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Name: Josh Cryer
Gender: Male
Hometown: Colorado
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 48,590

Journal Archives

Noam Chomsky: "I'm no expert on pornography. ... I don't think it should be outlawed."

This video, like all Chomsky videos, is taking him out of context. Chomsky takes the easy path when he acknowledges his unrelenting failure to understand popular culture.

Noam Chomsky: Never heard of it. I'm pretty much out of popular culture altogether.

Jeff Jetton: Is that everyday world that most people find so fascinating ... why is it so uninteresting to you?

Noam Chomsky: I don't know, I just don't care about it. It looks to me pointless and superficial. If I had free time I'd rather read a nineteenth century novel.

Jeff Jetton: In the post-Hustler interviews, you seem to have a rabid distaste for porn, calling it degrading to women. But surely there's a deeper conversation to be had about human sexuality and erotic material. Is it just that all pornography is --

Noam Chomsky: I'm no expert on pornography. The core element of it, I think, is degradation of women, whatever else goes on. I don't think it should be outlawed, but I'm not in favor of the degradation of anybody.

Jeff Jetton: Do you know who Lady Gaga is?

Noam Chomsky: I've seen ads and stuff, but no.

This is a cop out and sadly one of Chomsky's later life failings. This attitude that a nineteenth century novel is less superficial than modern popular culture is bourgeoisie-esque, and really a problem in modern socialist thinking as a whole.

I don't disagree with Chomsky's acknowledgement of the economic relationship toward pornography. But to suggest that he intends that all pornography is bad is a failure to understand that he doesn't get pornography produced by willing individuals in a current, popular culture mindset. Kink is not Vivid, to put it simply as possible.

In the end Chomsky does suggest an understanding in that vein, as he doesn't think porn should be outlawed. Yet I am sure he would believe that child abuse should be outlawed (thus his own analogy isn't a one to one relationship with child abuse and he contradicted himself; the results of age, no doubt).

I came to the conclusion that revolutionary class consciousness is near impossible.

However, I also came to the conclusion that consumer consciousness is a proven, richly valuable tool, which corporations via copy testing and polling achieve on a daily basis. With very good results (oh, and the individuals resulting from this do not sense that their options are being manipulated).

In that vein I decided that class consciousness is most easily achieved through class consumer consciousness. That is, you have consumers who, via their consumption, are taught about class and how to emancipate themselves from the class structure.

This is where I would basically disagree (while agreeing, note) with Marx (among others, as well as Chomsky and Debord). Marx (as well as Debord and Chomsky) believe that consumer culture is "alienating." I believe the precise opposite though I agree with their arguments about why consumer culture is alienating in the current capitalist mode of production. Consumer culture with individuals who are involved in the totality of the process as workers within their consumption structure would be extremely emancipating, it would be extremely socializing. There would be no alienation in any arguable way.

You go down to a local "maker factory" and make yourself a new fangled oPhone made with Open Source hardware and software and given away freely to anyone. You have no idea how the oPhone works or the machines work that make the oPhone, all you know is that everyone has one and you want one too. The first thing you do when you enter the maker factory is get greeted by someone who asks you what your level of expertise is. You say you are a complete newbie and aren't sure of how anything at the factory works. They ask you how much time you're willing to devote, and you respond all day. "Perfect!" You then spend the day talking to technicians about how to build your oPhone, the procedures used in the factory process could be completely automated or could have some sense of factory line work, either way works. This horizontal mode of production is intrinsically anti-capitalist and socialist in nature. At the end of the day you leave the "maker factory" with an oPhone and have learned a lesson in socialism and class structure, all the while you are completely part of the process and there is zero alienation whatsoever.

Why would you then go to a store like Wal-Mart, ran very much like a hierarchical socialist functioning system (their margins are less than 10% and they're one of the largest employers in the world), when you could go to the "maker factory"? You have to pay Wal-Mart, the "maker factory" would be giving stuff away for "free" (your own labor would of course be valued at the "maker factory" so that's a bit overstated). As a consumer you are going to be compelled to go to the "maker factory." Therefore consumerism is a good tool to create class consciousness whether we like it or not.

This thing about consumerism for or against reminds me of old programming debates about GOTO and how it was "considered harmful." Except GOTO was predated by CONTINUATIONS (they're essentially the same except continuations pass a value) and in fact CONTINUATIONS are an extremely powerful tool when it comes to programming. Anyway, the point of this tangent is that we got GOTO wrong, and I think Marx (and a lot of those who followed him) got consumerism wrong. And I think it hurt socialism in the long run for it.

Capitalism is inherently hierarchical.

But I don't know how what I said can be considered "a recent articulation of the age old hierarchical mode of production," perhaps from a totally reductive position where all non-possessive property relationships are see as capitalist, but I would rather reduce that to authoritarianism. Capitalism, sure, is but one manifestation of authoritarianism. I don't suggest that all forms of non-possessive property relationships are capitalist.

I don't suggest that technology is an emancipating force, because I explicitly state that organization is necessary to use a technology that way. This is in contrast to Marx who thinks that "new productive faculties" (this is called technology) will "change the economic relations." Objectively false, as proven by history. Technology can be emancipating, that's all.

My criticism of Marx is that he didn't write out a fundamental reason why capitalist production relations within the workplace are damaging to revolutionary action. Indeed, had he did that (after plagiarizing huge chunks of Proudhon including surplus value, which Proudhon was first to recognize), it would've rendered his entire critique one of authoritarianism and not capitalism, directly. All anti-authoritarians are anti-capitalist (capitalism is inherently hierarchical and authoritarian), but not all anti-capitalists are anti-authoritarian (some anti-capitalists are just after the productive faculties and not in fact for changing the way they operate to any substantial degree). Note: Marx did later back off his "steam mill = industrial capitalism" rhetoric, but it was never explicitly defined from what I've read of him.

The closest you get is Marx's critique of workplace alienation, which btw, he also copied from Proudhon. What he does is argue that the bourgeois class runs the work place and workers are alienated, but if the workers ran the work place, they wouldn't be alienated (this is a very generalized overview, you'll forgive me if it's not up to your standards). However, he doesn't say how those workers should manage the workplace. In fact, the implication, is that the workplace should be managed, due to the central production rhetoric in the Communist Manifesto, centrally, directly through capitalist-style management processes. Or, as a term I'm coining right now, the authoritarian mode of production. Where within the workplace there is a class system in and of itself because managers form cliques, cronyism is rampant, and those who want to better themselves are unable to do so without themselves being alienated. And guess what? Almost all implemented forms of Marxist Communism followed this model to one extent or another. The work place effectively became a state owned corporation which was ran by crony elites.

Proudhon spends a huge chunk of his writings explaining how the non-possessive workshop works, and Marx only mocked him, nevermind that workplace alienation was the entire reason Proudhon felt that workers should, as he mocked Proudhon, "make not only the twelfth part of a pin, but successively all twelve parts of it." To rid ones self of workplace alienation you must be involved in the totality of the process. Workers committees only go so far in that, if they don't allow individuals to be involved in the totality of the process, they are inviting the possibility for workplace alienation and inner-workplace cliques and quasi-class systems.

I don't reject that notion.

I think agriculture was certainly a step up, objectively. However, as a technology it allows one to use it as a tool to subjugate the masses, but it can also be used as a tool to bring about a more relaxing lifestyle.

I think Zerzan is correct as opposed to Jensen because we do see primitive tribes that have yet to adopt agriculture, but have language, so agriculture probably comes after language. Language and intent and interpretation and expression is a tool that the shaman in a tribe uses to create a hierarchical mode of production. Jensen and other primitivists don't think it's a big deal because it's one or a few people who wind up being the shaman, and so who cares, right?

However, the shaman has no useful skill outside of that of finding healing techniques, such as herbal remedies and such. This is a dangerous game because they may wind up eating poison and dying, so they try to legitimize their position by inventing reasons for why they live or die or get sick. Gods, demons, whatever. They use this as a psychological hold over the group. So once you get into agriculture you get things like Egyptian Pharaohs who think they're gods, etc.

I am not a historical materialist simply because I do not believe it to be an accurate representation of history. Maybe, once you get into the whole singularity thing, but I think that's a cop-out because in all reality every single revolution in technology should've resulted in revolution in society.

We're talking about agriculture, how about industrial agriculture. Ideally historical materialism would've said, "Once humans are able to feed themselves with minimal of effort using machines, everyone should be able to eat for free, and food should be abundant, and people can then go on to do things that they want as opposed to what they have to do." A perfect, wonderful, idea of Marxism. Except that never happened. What happened to the farmers? They went on to be industrialists, build skyscrapers, etc. They went on to be factory workers, building cars, building out infrastructure, etc.

The next age will be when the information age meets industry. Infoindustry or something like that. Where people will be able to print out computers, electronics, TVs, etc. Where they will be able to print out whole factories to make those things. Using common, and abundant, materials that are around the world (I'm not necessarily talking nanotechnology though that's not ruled out in the argument). Now it can go two ways, we can emancipate ourselves from capitalism, or capitalism will use its force to make us pay for parts that by all intents should be absolutely free.

You might say that capitalism couldn't stop people from sharing each other stuff with damn replicators! But I'd counter that they simply do that by putting patent and IP rights on things and requiring that all things be networked! If you're caught with a non-networked piece of gadgetry then you're in deep shit! And that's the trend we're already seeing with things like SOPA, and we're still a decade or two away from having the ability to replicate things.

The whole reason industrial agriculture didn't help emancipate the farmer from the drudgery of capitalist work is because technology always manages to find a void in itself, and capitalism has an impressive mechanism in order to force that void to be filled. Property. I am a farmer and I'm paying a lease and paying taxes on that property, and I'm no longer needed to tend to the fields, then I have to get a job somewhere else to pay taxes and my lease on said property. So when the big venture industrialist who buys up my neighbors property and runs the big machines next door knocks on mine, I'm eager to take his offer, because my skill has been rendered irrelevant. This shouldn't have happened. And it probably wouldn't have had the capitalists not cracked down on the industrial workers in the late 1800s and early 1900s, killing or arresting them en masse, then passing laws to prevent them from having any agency whatsoever. They should've sat down, said, "Hey, we're a farmers union, let's all band together, let's all use this new machinery to help us farm, and let's split the proceeds evenly." That's what Proudhon talks about when he talks about organization being the primary factor here, not technology.

Marx didn't get industry.

Marx writes in a letter to Pavel Vasilyevich Annenko:

Thus, the economic forms in which man produces, consumes and exchanges are transitory and historical. With the acquisition of new productive faculties man changes his mode of production and with the mode of production he changes all the economic relations which were but the necessary relations of that particular mode of production.

Of course, as history has shown, in fact new production concepts did not result in "changing all the economic relations that were but necessary relations of that particular mode of production." As I have continually argued here there are two ways, two abstractions, with which industry could have formed. The hierarchical way and the egalitarian way.

The hierarchical way is the capitalist industrial methodology, where the industry is appropriated (be it by people taking it over or be it by a venture capitalist buying it out), and where the industry is controlled by a hierarchy. The mode of production changes (new advances, new technologies), but the way man handles that production economically doesn't, in any substantiative way. You have people working on a factory line each putting in the same widget for the duration of the day, the Ford Model, the true factory line, and they are effectively abstracted away from the system. They have no ownership of the industry and are mere cogs in an overarching machine.

The egalitarian way is the socialist method, in which production is not appropriated by the individual actors, and all are equals. The industry belongs to everyone and to no one. This is in direct opposition to the industrial capitalist model. Instead of putting in the same widget over and over again to get ones wage or remittance, the individual actor puts in each successive widget, and moves down the line accordingly.

This is why Proudhon does not attribute the technology itself to the process but the organization with which that overarching process exists!

Proudhon writes in the Philosophy of Misery:

Labor, we say, is being organized: that is, the process of organization has been going on from the beginning of the world, and will continue till the end. Political economy teaches us the primary elements of this organization; but socialism is right in asserting that, in its present form, the organization is inadequate and transitory.

For Proudhon it is the organization that was the problem, not the industrial technology in and of itself!

Indeed, he makes it clear to M. Dunoyer:

it is necessary to procure for all the means of competing; it is necessary to destroy or modify the predominance of capital over labor, to change the relations between employer and workman, to solve, in a word, the antinomy of division and that of machinery; it is necessary to ORGANIZE LABOR

Now, I'm not saying Marx was wrong, in his entirety, nor that Marx was against organization. It's just that I think that he placed far too much emphasis on "new productive faculties" changing the mode of production. Technology is neutral in that it can be implemented in a wide variety of ways. Marx's argument, maybe, makes sense in a post-scarce environment, but by then political economy becomes irrelevant (if you can live in your own universe, well, it doesn't matter what the fuck you decide to be your structure).

At no point in history did new productive facilities actually change the mode of production. Ever. It could have resulted in that, indeed, each new technological age could've ushered in a new way of production, but it never did. The masters always retained control over production each and every time. The age of agriculture led to warlords dominating, the stone age led to kings, the metal ages led to kings and pretend government, the industrial age led to plutocrats and oligarchs, the information age has retained the plutocrats for the most part but now we're seeing a glimmer where the information age allows mass consciousness to say, "Hey, we don't need those warlords, kings, plutocrats, and oligarchs." There was always a consciousness to those ends, but it was always buried by those with power, and they will do it again as open source and open hardware begin to dominate the way social economy moves forward!

Norris-LaGuardia is where it started, imo.

I think it allowed the government to set the stage as to labor disputes. Yes, Yellow Dog contracts were shit, but it was one way labor was fighting back hard. If a union man saw a sign saying "Now hiring, no unions!" he'd go in there and freaking sign up and cause all sorts of headaches for the employer. With the government basically saying "we won't discuss it" (by refusing injunctions) it killed the philosophical discussions. It killed the court rulings. It made labor passive with respect to employers (indeed labor cheered it, naively, imo).

Basically the Republicans of that time saw the world through a lens of the almighty contract. And Yellow Dog contracts were a contract that capitalists used to their favor (like the vast majority of non-immediate-transaction-immediate-transfer-based contracts). The Republicans hated the headache it was causing though because it showed a kind of contract that on its face broke the non-aggression principle and it had to be neutered.

What did Norris-Laguardia it get us? Well, where's the Wal-Mart union? It didn't serve its purpose in the long run because Wal-Mart can and will fire anyone who wants to start a union, and it's not in the contract at all! And, because the government won't form injunctions (this is in the event of a mass firing and employees suing Wal-Mart to allow them to keep their jobs), it's not discussed! It's a double edged sword.

What FDR should've realized is that labor disputes should be covered by the government, and not in some sort of set way, but rather, the government should've said "We will look at every labor dispute in a case by case basis." So, when factory workers took over a large baron's shipping company, and they did so wholesale, the discussion about whose property the factory really is would take place.\

Note: Norris-Laguardia did, importantly, say that forming unions did not equate "conspiracy," but I think that part is just common sense really (since unions are merely ones expression of free speech and association). Still, that would've been part of it I think was good.

By NLRB I meant the Wagner Act, my apologies. FDR signed it into law. This created a hierarchy within unions, limiting the power of autonomous union actions. Anyone could form a union, but they needed to select a leader, which went against the original concept of free association and autonomy. This is the "set way" I was talking about. Because all labor disputes are the same, they never actually result in much direct action or strikes or appropriation of capitalist property. It's clean. Board room dealing. And the working class is ignorant of the whole thing because they don't generally experience what labor disputes were like back in the day. Taft-Hartley was an amendment to the Wagner Act and it and other legislation ultimately legitimized stealth yellow dog contracts.

Where something like this is perfectly legal:

I think you should check out his rebuttal to Kurzweil.

The people you list appear to me to have a more ideological influence than an intellectual influence (ie, they make him want to approach the problem a certain way, but he is not ignorant of other thinkers).

Ferhout incorporates primitivist thought in his critique of centralized capitalist industrialism as do I, and would I, if I felt like going into why human civilization is probably going to survive the coming onslaught and transcend to the point of being one with the galaxy and the eventual super galaxy that shall coalesce in 100 billion years. But I don't think that's part of the discussion for this forum as human action is causing an extremely dire situation for life on this planet and there's even a possibility that we extinguish it completely.

I'll live you with this (from his rebuttal to Kurzweil, relinking just in case):

As Marshall Sahlins shows, for most of history, humans lived in a gift economy based on abundance. And within that economy, for most food or goods people families or tribes were mainly self-reliant, drawing from an abundant nature they had mostly tamed. Naturally there were many tribes with different policies, so it is hard to completely generalize on this topic -- but certainly some did show these basic common traits of that lifestyle. Only in the last few thousand years did agriculture and bureaucracy (e.g. centered in Ancient Egypt, China, and Rome) come to dominate human affairs -- but even then it was a dominance from afar and a regulation of a small part of life and time. It is only in the last few hundred years that the paradigm has shifted to specialization and an economy based on scarcity. Even most farms 200 years ago (which was where 95% of the population lived then) were self-reliant for most of their items judged by mass or calories. But clearly humans have been adapted, for most of their recent evolution, to a life of abundance and gift giving.

In my arguments with primitivists in the past, I would use this exact same argument, and it left them baffled. Because I agree with them more than I disagree. It's really a frustrating thing to be sure!

Marx predicted it, but his position on automation is iffy at best.


The commercial worker, in the strict sense of the term, belongs to the better-paid class of wage workers: to these whose labour is classed as skilled and stands above average labour. Yet the wage tends to fall, even in relation to average labour, with the advance of the capitalist mode of production. This is due partly to the division of labour in the office, implying a one-sided development of the labour capacity, the cost of which does not fall entirely on the capitalist, since the labourer's skill develops by itself through the exercise of his function, and all the more rapidly as division of labour makes it more one-sided. Secondly, because the necessary training, knowledge of commercial practices, languages, etc., is more and more rapidly, easily, universally and cheaply reproduced with the progress of science and public education the more the capitalist mode of productions directs teaching methods, etc., towards practical purposes. The universality of public education enables capitalists to recruit such labourers from classes that formerly had no access to such trades and were accustomed to a lower standard of living. Moreover, this increases supply, and hence competition. With few exceptions, the labour-power of these people is therefore devaluated with the progress of capitalist production.

This is of course totally correct, particularly with institutionalized capitalist education.

However, he scorns Proudhon (in his typically mocking way) in The Poverty of Philosophy:

The automatic workshop wipes out specialists and craft idiocy. Mr. Proudhon, not having understood even this one revolutionary side of the automatic workshop, takes a step backward and proposes to the worker that he make not only the twelfth part of a pin, but successively all twelve parts of it. The worker would thus arrive at the knowledge and the consciousness of the pin.

How else do you maintain a revolutionary workshop that is automated if you are not involved in the entire process? At this point you have a choice, you remove the hierarchical relationship created by the division of labor and educate all people on all forms of automation or you maintain the hierarchical relationship as created by institutionalized capitalist education and create a social class that only has access to automation technology while denying said technology to the rest.

Which way is it? I think that Marx lived in a time where he couldn't envision automation, the "Rise of the Robots" actually making the totality of a given thing, and that people would have to be involved in the process on some subdivided level. That is, you're not a "specialist" if you simply put one widget into a part and send the part down the line for someone else to put a part in.

Proudhon argued, even then, that one should be involved in the totality of the process, so that you put in a widget, you move down the line, put in another widget, and there you go, at the end of the line you have your product that you yourself have put together using schematics. Of course back then it was possible, though probably not as efficient as the industrial model (since all you're doing is following instructions, but you have to read each instruction as you go down the line and therefore are not doing the actions by rote).

As we move forward with automation I argue that Proudhon was correct, as technology is going to allow individuals to create the totality of an object with their own schematics, while they may not actually understand the underlying nature of said product, they will be able to specialize in the creation of products at a higher more transcendent level.

FL goes to Obama. Predicting it now.

Polls close in CA and boom, Obama is announced the next President of the United States.

Bank on it.

I'm talking about issues here.

For instance, Americans love the drone wars and even don't mind domestic drones, as long as they don't go after speeders. All the way up until the elections American's supported the Afghanistan war, and after electing a President who was going to finish it responsibly, we're going to naively think he's just going to leave immediately? Yeah, good luck with that. No politician in their right mind would do that. We're the ones who are a blood thirty nation, we're the ones who get the government we deserve.
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