cj#1095> Mark Whitaker: re- “Some interesting questions about capitalism”


Richard Moore

Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2000 20:20:40 -0500
To: •••@••.•••, •••@••.•••
From: Mark Douglas Whitaker <•••@••.•••>
Subject: cj#1094> Some interesting questions about capitalism...

    1. Is 'capitalism' an important category in your politics?

No, unless we are talking about a particular state level
discourse. The node of analysis is states and the
relationships between states, consumption relationships and
how the state orients and biases consumption in certain
directions to serve consolidation and environmental
degradation and depolitized consumption.

    2. Are the categories of 'Marxism', or 'postmodernism'
    useful in your political and intellectual work? If so, what
    kind of Marxism or postmodernism? If not, what other
    schools of thought are helpful to you?

Only postmodernism. However I would say that I'm a
'political modernist' meaning that progressive projects are
oriented around structuring the contexts of citizenship to
provide for more localist feedaback into depolitized
political economic relationships of consumtion which
typicallly undermine local economies, create environmental
degradation, and expand the institutionalization of risk (in
many forms) in society.

    3. How important is having an alternative to capitalism,
    e.g., socialism, for you? If so, what would you call it?
    How would you define and describe it?

This 'capitalism'/ something else is entirely a social
construct. What changed was political relationships in
pariticular states, and between states around the world
because market exchange relationship were becoming larger
and larger, leading to more and more separation between the
'hinterlands' of urbanizing areas and political feedback.

    4. How is fighting against 'capitalism' connected -- or
    disconnected -- from struggles against racism, sexism,
    homophobia, and other systems of oppression?

That is why capitalism is a 'false consciousness' category.
Liberalism/Marxism both are arguing on a false premise of
the separation of economics and politics or the primacy of
economics. That is very reductionistsic. WE should be
concerned with the construction of citizenship and
consumtion/exchange which are related to the
particularities of state organizational forms and
consumption practices.  To have a concern for the above,
citizenship and consumption, is to have a concern for how to
structure states to be more representative of systemic
underepresentation and marginalization of pariticular
gender, ethnic, sexuality, handicapped status and ageist
issues. Economic relations are embedded in social relations
of the state and of the socialization of differnet ethnic
groups (and other groups, etc.) However, we should concern
outselves with the individual level of social relations and
exclusions from social networks, because certain social
networks are economically embedded always. There is nothing
called 'raw economics.' That is a discourse of modernism
which both 'liberal capitalism' and Marxist/neo-marxist
frameworks share: that the underlying ramification of power
are discussed in economic and and manufacturing terms.

However, the intersections between the social, the
political, and the economic is more appropriately theorized
and analyzed in terms of how consumptive/exchange
relationships are connected with the particularities and
historical processes of a state level economy, whether we
analyze this as entirely an intrastate phenomenon or as a
phenomenon that that moves outside of state boundaries, like
consumption/extraction organized through TNCs. To complete a
political economic analysis, one has to start with how the
raw material choices are half material and half-social
constructs, moving through consumptive/identity
relationships, and the issues of economies of scale, to how
state relational power favors through laws (transportation
issues, tariffs, other codes, taxation, the 'illegality' of
certain consumptive issues). Particular consumptive issues
are always connected with conglomeration of power, and power
relations typically focus consumptive issues to maintain
certain frameworks of environmental degradation,
depolitizied consumption from the level of the state, or
warping laws to make certain consumptive relationships. This
is a form of state managed profit taking, and wealth
distribution, since without the framework of the states,
markets would lack the legal enforcement of contract (and
other issues) that would maintain large scale consumption
contexts, out of which power accrues connected with
particular raw material uses over others.

    5. Does it make sense to envision revolution with a capital
    'R' as a necessary condition for a just society? Or is
    radical democracy a better and more useful concept?

Change to be durable has to be slow. Rapid change plays into
a lack of actual change. Change should be on the level: of
the state (how citizenship and externalizations of power are
created legally amongst differnet groups through laws as
well as through the procols and practices of representation.
This is on the level of cities as well. There are multiple
and interactive sites of how unrepresentative political
processes are constructed. on the level of consumption
(meaning more awareness of how biases in state's make
certain, as society in general underwritest the costs of its
own degradation due to certain social/economic interests
embedded in certain raw material choice pathways. on the
level of the local socialization (because socialization
differentials matter for how politics and economics are
constructed) The only place where 'open-ended' politics are
constructed is on the local level. State level politics can
be very distanciated and it is premised on the inequalities
that are expanded from aggregate local inequalities. I am
less saying that the state is therefore residual, because a
small minded localism can be the source of many forms of
social/economic/political exclusion which only state level
interaction can 'check.' However, even state level
enforcement fails to lead to a sense of widening social
inclusions, it can and typically does engender the
institutionalization of differences and creates
polarization. This only sets up for long term failures at
the state level, if only state level inclusions are
considered important.

In other words, both. Saying that it's one or the other is a
false dichotomy because economics and politics are state
connected. Local. State; and consumption, because these all
intersect to create inequality through depoliticized
consumption relationships, which unrepresentative elites
wish to maintain and expand. That only creates more
social/economic/political polarization and the increasing of
risk in society, as well as environmetnal degradation (which
I would include in this category of risk).

    6. What connections, if any, do you see between
    anti-sweatshop and anti-globalism organizing and an
    anti-capitalist agenda? Does it matter if activists talk
    about capitalism?

Of course it matters. However, what would be nice if they
link it to systematically unrepresentative forms of
consumption as well as how the position of state power
influences certain consumptive practices. As well as how
corporations external to states (TNCs) should be held
accountable to local populations. If economic organizations
are allowed to 'get outside' of the state's political
feedback, they expand their position of power vis a vis the
state through the embeddedness and dependence of the state
on these large scale consumption relationships. So anyone
who is touched by the exchange or manufacturing
relationships in a political economy is part of the same
polity by definition. Corporations, by making arguments that
they are 'in another state's laws'' or 'out a
jurisdiction'--if they actually want to be removed from
political connections of their host state should be banned
from trading    with the said host state because they
are undermining the polity of the state and concentrating
economic/consumptive power that does have influence on
workers whether they are outside the state or consumers
within the state. As I said, where the economic
organizations of a political economy go, that is where it's
polity extends and extrudes as well by definition of
politics. People in relationships with these corporations
'elsewhere' (sweatshops) are part of the polity of various
states where that item is consumed. Politics should be
consumptively inclusive and reach and be legally accountable
and facilitating of feedback wherever consumption goes. The
dichotomy between economic organizations and political
organizations is actually abetting social polarization and
creating unsustainability. This dichotomy between the
economic and the political is premised on state level
decision contexts that construct a depolitized consumptive
experience, which facilitates economic concentration.
Sustainability is a state level relationship, instead of an
economic one.   We should be concerned with making
'sustainable states' and 'sustainable politics' over simply
reifying the separation of the economic and the political,
by falling for the oxymoron and illusion of an exclusively
'economic sustainability.' That matters of course. However,
what is crucial is the political sustainbility aspects.

    7. How important -- and helpful -- is it to argue for the
    connections between the prison-industrial complex and
    capitalism when organizing youth of color against
    criminalization of young people?

Very important, because as I said it is the gender, ethnic,
sexual, handicapped status, and age issues of socialization
and political representation. These groups however are
aggregates of individuls as well as occasionally social
actors. I would, as I said above, flesh out how these
marginalizing economic relationships are based on
marginalized social and political relationships of
citizenship. I would avoid dichotomizing that there is some
'underlying economic' phenomenon, because there is an
interaction between how social marginalization is
constructed in states and who is embedded in the economic
relationships and has access to flows of capital, etc. All
this talk about 'underlying' power is unimportant. I
recommend looking locally into the specifics, as well as to
state level aspects of how activists could work to influence
consumption decisions to be more aware of what power
relationships they are underwriting, as well as work for
social integration (you know my CDI website:
www.sit.wisc.edu/~mrkdwhit/cdi1.htm). Because it is the
social or civic intergration or marginalization of certain
constructed groups which influence how political and
economic flows are organized in societies. Expanding the
sense of the public awareness and civic participation and
integration locally influences wider more distanciated
poltiics in the long term. However, once unrepresentative
politics are orchestrated from the state level, it is
important to press for state level as well as local level
changes simultaneously. As I said for durable change, it is
a slow process--of social integration. Removing and demoting
social marginalization and categories of exclusions. This
can occur in a wide variety of local organizational level
changes, so it can empower groups in that sense locally
because citizenship is a local experience and a state level
experience.  Prison structures of punishment are connected
with social marginalization in power, which in turn is
reflected in economic marginalization and politcal
marginalization of  power.


Mark Whitaker
University of Wisconsin-Madison



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