Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Quotes: Is capitalism just a phase of history?

Max Lerner:

"But capitalist democracy has its blind alleys as well. Its great weakness is capitalism as an organization of economic and social relations. Capitalism has passed through the stages of guild control, mercantilist state control, individualist laissez-faire, corporate monopoly. Always its apologists have sought to eternalize it, to talk of it as if it were a permanent part of the structure of the universe, built into the fabric of human nature. Actually, of course, it represents only a phase of human history — a few centuries out of all the centuries of civilized life."
Max Lerner. It Is Later Than You Think: The Need for a Militant Democracy. New York: The Viking Press, 1939. p 45.

Erich Maria Remarque:

"Money is an illusion; everyone knows that, but many still do not believe it. As long as this is so the inflation will go on till absolute zero is reached. Man lives seventy-five per cent by his imagination and only twenty-five per cent by fact..."
Erich Maria Remarque. The Black Obelisk (1957). USA: Crest, 1958. p. 16.

Wallace Shawn:

"One day there was an anonymous present sitting on my doorstep--Volume One of Capital by Karl Marx, in a brown paper bag. A joke? Serious? And who had sent it? I never found out. Late that night, naked in bed, I leafed through it. The beginning was impenetrable, I couldn't understand it, but when I came to the part about the lives of the workers — the coal miners, the child laborers — I could feel myself suddenly breathing more slowly. How angry he was. Page after page. Then I turned back to an earlier section, and I came to a phrase that I'd heard before, a strange, upsetting, sort of ugly phrase: this was the section on 'commodity fetishism,' 'the fetishism of commodities.' I wanted to understand that weird-sounding phrase, but I could tell that, to understand it, your whole life would probably have to change.

His explanation was very elusive. He used the example that people say, 'Twenty yards of linen are worth two pounds.' People say about every thing that it has a certain value. This is worth that. This coat, this sweater, this cup of coffee: each thing worth some quantity of money, or some number of other things — one coat, worth three sweaters, or so much money — as if that coat, suddenly appearing on the earth, contained somewhere inside itself an amount of value, like an inner soul, as if the coat were a fetish, a physical object that contains a living spirit. But what really determines the value of a coat? What is it that determines the price of a coat? The coat's price comes from its history, the history of all the people who were involved in making it and selling it and all the particular relationships they had. And if we buy the coat, we, too, form relationships with all of those people, and yet we hide those relationships from our own awareness by pretending we live in a world where coats have no history but just fall down from heaven with prices marked inside. 'I like this coat,' we say, 'it's not expensive,' as if that were a fact about the coat and not the end of a story about all the people who made it and sold it, 'I like the pictures in this magazine.'"
Wallace Shawn. The Fever. New York: Grove Press, 1991. pp. 19-21.

Jeff Schmidt:

"In the blunt words of Roland W. Schmitt, speaking when he was GE’s senior vice president for research and development and boss of the Schenectady facility, 'If it has no payoff for General Electric, it should not be done at all.' He added, 'I can’t truthfully say that all our work advances knowledge.'"
Jeff Schmidt. Disciplined Minds: A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-Battering System that Shapes Their Lives. (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000) Kindle Edition.