Re: [ox-en] built-in infinite growth
- From: Stefan Merten <smerten oekonux.de>
- Date: Tue, 15 Jan 2008 20:22:32 +0100
Hi Adam and all!
Last week (8 days ago) Adam Arvidsson wrote:
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This is all fine, but it doesn't say much about the origin of the
drive for profit max (or M')- which I think is what Michel is after.
Well of course there is a very simple reason: M-C-M simply makes no
sense because the first M is the same as the last M. And because two
piles of money have only one quality which makes them different - the
respective amounts - M-C-M makes only sense it if it M-C-M' *and*
M' > M. That is to me the foundation of the profit logic.
That is a tricky question. Profit maximization in itself is much
older than modern capitalism. It is true that 'before capitalism'
most production was for sufficiency, but there has been in all (?)
times capitalist enterprises that sought to maximize profits- like
traders, enriched freed slaves in Roman times, medieval relics
traders, the church itself maximizing profits from its trade in
divine forgiveness etc.
Certainly. Two points here. The first one: These phenomenons existed
but they were not (yet) important for the society. Using the germ form
theory they were germ forms in the first stage where they existed in
niches and at the edges of the old system.
Second point: Money always had this flavor of being "disembedded" (in
search of the right English term for "entbettet") from society. As
such money was always a perfect tool for the ruling classes. When the
Romans said "pecunia non olet" (money does not stink) this points
exactly at this disembedding: It doesn't matter where the money comes
from in terms of moral (i.e. society related terms).
This had - and still has - the effect that you can use the money for
goals which do not grow out of a given society. Be it repression or
fighting wars or building streets and bridges. Or accumulate it to
create a whole new generation of means of production. While in times
before the 19th century the former goals where important functions of
money in the 19th century the technical preconditions had grown that
a new generation of means of production were possible. IMHO this is
the most important reason why the meaning of money changed so much.
If we follow Weber however, modern capitalism
is distinguished by this drive to maximize profits becoming systemic
and institutionalized: a hegemonic driver for all economic
production. An iron case of systemic imperatives is built around the
I can see three partial explanations:
-economies of scale ( which is mentioned below) this is indeed one of
the core components of modern capitalism and, in competitive
conditions it does support the drive for profit maximization.
Those new means of production - also disembedded from former societal
norms - were also such of mass production. IMHO this goes hand in hand
with accumulation and profit making.
- the iron cage itself, i.e. the whole institutional structure that
supports modern capitalism and that that point sin the direction of
profit max, here we can include private property, an interest based
monetary system, competition and commercial law etc.
IMHO this can come only if the development reached a certain level.
- cultural explanations: the unique factors that produced a modern
capitalist spirit in the west (protestantism, individualism, modern
Certainly those were important. Enlightenment certainly also played a
big role. But IMHO this all would not have changed much would the
technical possibilities not have been there. There *were* early
capitalist modes of production before the 19th century. They didn't
take off. IMHO because of the lack of a technical level.
'Alienation' is not so much an explanation as a description of the
phenomenon of an institutionalized and 'alien' logic of profit max.
Yes. The described disembedding from society is also one sort of
My suggestion is that we look at a complex interaction between (at
least) these three factors as an explanation. That way we might also
get a more detailed understanding of what an institutional embodiment
of an alternative logic might look like.
Well, I think what we see in peer production is a very big step in
taking production on a societal level back into society. And again
technical preconditions were crucial. Selbstentfaltung of course
existed before Free Software. But "it" didn't have the means to become
relevant on the scale of the whole society.
Contact: projekt oekonux.de