Home arrow Letters from Quebec arrow Letter 67: What is wrong with the Economy?

Strict Standards: Non-static method mosCache::getCache() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/includes/frontend.php on line 91

Strict Standards: Non-static method modules_html::module2() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/includes/frontend.php on line 122
Main Menu
Site Map
Letters to Barack
Blog--Letters to Barack
Zero Unemployment
Can US be Transformed?
Jose Luis Corragio: Another World is Happening
Dialogo Rosario
On Heifer International
Vision el Mundo sin pobreza ni inseguridad
The Gandhi Series
The Anti-Economist
Letters from Quebec
Escritos en Español
Paradigma Etico
- - - - - - -
Sister Organizations
Contact Us
Related Sites

Strict Standards: Non-static method modules_html::module2() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/includes/frontend.php on line 122

Strict Standards: Non-static method mosCache::getCache() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/includes/frontend.php on line 91

Strict Standards: Non-static method mosCache::getCache() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/components/com_content/content.php on line 32

Strict Standards: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method HTML_content::show() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/includes/Cache/Lite/Function.php on line 92

Strict Standards: Non-static method HTML_content::Title() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/components/com_content/content.html.php on line 461

Strict Standards: Non-static method HTML_content::PdfIcon() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/components/com_content/content.html.php on line 464

Strict Standards: Non-static method mosAdminMenus::ImageCheck() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/components/com_content/content.html.php on line 611

Strict Standards: Non-static method mosHTML::PrintIcon() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/components/com_content/content.html.php on line 467

Strict Standards: Non-static method mosAdminMenus::ImageCheck() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/includes/mambo.php on line 1270

Strict Standards: Non-static method HTML_content::EmailIcon() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/components/com_content/content.html.php on line 470

Strict Standards: Non-static method mosAdminMenus::ImageCheck() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/components/com_content/content.html.php on line 635
Letter 67: What is wrong with the Economy?
Strict Standards: Non-static method HTML_content::EditIcon() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/components/com_content/content.html.php on line 567
PDF Print E-mail

Strict Standards: Non-static method HTML_content::Section_Category() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/components/com_content/content.html.php on line 502

Strict Standards: Non-static method HTML_content::Section() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/components/com_content/content.html.php on line 661

Strict Standards: Non-static method HTML_content::Category() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/components/com_content/content.html.php on line 664

Strict Standards: Non-static method HTML_content::Author() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/components/com_content/content.html.php on line 505

Strict Standards: Non-static method HTML_content::CreateDate() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/components/com_content/content.html.php on line 508

Strict Standards: Non-static method HTML_content::URL() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/components/com_content/content.html.php on line 511

Strict Standards: Non-static method HTML_content::ModifiedDate() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/components/com_content/content.html.php on line 527

Strict Standards: Non-static method HTML_content::ReadMore() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/components/com_content/content.html.php on line 530

Strict Standards: Non-static method HTML_content::TOC() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/components/com_content/content.html.php on line 517
Letter 67

What is Wrong with the Economy?

The concept, if I may say so myself, was a brilliant one. The new President and his counselors were engaged in devising measures to increase the rate of economic growth, to improve productivity, to raise wages, to increase the number of high-quality jobs, and to give the nation an improved competitive position in the global economy. (New York Times, Thursday, February 18, 1993.) Absorbed as they were in pursuing these short-term and medium-term goals, they could not be expected to find time to think about how to link their policies to a broad long-term strategy designed to transform the global economy. Nor were they trained for the task. Those who devoted themselves professionally to investigating long-term economic and cultural trends, and to studying the slow knitting and unraveling over time of the basic social structures which define the parameters within which governmental decisions are made, were located in research institutions far from the seats of state power.

What was needed was a salon, a contemporary version of that famous 18th century French institution through which powerful ladies close to the French court - Madame Rambouillet, Ninon de Lenclos, Madame Geoffrin, Madame du Chatelet - convened the philosophes, the great minds of the period, to discuss not only and not mainly the issues currently requiring royal attention, but also and chiefly the articulation of the great all-embracing ideologies which set the context for thought. It was one of the philosophes, Destutt de Tracy, who coined the term ideologie, which now circulates so freely; he defined it as the systematic and complete study of all ideas.

The philosophes supplied what the ministers of government; who were then as now preoccupied with taxes and deficits, wars and truces, appointments and resignations; could not supply - a sense of history's direction. And yet, like their counterparts across the channel, the members of the Royal Society in London, those who frequented the salons were well-connected. They were close to people who held state power, which was then, although it is not now, virtually equivalent to military power; and close to those who held financial power. They were citizens of Europe's "Republic of Letters;" they were engaged together in constructing a secular vision - characteristic of the age in its broad outlines, although varying in detail from thinker to thinker. It was a secular vision of the progression of historical events, with setbacks to be sure but with an overall tendency to advance, away from barbarism and toward la liberte; a secular vision of the cosmos and of humanity's place in it; of human rights and of the terms of the social contract; of the method and the promise of the systematic production of scientific knowledge; of an emancipated future in which liberty, equality, and fraternity would reign in a world where prosperity for all was to be guaranteed by the application of scientific discoveries to the useful arts. They were worldly philosophers with worldly influence, who created an intellectual context, within which, more and more, events were interpreted and problems defined.

Who better to conduct a contemporary salon, devoted to distilling from conversations among great minds an ideology adequate to put today's practice in a broad historical context, than Pamela Harriman ? She was the heiress of the Union Pacific railroad fortune; the leader of an organization calling itself the Managing Trustees, whose members were the major donors to the campaign of the new President, and in many cases co-authors of the electoral strategy which had led to his victory; she more than any other single person, even more than Mrs. Ray Kroc, held the purse strings of the Democratic Party. The only defect of this distinguished lady, who was in all other respects the perfect hostess, was, from the point of view of the present author, that she was inaccessible. Consequently it has been necessary, faute de mieux, to substitute for the transcripts of conversations that would have been held at Mrs. Harriman's salon, if there had been one, the following fantasies concerning what might have been said there.

It was, as I myself said above, a brilliant concept; and its brilliance was found not only in concept of salon, not only in the definition of the social function the salon was to serve at that particular historical juncture, not only in the choice of hostess, and not only in the choices (to be revealed below) of philosophes asked to contribute their wisdom to a dialogue designed to gather together the most important strands of today's emerging ideology, but also in the setting. The 18th century salons were held in the drawing-rooms of Parisian high society; now, as the 21st century fast approaches, a new salon requires a democratic ambiance, one that symbolizes the unity of the middle masses with its leadership. It happened too - and this contingency of the historical moment also played a part in the selection of the site - that the new President was an intellectual, perhaps in his heart a liberal intellectual, who had come into office with the support of important minority segments of the population, and he had shown, since his victory, every intention of keeping faith with the multi-colored and multi-gendered coalition which had elected him. The President's passion for tolerance had engendered doubt about his ability to inspire the loyalty of those segments of the population less passionate in the pursuit of tolerance, and fears that his administration might prove to be divisive. Holding the initial session of a contemporary salon, at the lodge of a white workingman's benevolent and protective organization, in the Middle West, or perhaps in the South, would symbolize the commitment of the liberal elite to solidarity with ordinary people, regardless of the social issues which might from time to time divide them.

The luster of the concept was tarnished somewhat by the lukewarm reaction of the brothers of the lodge to the proposal. Conceived as rational economic actors, they should be, in principle, interested in an opportunity to discuss with scholars the topic, "What is wrong with the economy?" for they were, some of them, unemployed; and they were not, any of them, prosperous. The question concerned them, as the question about the immortality of the soul concerned Socrates in the dialogue called the Phaedo, which took place as he prepared to drink the hemlock, drank it, and waited - conversing all the while - as the poison slowly took possession of his body. In fact, however, the brothers preferred to play at billiards, to drink beer, to play cards, to listen to music, to watch sporting events on television, to dance with the ladies of the auxiliary and with such other ladies as they might from time to time invite, to listen to music, to tell jokes, and to celebrate each other's birthdays. They had not, not one of them, heard of Pamela Harriman, although most had heard of Rush Limbaugh and knew something of his views on the proposed topic. After a hard day's work, or a frustrating day looking for work, they preferred being comfortable among their friends to facing intellectual challenges from strangers. They were normal, not different in their normality from humans at all times and places, for all humans normally prefer relaxation to tension - although the particular routines through which the brothers of the lodge found relaxation and escaped tension differed from, say, for example, those typical of the Hindu masses of India.

Nevertheless, the Herder eventually agreed, with the consent of the membership, to allow Mrs. Harriman to conduct evening meetings in a side room, a room whose entrance opened onto the dance floor. Members and guests might freely pass via the dance floor to and from the meeting and the billiard room, the bar room, and the kitchen. It was stipulated that the meetings not interfere with the lodge's regular program, that there would be no politics, no profanity, no French, no drinks carried in or out, and no guests not vouched for by a member. The Herder himself vouched for Pamela Harriman, who arrived democratically in a common taxi. Attendance, in spite of the competing attractions, was almost twenty, partly because in the side room off the dance floor free pitchers of beer and free popcorn had been placed at every table; partly because - in spite of the shadowy darkness into which thoughts about reality tended to be banished by the pervasive force of an all too human will-to-evasion - some of the brothers and some of the ladies were genuinely worried about the economy.

Mrs. Harriman's Introductory Speech

My dear friends, we are here to enjoy conversations with some very distinguished guests. You know, if I may say so without being political, that the President has proposed more public works employment, public investment in training and infrastructure, targeted incentives and credit for businesses which create jobs, fair trade rules in international markets, limits on health care charges, investing in education, replacing welfare as we know it with workfare, eliminating government programs no longer needed, reducing military spending, raising taxes for those making more than $30,000 a year, taxing energy use, and increasing the taxes on social security benefits for retirees with high incomes. One might summarize the main features of the President's program by saying that it seeks to shift the balance of both public and private spending away from consumption and towards investment, in order to create jobs and in order to improve our country's competitive position in the global economy. The questions most people are asking are, first: Will the proposed shift from consumption to investment actually be carried out by the administration, the Congress, business, the military establishment, labor, and the people generally ? And, second, if it is carried out will it actually create jobs and improve the country's competitive position in the global economy ?

But these questions are only, my dear friends, and I do want to be your friend, I really do; these questions are only linked to the questions that preoccupy the distinguished thinkers invited to this side room off the dance floor, at this lodge in the Middle West, or perhaps in the South. They are linked but they are not the questions of this conversation. Beyond debt and stagnation there is also a crisis of story and there is a crisis of structure; there is a crisis of meta-narrative; questions about what humans tell themselves about where history is going, and about the larger forces - if there are any that be scrutable to us mortals - which determine to where, if to anywhere, history leads. That is why, with all the good will in the world, we have not thought it suitable to invite the President to be with us today, nor Laura Tyson, the chairperson of the Council of Economic Advisers, nor Robert Reich, the Secretary of Labor who is also a longtime friend who has eloquently articulated many of the ideas which guide the President.

Laura Tyson once wrote, "To the extent that countries become integrated into the international economy, they have no choice but to participate in the international division of labor within manufacturing." (Manuel Castells and Laura D'Andrea Tyson, "High Technology and the Changing International Division of Production: Implications for the U.S. Economy," in Randall Purcell, ed. The Newly Industrializing Countries in the World Economy. Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner, 1989. p 17) It is the use of the passive voice, in "become integrated," and in the phrase "no choice" that this short quotation avoids the orientation toward the longer periods and the larger structures that we wish to give to this conversation today. Whatever the immediate constraints may be, we wish to think about the international economy as itself a human institution, shaped by human choices; and we wish to think about what we can do today to build a future in which the range of viable options expands. Robert Reich is a partisan of collaboration among all sectors, especially between government and business, to strengthen the performance of the nation in the international arena; and especially an advocate of an international competitiveness strategy which features attracting investment to our shores by offering to global business a well-trained workforce. (Robert Reich, "Who is Us?" Harvard Business Review. Jan-Feb 1990, pp. 53-64) Again, Reich's thinking lacks the scope to dare to think that the international economy might, when considered in full historical perspective, be conceived as an entity which could in principle by shaped by our goals more than it shapes our goals.

And, besides, if we had invited Tyson and Reich, we would have had to invite the Friedmans (see, for example, Milton and Rose Friedman, Free to Choose: a personal statement. New York: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovitch, 1980), the intellectual paladins of the outgoing party, and we would have repeated, my dear brothers and sisters, the same debate the electorate has just heard for many months - a debate between those who expect prosperity from diminishing the economic role of the government, and those who expect prosperity from the collaboration of the public sector and the private sector. We chose instead to invite guests who would be able to see the present configuration of "private," and "public;" composed as it is of juridical entities like those called "market," "corporations," and "government agencies;" as only one of the many institutional configurations that humanity has constructed on this planet over the course of the centuries. We have, with all due respect to those who perform the necessary tasks of guiding today's policies, invited to our conversation guests whose anthropological and historical perspectives enable them to envision current debates in a larger context. Our guests this evening are among the thinkers in our times who are reformulating the terms in which social questions are posed - as you will hear for yourselves when they speak.

(There was a short delay while Mrs. Harriman drank some water.)

The first guest I will introduce is a person who has devoted herself to the study of the whole of human history (including prehistory), and the whole of humanity (both its female and male halves). (Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987. p. xv.) She has assembled evidence from art, archaeology, religion, social science, history, and many other fields, and has found new patterns that accurately fit the best available data.

Riane's Speech

Riane Eisler then stood up from the table where she had been sitting beside two men wearing red-and-white basketball jackets and yellow-and-white seed company caps, and proceeded to give an account of the history of humanity which, because of its great scope and sweep, because of its ability to articulate great masses of evidence, and because of its capacity to explain features of history hitherto obscure, made it easy to understand why Ashley Montagu, the great anthropologist, said of one of her books (The Chalice and the Blade) that apart from Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, no book had impressed him more profoundly. Her talk was also a correction of widely believed misconceptions about the prehistory of our species, for she showed, in case after case, how the masculinist preconceptions of early archaeologists had led them to misread facts.

Contrary to what has long been believed, there was in Old Europe (an area including regions now called the Middle East), the heartland from which the civilization that has become the global economy evolved, in neolithic times, from circa 7000 BC to circa 3500 BC a way of life that was neither warlike nor hierarchical. People were sedentary and agricultural; they lived in large aggregates around ceremonial centers; there were no hillforts and no advanced weapons technologies; society was egalitarian and matrilineal; art flourished; the divinities were conceived and represented as female. (Eisler relies in part on the review of the evidence by Marija Gimbutas in the Journal of Indo-European Studies, vol. 5, no. 4, Winter, 1977)

Around 4300 BC warlike mounted nomads from Asia began incursions into Old Europe, and in a series of conquests over the course of several millennia the nomads imposed a new order, in which the horse was both war machine and tool of agriculture. The pattern of human habitats changed to small villages made up of semi-subterranean houses, suitable for defense, ruled by chieftains whose forts were built on hills. Social structure became severely hierarchical, kinship patrilocal, the deities male. Thus the evidence available from recent excavations permits a fuller account of what Friedreich Engels in the 19th century, with limited data available, had described as one of the most decisive revolutions ever experienced by humanity, "the world historical defeat of the female sex. The man took command in the home also; the woman was degraded and reduced to servitude, she became the slave of his lust and a mere instrument for the production of children. This degraded position of the woman, especially conspicuous among the Greeks of the heroic and still more of the classical age, has gradually been palliated and glossed over, and sometimes clothed in a milder form; in no sense has it been abolished." (Friedreich Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. New York: International Publishers, 1942. First published in 1884. p. 50) The older institutions of neolithic Europe, which displayed, to a greater degree than the succeeding age, relationships based on partnership rather than domination, and on the common use of property for the common good, resisted conquest longer in some places than in others; on the island of Crete elements of the old regime, symbolized by the "chalice," held out against the patriarchal conquerors, symbolized by the "blade" as late as 1200 BC.

It must be supposed that several thousand years of the egalitarian practice of agriculture, in which many of the arts of civilization still in use today were developed, would leave a deep impressions in folk memory. On this supposition, many legends become come less obscure -the lost Atlantis, the Garden of Eden, the golden race of pure spirits described by Hesiod, the recurring myths of a lost paradise (many of them featuring a Goddess Queen) - because they can be interpreted as variations elaborated on traces of memories of a lost age which really existed. The gentle teachings of Jesus Christ, which are central to the religious heritage of the part of the world which eventually colonized almost all of the rest of the world, and which established the world economy we live in today, can be understood as the revival of feminine virtues and the ethics of a partnership society, a type of society in Christ's time lost but not entirely forgotten - especially not entirely forgotten among those whose immediate experience was that of a conquered people, in a corner of Old Europe where the conquest of the "chalice" by the "blade" came relatively late. The controversies in the early centuries of the church, including the exclusion from the canon of the Gospel of Mary and other Gnostic texts which emphasized the role and qualities of women, can be understood as the reaction of what had now become the establishment against the insurgent and never entirely destroyed ideals of partnership.

Eisler, the first of the philosophes of the conversation, offered a vision of history to the assembled brothers and sisters of the lodge, in which so-called women's issues are not just women's issues, for the status of women is - historically it has always been - an indicator of the health of peaceful, art-loving, communitarian and egalitarian ideals, in their perpetual, and never-completely-lost see-saw battle with the martial gods of war and domination. All gentle spirits, men as well as women and children, are the losers where force rules and oppression is the norm.

Following Eisler's brief talk there was a general discussion, which Pamela Harriman summed up by saying that the way to identify growth points in our present situation would be to identify where principles of partnership are taking root and gathering strength, and where any form of domination is being weakened and might be eradicated. Progress toward partnership might be our new meta-narrative. We might say, telling ourselves the story about ourselves that the proposed new meta-narrative supports, that insofar as the new President calls on us to band together and to work as one for the common good, he stirs in us an ancient need to belong to a caring community, inbred in our species and documented to have been historically manifest in certain times and places; and we would say that insofar as the President calls for equality and for the inclusion in society's benefits and burdens of all who for one reason or another have been rejected, he voices a theme that is thousands of years old, not just, as some have believed, a cultural ideal which first became the general norm in the 18th century. We will say too that equality is a concept which calls us to be loyal to an inclusive community that is possible, for it calls us to be loyal to forms of human life that have existed and could exist again.

David's Speech

Mrs. Harriman forthwith presented her second especially invited philosophe, who opined that although the general goal of conscious intervention in history by people of good will can indeed be aptly stated as decreasing domination and increasing partnership; nevertheless some particular attention needs to be paid to the particular mechanisms of domination which characterize global capitalism - which normally are not those symbolized by the blade, and which might by symbolized by the dollar - and to the particular growth points in it which grow toward partnership relationships in the production of goods and services. Without economic partnership there will not be - even with full formal equality of rights, and however egalitarian the culture, and whatever the status of women - satisfaction of the basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, and medical care for all the world's people, most of whom are poor, and will continue to be poor until humanity learns - in partnership - how to untie the peculiar knots into which it has tied itself with ticker tape and cash register tape. If some version of feminism is going to be the new meta-narrative, then within the book that tells feminism's story there must be at least a long chapter assimilating some version of Marx's critique of capitalism, and at least one long chapter assimilating the best thinking available concerning how to construct a sustainable economy that would meet everyone's basic needs.

Marx was able to show that there are three essential features of capitalism, which together imply insecurity. They are:

1. Growth. Capitalist production is not for use, but for exchange, and exchange is for profit. Only in a steadily growing economy is it possible to sustain profits, and (therefore) to sustain production.

2. Class conflict. There must always be a gap between what labor gets and what it creates. Otherwise workers would not be hired, since there would be no profit in hiring them. Hence the decisions any society must make concerning how hard to work and under what conditions, and between how much of the product to consume, and how much of the current product to accumulate as capital for the future, take the form in capitalism of a conflict between workers and owners over working conditions, and over how much of revenue goes to wages and how much of revenue goes to profits. "Labor control" is a permanent need of capitalism.

3. Change. Capitalists race each other to invent profitable new technologies and organizational forms; those who fall behind are bankrupted by the superior efficiency of competitors. "Progress" is (therefore) inevitable.

(For a fuller account see David Harvey, The Limits of Capital. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1982; David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989, especially chapter 10 and page 180.)

Marx's analysis shows that given these three necessary features of production for exchange, there is no way to produce steady and unproblematic growth. Overaccumulation, in which production (and therefore employment) stagnates for lack of sales, is inevitable. With decades of opportunities to try, with Marx's books open for all to read, and with thousands of Ph.D. economists armed with accurate statistics and sophisticated mathematical tools, nobody has been able to make a world founded on production for exchange economically secure - except for a few privileged people, times, and places. Nor could they. Insecurity is inherent in the system from its inception. It is also inherent that unmet needs, idle hands, and idle resources will coexist, sometimes more, sometimes less dramatically; and that a great deal of useless production that does not meet any need, or not any need that deserves priority, will take place as a condition of getting production (hence employment) going at all.

The classical options of capitalists, exercised both unconsciously through adjustments forced upon them, and consciously through the policies of bourgeois governments, can be put in four categories. These are four methods, each of them always in the end unsuccessful, for stabilizing a capitalist "regime of accumulation," i.e. a division of the net product between consumption and accumulation, such that a satisfactory level of profits, and therefore a satisfactory level of production, can continue.

1. Devaluation. The value of the excess goods can be written off as a loss; money can be devalued through inflation; or the product can simply be destroyed.

2. Macro-economic controls, associated with the theories of John Maynard Keynes. In the aggregate, the ratios between wages and profits; and between consumption, savings, and investment, are balanced by government policies.

3. Debt. Credit is extended to buy up the excess production of the present, putting people to work etc., on the assumption (with the faith) that in the future the items purchased with the credit will prove to be investments capable of generating enough income to repay the debt. Thus today's overaccumulation problem is displaced to the future.

4. Export. "Export" is taken here as typical of a family of "spatial fixes" through which one country's overaccumulation problem can be solved by absorbing excess capital and labor in geographical expansion, e.g. by exporting goods to foreign markets.

(For a fuller account see Harvey, ibid.)

David had started to say that at present some novel methods for making business profitable were being tried, which did not exactly fit any of the four categories he had just described, when he stopped for breath, and Pamela Harriman rose to her feet, making an imposing figure, and objected that if what Mr. Harvey was trying to prove was that capitalism is a form of domination - similar in principle to feudalism and to male supremacy; distinguishable from the older forms of domination only because in capitalism it is not a gender, not a hereditary aristocracy, not an officer corps, not a race, but a social class which dominates - then he was not proving his point. What he was proving was that capitalism was difficult to manage; what he was asserting, and perhaps tending to prove, was that capitalism is so difficult to manage that perhaps in the end it is impossible to manage. But that is not the same as saying that its aim and essence is domination. The historical record reads quite differently: it was the burgeoning commercial societies of the 17th century, who by establishing civilian, secular governments, ended centuries of rule by military castes and by priesthoods; capitalism replaced empires with nation-states whose principle of authority was the consent of the governed. The early advocates of capitalism, Adam Smith for example, were advocates of freedom and equality; they expected the continued growth of markets and of technology to eventually bring prosperity to everyone. It was the philosophers of the early modern period, who wrote the ideologies of liberal, capitalist society, who first declared humanity's goal to be the eradication of every form of oppression. If the ideologies associated with the growth of capitalism had not made anti-domination a universal ethical principle, we would not be here today invoking that principle, as we are when we say that in our new meta-narrative humanity's goal is more partnership and less domination. The whole point of capitalism is the free market; a capitalist society therefore is not, in principle it cannot be, a dominator society. For its perfection, one might say - and here I am not sure I believe what I am saying, and I need you people to help me - capitalism needs only to extend the principle of non-domination, already established in the free market, to the family, to the church, to the school and to every area of life.

A general discussion ensued in which the question was raised whether an ideal capitalism - a capitalist utopia not yet realized, but perhaps realizable eventually as the culmination of a libertarian social project, in which the principle of exchange by free consent were extended to all spheres of life - might not be the very partnership society, symbolized by the chalice and the goddess, which the new feminist meta-narrative was advocating. For a variety of reasons, the group finally reached a consensus that the ideal of partnership was not identical to a perfectly libertarian capitalism; and it was decided as a working hypothesis to divide European history into three, instead of the previously agreed on two, phases: Old Europe from about 7000 BC, symbolized by the chalice ; the dominator societies which conquered Old Europe at about 3000 BC, symbolized by the blade; and starting about 1600 A.D. economic society, produced by what Karl Polanyi called "the great transformation," symbolized by the dollar. In the third phase, the European system expanded to include the entire world, and became the global economy.

Riane Eisler went on to suggest that the ideals of economic society, both socialist and capitalist, drew on the folk-memory of the ideals of the goddess-worshipping way of life of Old Europe, which had been renewed many times by social movements seeking to re-establish sharing and mutual respect, and had been put down as many times, but which always survived because women survived, so that those who called for a revival of caring communities did not have to hark back to before the conquest of Crete in 1200 BC, but could always build on sacred symbols of more recent memory. She also mentioned Carol Gilligan's hypothesis that the ideals of caring and justice are known to everyone, because everyone as a child has felt a fear of abandonment, and therefore knows the need for caring, and everyone as a child has experienced arbitrary inequality imposed by superior force, and therefore knows the need for justice. It may be that the experience of humanity, at least in Europe (and one could cite works showing peaceful civilizations before conquest by dominators from other parts of the world too, such as Ananda Coomaraswamy's books on India) converges with the experience of each child, so that human groups always have available some such ideal as "beloved community." "Beloved community" was, she went on, the stated ideal of Martin Luther King, Jr. (John Ansbro, Martin Luther King Jr.: the making of a mind. Maryknoll NY: Orbis Books, 1984. pp. 187-97) a great philosopher who surely would have attended Mrs. Harriman's salon had he not been prevented from doing so by an assassin's bullet, and his concept of "beloved community" had been inspired, via the works of Josiah Royce, by the practice of the Early Christians, which was the same source from which Marx and Engels drew the socialist ideal, "from each according to ability, to each according to need." (See The Acts of the Apostles 2:45; I Peter 4:8-10) And the satisfaction of needs was also, she had to agree with Mrs. Harriman, the stated ideal of the proponents of capitalism, and of those who had sought to manage capitalism to make it yield stable prosperity; need-satisfaction was the objective of that branch of economics known as "welfare economics." And, as she already had said, she thought the practice of early Christians, as well as the practices of many others who had tried to practice partnership over the centuries, drew on folk memories and practices handed down and renewed from generation to generation since neolithic times. She would agree, then, with Mrs. Harriman - and with the general consensus - that the advocates of capitalism should not be excluded from participation in the moral unity of humanity; although she also agreed with Mr. Harvey - and with the general consensus - that an economy whose motive force was production in order to profit by the exchange of the product, was very difficult - and perhaps impossible - to stabilize, to guide toward the satisfaction of the basic needs of every person on the planet, and to make compatible with a sustainable relationship with the environment.

Mrs. Harriman, who obviously did not consider her role as hostess an impediment to freely expressing her own opinions, said she was glad Riane Eisler had brought up the ideal of "beloved community," since she had all along been afraid that we were inadvertently implying that the solution to all problems was to end domination. She and her late husband, she said, had been liberal activists in the USA in the 1960s, but, she went on, they had never been convinced by the Freudo-Marxist philosophies of that time which seemed, as expressed by their less sophisticated adherents, to say that the key to solving all problems was to end domination, or, in the exact term they used, repression - repression of the poor, repression of the unconscious, repression of the instincts, repression of women, repression of blacks, repression of whatever is repressed.... Freud and Marx, of course, had not said this, nor had Adorno, Horkheimer, or Marcuse, but all the same, as she remembered the sixties, their authority and that of their followers had reinforced what seemed to be an innate tendency to think rather mechanically that what was wrong with the economy and with everything else was that the dominators on top were repressing the subordinates on the bottom. She and her husband had in any event been more impressed with another major philosophy of the same period, that of Dr. King, and she was glad someone had brought it up, and glad that the group had revised its proposed new meta-narrative in a way that retains partnership as a word naming a good society, but which implies that eradicating domination is only a necessary, not a sufficient, condition for achieving partnership.

Mrs. Harriman went on to say that now that the group had agreed to revise its meta-narrative in a way that classified the present capitalist global economy as neither a partnership society nor a dominator society, perhaps it should also revise its criteria for identifying links between short term policy and long term transformation. She reminded the group that it had been agreed that any short term policy leading toward more partnership was to be defined as progress, as was any step leading toward less domination; and she wondered whether in the light of the turns the conversation had recently taken anybody wanted to propose any changes in the conclusion it had previously reached.

Nancy Hartsock was about to respond to Mrs. Harriman's question when David Harvey protested that it was too soon to begin consideration of the question Mrs. Harriman had just raised, because so far he had only had time to set forth his views on the general nature of the capitalist system - it is a system which always requires some regime of accumulation creating conditions under which enough profit can be generated to keep production going; and which always is threatened by overaccumulation, i.e. by excess goods, idle productive resources, and jobless labor, which it labors mightily but on the whole unsuccessfully to translate into employment and need-satisfaction. He had not, however, described the particular regime of accumulation and the particular solution to the problem of overaccumulation which prevails at the point in time where we are now. And it is the analysis of the present moment in capitalism's history, a moment he named as "a regime of flexible accumulation," which must provide the starting point for thinking about how to identify those features of the here and now which are growth points toward a future named as "partnership" or as "beloved community."

Nancy Hartsock did not agree. She said that the group had already agreed that insecurity is a consequence of production for exchange. When exchange is needed to fulfill the aim of production it constitutes is a check, a barrier, wedged between human effort and meeting human needs. Women are in a position to realize this more than men, partly because changing diapers, cooking dinner, cleaning house, and other tasks traditionally assigned to women, are tasks where effort meets needs directly. Women's lives are institutionally defined by the production of use values in the home. (Nancy Hartsock, Money, Sex and Power. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1985. pp. 234-35) Women share with men the experience of insecurity which comes from relying on the market economy, frequently called by its admirers the "wonderful bread machine." It is supposed to produce food for all more efficiently than one could ever do with one's own garden and kitchen. But it inherently creates insecurity for the working class because the "machine" belongs to others (the owners of the means of production), and they may and may not give one employment. First insecurity. The machine only runs when the prospects for profit are sufficient to motivate the owners to run it. Second insecurity. The machine is competitive only when it is state-of-the-art; it runs only as long as no better machine is invented which makes it obsolete. Third insecurity. She could go on. It was possible, she concluded, to draw a further practical conclusion before knowing which particular maneuvers for stabilizing itself capitalism is attempting at this particular historical moment. We can already draw the conclusion that the growth points which will lead to system transformation are those that organize production for use - for meeting human needs - effectively overcoming the check, the barrier, inherent in capitalist production for exchange.

David started to reply, but Nancy said she was not finished. She dissented from the proposition that capitalists are not dominators. It is true that workers are nominally free, but also true that they are forced to work, and that the great majority, worldwide, are prevented from satisfying their basic needs, even though there is no valid physical or technical reason why basic needs must remain unmet. (Frances Moore Lappe and Joseph Collins, Food First: beyond the myth of scarcity. New York: Ballantyne Books, 1974) It is true that this situation is maintained independently of the will of any individual capitalist, inasmuch as an individual capitalist has no power to change the structure of the economy. Nevertheless, the capitalist class as a whole could, if it chose to, change economic structures. Therefore, as a class they are dominators because they choose to defend structures which guarantee that the people will get their daily bread if and only if they get their profits. (Nancy Hartsock, Money Sex and Power. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1985. p. 129) This is domination because it is a collective exercise of power for the benefit of themselves, at the expense of their victims.

At this point Brother Leo pushed aside his popcorn, spilling some of it, stood up at his table, and said loudly that he was an American. He had not fought over there for nothing. And how could ordinary people be expected to understand what's wrong with the economy if the experts could not agree among themselves? When someone could tell him how to get a job he would listen. Until then he had better things to do. Then Brother Leo walked from his table to the door. In the doorway he turned his face once more to the assembled company, raised a fist, and said that if he did not get something soon then somebody was going to get hurt.

Although it was not her turn to speak, Nel Noddings thought it important to intervene in the discussion to say that she found the question whether to regard the advocates of capitalism as benign in their intentions even though the system they advocate is difficult to manage, or else to classify capitalism as a dominator society in which a ruling class uses law and market forces to keep the majority down in ways subtler but not essentially different from the way earlier ruling classes used the blade, to be similar to another question. The similar question was whether women ought to nurture the good intentions of their men, by sustaining - often contrary to concrete evidence - the man's self image as a fundamentally good person, as one-caring. (Nel Noddings, Caring: a feminine approach to ethics and moral education. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984) The man is often in fact dangerous or unreliable, and the woman must choose whether to trust him and to rely on him, or else to take actions which would to some degree inevitably be interpreted as no longer affirming him, for her own self-protection. She said that insofar as it was a question of capitalists as people, she would be likely to come down on the side of bringing out the best in them by supporting their self-esteem as caring people. But if it is true - and she was not well enough versed in economics to feel competent to judge whether it was true or not - that capitalist production for exchange imposes barriers blocking the meeting of human needs, barriers that cannot in general be broken, but can only be broken at certain places for certain people for certain time periods (perhaps creating the illusion that since in certain places at certain times exchange economies have generated widespread prosperity, production for exchange could in general eliminate poverty sustainably and worldwide) then we should frankly acknowledge that capitalism as a system is domination. We should acknowledge its dominator character if not for our own personal self-protection then for the protection of others less fortunate than ourselves.

Now several people wanted to speak at once, and Pamela Harriman, in her capacity as hostess, felt called upon to bring some order out of the confusion by making an agenda proposal, which was accepted. First people would comment on the recommendation that promoting production for use, rather than or in addition to production for exchange, should be added to the two criteria already agreed on (increasing partnership, decreasing domination) for identifying growth points that would link short term steps the new administration might take, here and now, to long term structural transformation of the global economy. Then, when consensus was reached regarding production for use, David Harvey would present the concept that the present stage of world history can be characterized as one of "flexible accumulation," and then after that the group would consider whatever particular recommendations might flow from conceiving our immediate historical time period to be one of flexible accumulation.

Riane Eisler began the discussion of production for use by speculating on the parts played by use and by exchange in the civilizations of neolithic Europe, and especially in ancient Crete, where the older institutions lasted the longest and left the most remains for archaeologists to study. It appears, she said, that female deities were worshipped in all ancient agricultural societies, in conjunction with, or indistinguishable from, nature worship, since the female gives birth and nourishment just as the earth does. (The Chalice and the Blade, p. 21) The prevalence of feminine deities did not betoken matriarchy, but rather equality, since both men and women were the children of the Goddess, as they were the children of the women who headed the families and the clans. By analogy with present-day mother-child relationships, we can say that women had a great deal of power, but that it was equated more with responsibility and love than with privilege. (p.28) Cretan civilization began around 6000 BC with settlers from Anatolia who brought with them Goddess-worship and a neolithic agrarian technology. For four thousand years it made steady technical progress in ceramics, weaving, metalwork, engraving, architecture, stock breeding, gardening, irrigation, and crafts, and they developed an increasing maritime trade in the Eastern Mediterranean. About the spirit detected by the study of its arts and crafts, ancient Crete, the archaeologist Nicolas Platon, who spent more than half a century excavating its remains, wrote that it was a society in which "the whole of life was pervaded by an ardent faith in the goddess Nature, the source of all creation and harmony." (p. 31) There seems to have been a rather equitable sharing of wealth. Royal revenues derived from the island's increasing wealth were used to improve living conditions; all the urban centers had perfect drainage systems, sanitary installations, and domestic conveniences; there were networks of roads, viaducts, roadside shelters, fountains, reservoirs, organized places of worship, and planned burial grounds. The evidence is that Cretan wealth was primarily invested in living harmoniously and aesthetically. Power was primarily equated with the responsibility of motherhood rather than with the exaction of obedience. (p. 38)

In describing an ancient society with a spirit so much different from that of our own, Riane Eisler continued, it is difficult to apply concepts like "use value," "exchange value," "unemployment," and "exploitation" which are applied in describing our own society, and to say how much of them there was or was not. What the study of ancient Crete suggests is rather, a complete rethinking of our economic categories, such as that proposed by Hazel Henderson (The Politics of the Solar Age. New York: Anchor Books, 1981) in which the roles of men and women are fundamentally rethought and rebalanced. However, it seems safe to say that people in ancient Crete did not suffer the chronic insecurity that is characteristic of most human lives under our present arrangements. In Crete extensive maritime trade and a considerable accumulation of wealth seem to have enhanced, rather than detracted from, the security of every daughter and son of the Goddess.

She thought it significant also that when Karl Marx looked for an example of associated labor that was not capitalist production for exchange, he observed that common property and cooperative labor was found "...on the threshold of the history of all civilized races," including the Slavs, the Teutons, the Celts, and numerous Asiatic peoples. But that it was not necessary to go to the past for an example, since production for use could still be found in the peasant family of the 19th century, "...that produces corn, cattle, yarn, linen, and clothing for home use. These different articles are, as regards the family, so many products of its labor, but as between themselves, they are not commodities. The different kinds of labor, such as tillage, cattle tending, spinning, weaving, and making clothes, which result in various products, are in themselves, and such as they are, direct social functions, because functions of the family, which just as much as a society based on the production of commodities, possesses a spontaneously developed system of division of labor." (Karl Marx, Capital. Modern Library Edition of Vol. I. New York: Random House, no date. First German edition 1867. pp. 89-90) Marx's peasant family shows virtues of cooperation and, implicitly, of caring, that are typically feminine, which survive and function even under the most brutal patriarchy, in the agrarian societies which have been typical of much of human history.

In conclusion, she said that although she was generally in favor of producing goods for the sake of the good uses to which they will be put, and even more in favor of production to meet human needs, she would recommend encouraging production for use as a part of a broader transformation toward partnership, which would also renew respect for nature, resacralize human relationships, and redefine the responsibilities that inhere in the control of property.

Pamela Harriman called the attention of the group to the paragraph in Capital following the one Riane Eisler had quoted. In it Marx proposes that all of society might be regarded as one single laborer, a Robinson Crusoe writ large. By conceiving of all humanity as one, allocating its labor and its resources to meet its needs, production for exchange would be abolished, since, on this fanciful hypothesis, there is nobody to exchange with. All production would be production for use. Surely, said Ms. Harriman, this is a crackpot idea, and a dangerous one. It implies more than the suppression of personal freedom; it implies the suppression of personal identity.

In the ensuing colloquy everyone agreed with their hostess. Attempting to eliminate insecurity and poverty, and attempting to make capitalism manageable so that the environment and other issues could be addressed without the limitation of having to maintain profitability in order to maintain employment in order to enable people to get the funds with which to purchase the goods and services they need - all of this could not, and should not, be done by suppressing individuality. Disagreement centered mainly on two issues. The first was whether production for use, on a large scale or perhaps on any scale, was in itself a revolutionary system-transforming act. Everyone agreed that it was a good thing for the members of an organization like Habitat for Humanity to build and renovate houses for use, not for profit, just because the houses were needed. Everyone also agreed that by planting individual or cooperative gardens people could augment their food supplies and thus diminish their insecurity. Members of families, lodges, churches, and 12-step groups could provide any number of services for each other, of which perhaps the most important was to provide the emotional and spiritual support which enables individuals to withstand the storms of destructive passion and nameless despair. It was agreed that it was a good thing to leave property in one's will in trust for humane purposes, placing it thus in the domain of resources devoted to filling a need. It was agreed that the professions ought to be conceived, as they originally were, and as is reflected, for example, in the physician's Oath to Hippocrates, as the learned practice of a calling, in which the honoraria, while welcome and deserved, are not the sine qua non giving the client access to service.

All this and more was agreed, but as to whether the progressive and systematic encouragement of the orientation of productive activity toward meeting needs would or could eventually produce a qualitative transformation of the global economy, such that insecurity and alienation would no longer reign, and capitalism would - at last - be manageable, to the great relief both of the spotted owl and other mute species whose survival is perennially pitted against capitalism's compulsive need for growth, labor control, and "progress;" and to homo sapiens - as to this there was no agreement. Immanuel Wallerstein and Fredric Jameson adduced considerations tending to prove the contrary. Capitalism has been international from its beginnings said Wallerstein; it has been a world-system of interlocking nation-states, each of whose national industries competes in world markets. As such, it has since its beginnings powerfully tended to dissolve local communities, as it has persistently forced whatever is local to adjust itself to the requirements of international commerce - as in the case, to cite just one famous instance, of the British enclosure acts, through which the common greens and small farms worked by British yeoman from time immemorial were destroyed in order to provide pastures for sheep that would give wool for export to the continent, and through which the factory system gained for itself a larger class of landless laborers. Its history can be seen, added Jameson, as the ever-deepening commodification of human relationships, so that now today the commodity-form is coming to dominate even the most remote corners of the planet, and even the deepest reaches of the human unconscious mind. But to these formidable arguments that the deliberate de-alienation of human relationships would necessarily run afoul of the atomizing juggernaut imposed by the accelerating demands of market competition, some replied that the Japanese, and others, have done very well in international competition precisely because to a great degree they practice solidarity among themselves.

In the end, however, it was not examples from Japan and elsewhere of succeeding-in-competition-through-enhanced-cooperation which ultimately persuaded Wallerstein and Jameson to withdraw their objections. Nor was it the proliferation of collectivist survival strategies. noted by Braudel and others, through which many diverse groups unite with tight bonds, shielding each member from isolation and poverty - such as criminal gangs, monasteries, convents, fanatic religious cults, renewed family ties, oriental brotherhoods, and the rapacious military institutions which constitute predatory shadow governments (guaranteeing a life of ease for the officer class) and often seize state power by force in much of the world. They were persuaded, rather, by the argument that the dissolution of traditional human bonds which made modernity possible took place under specific historic conditions, and due to the operation of specific economic mechanisms. Under different historic conditions, and under the influence of economic mechanisms deliberately designed to favor mutual support and mutual aid, the natural tendency of humans to bond with one another might grow again - forming communities more solid, and more respectful of individual liberties, than the traditional ones that have been and are being dissolved by commodification.

Finally a consensus was reached that the group would revise its recommendations as follows: actions can be deemed to contribute to a long term strategy to transform the global economy, to the extent that they (1) increase partnership, (2) decrease domination, and (3) develop cooperative relationships and self-reliance so that a community can to an ever-increasing degree meet the basic needs of its members, whether investment and job-creation are profitable there or not. However, although there was agreement on the wording of (3), there was none on its meaning. Some took (3) to mean that as groups learn to cooperate to meet their basic needs whether the "wonderful bread machine" grants them employment and cash to buy what they need or not; the hold of the system over them is weakened; their insecurity diminished; and the unmanageable global economy, under which the provision of the necessities of life depends on creating conditions under which business is profitable, gradually ceases to exist as a system. Others, however, took it to mean, that insofar as people can be organized at the grassroots around concrete demands, and experience success in achieving them either by their own organized efforts or by their increased bargaining power, they can be empowered as political actors, so that political power can increasingly be used to seize control of the historically accumulated capital that is now controlled by the owners of the "wonderful bread machine" in order to turn its vast resources to human purposes.

The second great issue on which disagreement centered was spirituality. Some held that a new but old love of gentleness, and of relatedness, and of joy in giving, and of a life-affirming eros, and of the consolations of sharing suffering, and of being each a part of a larger whole with nature, with humanity, with those particularly near and dear to us in our own lives - that all this, and more that they spoke of, required a feminine spirituality. But others held that "God the Father," while not altogether a good name for the divine, was not altogether a bad one either, and they proposed to work for inclusiveness within the vast resources provided by the traditions of the existing religions; while still others among the intellectuals (although none among the brothers of the lodge, nor among the sisters of the ladies' auxiliary) would consider the liberation of humanity incomplete until the day when the social functions anciently served by religion were served, to the extent that they deserved to continue to be served at all, by psychology and by the secular arts.

The group concluded unanimously, however, that it had gone as far as it could go in considering the general limitations that reliance on capitalist production for exchange places on humanity, and the extent to which those limitations might be overcome by developing production for use. It was time to focus on the history of the present moment.

David's Second Speech

Flexible accumulation, which might also be called neo-liberalism, is a convenient name for the main ways that adjustments are now being made worldwide in order to make business more profitable, and thus to increase economic activity and to create jobs. It can best be understood as a change of direction following the immediately preceding regime of accumulation, which is conveniently called "Fordism" or in its later phases "Keynesian," and which coincided with a period when there were attempts to build planned economies in the East.

The Fordist period (roughly 1914 to 1973) was the only period in the short history of capitalism when (especially after 1945) the middle masses of the core countries (North America, West Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand) came to enjoy prosperity. It was a high point during which modernity succeeded in lifting perhaps 15% of the world's population out of poverty. It can be complained that the prosperity of the middle masses was grossly materialistic, that the pace of life was frenetic, that inequities remained, that warfare was chronic, that Fordism's mass consumption made for an unsustainable relationship of humanity to the environment, but....

(David was interrupted before he could say what followed "but" by several who took exception to the word "unsustainable," declaring it to be weak diction understating a destructive relationship of humanity to the earth more aptly termed "insane," "suicidal," or "ecocidal.")

David continued, saying that the phrase starting with "but" was "but extending prosperity to the majority was a great social achievement." According to the official ideology, the explanation of the prosperity was "development." A developed country was one where science and technology had been applied to bring modern conveniences to the masses. Most of the world was defined as "developing" or "less developed." It was only a matter of time, according to the official ideology, until science and technology brought the entire world to a standard of living similar to that of the middle classes of the USA. The impoverished masses of the planet came to anticipate a world where everyone would drive a car, through watching Hollywood films, which were shown everywhere, and through other components of what was called the revolution of rising expectations - a revolution which made life-as-in-the-suburbs-of-a-city-of-a-core-country the world norm of the elite, and the aspiration of the world's masses.

David did not deny that applied science had in fact raised average world living standards, and health standards; nor did he deny that science redirected toward appropriate technology could enable homo sapiens to join the earth community as a cooperating member. What he insisted on was that the social achievements of the Fordist period required, above and beyond progress in science, certain social conditions which permitted the majority to share in the fruits of science. (David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity. Oxford: Blackwell, 1989, pp. 121-188)

"Fordism" might be defined as "mass production for mass consumption." The first, rationalized assembly line high-volume manufacture, required the second, a large population, immersed in a mass culture saturated by advertising, possessing sufficient purchasing power to buy the products. The particular form taken under Fordism by the inherent instability of production for exchange was as follows: for any given manufacturer, profits are maximized by paying lower wages while charging higher prices; but each time wages are reduced (or not raised when prices rise), the capacity of the wage earning public to buy the products of industry as a whole is diminished. For this and other reasons Fordism required a combination of social conditions to maintain purchasing power such as the following: labor union power sufficient to resist downward pressure on wages, working and middle class political power sufficient to redistribute income in a variety of ways in favor of the masses; steady productivity gains permitting business to keep labor costs constant as a share of revenue while passing on gains to workers in the form of wages; government spending financed in the end by debt; extensions of consumer credit amounting in the aggregate to sums even larger than the huge government debts; an enlightened attitude on the part of business leaders who recognized their need for a strong domestic market. This last was symbolized by Henry Ford's decision in 1914 to pay his workers the then munificent wage of $5 dollars per day, with the express intention of enlarging the market for automobiles - a decision which later led to Antonio Gramsci's coining of the term "Fordism."

Fordism barely survived the great depression of the 1930s, when efforts to restore profitability by restoring the effective demand for products only succeeded when governments borrowed and printed enormous amounts of money, and to some extent planned the economies, in order to fight World War II. Fordism went into full swing after 1945, but by the mid 1960s it was already in crisis. By that time the rebuilding of West Europe and Japan was virtually complete, which meant that henceforth there would be intense competition for markets among the advanced countries. At that time too there occurred the first major wave of relocations and outsourcings, through which firms initially based in advanced countries (but destined to become increasingly independent of any national allegiance) made an end run around labor unions and governments by locating their labor-intensive operations in places like Southeast Asia where labor could be super-exploited.

As on the level of practice the Fordist regime of accumulation cracked in myriad ways, on the level of discourse ideologies gathered strength which criticized its prevailing scientism; its appeals to 18th century ideals of equality and fraternity; its dirigisme; its government spending; its laws and regulations - in a word, its "rigidity." Calls were heard to get back to free market basics, to revive the faith of the forefathers, in ways that produced sentiments and doctrines justifying new practices which could be called, in a word "flexible." 1973 is sometimes given as the date when a flexible regime of accumulation came to overshadow the still-present Fordist elements, because that was the year when the value of the U.S. dollar ceased to be fixed; it was set free to float, to find its value from day to day vis a vis the Deutschmark, the yen, the Swiss franc, the French franc, the guilder, the rand, the Canadian dollar, and the pound sterling.

The phrase "flexible accumulation" describes an approach to making business profitable which aggressively dismantles or willingly gives up yesterday's deliberate efforts to foster mass consumption by increasing the purchasing power of the masses. Instead it relies on an economic rationality which leads firms and individuals to seek to maximize profits wherever and however they can. "Deregulation" is a buzzword. "Privatization" is another. For the sake of greater flexibility, the number of people with steady jobs is allowed to shrink, and even they are expected to be functionally flexible, moving from place to place and task to task as their firms adjust to ever-changing markets with never-ceasing changes based on never-ceasing recalculations of profit margins. Larger numbers of employees become peripheral, hired only when needed. Work is sub-contracted and outsourced to small enterprises, many of which may be overseas, organized on ethnic patriarchal lines, or themselves dependent on a small core group and a larger group of temporaries and part-timers. As older workers, unionized workers, and white male workers retire, they tend to be replaced by young, part time, multi-ethnic, and increasingly female workers, without collective bargaining rights and with fewer pension rights and less insurance coverage, and with negligible job security. Since the modal local citizen is no longer the prosperous unionized worker at a factory, but more like the impoverished part time fries cook at a fast food restaurant, even small firms seek global markets, pursuing potential customers with purchasing power wherever they are to be found - among pharmacists in Bangkok, royal relatives in Saudi Arabia, school principals in Japan, veterinarians in Nigeria.... Self employment increases; many former white collar employees become consultants working by computer at their own homes on short-term contracts, or on the road doing short stints at diverse sites. Production operations constantly shift around the world as many countries compete with each other to provide multinational firms with labor forces that are at once reliable, skilled, and inexpensive. More firms fail and more are started. The struggle to survive constantly requires new ideas to fit new market niches; all this puts a premium on intelligent entrepreneurialism, on swift and accurate data analysis, on decisive well-informed decision-making. There are never-ending spinoffs, mergers, leverages, technical innovations, quality control innovations, performance and productivity evaluations, races to control the latest scientific discoveries and technical advances. The global financial system becomes so complex that nobody can understand it.... (Harvey, op. cit. pp. 147-172)

When David Harvey sat down the room became silent. Mrs. Harriman was silent. The brothers of the lodge were silent, as were the sisters of the auxiliary, and the other ladies whom the brothers had chosen to invite. The speakers who a short time previously had all wanted to speak at once were silent too.

The silence lasted so long that I was tempted to speak myself, even though I had assigned myself the role of invisible recording clerk of my fantasy. I was rummaging through my mind, trying to think of what to say, and coming to no satisfactory conclusion, when, fortunately, I was saved from what surely would have been an embarrassing piece of foolishness, by a woman's voice which I could not identify, speaking from a back corner of the room where there were several tables apparently occupied by brothers of the lodge and their guests.

She said that what David was describing was the worldwide defeat of the working class. Working people are defeated geographically because mobile capital can change the location of the battlefield whenever labor begins to win the battle with capital over the division of revenue between wages and profits. The workers are defeated scientifically because advanced technology makes many of them unnecessary. They are defeated politically because socialism has failed. Ordinary people are defeated philosophically because any comprehensive ideology which might unite them and define their common goals is deemed to be meaningless, or totalizing, or both. They are defeated militarily because now it is knowledge, not numbers, which wins wars. The working class is defeated morally because it stands accused of racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia.

At the unidentified voice's last remark, several of the brothers stared at the floor, because they knew it was true. Mrs. Harriman then recovered her voice sufficiently to ask whether in the light of the new turns the conversation had now taken, the group should revise its three criteria for identifying actions that link what can be done in the present with long term transformation ((1) more partnership, (2) less domination, (3) grassroots cooperation to meet basic needs).

Nancy Hartsock responded that it was important to keep in mind the reason why the modern economy had moved from Fordism to flexible accumulation. It was to enhance profitability. Profitability matters to everyone, not just to investors, because as the world is now organized almost everyone's employment, and almost everyone's supply of necessary goods and services, fail when there is no profit. The economic ideology which characterizes life as depending on jobs, jobs as depending on investment, and investment as depending on profits, cannot be dismissed as simply false, because - consciousness-lowering though it is - it describes the functioning of material relations in which all parties are forced to participate. (Cf. Nancy Hartsock, Money Sex and Power, p. 232) Consequently, whenever steps are taken to empower the ordinary people of the world, it should be kept in mind that:

1. Profitability must be maintained, or
2. Motives (and accounting rules) other than the pursuit (and measurement) of profit must take its place in the creation of employment and in the production of goods and services, or
3. There must be some combination of (1) and (2).

At this point Mrs. Harriman said that she hoped we were not saying that "profit" was a dirty word, because it was not. Nor is it synonymous with avarice. The requirement that a business show a profit is imposed by bookkeeping, by arithmetic, be what they may be the motives of the persons to whom the profits are paid. As a general rule, if a business does not make a profit, it must cease to exist. The case of a nonprofit enterprise is not much different, since although it need not make money, it too must cease to exist if it consistently loses money. Given that there must be profits, what is done with them depends on who gets them, and on what they choose to do. Many business profits go to nonprofit institutions, such as endowed universities. Many go to pension funds. Among individuals who receive payments out of business profits, there are many, such as herself and her friend Mrs. Kroc, whose overriding concern in life is the socially responsible use of wealth.

Nancy Hartsock then continued, saying that once the essential role of profit (or else other motives and other accounting rules capable of performing the same functions) is recognized and constantly borne in mind, then one can address the many obstacles which flexible accumulation opposes to the empowerment of the people, such as the excessive mobility of firms, inappropriate technology, union-busting....

Riane's Second Speech

After Nancy Hartsock had spelled out her views a bit more, Riane Eisler rose to comment on them. She began by reminding the assembled company that previously they had agreed that building communities capable of cooperatively meeting the basic needs of their members was transformative, but had disagreed as to why. Either it was to begin to dissolve domination by starting to live in partnership here and now, or it was to give ordinary people political leverage to redirect society's major resources toward meeting human needs. Now, in the light of Nancy Hartsock's very logical analysis, it had become easier to see that the conclusion must be "both / and" rather than "either / or." Cooperation is a survival strategy; it is a concrete beginning of the practice of a revolutionary principle; it is a way of gathering strength in order to assume control over the gifts of nature (land), the gifts of history (accumulated capital), and the gifts of science (technology).

More than anything, she said, we needed to demonstrate that partnership is possible here and now. Until recently socialism had figured in the public mind as the alternative to capitalism; but after the failure of its communist version, in the public mind there is no alternative. Communism had failed, in her opinion, because it retained male supremacy and the dominator values that go with it (The Chalice and the Blade, p. 164). Now we need to build communities without male supremacy - real live, working, loving, playing parallel structures. It was her view that there is now a paramount need to prove the present practicality of living in partnership, in the pleasant ways which archaeological research shows, on her interpretation, that humans used to live, at certain times and places in the past. She offered to organize a tour for Mrs. Harriman and for whomever else might wish to go, so that they could see for themselves the ruins of Crete.

The speaker further considered that the rationale for building base communities had been sufficiently discussed, and that the chief issue remaining regarded spirituality. No sufficient answer had yet been given to our friends who had asserted that liberation would be incomplete until the day when the human mind would at last definitively free itself from religion. In favor of their view it could be said that already when on a certain fateful evening in 312 A.D. Constantine saw in the setting sun a cross inscribed with the words in hoc signo victor seris ("in this sign you will conquer"), and then the next day defeated and killed his rival Maxentius, and then when he became Emperor of Rome, and when he decreed that Rome, and hence occidental civilization, would be Christian, religion had become so allied with domination as to be indistinguishable the one from the other. (The Chalice and the Blade, pp. 130-34) The very name of God in medieval Latin is frequently Dominus (often translated "Lord"), and our very calendar, which defines our place in time followed by "A.D." for Anno Domini, tells us that we live in a year of a God who is our dominator.

As Riane spoke, Brother Leo re-entered the room, and sat down in the seat he had recently left. He did not say anything, neither then nor in the balance of the evening.

It was not always so, Riane continued. For example, in the decorated pottery of Old Europe, the symbolism of water, often associated with the primal egg, shows the rule of the Great Goddess, often depicted as a bird or a snake, over the life-giving force. Rain-bearing and milk-giving motifs are standard decorations of the ritual containers and vases of the shrines to the ancient goddesses diversely worshipped as the world-mountain who was the Goddess-Mother of the universe in Mesopotamia, as Nammu who gives birth to heaven and earth in Sumeria, as Nut who is the flowing unity of celestial waters in Egypt, as Ariadne the very holy one of Crete, and as Aphrodite who rises from the sea. The neolithic pregnant Goddess, a frequent theme, survived in the pregnant Mary of medieval Christian iconography, and the neolithic figure of the Mother Goddess holding her divine child, survived in the numerous symbols of Madonna and Child. The twin goddesses, such as those excavated at the Catal Huyuk neolithic site, survived into historic times as images of Mother and Maid, and as symbols of the cyclical regeneration of nature.... (The Chalice and the Blade, pp. 21-24)

The speaker very much doubted that logic alone could transform the global economy. She quoted the cultural historian Thomas Berry for the proposition that major social transformations have always been religious because all other transformations lack sufficient depth. (Berry raised his hand and shouted "Here! Here!" or perhaps "Hear! Hear!") The cerebral cortex is not profound enough, not old enough, to govern all the deep sources of motivation touched by myth. She called for a fourth recommendation, (4) Remythologizing, in order to inspire reverence for nature and for that which is beautiful in the creations of humans. She was calling neither for a new religion nor for the abolition of the existing religions - the time was past when religious evolution could be advanced by substituting one doctrine and discipline for another. Instead, as Goddesses and their partner Gods had once been worshipped in similar but diverse forms among different human groups and in diverse places, she called for respect for many different traditions and spiritualities, and for bringing out the life-giving, non-dominating potential in them. The worship of the Goddess was the worship of life, she said, and life is protean. She brought it to the attention of the assembled members and guests that Joseph Campbell had defined a myth as a collective dream, and a dream as a private myth; myth and dream as overlapping and flowing into one another. (Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968) Envisioning the future, she concluded, means dreaming the future as well as thinking the future, because although to a certain extent logic may guide us, it is - to quote Thomas Berry again - the dream that drives the action. (Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1988)

This time Thomas Berry rose to his feet, smiled broadly, and repeated "The dream drives the action." He seemed about to give a speech himself, but as he opened his lips a bell rang.

The bell signaled that it was time for the brothers of the lodge and the ladies of the auxiliary to say their nightly prayer. The Herder, speaking through a microphone, instructed everyone to fold their arms and bow their heads in the direction of Chicago, and to repeat after him. The guests obediently followed the instructions of the Herder and the practice of their hosts.

"Suffer the little children to come unto me," said the Herder. Everyone repeated after him, including those who heard his voice over loudspeakers on the dance floor, in the billiard room, in the meeting room, at the bar, and in the kitchen. The Herder asked God to bless all the children, and to bless also the aged, who could no longer care for themselves. He asked God especially to bless Tina Schroeder, the seven-year-old daughter of one of the members, who had been struck by a delivery truck while riding her tricycle, and who needed 150 pints of blood.

Then, since the guests had participated in the ritual of the lodge, the Herder thought it would be polite to add for the benefit of the guests, "The dream drives the action."

Everyone repeated, "The dream drives the action." And then they said, "Amen."

It turned out that what Thomas Berry had to say was not a speech but a procedural suggestion. He thought that it would be invaluable, in order to hold a useful conversation about spirituality and partnership, and about the earth and the economy, to be able to interrogate Saint Thomas Aquinas, who had been to some extent responsible - if not as source, then at least as systematic codifier - for the identification of religion and domination, and who perhaps would have something to say in his own defense; and perhaps also certain other persons might be invited who had not been invited to the present meeting because the guest list had been limited to persons who were now alive. He congratulated Pamela Harriman, and the Herder and all who had helped Mrs. Harriman to organize her salon, and suggested that if the organizers would augment the scope of the miracles they had already facilitated, in the manner suggested, that at its next time together the group could learn even more from each other about the global economy, and about the deep causes and deep cures of its ills.

The assembled guests and members assented to Thomas' suggestion, and then they decided to treat the acceptance of his proposal as a pretext to suspend their deliberations, for they felt talked out. Mrs. Harriman thanked everyone with great charm and grace, and then withdrew in her taxi to a hotel room, where she retired for the night. The guests then joined the members in shooting pool, watching television, playing cards, and dancing to "Achy Breaky Heart," "Honky Tonk," "Hokey Pokey," "Beer Barrel Polka," "Tennessee Waltz," and "I'll Waltz Across Texas with You in my Arms" until the van came to take them to the airport.

Strict Standards: Non-static method HTML_content::Navigation() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/components/com_content/content.html.php on line 538
< Prev   Next >

Strict Standards: Non-static method mosHTML::CloseButton() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/components/com_content/content.html.php on line 541

Strict Standards: Non-static method mosHTML::BackButton() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/components/com_content/content.html.php on line 544
Site concept, design, maintenance, hosting The Ansible Group , specializing in academic and nonprofit sites.
original template by 5medien
Copyright 2000 - 2005 Miro International Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
Mambo is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL License.

Strict Standards: Non-static method mosCache::getCache() should not be called statically in /home/howardri/public_html/peace/includes/frontend.php on line 91