Monday, July 21, 2014

The State and Society

I'm in favor of a fusion between the State and Society as a whole, but with Society being the force that takes over the State and uses it for its own ends. This would be the State as an expression of the fundamental constitution of Society, where 'constitution' doesn't mean a document that has been agreed on but the basic structural setup of society as a whole---it's class system or lack thereof, with lack thereof being the chosen path, it's structures of institutional power. This would be manifest in social programs as well as in economic planning, and other things.

I think it's important for society to take back the State and instead of having it be an oppressive body living on top of it having it be integrated into many aspects of life as an organic expression of society. Which is not to say that private space would not exist. Instead, many of the areas that would be part of the State/Society fusion would be those which previously would have been dominated by corporations and by capitalism as a whole.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Hobby Lobby ruling is an excellent example of why

People should control institutions, not institutions people. If we're going to have some alternative to lots of mom and pop stores of this sort, i.e. if chains like this are going to exist, they're going to have to honor the rights of the workers who are employed there, as well as the will of society as a whole.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Following up on the previous post, ultimately, people have to be educated for direct democracy

Because, in my opinion, just putting people into a situation where they suddenly have the ability to deliberate on the execution of every aspect of policy does not work. I'm far, far, from being against the principle of democracy in general. Instead, it's some of the excesses that are proposed in various anarchist circles about how society itself should be structured that I have a problem with. 

Robert Michels, political parties, and bureaucracy

I can't vouch for his later writings on this, but it's somewhat sad that Michels' work on political parties is sometimes looked at as approving on Corporatism. The book is a look at organization in the political parties of Europe in order to try to figure out what makes certain ones successful and which ones fail, and Michels comes to the conclusion that the ones that succeed are the ones that have a higher degree of formalization, paid members, and a nascent bureaucratic structure.

Michels argument about the inadequacy of very decentralized groups to get much done, and the necessity of at least some sort of super-structure that includes a bureaucratic system in it can also be applied to economics as whole. While it's appealing to pretend that all the things that we have these days can be produced by small businesses, that isn't the truth.

To effectively provide for all the things that we're used to, there needs to be extensive organization and coordination, and this requires some type of bureaucratic apparatus. Which is not to say that there should be an ultra-hierarchical top down structure with no countervailing aspects to it.

In my eyes, large scale economic organization is a fact of life, and the only choice we really have in the matter is whether to bring it under social control or to have it control us. I would much rather have big corporations, and those who make up the commanding heights of industry, be nationalized, with their profits going back to the benefit of society as a whole.

This stage in capitalism was foreseen by Marx as being the logical end towards which things were tending.

The questions that Michels brings up also cuts to the heart of the debate about how participatory a participatory democracy can really be. Michels' study points to a hard reality where although participation by large amounts of people is promoted, it's only partially successful. Instead, the work in political organizations, as he saw them, constantly devolved back on to a smaller group of people who were consistently prepared to do it.  In the system of the German Social Democratic Party, this was not a problem in that these folks were eventually made professional employees of the organization and they went on to really effect change. In the other parties that Michels studied, however, that were more decentralized, it was, in that they couldn't just go out and do their thing but had to go through a largely apathetic series of local bodies that were attended by people who were lackluster about doing anything themselves.

What Michels describes as the oligarchical tendency in society was not in this writing of his something that he rejoiced in, but a grim fact that he had come to after being an activist in the radical syndicalist arena for a while. Fundamentally, it would be great if the decentralized notion of things could actually function, but at some point you have to choose between actually accomplishing things in the world and paying lip service to increasingly unproductive process. Faced with this, Michels choose accomplishing things, even if it was not done in a way that went beyond normal democratic accountability and went instead into realms of ultra-participation, where something positive becomes a reducto-ad absurdam.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Dead Kennedys and class consciousness, a critique

Because I've seen quite a bit of it. The DKs are, or were, unique in that they actually talked about rich people and rich kids...however, the funny thing is that in my experience the people who have been most impressed with the DKs perspective, and have taken it most to heart haven't actually been people from working class backgrounds but those from middle class ones, who have become activists or some such. I think there's a very good reason for this, and it has to do with Jello Biafra's class origin itself.

Biafra didn't come from a working class background but was the kid of two librarians working for the University of Colorado at Boulder. Presumably, they at least had bachelor's degrees, and they exposed him to a lot of sophisticated culture more typical of the middle class than the working class. His perspective was shaped by seeing rich kids come to the University of Colarado while his parents as staff at the University didn't do as well. This is quite different than the experience of most working class people.

The United States is extremely class segregated, and although the situation might be different in smaller communities, in general working class people don't really see the rich and the powerful close up. They're there, out there, somewhere, but live in worlds miles away, or in the next county. They're represented possibly by parent's bosses, or their own, but even then these people may just be the employees of the owners, of the truly rich, who remain absent and not rarely seen.

Because of this, although there may be class resentment on the part of working class folks, it isn't shaped by as much detail as is reflected in the songs of the DKs. Biafra and company document the foibles minutely, and besides special cases like kids who grow up in university towns, the only other people who see these folks as up close and personal, and who cultivate a resentment towards them, aren't workers but members of the middle class itself.

Working folks aren't the only ones who resent the rich. They're also resented by middle class people who have solid middle class values, who don't really care about workers or the working class at all, but who instead resent the fact that there's this stratum of folks above them who have more privileges than they do. It seems that many of the middle class fans of the Dead Kennedys are children of these people, who have seen the rich up close and personal, and resented them not because at any time in their lives they wanted for anything, but because they don't have as much money as them. This is quite different.

Surely, the parents of some of these folks are working quite hard to join the ranks of the very people whom they resent. The problem isn't money itself, potentially, just that they don't have it yet and they want it. The kids take a different approach, and see their class consciousness raised again, not by the fact that as children of business owners or lawyers they ever wanted for anything, but because in relation to the rich they had to do some sort of token job, or had to contribute money to their parents buying them a car instead of them paying for all of it.

This is not class resentment so much as greed resentment, resentment not from the perspective of oppression but from the perspective of upwardly mobile professionals who believe that those above them, who have things that they want, don't deserve them, and that they do.