Saturday, May 25, 2013

Compulsion in capitalist society

Socialism gets a lot of flack because things like universal healthcare would be compulsory, but what about capitalist society?

In socialist society, people can vote on what things they want to be compulsory, but in capitalism, the supposed realm of freedom, you have no choice.

Compulsion in capitalism comes from the threat of being reduced to destitution if you don't tow the line. People have complete freedom to believe, think, and act in any way they want. Employers also have the right not to hire those folks. If you want to eat, to have shelter, to have clothes, it helps to act in ways that are consonant with what businesses want. That's quite an incentive. Businesses as a whole can reduce people to nothing, but the same thing cannot be said about people, unless they organize. There's a structural inequality and power relationship between business and employees that defeats the supposed freedom and introduces compulsion into the mix.

Folks sometimes talk about people being free agents, about the ability of workers to independently bargain with employers to get a truly just deal, but in practice that only really applies to people who have particular skills that are valuable enough that they can use them in that way. For a great many people, this isn't realistic, because the skills they have are fairly replaceable, everything being said and done, and there are plenty of other folks waiting at the door if the deal  presented isn't acceptable.

Compulsion in capitalist society is a reality. A certain kind of compulsion is present in socialist society, but the difference is that instead of hiding behind an illusion of absolute freedom, socialism presents what's happening outright, and lets people democratically decide whether they want it or not.


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