Sunday, March 30, 2014

The metaphysics of capitalism

Building on the last post, following are some previous posts on Rifkin and Human on how capitalism operates.

On Rifkin: He notes that Adam Smith's notion of wealth and the capital that produced it was in the context of Newtonian physics, another guiding worldview of the time. Hence markets were seen like the well-ordered clock metaphor of physics, with enlightened self-interest its invisible hand. All of which was based on the reversible nature of Newtonian physics, which had yet to account for the irreversible nature of time via the laws of thermodynamics. However Smith's economics had by then become an ideology and refused to account for these laws in its economic model. And which models all have to do with thermodynamic 'energy' production. Smith's economics was based on virtually limitless energy but did not account for the thermodynamic costs of coal usage, since its scientific base did not yet recognize it. And refused to do so when the science became available.

On Human:
Consequently, holding to such an ideology [capitalism] causes one to avoid any empirical evidence to the contrary, because the idea is what is important, not the empirical material on the ground, so to speak. “The actual and the ideal…is seen as a strict dialectic without excess.” Hence “We cannot simply separate or oppose actuality from ideality because we inhabit the world and our engagement with the world is structured by previous engagements. We cannot easily stand outside the current world and propose an ideology free from an actuality which exists” (250-4). A general economy though does not oppose the ideal with the actual, and consequently impose the former on the latter. This opens the system to possibilities never considered in the restricted version due to contingent forces on the ground.

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