Capitalism-in-denial

Ours is an age of capitalism-in-denial, when capitalists are encouraged to present themselves as ethical actors rather than profit-makers and to hold back from doing too much R&D in case it leads to the further dirtying of the planet by mankind’s greedy, grubby hand. Indeed, there has been a wacky meeting of minds between capitalists and anti-capitalists in recent years, as both have reoriented themselves around the project of Making Capitalism Nicer – the bosses by investing billions into corporate social responsibility projects, and their critics by staging carnivalesque protests whose main demand can be summed up as: ‘You need to be even more corporately socially responsible and stuff!’ This bizarre political union between the fat cats and the skinny anti-caps is best captured by the fact that, in the words of Reason magazine, Naomi Klein’s anti-capitalist bible No Logo has ‘inadvertently served as the most influential marketing manual of the decade’, as big companies have incorporated its anti-branding, pro-caring message into the big consensual mission to make capitalism less fat, ugly and cocky. [Spiked!]

I say you should be what you are. Of course, that doesn’t mean confronting everyone with your most annoying traits. Sometimes, being honest means accepting that the situation calls for tact and submission to a common agenda. The point here is that the capitalists and the anti-capitalists have largely agreed that they have a common agenda of protecting the public from the dirty facts about how society is run.

With his unguarded utterances, O’Leary reveals that capitalism is not – and never will be – a hunky-dory arena in which floppy-haired bosses and their ping-pong-playing workforce gather together to make the world a better place. Instead there’s tension, there’s competition, there’s self-interest, there’s fear, there’s conflict, there’s angst. The capitalists hate him for this because he is giving voice to the kind of deep-seated issues that they have worked hard to rebrand. And because – with his undoubted impact of changing many people’s lives for the better by opening up virtually the whole of Europe to the less well-off – he reminds today’s undynamic, conservative, regulation-inviting capitalists what their class used to do as a byproduct of their drive to maximise profits: break down barriers and drive the economy and society into new areas. And the ‘anti-capitalists’ hate O’Leary’s outspokenness because for them – obsessed as they are with the surface of capitalism rather than its inner workings and relations – there is nothing worse than an arrogant, foul-mouthed, money-making man. Indeed, the anti-O’Leary outlook in radical circles captures how shallow contemporary anti-capitalism is. Today’s rads are less concerned with the exploitation of workers and the hampering of human progress than they are with the logos and wording and cockiness levels of contemporary capitalism. Which is why they hate Ryanair but love Whole Foods.

The author of this piece is a self-labeled “neo-Marxist”; that is, one who believes in “more production, more wealth, more stuff.” Unfortunately for him, Marxism has no basis in reality. Marxists like to think that because they focus on outward materiality for their methods, they are empirical; and that because they critique social injustice according to their idealism, they are ethical. But it is all fluff. It is only dangerous if someone with authority is weak enough to fear the stupid people who believe in it.

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