free rein. In a capitalist society, the operative form of autocratic rule is the private control of the means of production and resources, of commerce and finance, and further, the significant influence on state policy of those who rule the private economy, and who indeed largely staff the government. Elements of the private autocracy who have a specific concern with foreign affairs will naturally tend to use their power and influence to direct state policy for the benefit of the interests they represent. Where they succeed, we have imperialist intervention, quite commonly.

At the same time, ideologists labor to mask these endeavors in a functional system of beliefs. It is interesting that such analyses of foreign policy, which incorporate the material interests of private or quasi-private capital as a central factor interacting with others, are often characterized as “vulgar economic determinism” or the like when put forth by opponents of the system of private control of resources and the means of production. On the other hand, similar formulations receive little attention when they appear, as they commonly do, in official explanations of state policy. What is more, explanations that emphasize, say, vague emotional states, or ideological elements, or error, are not similarly characterized as “vulgar emotional (ideological) determinism” or “vulgar fallibilism.” The term “vulgar economic determinism” is particularly surprising, given that those segments of (quasi-) private capital that are particularly affected by foreign-policy decisions are generally well represented in the formation of state policy.


pages: 532 words: 155,470

One Less Car: Bicycling and the Politics of Automobility by Zack Furness, Zachary Mooradian Furness

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active transport: walking or cycling, affirmative action, American Society of Civil Engineers: Report Card, back-to-the-land, Build a better mousetrap, Burning Man, car-free, carbon footprint, clean water, colonial rule, conceptual framework, dumpster diving, Enrique Peñalosa, European colonialism, feminist movement, ghettoisation, Golden Gate Park, interchangeable parts, intermodal, Internet Archive, Jane Jacobs, market fundamentalism, means of production, Naomi Klein, New Urbanism, peak oil, place-making, post scarcity, race to the bottom, Ralph Nader, ride hailing / ride sharing, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, sustainable-tourism, the built environment, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Thomas L Friedman, Thorstein Veblen, urban planning, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, working poor, Yom Kippur War

Ecobici, a set of programs designed to teach people how to locally manufacture and utilize pedal-powered machines, is not only the precursor to Maya pedal but also the outgrowth of CESTa’s longstanding commitment to non-motorized transportation and community empowerment. indeed, navarro’s 1985 book La Bicicleta y los Triciclos: Alternativas de Transporte para America Latina articulates a substantive plan for non-motorized transportation, domestic bicycle production, and bike advocacy in latin america: it offers one of the clearest and most comprehensive assessments of the role that appropriate transportation technologies can potentially play in any country.73 Transportation organizations that emphasize the role of aT, whether tacitly or as prominent part of their objectives, are not neglectful of the realities faced by poor people who need to make do in a capitalist economy. at the same time, the goal of utilizing appropriate technologies is to foster a level of ecological sustainability and democratic control over the means of production that is otherwise absent. Jordan Kleiman, a historian of the aT movement, explains that early theorists of aT did not reject industry itself, but rather the ideology of industrialism: “The relentless push for economies of scale and labor-saving technologies even when the result is to aggravate poverty and degrade work, overpower nature to the point of threatening the biological systems necessary for human survival, and undermine economic and political democracy.”74 Kleiman’s analysis reveals the extent to which the condemnation of aT as politically visionless or naively consumed with the goal of improving society through the production of “a better mousetrap,” as aT critic langdon Winner puts it, is actually a gross misrepresentation of a paradigm that poses unique possibilities for interrogating the prospects and limitations of technological productivity itself.75 Similarly problematic is ivan illich’s critique of the “intermediate technologist” as one who operates as a “superior tactician paving the road to totally manipulated consumption.”76 indeed, to see groups like Maya pedal, CESTa, or BnB as economic tacticians is to assume that the promotion of appropriate or intermediate technologies necessarily causes, rather than critically responds to, the realities of poverty and ecological crisis prompted by capitalism and free market ideology. in this respect, illich’s otherwise prescient critique of so-called Third World development work is flawed not because it lacks nuance but because it fails to account for what people can or should do when industrial capitalism is already in full swing, whether altering the cultural landscape, destroying ecologies, or funding right-wing militias in service of year-round banana supplies in Midwestern grocery stores.77 populations are certainly capable of organizing resistance movements to radically transform structural inequalities, but such movements take time and are entirely dependent on a host of circumstances beyond any one group’s capacity to address.

Bikes not Bombs, CESTa, Maya pedal, and Working Bikes are just a few of the organizations that either operate or contribute to effective development-focused micro-businesses that see appropriate technology, ecological sustainability, and social justice—rather than bootstrap capitalism—as the end goals of their work. They recognize that even within the constraints of capitalism, bicycle transportation and pedal-powered technologies can be part of a larger shift in the way people potentially organize their communities, care for their environment, and exercise more democratic control over their means of production. Sadly, their collective critiques of corporatism and free trade policies compromise the minority position within a network of aid organizations hoping to cultivate the budding entrepreneur ostensibly trapped inside every postcolonial subject. The prospects of creating a sustainable or viable business in virtually any postcolonial country are dependent on a multitude of tenuous factors, the least of which are the whims of international markets, the lending and trade policies of transnational bodies like the World Bank, iMF, and WTO, the price of oil, and the general economic stranglehold that multinational corporations have on both global resources and trade.


pages: 538 words: 147,612

All the Money in the World by Peter W. Bernstein

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Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Berlin Wall, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, call centre, corporate governance, currency peg, David Brooks, Donald Trump, estate planning, family office, financial innovation, George Gilder, high net worth, invisible hand, Jeff Bezos, job automation, job-hopping, Long Term Capital Management, Martin Wolf, Maui Hawaii, means of production, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, new economy, PageRank, Peter Singer: altruism, pez dispenser, popular electronics, Renaissance Technologies, Rod Stewart played at Stephen Schwarzman birthday party, Ronald Reagan, Sand Hill Road, school vouchers, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, traveling salesman, urban planning, William Shockley: the traitorous eight, women in the workforce

All were originally from Budapest: Investor George Soros, leasing billionaire Steven F. Udvar-Hazy and his business partner Leslie Gonda (Gonda’s Venezuelan-born son, Louis Gonda, is also a billionaire), the late real-estate mogul and Holocaust survivor Laszlo Nandor Tauber, and former Microsoft programmer Charles Simonyi. Simonyi, for one, knew at a young age that Communist Hungary, where he was taught that workers could never own the “means of production,” was not where he wanted to be. He showed an early interest in computers, and his father, an electrical-engineering professor, let him tinker with the antiquated vacuum-tube computers used in late-1950s Budapest. Meanwhile, the elder Simonyi was quietly charting an escape route for his son. At age seventeen, Charles left Hungary on his own to work at a Danish computer institute. After one year, he headed for the University of California–Berkeley.

(“Yachts are the closest a commoner can get to sovereignty,” he once said.) A pilot with more than two thousand hours of flying time, Simonyi paid $25 million to Russia’s space agency for a thirteen-day orbital space flight in spring 2007. To keep himself grounded at home, Simonyi has a machine shop in the basement of his house; there he keeps a lathe and drill press to remind himself of the means of production he was once told he could never own. * * * The real value of an MBA, believes Franklin Otis Booth Jr., who graduated from California Institute of Technology and then got an MBA from Stanford, is that it “teaches the conventions by which businesses are conducted.” But would Booth have amassed his $1.9 billion fortune without the degree? Quite likely. First, he got a head start with an inheritance from great-grandfather Harrison Gray Otis, founder of the Times-Mirror newspaper publishing company.

Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government by Robert Higgs, Arthur A. Ekirch, Jr.

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Alistair Cooke, clean water, collective bargaining, credit crunch, declining real wages, endowment effect, fiat currency, full employment, hiring and firing, income per capita, Joseph Schumpeter, laissez-faire capitalism, manufacturing employment, means of production, minimum wage unemployment, Plutocrats, plutocrats, post-industrial society, price discrimination, profit motive, rent control, rent-seeking, Richard Thaler, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, Simon Kuznets, strikebreaker, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, total factor productivity, transaction costs, transcontinental railway, union organizing, Upton Sinclair, War on Poverty, Works Progress Administration

Only after the attack on Pearl Harbor did Roosevelt move in the direction advised by the old war-horse. 16 In mid-1940 Congress enacted important legislation expanding the powers of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, still the bailiwick of the politically durable conservative Democrat, Jesse Jones, (1) To make loans to, or, when requested by the Federal Loan Administrator with the approval of the President, purchase the capital stock of, any corporation (a) for the purpose of producing, acquiring, and carrying strategic and critical materials as defined by the President, and (b) for plant construction, expansion and equipment, and working capital, to be used by the corporation in the manufacture of equipment and supplies necessary to the national defense, on such terms and conditions and with such maturities as the Corporation may determine; and History 204 (2) When requested by the Federal Loan Administrator, with the approval of the President, to create or to organize a corporation or corporations, with power (a) to produce, acquire, and carry strategic and critical materials as defined by the President, (b) to purchase and lease land, to purchase, lease, build, and expand plants, and to purchase and produce equipment, supplies, and machinery, for the manufacture of arms, ammunition, and implements of war, (c) to lease such plants to private corporations to engage in such manufacture, and (d) if the President finds that it is necessary for a Government agency to engage in such manufacture, to engage in such manufacture itself. 17 During the war these powers, which Jones described as "perhaps the broadest powers ever conferred upon a single government agency," would be exercised on a grand scale as the federal government became an investor, producer, and commercial dealer through numerous RFC subsidiaries: Metals Reserve Company, Defense Plant Corporation, Defense Supplies Corporation, Petroleum Reserves Corporation, Rubber Reserve Company, U.S. Commercial Company, War Emergency Pipelines, Inc., War Insurance Corporation, and others. (See the appendix to this chapter.) Here was wartime socialism in the strict sense of governmental ownership and (sometimes) management of the means of production. Jesse Jones was truly an economic czar. 18 (There were others: Harry Hopkins in charge of Lend-Lease, Donald M. Nelson at the War Production Board, and eventually above all the rest James F. Byrnes at the Office of War Mobilization. Of them, more is said later in this chapter.) When the Japanese bombs rained down on Pearl Harbor the United States was not totally unprepared for war, nor did the government lack authority to mobilize the nation's economic resources.

At that time, however, Nixon's declarations-along with FOR's of 1933 and Truman's of 1950, which remained in effect-gave force to 470 provisions of federal law delegating extraordinary powers to the President. As a congressional committee report described them, the emergency powers conferred "enough authority to rule the country without reference to normal constitutional processes." Under the powers delegated by these statutes, the President may: seize property; organize and control the means of production; seize commodities; assign military forces abroad; institute martial law; seize and control all transportation and communication; regulate the operation of private enterprise; restrict travel; and, in a plethora of particular ways, control the lives of all American citizens. 39 Not until the passage of the National Emergencies Act of 1976 did Congress provide for the termination of existing declared national emergencies and for the systematic oversight and termination of future declared national emergencies.

Investment: A History by Norton Reamer, Jesse Downing

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Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, asset allocation, backtesting, banking crisis, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, Brownian motion, buttonwood tree, California gold rush, capital asset pricing model, Carmen Reinhart, carried interest, colonial rule, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, debt deflation, discounted cash flows, diversified portfolio, equity premium, estate planning, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, Fall of the Berlin Wall, family office, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial innovation, fixed income, Gordon Gekko, Henri Poincaré, high net worth, index fund, interest rate swap, invention of the telegraph, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Kenneth Rogoff, labor-force participation, land tenure, London Interbank Offered Rate, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, Louis Bachelier, margin call, means of production, Menlo Park, merger arbitrage, moral hazard, mortgage debt, Network effects, new economy, Nick Leeson, Own Your Own Home, pension reform, Ponzi scheme, price mechanism, principal–agent problem, profit maximization, quantitative easing, RAND corporation, random walk, Renaissance Technologies, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, risk-adjusted returns, risk/return, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Sand Hill Road, Sharpe ratio, short selling, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, sovereign wealth fund, spinning jenny, statistical arbitrage, technology bubble, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, time value of money, too big to fail, transaction costs, underbanked, Vanguard fund, working poor, yield curve

Some of the reasons for this upswing were out of the control of expert stakeholders, such as government regulators and financial professionals, and were due instead to the political and economic context of the period. For example, the long bull market following World War II made stocks seem like an attractive option for investing. In addition, the culture of the Cold War spurred the American public’s eagerness to participate in the capitalist system and to support domestic industry. In contrast to the Soviet-style economic system, in which the means of production were taken over by the state, Americans hoped to show that workers could also own the means of production through equity shareholding in a capitalistic society.92 Other reasons for increasing market participation were more carefully constructed. The development of such investment products as mutual funds, retirement accounts, and equity derivatives offered new opportunities to investors. Greater regulation made investors more trusting of the markets and more willing to invest their money in securities.


pages: 411 words: 136,413

The Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought by Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff, Peter Schwartz

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affirmative action, Berlin Wall, British Empire, business process, cuban missile crisis, haute cuisine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, laissez-faire capitalism, means of production, medical malpractice, profit motive, Ralph Nader, Ronald Reagan, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transcontinental railway, urban renewal, War on Poverty

The inculcation of hatred for other tribes is a necessary tool of tribal rulers, who need scapegoats to blame for the misery of their own subjects. There is no tyranny worse than ethnic rule—since it is an unchosen serfdom one is asked to accept as a value, and since it applies primarily to one’s mind. A man of self-esteem will not accept the notion that the content of his mind is determined by his muscles, i.e., by his own body. But by the bodies of an unspecified string of ancestors? Determinism by the means of production is preferable; it is equally false, but less offensive to human dignity. Marxism is corrupt, but clean compared to the stale, rank, musty odor of ethnicity. As to the stagnation under tribal rule—take a look at the Balkans. At the start of this century, the Balkans were regarded as the disgrace of Europe. Six or eight tribes, plus a number of subtribes with unpronounceable names, were crowded on the Balkan peninsula, engaging in endless wars among themselves or being conquered by stronger neighbors or practicing violence for the sake of violence over some microscopic language differences.

Empirical observation is not using your eyes, but taking a Gallup poll of others’ reports on their eyes. Rational knowledge is not achieved by your brain grasping a logical argument; it is “agreement in results of problem solving”—and if men happen not to agree, for whatever reason or lack of reason, then there is no rational knowledge. This is nothing less than public ownership of the means of cognition, which, as Ayn Rand observed, is what underlies the notion of public ownership of the means of production. If you want to see both Kantian elements—skepticism and the worship of the social—come together, consider the field of history today. Here is an excerpt from a course description at the University of Indiana (Bloomington); the course is titled “Freedom and the Historian.” History is made by the historian. Each generation of historians reinterprets the past in the light of its own historical experience and values....


pages: 479 words: 144,453

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

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23andMe, agricultural Revolution, algorithmic trading, Anne Wojcicki, anti-communist, Anton Chekhov, autonomous vehicles, Berlin Wall, call centre, Chris Urmson, cognitive dissonance, Columbian Exchange, computer age, Deng Xiaoping, don't be evil, European colonialism, experimental subject, falling living standards, Flash crash, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, glass ceiling, global village, invention of writing, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, job automation, Kevin Kelly, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, Minecraft, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, mutually assured destruction, new economy, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, placebo effect, Ray Kurzweil, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, stem cell, Steven Pinker, telemarketer, too big to fail, trade route, Turing machine, Turing test, ultimatum game, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!

In the twentieth century everybody from street urchins to presidents embraced a Marxist approach to economics and history. Even diehard capitalists who vehemently resisted the Marxist prognosis still made use of the Marxist diagnosis. When the CIA analysed the situation in Vietnam or Chile in the 1960s, it divided society into classes. When Nixon or Thatcher looked at the globe, they asked themselves who controls the vital means of production. From 1989 to 1991 George Bush oversaw the demise of the Evil Empire of communism, only to be defeated in the 1992 elections by Bill Clinton. Clinton’s winning campaign strategy was summarised in the motto: ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ Marx could not have said it better. As people adopted the Marxist diagnosis, they changed their behaviour accordingly. Capitalists in countries such as Britain and France strove to better the lot of the workers, strengthen their national consciousness and integrate them into the political system.

If I suggest that perhaps I am depressed because I am being exploited by capitalists, and because under the prevailing social system I have no chance of realising my aims, the therapist may well say that I am projecting onto ‘the social system’ my own inner difficulties, and I am projecting onto ‘the capitalists’ unresolved issues with my mother. According to socialism, instead of spending years talking about my mother, my emotions and my complexes, I should ask myself: who owns the means of production in my country? What are its main exports and imports? What’s the connection between the ruling politicians and international banking? Only by understanding the surrounding socio-economic system and taking into account the experiences of all other people could I truly understand what I feel, and only by common action can we change the system. Yet what person can take into account the experiences of all human beings, and weigh them one against the other in a fair way?


pages: 219 words: 61,334

Brit-Myth: Who Do the British Think They Are? by Chris Rojek

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British Empire, business climate, colonial rule, deindustrialization, demand response, full employment, Gordon Gekko, Isaac Newton, Khartoum Gordon, Mahatma Gandhi, means of production, post-industrial society, Red Clydeside, Stephen Hawking, the market place, urban planning, Winter of Discontent

If the New Right referred to long nhs hospital waiting lists and truancy and poor exam performance at school as evidence of the bankruptcy of the welfare state in the 1970s, New Labour seized upon the privatization of the rail network as the primary symbol of the folly of relying upon the market to solve issues of the common good. New Labour presented itself as a modernizing party. It discarded some of the ideological baggage that had kept it out of power for nearly two decades. In particular, it rejected Old Labour’s Clause iv, which committed the party to seek common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange. The politics of both the traditional Left and Right were regarded to be obsolescent in an age in which voters were judged to have ceased to be ideological. The ‘Third Way’ principles espoused and practised by New Labour sought to generate relevant policies to deal with the central dilemmas of globalization, the new individualism (the retreat of custom and precedent as arbiters of life choice), ecological risks, multiculturalism and multi-ethnicity.


pages: 162 words: 42,595

Architecture: A Very Short Introduction by Andrew Ballantyne

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dematerialisation, Frank Gehry, Guggenheim Bilbao, late capitalism, means of production, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Stewart Brand, the built environment

Hector Guimard is best known for the entrances that he designed for the Paris Métro, which have droopily heavy-looking flower heads, with dull red lights that glow mysteriously. They seem to beckon the traveller into a dreamworld, rather than into an efficient transport system, but in their fabrication they were highly rational and depended not on individual craftsmanship but on repeated castings in iron from moulds. The imagery may look soporific, but the means of production was efficient. This use of mass-production methods in architecture will have helped to prepare the way for Le Corbusier’s exhibition of mass-produced furniture, but in the avant-garde circles in which Le Corbusier moved another crucial influence would have been the provocateur Marcel Duchamp’s practice of exhibiting ready-made objects of mass manufacture in an art-gallery setting. He started doing it in 1914, with a rather striking bottle-drying rack, but the most famous of his ‘readymades’ was the white ceramic urinal that he exhibited with the title Fountain in 1917.


pages: 217 words: 61,407

Twilight of Abundance: Why the 21st Century Will Be Nasty, Brutish, and Short by David Archibald

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Bakken shale, Climategate, Climatic Research Unit, deindustrialization, energy security, failed state, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, income per capita, means of production, mutually assured destruction, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, out of africa, peak oil, price discovery process, rising living standards, South China Sea, University of East Anglia, uranium enrichment, Yom Kippur War

We also know that Solar Cycle 24 will be very long, the longest for more than 350 years, and that means that the climate over Cycle 25 will be much colder again. How much colder? Cold enough to shrink the planet’s grain belts a few hundred kilometers toward the equator. My own work4 in this field has been corroborated by work done with great statistical precision by a Norwegian group of scientists led by Professor Jan-Erik Solheim.5 So we can thank the UN-EU establishment for one thing. If they had not attempted to take over the means of production and exchange in the name of global warming, humanity would be blundering completely unsuspectingly into a cold period that will cause widespread crop failures and starvation. We will still have the crop failures and starvation, but we will understand what is causing it while it is happening and be able to take some steps to mitigate the damage. Consider how some of these trends are already affecting one country, the United Kingdom.


pages: 168 words: 50,647

The End of Jobs: Money, Meaning and Freedom Without the 9-To-5 by Taylor Pearson

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Airbnb, barriers to entry, Black Swan, call centre, cloud computing, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Frederick Winslow Taylor, future of work, Google Hangouts, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, loss aversion, low skilled workers, Lyft, Mark Zuckerberg, market fragmentation, means of production, Oculus Rift, passive income, passive investing, Peter Thiel, remote working, Ronald Reagan: Tear down this wall, sharing economy, side project, Silicon Valley, Skype, software as a service, software is eating the world, Startup school, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Brand, telemarketer, Thomas Malthus, Uber and Lyft, unpaid internship, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, web application, Whole Earth Catalog

While the rate of return on capital for the average adult has been 2.1% since 1987, it’s been 6.5% for the average billionaire. Yet, there are two ways of looking at this. The first is continuing with Piketty’s view: the rich are going to get richer and we’re doomed to live in an unequal society. The other is that Piketty’s view is short-sighted and historical facing. That those same tools, the means of production, available exclusively to the wealthy for all of human history, are now in your hands. Multimillion-dollar businesses are run using a laptop, Skype, and an internet connection. That is the world in which we live. One where the future is not defined. One where it’s up to each individual, group, and society to write the future for themselves. What Piketty and others like him fail to see is that never before has a generation held the pen to write their future in the way we do—but it will not write itself.


pages: 160 words: 46,449

The Extreme Centre: A Warning by Tariq Ali

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Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Berlin Wall, bonus culture, BRICs, British Empire, centre right, deindustrialization, Edward Snowden, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial deregulation, first-past-the-post, full employment, labour market flexibility, land reform, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, Monroe Doctrine, mortgage debt, North Sea oil, obamacare, offshore financial centre, reserve currency, Ronald Reagan, South China Sea, The Chicago School, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, trickle-down economics, Washington Consensus, Wolfgang Streeck

The only source that I can see is that of productive property. The state must come, in some way or another, to own a very large chunk of the land and capital of the country. This may not be a popular policy: but, unless it is pursued, the policy of improved social services, which is a popular one, will become impossible. You cannot for long socialize the means of consumption unless you first socialize the means of production. The rulers of the world will see in these words little more than an expression of utopianism, but they would be wrong. For these are the structural reforms that are really needed, not those being pushed by the EU. What is needed is a complete turnaround, preceded by a public admission that the Wall Street system could not and did not work and has to be abandoned. Gaullist France had wanted the European Union to become a neutral force, and some in Germany felt the same.


pages: 187 words: 58,839

Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton

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hiring and firing, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, means of production, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen

A lack of savings spurs an increase in personal and commercial borrowing. To satisfy domestic demand, companies start to import more and export less, a trend that soon results in a balance-of-payments deficit. The economy is now officially out of kilter, freighted by overinvesting, overconsumption, overborrowing and overlending. Here begins the slide into recession. Prices are pushed higher by the use of less efficient means of production, by the growth in the money supply and by speculation. Tighter and much more expensive credit raises the cost of outstanding debt. Asset values, inflated in the upswing, are punctured. Borrowers can no longer make their payments, and the collateral available for new loans is restricted. Incomes, investment and consumption all fall off. Companies and entrepreneurs flounder or go bankrupt; unemployment rates rise.


pages: 216 words: 61,061

Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed by Alexis Ohanian

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Airbnb, barriers to entry, carbon-based life, cloud computing, crowdsourcing, en.wikipedia.org, Hans Rosling, hiring and firing, Internet Archive, Kickstarter, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, Menlo Park, minimum viable product, Occupy movement, Paul Graham, Silicon Valley, Skype, slashdot, social web, software is eating the world, Startup school, Tony Hsieh, unpaid internship, Y Combinator

But this isn’t just my story. I’ve had a lot of advantages and a lot of help along the way,4 but the beauty of the Internet is that you don’t need these advantages to change the world. The near ubiquity of the Internet (in the developed world, for now) has brought with it the promise of a global stage on which ideas can come to fruition. For centuries, invention was limited to those who had access to the means of production and access to labor. Today, you can simply create and present your ideas online. Granted, if it’s that easy for you, it’s that easy for everyone. Having your content discovered, let alone appreciated, is not guaranteed. There continues to be innovation that will help new and interesting content come to the surface, but even as a work in progress, it’s better than the old world of gatekeepers.


pages: 230 words: 60,050

In the Flow by Boris Groys

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illegal immigration, Internet Archive, Julian Assange, late capitalism, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, WikiLeaks

Earlier, only industrial workers operated under the gaze of others, under the permanent control that was so eloquently described by Michel Foucault. Writers or artists worked in seclusion – beyond that panoptic, public control. However, if the so-called creative worker uses the Internet, he or she is subjected to the same or an even greater degree of surveillance as the Foucauldian worker. The results of surveillance are sold by the corporations that control the Internet because they own the means of production, the material and technical basis of the Internet. One should not forget that the Internet is owned privately. And the owners’ profits come mostly from targeted advertisement. Here we have an interesting phenomenon: the monetization of hermeneutics. Classical hermeneutics, which searched for the author behind the work, was criticized by the theoreticians of Structuralism, Close Reading, etc., who thought that it made no sense to chase ontological secrets that are inaccessible by definition.

Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order by Noam Chomsky

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Bernie Sanders, Bretton Woods, declining real wages, deindustrialization, full employment, invisible hand, joint-stock company, land reform, manufacturing employment, means of production, Monroe Doctrine, Ronald Reagan, strikebreaker, structural adjustment programs, Telecommunications Act of 1996, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, union organizing, Washington Consensus

He deplored “the daring depravity of the times,” as private powers “become the pretorian band of the government—at once its tools and its tyrant; bribed by its largesses, and overawing it by clamors and combinations.” They cast over society the shadow that we call “politics,” as John Dewey later commented. One of the major twentieth century philosophers and a leading figure of North American liberalism, Dewey emphasized that democracy has little content when big business rules the life of the country through its control of “the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation and communications, reinforced by command of the press, press agents and other means of publicity and propaganda.” He held further that in a free and democratic society, workers must be “the masters of their own industrial fate,” not tools rented by employers, ideas that can be traced back to classical liberalism and the Enlightenment, and have constantly reappeared in popular struggle in the United States as elsewhere.


pages: 177 words: 50,167

The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics by John B. Judis

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affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, back-to-the-land, Bernie Sanders, Bretton Woods, capital controls, centre right, collapse of Lehman Brothers, deindustrialization, desegregation, Donald Trump, eurozone crisis, financial deregulation, first-past-the-post, full employment, ghettoisation, glass ceiling, hiring and firing, illegal immigration, immigration reform, income inequality, invisible hand, laissez-faire capitalism, means of production, neoliberal agenda, obamacare, Occupy movement, open borders, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Post-materialism, post-materialism, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, War on Poverty, We are the 99%, white flight, Winter of Discontent

In the diary he kept of his Senate campaign in 1972, he wrote of a campaign stop, “I even mentioned the horrible word ‘socialism’—and nobody in the audience fainted.” He would recommend Albert Einstein’s essay, “Why Socialism,” to anyone interested. In that essay, Einstein wrote that the only way to remove the “evils” of capitalism was “through the establishment of a socialist economy. . . . In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion.” As mayor, Sanders fretted that he couldn’t bring socialism to Vermont. “If you ask me if the banks should be nationalized, I would say yes,” Sanders told the Baltimore Sun. “But I don’t have the power to nationalize the banks in Burlington.” After Sanders was elected to Congress, his view of socialism softened and increasingly came to resemble social democracy.

St Pancras Station by Simon Bradley

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Corn Laws, Fellow of the Royal Society, food miles, Frank Gehry, means of production, railway mania

Morris could be a great hater, too; a private letter written a few years later deplored the fate of another church at the hands of Scott, ‘the (happily) dead dog’. For the founders of the Arts and Crafts movement did more than carry forward the ideals of the Gothic Revival; they were also in revolt against some of its most deep-rooted practices and assumptions. The Arts and Crafts men ultimately had more success making beautiful things than they did in transforming the means of production, but their influence on architecture was none the less profound. By 1900 designers such as C. F. A. Voysey and M. H. Baillie Scott (no relation) had developed a kind of styleless idiom of plain walls and well-made detailing, inspired by the vernacular traditions of farmhouses and cottages but inventive and flexible in its planning. On a more modest scale, Arts and Crafts decencies informed many of the hundreds of thousands of local-authority dwellings built between the wars, when a version of municipal socialism became the national policy for housing.


pages: 273 words: 83,186

The botany of desire: a plant's-eye view of the world by Michael Pollan

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back-to-the-land, clean water, David Attenborough, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, Francisco Pizarro, invention of agriculture, Joseph Schumpeter, Maui Hawaii, means of production, paper trading, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Steven Pinker

Yet compared to the rest of the economy, farming has largely resisted the trend toward centralization and corporate control. Even today, when only a handful of big companies are left standing in most American industries, there are still some two million farmers. What has stood in the way of concentration is nature: her complexity, diversity, and sheer intractability in the face of our most heroic efforts at control. Perhaps most intractable of all has been agriculture’s means of production, which of course is nature’s own: the seed. It’s only in the last few decades, with the introduction of modern hybrids, that farmers began to buy their seeds from big companies. Even today a great many farmers save some seed every fall to replant in the spring. “Brown bagging,” as this practice is sometimes called, allows farmers to select strains particularly well adapted to local conditions.* Since these seeds are typically traded among farmers, the practice steadily advances the state of the genetic art.


pages: 306 words: 78,893

After the New Economy: The Binge . . . And the Hangover That Won't Go Away by Doug Henwood

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accounting loophole / creative accounting, affirmative action, Asian financial crisis, barriers to entry, borderless world, Branko Milanovic, Bretton Woods, capital controls, corporate governance, correlation coefficient, credit crunch, deindustrialization, dematerialisation, deskilling, ending welfare as we know it, feminist movement, full employment, gender pay gap, George Gilder, glass ceiling, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, half of the world's population has never made a phone call, income inequality, indoor plumbing, Internet Archive, job satisfaction, joint-stock company, Kevin Kelly, labor-force participation, liquidationism / Banker’s doctrine / the Treasury view, manufacturing employment, means of production, minimum wage unemployment, Naomi Klein, new economy, occupational segregation, pets.com, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, race to the bottom, Ralph Nader, Robert Gordon, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, statistical model, structural adjustment programs, Telecommunications Act of 1996, telemarketer, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, total factor productivity, union organizing, War on Poverty, women in the workforce, working poor, Y2K

(Wars usually lessen the degree of inequality; they require the mobilization of unskilled workers to make armaments, pushing up low-end wages, and wartime inflations can ravage old fortunes.) Inequality quickly returned to prewar levels during the 1920s (Williamson and Lindert 1980; Steckel and Moehling 2000). The driving forces were industriaUzation, which created great wealth alongside great poverty, and urbanization, which separated workers from the means of production.^ But aside from those macro relations, wealth inequality also appears to have increased within population groups as well—a feature that would reappear in the next great polarization, the one that began in the 1970s. The 1929 crash, depression, and another world war ended the long polarization of wealth. Fortunes were destroyed in the 1930s, and the inflation of the 1940s ate away at inherited fortunes.


pages: 293 words: 76,294

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham

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Alfred Russel Wallace, experimental subject, means of production, out of africa

Both sexes could host feasts, lead canoeing expeditions, raise pigs, hunt, fish, participate in warfare, own and inherit land, decide about clearing land, make shell necklaces, and trade in such valued items as greenstone ax blades. Women and men were equally capable of attaining the prestige of being “big” (important) people. Domestic violence was rare and strongly censured. There was “tremendous overlap in the roles of men and women” and a great deal of personal control over how they chose to spend their time. Women had “the same kinds of personal autonomy and control of the means of production as men.” Yet despite the apparent escape from patriarchy, women on Vanatinai did all the domestic cooking. Cooking was regarded as a low-prestige activity. Other chores for which women were responsible included washing dishes, fetching water and firewood, sweeping, and cleaning up pig droppings. All were again regarded as low-status duties—in other words, the kind of work men did not want to do.


pages: 238 words: 46

When Things Start to Think by Neil A. Gershenfeld

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3D printing, Ada Lovelace, Bretton Woods, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, Dynabook, Hedy Lamarr / George Antheil, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, invention of movable type, Iridium satellite, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, John von Neumann, means of production, new economy, Nick Leeson, packet switching, RFID, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, telemarketer, the medium is the message, Turing machine, Turing test, Vannevar Bush

Focus groups help companies figure out when they've done something dumb, but they can't substitute for a personal vision since people can't ask for things they can't conceive of. Companies are trying to flatten their organizational hierarchies and move more decision making out from the center by deploying personal computing to help connect and enable employees. But the impact of information technology will always be bounded if the means of production are still locked away like the mainframes used to be. For companies looking to foster innovation, for people looking to create rather than just consume the things around them, it's not enough to stop with a Web browser and an on-line catalog. Fabrication as well as computing must come to the desktop. The parallels between the promise and the problems of mainframes and machine tools are too great to ignore.


pages: 222 words: 74,587

Paper Machines: About Cards & Catalogs, 1548-1929 by Markus Krajewski, Peter Krapp

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business process, double entry bookkeeping, Frederick Winslow Taylor, Gödel, Escher, Bach, index card, Index librorum prohibitorum, information retrieval, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, Jacques de Vaucanson, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, knowledge worker, means of production, new economy, paper trading, Turing machine

In addition, research on Jean Paul has delivered unequivocal evidence that Moser’s procedures were in fact eclipsed by the use of notebooks.25 Nonetheless, poetic and scholarly production are reunited in the question of how to work with the assembled excerpts. Reviewing excerpts at regular intervals so as to remember not merely the citations, but the material as a whole, according to the Baroque rhetorical tradition—both Moser and Jean Paul declare this method their proper production aesthetic.26 Moser describes the rereading of excerpts in detail to generate a new text by means of productive recombination: Then I take all those slips of paper with the excerpted or otherwise used references, and put them between the divider and the octavo sheet that contains the rubric it belongs to, though not in any particular order: once I have them there, I take one chapter after another from the box, bring the slips of paper into a specific order, and add marginalia. Then I go through my entire stock of books, and look in the volumes that seem promising on the subject, in their index or elsewhere, and note down other findings onto new paper slips of half an octavo sheet, before inserting them into the sorted slips.


pages: 183 words: 17,571

Broken Markets: A User's Guide to the Post-Finance Economy by Kevin Mellyn

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banking crisis, banks create money, Basel III, Bernie Madoff, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Bonfire of the Vanities, bonus culture, Bretton Woods, BRICs, British Empire, call centre, Carmen Reinhart, central bank independence, centre right, cloud computing, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, corporate governance, credit crunch, crony capitalism, currency manipulation / currency intervention, disintermediation, eurozone crisis, fiat currency, financial innovation, financial repression, floating exchange rates, Fractional reserve banking, global reserve currency, global supply chain, Home mortgage interest deduction, index fund, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, labor-force participation, labour market flexibility, liquidity trap, London Interbank Offered Rate, lump of labour, market bubble, market clearing, Martin Wolf, means of production, mobile money, moral hazard, mortgage debt, mortgage tax deduction, Ponzi scheme, profit motive, quantitative easing, Real Time Gross Settlement, regulatory arbitrage, reserve currency, rising living standards, Ronald Coase, seigniorage, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, statistical model, Steve Jobs, The Great Moderation, the payments system, Tobin tax, too big to fail, transaction costs, underbanked, Works Progress Administration, yield curve, Yogi Berra

The bailed-out auto manufacturers, especially General Motors, also had their investment priorities directed to electric cars despite questions about market demand. The Chevy Volt and Solyndra are but two of the poster children of this adventure in central planning, industrial policy, and crony capitalism pursued with the best of intentions. The Point: Power Which brings us to the point of why financial repression and industrial policy are two sides of the same coin. The point is power. Power today isn’t about owning the means of production in the classic socialist formula, but the ability to direct who gets credit and investment in a public policy framework designed by the great and good. The great and good know who they are, whether products of the grandes écoles or Harvard and Princeton. Their frustration with the markets rather than the government picking economic winners and losers based on the irrational preferences of mere consumers is quite understandable.


pages: 255 words: 68,829

How PowerPoint Makes You Stupid by Franck Frommer

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Albert Einstein, business continuity plan, cuban missile crisis, dematerialisation, hypertext link, invention of writing, inventory management, invisible hand, Just-in-time delivery, knowledge worker, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, new economy, oil shock, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, union organizing

It is an efficient, productive, attractive tool that has a worldwide “evangelical” character. Above all, PowerPoint is a universal language that makes it possible to promote the virtues of the new management: the ability to synthesize, simplification, an aptitude for visualization, an inclination toward collegiality, collaborative work, and horizontality. The software makes it possible to technify and automate the means of production of ideas and institutes a new kind of circulation of activities, relations, and exchanges in the workplace. In short, PowerPoint contains the qualities demanded of the neomanagers of the twenty-first-century company. The three types of meeting defined above correspond to three uses of the software that Robert Gaskins planned for, according to the audience and the quality required for presentations.


pages: 252 words: 80,636

Bureaucracy by David Graeber

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3D printing, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, airport security, Albert Einstein, banking crisis, barriers to entry, borderless world, Bretton Woods, British Empire, collateralized debt obligation, Columbine, conceptual framework, Corn Laws, David Graeber, George Gilder, High speed trading, hiring and firing, late capitalism, means of production, music of the spheres, new economy, obamacare, Occupy movement, Parkinson's law, Peter Thiel, planetary scale, price mechanism, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, transcontinental railway, union organizing, urban planning

Elements of the Right dabbled with the artistic ideal, and twentieth-century Marxist regimes often embraced essentially right-wing theories of power and paid little more than lip service to the determinant nature of production. On the other hand, in their obsession with jailing poets and playwrights whose work they considered threatening, they evinced a profound faith in the power of art and creativity to change the world—those running capitalist regimes rarely bothered, convinced that if they kept a firm hand on the means of productions (and, of course, the army and police), the rest would take care of itself. One of the reasons it is difficult to see all this is because the word “imagination” can mean so many different things. In most modern definitions imagination is counterposed to reality; “imaginary” things are first and foremost things that aren’t really there. This can cause a great deal of confusion when we speak of imagination in the abstract, because it makes it seem like imagination has much more do with Spenser’s Faerie Queene than with a group of waitresses trying to figure out how to placate the couple at Table 7 before the boss shows up.


pages: 296 words: 82,501

Stuffocation by James Wallman

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3D printing, Airbnb, back-to-the-land, Berlin Wall, big-box store, Black Swan, BRICs, carbon footprint, Cass Sunstein, clean water, collaborative consumption, crowdsourcing, David Brooks, Fall of the Berlin Wall, happiness index / gross national happiness, high net worth, income inequality, James Hargreaves, Joseph Schumpeter, Martin Wolf, McMansion, means of production, Nate Silver, Occupy movement, post-industrial society, Post-materialism, post-materialism, Richard Florida, Richard Thaler, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Skype, spinning jenny, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, Thorstein Veblen, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, World Values Survey, Zipcar

In an article for the Harvard Business Review and then a book, Pine and Gilmore set out a persuasive case that every business – including yours – should use experiences to sell more to more people. They also proposed that, after the agrarian, manufacturing, and service economies, the experience economy is the logical evolution of capitalism. By that, they meant that, just as the creation and delivery of food and drink was the hallmark of the agrarian system, and the people who owned the means of production were the wealthiest – and just as the creation and delivery of material goods was the pillar of the manufacturing economy, and the people and businesses which owned the factories were the most successful, and so on for the service economy – so the creation and delivery of experiences will be the essential characteristic of the experience economy. The difference between the output of the agrarian and manufacturing economies is obvious, but perhaps the difference between a service and an experience needs explaining.


pages: 274 words: 66,721

Double Entry: How the Merchants of Venice Shaped the Modern World - and How Their Invention Could Make or Break the Planet by Jane Gleeson-White

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Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Bernie Madoff, Black Swan, British Empire, carbon footprint, corporate governance, credit crunch, double entry bookkeeping, full employment, Gordon Gekko, income inequality, invention of movable type, invention of writing, Islamic Golden Age, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Joseph Schumpeter, means of production, Naomi Klein, Ponzi scheme, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, spice trade, spinning jenny, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade route, traveling salesman, upwardly mobile

In Sombart’s view, capitalism and double entry are so intimately connected it is difficult to tell which was cause and which effect: ‘one may indeed doubt whether capitalism has procured in double-entry book-keeping a tool which activates its forces, or whether double-entry book-keeping has first given rise to capitalism out of its own spirit.’ Sombart defines capitalism as a particular economic system, recognisable as an organisation of trade, consisting invariably of two collaborating sections of the population, the owners of the means of production, who also manage them, and property-less workers, bound to the markets which they serve; which displays the two dominant principles of wealth creation and economic rationalism. Sombart’s definition derives from Karl Marx. Friedrich Engels, Marx’s collaborator and editor, wrote of Sombart’s work: ‘It is the first time that a German professor succeeds on the whole in seeing in Marx’s writings what Marx really says.’


pages: 206 words: 70,924

The Rise of the Quants: Marschak, Sharpe, Black, Scholes and Merton by Colin Read

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Albert Einstein, Black-Scholes formula, Bretton Woods, Brownian motion, capital asset pricing model, collateralized debt obligation, correlation coefficient, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, discovery of penicillin, discrete time, Emanuel Derman, en.wikipedia.org, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, financial innovation, fixed income, floating exchange rates, full employment, Henri Poincaré, implied volatility, index fund, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Bachelier, margin call, market clearing, martingale, means of production, moral hazard, naked short selling, price stability, principal–agent problem, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, RAND corporation, random walk, risk tolerance, risk/return, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, Sharpe ratio, short selling, stochastic process, The Chicago School, the scientific method, too big to fail, transaction costs, tulip mania, Works Progress Administration, yield curve

The Kiel School Before the First World War, our understanding of economics took one of two forms. For some, the analysis was rhetorical and straddled the boundary between politics and economics. The political economy of Karl Marx (1818–1883), John Stuart Mill (1806–1873), David Ricardo (1772–1823), or even Adam Smith (1723–1790) treated such topics as trade, economic systems, and the ownership of resources and the means of production with unsophisticated graphical tools and with the strength of philosophical argument and logic. Alternatively, others, most notably Léon Walras (1834–1910), Antoine Augustin Cournot (1801–1877), Francis Ysidro Edgeworth (1845–1926), and Irving Fischer (1867–1947), enhanced our understanding of individual markets by introducing to the discipline increasingly sophisticated mathematical tools. 16 The Times 17 While the insights of these early great minds in economics remain valid today, their theories were not sufficiently rigorous and analytic to answer questions in modern finance.


pages: 268 words: 75,850

The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems-And Create More by Luke Dormehl

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3D printing, algorithmic trading, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, augmented reality, big data - Walmart - Pop Tarts, call centre, Cass Sunstein, Clayton Christensen, computer age, death of newspapers, deferred acceptance, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Erik Brynjolfsson, Filter Bubble, Flash crash, Florence Nightingale: pie chart, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, Google Earth, Google Glasses, High speed trading, Internet Archive, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Kevin Kelly, Kodak vs Instagram, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, Nate Silver, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, pattern recognition, price discrimination, recommendation engine, Richard Thaler, Rosa Parks, self-driving car, sentiment analysis, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Slavoj Žižek, social graph, speech recognition, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, upwardly mobile, Wall-E, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Y Combinator

In his 2004 book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, the American psychologist Barry Schwartz argues that the overwhelming amount of available choice in everything from shopping to, yes, dating has become for many people a source of anxiety in itself.21 In terms of relationships, this “paradox of choice” is dealt with by subjecting individual lovers to segmentation: an industrial term that denotes how efficiency can be gained by dividing up and isolating the means of production. In an age of mass customization, relationships become just any commodity to be shaped according to fads, changing desires and flux-like whims. Such a postindustrial approach to dating runs counter to what we have been culturally conditioned to believe. The Lover is supposed to be unique; not just a combination of answers to set questions, each one to be answered correctly or incorrectly.


pages: 283 words: 81,163

How Capitalism Saved America: The Untold History of Our Country, From the Pilgrims to the Present by Thomas J. Dilorenzo

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banking crisis, British Empire, collective bargaining, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, financial deregulation, Fractional reserve banking, Hernando de Soto, income inequality, invisible hand, Joseph Schumpeter, laissez-faire capitalism, means of production, medical malpractice, Menlo Park, minimum wage unemployment, Plutocrats, plutocrats, price stability, profit maximization, profit motive, Ralph Nader, rent control, rent-seeking, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, statistical model, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transcontinental railway, union organizing, Upton Sinclair, working poor, Works Progress Administration

That is why, for example, businesses compete fiercely for niche markets with relatively small pockets of customers.5 THE CENTRAL IMPORTANCE OF PROPERTY RIGHTS As the quotation of Ayn Rand at the beginning of this chapter denotes, private property is the most important distinguishing feature of capitalism. The only alternative is communal or governmental ownership—that is, socialism. And socialism is economic poison wherever it is implemented.6 Private ownership of the means of production is the only way to ensure a workable system of human cooperation and division of labor. The American founding fathers were students of the British philosopher John Locke, whose famous Second Treatise of Government proclaimed that individuals are willing to join in society with others, and form governments, primarily for the mutual preservation of their “lives, liberties, and estates [that is, property].”


pages: 256 words: 15,765

The New Elite: Inside the Minds of the Truly Wealthy by Dr. Jim Taylor

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British Empire, call centre, dark matter, Donald Trump, estate planning, full employment, glass ceiling, income inequality, Jeff Bezos, Louis Pasteur, Maui Hawaii, McMansion, means of production, passive income, performance metric, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances, Ronald Reagan, stealth mode startup, Steve Jobs, Thorstein Veblen, trickle-down economics, women in the workforce

This image would become the icon for any portrayal of people of means, presenting an almost un-American image of Victorian manners and noblesse oblige. Wealth ‘‘ghost towns,’’ like Newport, Rhode Island, stand as mute testimony to the power and grandeur of those heady, aristocratic days. They were not only rich, they were powerful. The wealthy owned the mines, the lumber, and the other sources of raw material. They owned the factories and the means of production. They owned the inventions and the patents and the intellectual property. They owned the railroads, the steamships, and other means of distribution. They set the prices. They owned the public stock, the private bonds, and had strong relationships with the merchant bankers who financed it all. Today we’d call it being ‘‘vertically integrated.’’ Back then it was The Wealth of the Nation 29 less of an admired business strategy and more a source of populist resentment—a resentment which still lingers today.

The Armchair Economist: Economics and Everyday Life by Steven E. Landsburg

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Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, diversified portfolio, first-price auction, German hyperinflation, Golden Gate Park, invisible hand, means of production, price discrimination, profit maximization, Ralph Nader, random walk, Ronald Coase, sealed-bid auction, second-price auction, second-price sealed-bid, statistical model, the scientific method, Unsafe at Any Speed

In the second example, a ruling against Sturges leads him to close down his consulting room Of Medicine and Candy, Trains and Sparks 85 and curse Bridgman for his noise, while a ruling for Sturges leads him to close down his consulting room and happily collect a weekly check from his neighbor. If we were being more precise, then, we would say that while the judges' decision does matter to Sturges and to Bridgman, it doesn't matter to anyone else. The decision does not affect the allocation of resources. That is, it does not affect what gets produced, or the means of production. Economists are usually far more concerned about the allocation of resources than they are about transfers of income between individuals. We reveal our priorities when we say that judicial opinions don't "matter." The conflict between Sturges and Bridgman is a conflict over who should control a resource. The resource in question is the air surrounding Sturges's consulting room, which Sturges wants to use as an atmosphere conducive to contemplation and Bridgman wants to use as a dumping ground for noise.


pages: 235 words: 62,862

Utopia for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and a 15-Hour Workweek by Rutger Bregman

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autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, Bartolomé de las Casas, Berlin Wall, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, Branko Milanovic, cognitive dissonance, computer age, conceptual framework, credit crunch, David Graeber, Diane Coyle, Erik Brynjolfsson, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, full employment, George Gilder, happiness index / gross national happiness, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, income inequality, invention of gunpowder, James Watt: steam engine, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, labour market flexibility, labour mobility, low skilled workers, means of production, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microcredit, minimum wage unemployment, Mont Pelerin Society, Nathan Meyer Rothschild: antibiotics, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, Peter Thiel, post-industrial society, precariat, RAND corporation, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, Ronald Reagan, Second Machine Age, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Skype, stem cell, Steven Pinker, telemarketer, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, universal basic income, wage slave, War on Poverty, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, wikimedia commons, women in the workforce, working poor, World Values Survey

The first driverless cars are already taking to the roads. Even now, 3D printers are rolling out entire embryonic cell structures, and people with chips implanted in their brains are operating robotic arms with their minds. Another factoid: Since 1980, the price of 1 watt of solar energy has plummeted 99% – and that’s not a typo. If we’re lucky, 3D printers and solar panels may yet turn Karl Marx’s ideal (all means of production controlled by the masses) into a reality, all without requiring a bloody revolution. For a long time, the Land of Plenty was reserved for a small elite in the wealthy West. Those days are over. Since China has opened itself to capitalism, 700 million Chinese have been lifted out of extreme poverty.7 Africa, too, is fast shedding its reputation for economic devastation; the continent is now home to six of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies.8 By the year 2013, six billion of the globe’s seven billion inhabitants owned a cell phone.

Chomsky on Mis-Education by Noam Chomsky

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deindustrialization, deskilling, Howard Zinn, invisible hand, means of production, Ronald Reagan, strikebreaker, union organizing, Washington Consensus

Meaning, reforms are of limited utility. Democracy requires that the source of the shadow be removed not only because of its domination of the political arena but because the very institutions of private power undermine democracy and freedom. Dewey was very explicit about the antidemocratic power that he had in mind. To quote him, “Power today”—this is the 1920s—“resides in control of the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation and communication. Whoever owns them rules the life of the country,” even if democratic forms remain. “Business for private profit through private control of banking, land, industry reinforced by command of the press, press agents and other means of publicity and propaganda,” that is the system of actual power, the source of coercion and control, and until it’s unraveled we can’t talk seriously about democracy and freedom.


pages: 879 words: 233,093

The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis by Jeremy Rifkin

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agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, back-to-the-land, British Empire, carbon footprint, collaborative economy, death of newspapers, delayed gratification, distributed generation, en.wikipedia.org, energy security, feminist movement, global village, hydrogen economy, illegal immigration, income inequality, income per capita, interchangeable parts, Internet Archive, invention of movable type, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, labour mobility, Mahatma Gandhi, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, new economy, New Urbanism, Norbert Wiener, out of africa, Peace of Westphalia, peak oil, planetary scale, Simon Kuznets, Skype, smart grid, smart meter, supply-chain management, surplus humans, the medium is the message, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, transaction costs, upwardly mobile, uranium enrichment, working poor, World Values Survey

A closer look, however, reveals something quite different at work. It was the dawn of psychological consciousness that propelled these diverse efforts forward. All of these movements—perhaps with the qualified exception of the anticolonial ones—shared a common theme: that the individual being is precious, unique, mortal, and of ultimate worth and transcends abstract ideological concerns around class consciousness and who controls the means of production. History professor Theodore Roszak, in his book The Making of a Counter Culture, cuts to the great generational shift that occurred in the 1960s, which separated the first generation raised on therapeutic ways of thinking from their parents and former generations reared on ideological consciousness. What makes the youthful disaffiliation of our time a cultural phenomenon, rather than merely a political movement, is the fact that it strikes beyond ideology to the level of consciousness, seeking to transform our deepest sense of the self, the other, the environment.100 CONSCIOUSNESS POLITICS The seismic shift in consciousness was best reflected in the emergence of the New Left movement of the 1960s.

Baby boomers broke through the older class-based politics that had characterized the age of ideological consciousness, with its emphasis on rational approaches to achieving material success and happiness. As mentioned in Chapter 10, the 1968 student revolution was really a shift in consciousness from ideological to psychological, as a generation of activists began to focus on what they called personal politics. The emphasis no longer simply revolved around who should control the means of production and how best to assure the fair distribution of the economic rewards of society. Instead, the counterculture generation began to look inward to probe feelings and emotions and outward to establish meaningful relationships and empathetic bonds. The 1960s saw a great surge in the empathetic bond. A younger generation began to question the rampant materialism of their parents. Radical activists took to the streets from Paris to San Francisco with banners proclaiming DOWN WITH CONSUMER SOCIETY.

The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World (Hardback) - Common by Alan Greenspan

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air freight, airline deregulation, Albert Einstein, asset-backed security, bank run, Berlin Wall, Bretton Woods, business process, call centre, capital controls, central bank independence, collateralized debt obligation, collective bargaining, conceptual framework, Corn Laws, corporate governance, correlation coefficient, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, crony capitalism, cuban missile crisis, currency peg, Deng Xiaoping, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Doha Development Round, double entry bookkeeping, equity premium, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, Fall of the Berlin Wall, fiat currency, financial innovation, financial intermediation, full employment, Gini coefficient, Hernando de Soto, income inequality, income per capita, invisible hand, Joseph Schumpeter, labor-force participation, labour market flexibility, laissez-faire capitalism, land reform, Long Term Capital Management, Mahatma Gandhi, manufacturing employment, market bubble, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, moral hazard, mortgage debt, new economy, North Sea oil, oil shock, open economy, pets.com, Potemkin village, price mechanism, price stability, Productivity paradox, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, random walk, reserve currency, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, short selling, Silicon Valley, special economic zone, the payments system, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, total factor productivity, trade liberalization, trade route, transaction costs, transcontinental railway, urban renewal, working-age population, Y2K

Encouraging, as I noted, was the passage of the amendment with only minor changes by the National People's Congress meeting in March 2007. For the past generation, the Chinese leadership has been quite inventive in avoiding what virtually everyone has concluded: despite his brilliance, Karl Marx was wrong in his analysis of the way people can organize to successfully create value. To Marx, state ownership of the means of production was the essential fixture in a society's ability to produce wealth and justice. The right to virtually all property in Marx's society was thus to rest with the state, in trust for the people. Property rights granted to individuals were instruments of exploitation and could come only at the expense of the "collective," that is, society as a whole. He argued for the collectivization of the division of labor.

Do human beings optimize their potential in a collectivized society? The ultimate arbiter of all such paradigms is reality. Does it work as proposed? Marx's economic model in practice—in the USSR and elsewhere—could not produce wealth or justice, as is now generally recognized. The rationale for collective ownership failed. Socialists in the West, adjusting to the failure of Marxist economics, have redefined socialism to no longer require that all the means of production be owned by the state. Some simply advocate government regulation rather than state ownership to foster societal well-being. Deng Xiaoping, confronting Marx's fall from favor, bypassed Communist ideology and rested Party legitimacy on its ability to meet the material needs of over a billion people. He set in motion a process that led to an unprecedented near-eightfold increase in real per capita GDP, a fall in infant mortality, and greater life expectancy.


pages: 934 words: 232,651

Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945-1956 by Anne Applebaum

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affirmative action, anti-communist, Berlin Wall, centre right, deindustrialization, Fall of the Berlin Wall, falling living standards, hiring and firing, illegal immigration, indoor plumbing, Internet Archive, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, land reform, language of flowers, means of production, New Urbanism, Potemkin village, price mechanism, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, Slavoj Žižek, stakhanovite, strikebreaker, union organizing, urban planning

Chapter 10 ECONOMICS The new socialist human being should think like Lenin, act like Stalin, and work like Stakhanov. —Walter Ulbricht The definition of socialism: an incessant struggle against difficulties that would not exist in any other system. —Hungarian joke of the 1950s IN CLASSIC MARXIST thought, base determines superstructure. In other words, traditional Marxists believed that the shape of a society’s economy—the division of labor, the means of production, the distribution of capital—determined its politics, culture, art, and religion. No country, according to this way of thinking, can change its political system without changing its economic system first. That was the theory. In practice, the new communist bosses of Eastern Europe had a chicken-and-egg problem. They believed that the economy would have to be transformed in order to create a communist society.

The 1920s and the 1930s had, she wrote, been “characteristic of the capitalist epoch.” The wealthy had “sought confirmation of their own worth through possession of the most ostentatious objects.” Those lacking means had been forced to seek cheap and tacky imitations. Factories, mostly belonging to foreign capitalists, “followed foreign design—third-rate of course, since the better designs were reserved for their own means of production—as a result of which output for the masses was ugly, and above all incompatible with our culture.”38 Telakowska did not begin her career using the language of orthodox Marxism. At different times an art teacher, designer, critic, and curator, Telakowska had previously been best known for her association with a Polish artistic group called Ład. Connoisseurs of design history would recognize Ład as a cousin of the British Arts and Crafts movement.


pages: 710 words: 164,527

The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order by Benn Steil

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Albert Einstein, Asian financial crisis, banks create money, Bretton Woods, British Empire, capital controls, currency manipulation / currency intervention, currency peg, deindustrialization, European colonialism, facts on the ground, fiat currency, financial independence, floating exchange rates, full employment, global reserve currency, imperial preference, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, margin call, means of production, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, Monroe Doctrine, New Journalism, open economy, Potemkin village, price mechanism, price stability, psychological pricing, reserve currency, road to serfdom, seigniorage, South China Sea, special drawing rights, The Great Moderation, the market place, trade liberalization, Works Progress Administration

But I sometimes found myself wondering why he worked for the apparatus at all. His motives always baffled me.”63 As regards the economics White advocated, they were hardly Marxist. They were by this time what would be described as thoroughly Keynesian. He insisted that government should take an active role in supporting economic activity; certainly more so than was orthodox before the Great Depression, but he never pushed for broad government control of the means of production. His writings on international monetary affairs express a concern with the need to fashion a system that “reduces the necessity of … restrictions on private enterprise.”64 As for White’s domestic politics, these were mainstream New Deal progressive, and there is no evidence that he admired communism as a political ideology. It is this chasm between what is known publicly of White’s economic and political views, on the one hand, and his clandestine behavior on behalf of the Soviets, on the other, that accounts for the plethora of unpersuasive profiles of the man that have emerged over more than half a century.65 “Who Was Harry Dexter White?”

Keynes’s controversial claim of having erected a new General Theory was a transparent mimicking of Einstein’s “general” (as contrasted to his merely “special”) theory of relativity.89 Classical economists—that is, the only ones who were reputable in the 1920s—believed in Say’s Law, expressed by Keynes as “supply creates its own demand,” and Keynes set out to prove that this was false.90 Say did not write the precise words Keynes ascribed to him, and there is endless controversy over what exactly “Say’s Law” comprises. Say did write that “a glut can take place only when there are too many means of production applied to one kind of product and not enough to another.” This does imply that demand cannot fall short of potential supply; supply the right sort of goods and services, and the demand will be there. This owes to the fact that “the mere circumstance of creation of one product immediately opens a vent for other products”; the creator supplies because he demands.91 Keynes argued that Say’s Law had everything the wrong way around; in fact, it was “expenditure [that] creates its own income.”92 It was demand, not supply, that determined the level of economic activity.


pages: 400 words: 94,847

Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science by Michael Nielsen

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Albert Einstein, augmented reality, barriers to entry, bioinformatics, Cass Sunstein, Climategate, Climatic Research Unit, conceptual framework, dark matter, discovery of DNA, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, fault tolerance, Fellow of the Royal Society, Firefox, Freestyle chess, Galaxy Zoo, Internet Archive, invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, Kevin Kelly, Magellanic Cloud, means of production, medical residency, Nicholas Carr, publish or perish, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, semantic web, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Simon Singh, Skype, slashdot, social web, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Nature of the Firm, The Wisdom of Crowds, University of East Anglia, Vannevar Bush, Vernor Vinge

He proposes that online collaboration has enabled a third form of production, beyond markets and conventional organizations, which he calls “peer production.” I believe this is too narrow a point of view, both for creative problem solving and for the production of goods. Online tools can be used to subsume both markets and conventional organizations as special cases, and also enable many new forms of production and creative problem solving. Thus it’s not that we now have a third form of production. It’s that we now have a means of production that includes all our former forms as special cases, and enables new forms. Chapter 4. Patterns of Online Collaboration p 44: Insightful accounts of open source software development include [12, 13, 178, 235]. Even more useful are the innumerable open source projects maintained online at sites such as GitHub (http://github.com) and SourceForge (http://sourceforge.net). p 44: My history of Linux is based largely on postings to the comp.os.minix, alt.os.linux, and comp.os.linux newsgroups in 1991 and 1992.


pages: 224 words: 12,941

From Gutenberg to Google: electronic representations of literary texts by Peter L. Shillingsburg

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British Empire, computer age, double helix, HyperCard, hypertext link, interchangeable parts, invention of the telephone, means of production, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, Saturday Night Live, Socratic dialogue

It has been suggested that textuality might find a better metaphor in the coral reef.7 A sense of natural development and symbiotic relations and mutually dependent developments in a hugely complex natural interaction under the control of no one in particular and eventuating in breath-taking beauty may be an attractive alternative vision. But I cannot go there. Texts are human inventions constituted by humanly devised sign systems and mechanical means of production and distribution. Their conventions are of human invention and agreement. Humans ruin rather than build coral reefs. It is true that language grows and changes in spite of French Academies and Webster’s dictionaries, but insofar as humans create texts of great complexity and dexterity through the conscious manipulation of the conventions of writing, it seems necessary to provide conscious ways to enhance one’s ability to comprehend the functions, meanings, purposes, and even intentions of their creation and manufacture.


pages: 287 words: 86,919

Protocol: how control exists after decentralization by Alexander R. Galloway

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Ada Lovelace, airport security, Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, Bretton Woods, computer age, Craig Reynolds: boids flock, discovery of DNA, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, easy for humans, difficult for computers, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Grace Hopper, Hacker Ethic, informal economy, John Conway, Kevin Kelly, late capitalism, linear programming, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, Menlo Park, mutually assured destruction, Norbert Wiener, packet switching, phenotype, post-industrial society, profit motive, QWERTY keyboard, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFC: Request For Comment, Richard Stallman, semantic web, SETI@home, stem cell, Steve Crocker, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, telerobotics, the market place, theory of mind, urban planning, Vannevar Bush, Whole Earth Review, working poor

Human nature is defined, then, in accordance with “natural needs, such as food, clothing, fuel and housing” (Marx, Capital Volume 1, p. 275). A concept of human nature is also seen when he describes how, when during cooperation, man “strips off the fetters of his individuality, and develops the capabilities of his species” (Marx, Capital Volume 1, p. 447). He also uses nature as a synonym for “in essence,” as when he writes “these means of production are in and for themselves, by nature, capital” (Marx, Capital Volume 3, p. 963). And finally, he lets nature stand in for history, albeit an anti-essentialist history that is opposed to capitalist history, when he boldly claims that “one thing, however, is clear: nature does not produce on the one hand owners of money or commodities, and on the other hand men possessing nothing but their own labour-power.


pages: 281 words: 95,852

The Googlization of Everything: by Siva Vaidhyanathan

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1960s counterculture, AltaVista, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, borderless world, Burning Man, Cass Sunstein, choice architecture, cloud computing, computer age, corporate social responsibility, correlation does not imply causation, data acquisition, death of newspapers, don't be evil, Firefox, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, full text search, global village, Google Earth, Howard Rheingold, informal economy, information retrieval, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, libertarian paternalism, market fundamentalism, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, Naomi Klein, Network effects, new economy, Nicholas Carr, PageRank, pirate software, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, single-payer health, Skype, social web, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, The Nature of the Firm, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, Thorstein Veblen, urban decay, web application

In The Engineers and the Price System, a book published in 1921 that fell into 68 G O OG LE’S WAYS AND MEA NS immediate obscurity, the iconoclastic economist Thorstein Veblen identified a new class of what we now call knowledge workers. In the late years of the American Industrial Revolution, Veblen saw that the increase in efficiency of the production and distribution of goods was creating tremendous wealth for the class that owned the means of production yet who were unable to do the mathematics necessary to understand the systems that enriched them. This situation would not stand for long, Veblen surmised. Unlike Karl Marx’s unreliable proletariat, waiting to be sparked into revolutionary action by the sudden realization of historical exploitation, the engineering class might actually capture some of the wealth it created. In fact, engineers could work together to disrupt American industry and bring it down within a matter of weeks.


pages: 387 words: 110,820

Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell

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barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, big-box store, cognitive dissonance, computer age, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, deskilling, Donald Trump, Edward Glaeser, fear of failure, Ford paid five dollars a day, Frederick Winslow Taylor, George Akerlof, global supply chain, global village, greed is good, Howard Zinn, income inequality, interchangeable parts, inventory management, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Joseph Schumpeter, Just-in-time delivery, knowledge economy, loss aversion, market design, means of production, mental accounting, Ponzi scheme, price anchoring, price discrimination, race to the bottom, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, side project, Steve Jobs, The Market for Lemons, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, trade liberalization, traveling salesman, ultimatum game, Victor Gruen, washing machines reduced drudgery, working poor, yield management

Workers were encouraged to derive increasing satisfaction and status from their lives outside of the office or factory. Thanks to high wages and solid benefits, they had both the time and the means to invest in outside interests such as sports, gardening, and travel. They could move uptown for better schools or to a larger home in a leafier suburb for more space. Equality meant not access to the means of production (well out of reach for most workers) but to a growing range of consumer goods. Cultural historian Christopher Lasch noted, “The tired worker, instead of attempting to change the conditions of his work, seeks renewal in brightening his immediate surroundings with new goods and services.” To meet the needs of this growing consumer class, discounting was quietly on the rise. By this time many manufacturers had stopped even trying to set minimum retail prices, since the fair-trade laws were difficult to enforce and critics accused them of being discriminatory and anti-American, and worse.


pages: 261 words: 103,244

Economists and the Powerful by Norbert Haring, Norbert H. Ring, Niall Douglas

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accounting loophole / creative accounting, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Albert Einstein, asset allocation, bank run, barriers to entry, Basel III, Bernie Madoff, British Empire, central bank independence, collective bargaining, commodity trading advisor, corporate governance, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, diversified portfolio, financial deregulation, George Akerlof, illegal immigration, income inequality, inflation targeting, Jean Tirole, job satisfaction, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge worker, labour market flexibility, law of one price, Long Term Capital Management, low skilled workers, market bubble, market clearing, market fundamentalism, means of production, minimum wage unemployment, moral hazard, new economy, obamacare, open economy, pension reform, Ponzi scheme, price stability, principal–agent problem, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, Renaissance Technologies, rolodex, Sergey Aleynikov, shareholder value, short selling, Steve Jobs, The Chicago School, the payments system, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, transaction costs, ultimatum game, union organizing, working-age population, World Values Survey

Thus economists began to divorce themselves from the pressing 6 ECONOMISTS AND THE POWERFUL socioeconomic problems of the era. They took the focus away from social phenomena and put it instead on the individuals as the “atoms” of society (Screpanti and Zamagni 1993). Within this artificially simplified framework, and with a number of auxiliary assumptions, the marginalists showed that the allocation of goods and means of production would be optimal in a free market economy. All prices and quantities would be such that the economy was in equilibrium, and workers would receive the fair value of what they produced with any additional hour of work. This result was the core of the neoclassical defense of capitalism against the Marxist charge of exploitation (Screpanti and Zamagni 1993). In the US, the principal protagonist of this line of thought was John Bates Clark (1847–1938).


pages: 534 words: 15,752

The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy by Sasha Issenberg

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air freight, Akira Okazaki, anti-communist, barriers to entry, Bretton Woods, call centre, Deng Xiaoping, global supply chain, haute cuisine, means of production, Nixon shock, Saturday Night Live, Silicon Valley, special economic zone, telemarketer, trade route, urban renewal

These transactions reflected one of the underlying tensions of a globalizing business. Nearly a halfcentury earlier, a worldwide trade had been built based on new capacities in transport and storage. Continued technological innovation ever since— straight through the ability to breed a tuna in a cage and to move high-quality meat without depreciation on a super-frozen container ship—had slowly altered the means of production. Some tuna entrepreneurs attempted to introduce factory-style standardization, and others continued to work the risky margins, creating what were, in essence, two parallel sushi trade networks: one slow-moving, predictable, and capital-intensive; the other quick, nimble, and volatile. With Iida’s fish, value was maintained through a chain of deeply held personal ties, played out over generations.


pages: 142 words: 18,753

Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There by David Brooks

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1960s counterculture, affirmative action, Community Supported Agriculture, David Brooks, Donald Trump, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, George Gilder, haute couture, haute cuisine, income inequality, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, New Urbanism, place-making, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Silicon Valley, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Thorstein Veblen, Upton Sinclair, upwardly mobile, urban planning, War on Poverty, Yogi Berra

These people have different aspirations than the old country club and martini suburban crowd, and naturally enough want their ideals reflected in the sort of things they buy and images they project. Shopping may not be the most intellectual exercise on earth, but it is one of the more culturally revealing. Indeed, one of the upshots of the new era is that Karl Marx may have had it exactly backward. He argued that classes are defined by their means of production. But it could be true that, in the information age at least, classes define themselves by their means of consumption. The Historical Roots of Bobo Culture The story of the educated class really begins in the first third of the 18th century. It’s necessary to go that far back because, while demographically the educated class has only exploded in the past few decades, the values this class embodies are the culmination of a cultural struggle that began with the first glimmerings of the industrial age.


pages: 334 words: 98,950

Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang

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affirmative action, Albert Einstein, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, bilateral investment treaty, borderless world, Bretton Woods, British Empire, Brownian motion, call centre, capital controls, central bank independence, colonial rule, Corn Laws, corporate governance, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Deng Xiaoping, Doha Development Round, en.wikipedia.org, falling living standards, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial deregulation, fixed income, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, income inequality, income per capita, industrial robot, Isaac Newton, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, labour mobility, land reform, low skilled workers, market bubble, market fundamentalism, Martin Wolf, means of production, moral hazard, offshore financial centre, oil shock, price stability, principal–agent problem, Ronald Reagan, South Sea Bubble, structural adjustment programs, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade liberalization, transfer pricing, urban sprawl, World Values Survey

John Kenneth Galbraith, one of the most profound economic thinkers of the 20th century, once famously said:‘Under capitalism, man exploits man; under communism, it is just the opposite.’He was not suggesting that there is no difference between capitalism and communism, he would have been the last person to do so; Galbraith was one of the leading non-leftist critics of modern capitalism.What he was expressing was the profound disappointment that many people felt about the failure of communism to build the egalitarian society it had promised. Since its rise in the 19th century, the key goal of the communist movement had been the abolition of private ownership of the ‘means of production’ (factories and machines). It is easy to understand why the communists saw private ownership as the ultimate source of the distributive injustice of capitalism. But they also saw private ownership as a cause of economic inefficiency. They believed that it was the reason for the ‘wasteful’ anarchy of the market. Too many capitalists routinely invest in producing the same things, they argued, because they do not know the investment plans of their competitors.


pages: 398 words: 107,788