PDA

View Full Version : Are humans natural-born capitalists?


schizophract
12-21-2010, 03:21 PM
I get that humans do seem really evil as a species, and I know this is an extremely broad kind of question, but why are we so screwed up? Why do we accrue far more wealth than we could ever need, indirectly causing suffering to countless others and still feel personally unsatisfied? Is this madness in our blood?

Thanks, hope that isn't too heavy, but something tells me I came to the right place :D

Thanks

Nemonymous
12-21-2010, 03:37 PM
Well, as human beings we are just forms of animals with basic selfish instincts.Except for me, of course.

simon p. murphy
12-21-2010, 07:22 PM
The biology of desire is pretty well self regulating. We eat and the change in chemistry signals satiance. In some rare instances a person will be so neurologically impaired as to disrupt the feedback and can drink water until they are dead or eat themselves into corpulence. These are exceptions generally. There is also the biological strategy of storage of fatty deposits for later use. There seems to be clear indications that certain groups have been selected for better storage of fat. The strategy which was selected for over thousands of years of scarcity worked well when there was little excess available in the environment and long delays between meals. The main turn appears with the onset of the agricultural revolution and its offspring of the city state. In the agricultural revolution we were confronted with excess and a need to protect the stores of grain. All this seems to have some impact upon capitalistic avarice but I can not discern any direct linkage. The capitalist's inclination towards accumulation of wealth beyond need could be reflective of a deeply embedded tendency but it seems far from universal in the form of its appearance. No, I generally think that the impetus for the capitalists' endeavour lies in a disconnect between the human animal's need for social relevance and context and the society which has developed on the assumption of individualism.


Mind you I am as taken by individualism as any citizen of the post enlightenment but think it is in some essential sense mistaken in its assumptions. The human being is necessarily social. The language, ideals and even the very sense of wealth is dependent upon the exchange with others. The person as human is contextually defined and absent such context exhibits only sophisticated primate behavior but lacks a self as abstraction. It is this alienation from our essential need to be part of the community which is exploited in capitalism. The anxiety produced is promised solution in the acquisition of materials and more abstractly wealth, but these substitutions are always incomplete and leave the original need unfulfilled. It is in that small moment of the exchange, the purchase, which is found organically satisfying but once bought the product is found wanting and dated and all the particulars of buyer's remorse. Marketing amplifies the anxiety by selling a promise for membership in the club of an imagined life of satisfaction. You are offered the life style of a Mercedes and the car only carries the image. Upon purchase you attempt to imagine that this is the satisfied life, that you are now the person in the ad and happy. But life demonstrates that things are not so simple and you are left looking for the next promise that the next purchase will lead you into a realm of happiness always just out of reach as you must compromise yourself to enter and the self you find on the other side simply has a new set of higher order dissatisfactions. Now, the water is not sparkling enough, the meat is tough the play jejune. Somewhere someone with more must have no complaints. The research does indicate that money does provide a significant degree of happiness but it tops out at a rather low level of around $60,000 beyond which the benefits are lost and the curve becomes flattened.


So, the energy of need for the capitalist's dream of material wealth seems driven by the social conditions it creates. This is why religion fits so seamlessly into its structure as it does the same thing in creating a need for what it takes away through its adoption. It sets each individual in isolation from the organic context of being human and then offers synthetic and abstract belonging as artificial sweetener. The anxiety of the alone is the source of wealth in the capitalist scheme and it is as endless as the suburban grid of families without tribes.


At least this is an outline of my understanding of the dynamics of it all. We could make a better zoo and assuage the isolation by providing organic community in the design but this works against authoritarian preference and would relieve a need upon which the engine of commerce is dependent.


-Simon

G. S. Carnivals
12-21-2010, 08:10 PM
Thank you for your post, Simon. Reading between the lines, you seem to hint at the old human (and animal) game of competition without mentioning it by name. Acquisition is an ancient sport. Having more pelts curing on the cavewall than the Joneses is innately satisfying. As a race, we tend to seek security where we can find it. (I won't mention the outrageous bank of points I have accrued at TLO as a personal example. :drunk:...)

Gray House
12-21-2010, 10:26 PM
Interesting thread. Perhaps the accumulating of impractically large amounts of wealth in some cases starts out as an at least somewhat practical pursuit and by the time these people have accumulated such large amounts that there is little practical value in accumulating more, they are compulsive wealth accumulators. That is who they are and that is what they do and they cannot conceive of their lives with a different focus.

DoktorH
12-22-2010, 10:26 AM
I get that humans do seem really evil as a species, and I know this is an extremely broad kind of question, but why are we so screwed up? Why do we accrue far more wealth than we could ever need, indirectly causing suffering to countless others and still feel personally unsatisfied?

because we can! People like being clever and finding ways to achieve difficult things or do forbidden things with impunity. it feels good. There's a reward mechanism in our brains that makes us want to solve problems and achieve things, because once upon a time this sort of ingenuity could have meant the difference between surviving and not surviving.

So we, as a species, applied it towards neutralizing those threats. having come up with agriculture, medical science, and the like to keep lots of people fed and healthy, there was nothing left to do but compete for mates and social status like any other animal.

Or we're driven towards it by some sort of unseen manipulators that feed on human suffering. I'm voting on the primates competing for mates and status option though, as I have yet to see any of these unseen manipulators, but I see lots of primates competing for status and mates.

simon p. murphy
12-22-2010, 03:38 PM
Or we're driven towards it by some sort of unseen manipulators that feed on human suffering. I'm voting on the primates competing for mates and status option though, as I have yet to see any of these unseen manipulators, but I see lots of primates competing for status and mates.

Social status is indicative of mate potential. If he has the signs of wealth he must be fit enough to defeat the others and accumulate the wealth or he is respected enough to have others give him the items. In either case the signs of success are indicators for the potential support the female might expect in her time of need and that some of the genetic material which has demonstrated success in a certain manner will become fused with her own. Men on the other hand of course look for signs of reproductive capacity, and health more ethan status. So status is a secondary indicator for reproductive success. Clearly this is questionable strategy in modern times when someone with all the indications of wealth may well have accumulated the wealth by default of birth or luck rather than physical or intellectual competition.


If the capitalistic impulse is biological is should be manifest across the entire species and it is , or rather was, not. There were societies and cultures which were founded upon egalitarianism and non-competitiveness. Several American Indian nations were such cultures and thrived for centuries. The south pacific and aboriginal tribes do not demonstrate what might be called a capitalistic character. If it is to be observed at all in such cultures it is in trade with other groups and even these seem to have an honor code attached which prohibits deception and exploitation. So true capitalistic impulse would appear to coemerge with city states and agriculture. If the Americas had the animals available for domestication which the fertile crescent had the intensity of agriculture might have produced similar excesses and they would have developed some capitalistic attributes. This seems to have happened in the Aztec and to a lesser degree the Mayan cultures. They had extremely fertile land for a while and as they produced excesses were able to expand and develop trade and and a class system of wealth emerged.


So, looks to me to be more the system than the beast. The beast will tell the truth of the system which serves as its context. Neurotic system, neurotic beast, sane system sane beast. Bad zoos make neurotic animals and cities make bad zoos when they are designed for commerce instead of people. Given there is some spread of natural variation at the ideographic level. The capitalist system creates the need it feeds upon with promises of satisfaction of that very need. As I said before, this is found to be the same dynamic operating in most religions. They point away from unity with a promise to bring you to compete oneness with being. Impossible of course, to know the moon by studying the finger pointing at it.

-Simon

DoktorH
12-22-2010, 10:23 PM
So, looks to me to be more the system than the beast. The beast will tell the truth of the system which serves as its context. Neurotic system, neurotic beast, sane system sane beast. Bad zoos make neurotic animals and cities make bad zoos when they are designed for commerce instead of people. Given there is some spread of natural variation at the ideographic level. The capitalist system creates the need it feeds upon with promises of satisfaction of that very need.

Good points. I think the system itself could be a manifestation of prevailing tendencies of the people within it. If most of the people are competitive, exploitative, greedy, etc then they will give the system that context, which would then get passed on to others moving into or born into that system.

if that isn't the case, though, then how does the system get to be what it is?

simon p. murphy
12-23-2010, 06:08 AM
Good points. I think the system itself could be a manifestation of prevailing tendencies of the people within it. If most of the people are competitive, exploitative, greedy, etc then they will give the system that context, which would then get passed on to others moving into or born into that system.

if that isn't the case, though, then how does the system get to be what it is?

That's the really intriguing aspect of this all, isn't it?

While it is true that I do have a history of blaming religion for virtually everything unpleasant that ever happened, I have to say it again: religion.

Well, to be fair I think religion is perhaps only one of the major cultural pathogens to rapidly settle in the niche created by the establishment of civilization. We often talk about mind viruses, but I think most tend to leave it at the level of the comparitive. The model I propose is that religion is a virus, although of a very complex cultural variety. To me, religion is an outgrowth of authoritarianism following the development of cities and the agricultural revolution. Prior to this there may have been a spiritualism and a paganism but not a religion per se. It is the wedding of the authoritarianism required in a city state to the inclination toward a spiritual understanding which hijacks truth. The spiritual aspects become disconnected from the organic context of the world and move to an abstraction of the world. Paganism is organic in that the world is infused with truth or rather truths. Religion is anathema to spiritualism and yet claims authority by pointing to that aspect - it is the finger pointing at the moon. Spiritualism is essentially experiential and ineffable. The only truth of it is in the personal experience which can not be communicated. Religion takes claim to the wonder of experience and abstracts it into words and symbols and rituals thereby losing and violating the essence that they claim to be claiming an understanding of. It is inherently self contradictory. It is the obsession with the finger instead of the moon to which it is pointing.

That said the group aspect is clearly significant. In groups and out groups have used religion to infiltrate and out maneuver the opposition for centuries.

I really don't know how to satisfactorily answer your question at thise stage - but suffice to say there does seem to be some really rather alarming parallels between bacteriological evolution and the growth of authoritarian rule.

DoktorH
12-23-2010, 01:08 PM
I really don't know how to satisfactorily answer your question at thise stage - but suffice to say there does seem to be some really rather alarming parallels between bacteriological evolution and the growth of authoritarian rule.

so authoritarian religion mind-virus/culture/habits can move into an egalitarian, noncompetitive system and make it inequal/competitive for the benefit of a few at the expense of everyone else? I can see that.

years ago I read an essay by Kurt Vonnegut somwhere or other suggesting that these individuals prone to exploiting and other nastiness are more inclined to seek positions of authority, such that in a modern democracy they're the only ones running for office.

I suppose t all boils down to who is running the religion, then. If they would rather run people's lives rather than run the temples and holiday festivities, they're in a position to inject that authoritarian virus into the group.

Mr. D.
12-24-2010, 03:16 PM
I don't think that any of these systems have anything to do with the question. I see it as something very simple and also very hard to understand. In capitalism, religion or any other system - which are all human creations - the core problem is as follows: humans are creatures who know the difference between good and evil and decide to do evil. We hurt ourselves and others constantly. This is the question behind the question. Why do we do so?

DoktorH
12-24-2010, 05:23 PM
humans are creatures who know the difference between good and evil and decide to do evil. We hurt ourselves and others constantly. This is the question behind the question. Why do we do so?

i think the question behind the question behind the question is why is there such a high expectation of goodness?

I don't think it's a matter of intentionally choosing evil over good so much as it is a difficulty in perceiving the relative goodness or evilness of a choice over the course of an average day.

Was it evil when i got out of bed after getting half the sleep I typically do and went to work? Was it evil that I played video games on a handheld electronic device much of the day when there was no actual work to do? Was it evil that my immediate supervisors were bound by company policy to not permit us to leave until the day was at least half over even though there was no work to do? is the Donkey Kong video game I got my sister as a holiday present more or less evil than comparable games for the same video game console? is my couch evil?

The problem is that when you ask a human whether any specific thing is good or evil, the most likely answer is "I don't know." Maybe we don't know the difference between good and evil as well as we think we do. I don't know about the other humans, but I know that i generally don't even think about it.

Gray House
12-24-2010, 05:24 PM
I don't think that any of these systems have anything to do with the question. I see it as something very simple and also very hard to understand. In capitalism, religion or any other system - which are all human creations - the core problem is as follows: humans are creatures who know the difference between good and evil and decide to do evil. We hurt ourselves and others constantly. This is the question behind the question. Why do we do so?

Everyone's idea of good and evil differs. For many people horribly harmful things seem "good" to them. "Good" and "evil" are really just words for prevailing likes and dislikes. The answer to "Why does someone decide to do harmful things?" is in a combination of external influences and the nature of the person. The systems referred to are powerful external influences.

Steve Dekorte
12-24-2010, 10:02 PM
If by "natural-born capitalist" you mean having a natural understanding or affinity for free markets, I would say yes and no. Yes, in the sense that people want economic freedom for themselves, no in that people tend to be happy to use violence or the threat of violence to remove the economic freedom of others. And it seems to me the same applies to social freedoms.

eg. The biggest self proclaimed liberals I know will loudly advocate higher taxes while bending or breaking every rule to pay as little as they can themselves. Likewise, the biggest advocates against social freedom such as the rights of homosexuals are often closet homosexuals themselves.

Perhaps both groups in their hearts believe that the policies they advocate are for the public good but that they themselves are "weak" - and perhaps seeing themselves as a case in point for why the government must intervene. All this make one wonder how different the world would be if people stopped trying to use violence to make one another "good" in ways that have nothing to do with harming others (ie. how they spend their money or interact with consenting adults).

qcrisp
12-25-2010, 08:55 AM
I thought this was appropriate to this thread:

http://listverse.com/2010/12/24/top-10-greatest-benefits-of-capitalism/

In case anyone wonders, I don't agree with the list at all. In fact, it's one of the most nauseatingly triumphalist things I've read.

We seem to live in a world where all the options presented to us are vacuous. Was it always so? I'm actually inclined to believe that there has been an increase in vacuity since the onset of the Industrial Revolution, but what do I know?

Steve Dekorte
12-25-2010, 09:02 AM
I thought this was appropriate to this thread:

http://listverse.com/2010/12/24/top-10-greatest-benefits-of-capitalism/

In case anyone wonders, I don't agree with the list at all.

Then you didn't read my response or I didn't explain my position well. My point was that people are naturally in favor of free markets in as much as they are naturally in favor of freedom - but that everyone also has a dark side (fascist, violent, authoritarian).

qcrisp
12-25-2010, 09:13 AM
I thought this was appropriate to this thread:

http://listverse.com/2010/12/24/top-10-greatest-benefits-of-capitalism/

In case anyone wonders, I don't agree with the list at all.

Then you didn't read my response or I didn't explain my position well. My point was that people are naturally in favor of free markets in as much as they are naturally in favor of freedom - but that everyone also has a dark side (fascist, violent, authoritarian).

It is the list I linked to that I was expressing disagreement with, not what anyone has said on this message thread. I'm afraid I'm politically uncommitted, but not convinced of the ultimate virtue of capitalism, that's all.

qcrisp
12-25-2010, 11:45 AM
By the way, I can't actually tell whether the list I linked to is a joke or not.