Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Social relationships and economic relationships, notes for Ur-Socialism

The idea that we're totally independent individuals who purely subsist on our own is false. We're all enmeshed in social relationships, and economic activity, I would argue, is based on a general social relationship between people that has been adapted to economic activity. Society precedes economy in that tribal societies that don't engage in intensive economic activity still have cohesion and organization. In the move towards cultivating the soil, making goods and selling them, or gathering food and goods and selling it, these social relationships and bonds are simply extended and modified, not negated. In fact, even in subsistence hunter and gatherer economies, certain people are tasked by the society to hunt in certain places, certain people are tasked to gather, and the social relationship between the people as members of the same society, who are related to each other and who live together, is what cements the bonds between them, and what ultimately makes the tasks that they carry out work.

Individual responsibility exists in the tribe or simple village, where everyone has to do the job that they either choose or that is chosen for them, but each individual is dependent on all other individuals similarly doing their jobs for their life, and for the life of society as a whole, to function properly. This means that even though as individuals we have to contribute, we're all in it together, which encourages the idea that life can be better if individuals support each other emotionally and sometimes physically if problems occur, in order to help everyone to carry out the function that they have successfully. In this even individual responsibility is contextualized within social relationships.

Of course who gets what function, what that function consists of, and how decisions are made as a whole are integral questions, questions that can be answered in egalitarian ways or ways that are unequal. They can be answered in ways dependent on patriarchal family systems or ways that are less so. However, I believe that the underlying interdependence of people, from which complex economic activity arises, is fundamental.

Society is at the heart of the economy, even if the economy denies that society as such exists.

No comments: