Must money define me?

Wednesday, 28th May 2008 at 9:37 UTC 4 comments

Capitalism wants me to see myself as a consumer, demanding things be cheaper, bigger, better, faster, and, well, even cheaper still. Socialism, and Communism, on the other hand, want me to see myself as being, well, a worker, demanding more pay, more holiday pay, more sick pay, the same pay for fewer hours, the same pay for less stress. Whilst I do prefer the latter approach, it doesn’t really feel like its a different way of seeing the world, merely a counter argument designed to perpetuate an underlying norm; that ones economic role in society is ones primary definition.

You’re going to have to excuse the lack of a citation here, but I do distinctly remember Marx saying something about the importance of simplifying everything down to two kinds of economic actor so it becomes easier to observe roles through time and to alter them. Having correctly identified that people were essentially “haves” and have-nots”, i.e. they either own the means by which to get rich, or are subjected to the whims of the bosses who do, he then argues for some kind of liberation that seems to me to be entirely based on reinforcing economic definition. Essentially, I will remain merely  an economic actor on the other side of the great glorious revolution that he felt should occur.

Perhaps its the supposed implication of a left-wing Christianity having its impression on idealistic me, but the idea that money shouldn’t rule my life, shouldn’t be the thing that defines me, is something I hold quite dear. I don’t always get it right, indeed I’ve spent a fair while lately worrying that money is starting to define me, that I’m now worried my opposition to being defined by money will define me, and drive my life choices, and I will be locked in the troubles of counter-definition, definition through what I am not, thus definition at the hands of that which I wish to see the back of, a perpetuation of the cycle of becoming and unbecoming… with all the attached troubles of being ‘defined in opposition’, the combination of pervasive negativity ruling ones existence and of remaining the subject of that which one is trying to resist (Holloway, Change the World without taking power; to fail to cite it would be pure plagiarism).

One of the driving messages of internationalist socialism seems to be that people should abandon everything and anything that gets between them except for their economic status, essentially denying people any of the building blocks of their own being as a human being, leaving them only their wallet, or lack thereof, to define them. In trying to prove that I am no different to a worker in Argentina, Russia or China, our vast cultural differences are shattered; there is nothing exciting to be discovered in our encounter, its simply a case of “oh look, another worker being screwed over”. Solidarity becomes the search for the lowest common denominator, and the idea of “No War Except the Class War” becomes an argument that I shall be “Worker” and nothing else. All cultural references become a hindrance to this great unity, and thus many modern incarnations of these views have little or no cultural output worth mentioning (have you ever heard the Stop the War charity singles? Just dire!).

As a Christian Anarchist, an activist, a citizen of York and Yorkshire, as an Anglican who’s about as confused as to where he fits on the church spectrum as the Anglican Church is, a Geek and a lot more besides, I am a unique being (as I keep being reminded) amongst a sea of people who have intrinsic worth far beyond that which economics can define. So I propose a revolution in which people seek not a change in economic definitions, but an abandonment of them, a searching for life beyond money, and a community of people with unique worth instead of common economic value, can thrive in continual sharing and communication, a far more communist idea than any proposed by those who wish to offer a simple counter to capitalist identifications.

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Entry filed under: Community, Culture, Economics, Freedom, Materialism, Politics, Workers.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Steve  |  Thursday, 5th June 2008 at 11:55 UTC

    Oh yes, capitalism and communism are just different denominations of the same religion. For one the name of the deity is “the dialectical forces of history” and for the other it is “the free rein of the market mechanism”, but for both man is to be subjected to the economic forces, the principalities and powers.

    Reply
  • 2. Jonathan  |  Saturday, 7th June 2008 at 12:28 UTC

    Communism is an economic theory. It’s hardly surprising that its main focus, therefore, is on peoples’ status within the economic system. However, changing that system in favour of those at the bottom of the ladder requires us to work together collectively, the alternative being one group played off against another (white over black, man over woman, etc.) As such, Communism requires a breakdown of other social boundaries in order for this change to take place; this provides an extra impetus to oppose racism and patriarchy, in addition to the arguments against these things on their own basis.

    I also don’t see any way in which rejecting those things which divide us somehow equates to “essentially denying people any of the building blocks of their own being as a human being.” If anything I would say the opposite; in recognising our commonality in one respect (social status, economics, “workerdom”, whatever) the road is opened up to co-operation between cultures, rather than being divided against one another.

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  • 3. brainduck  |  Monday, 23rd June 2008 at 13:07 UTC

    One of my problems with a lot of the SWP stuff is that by using ‘work’ as the basis for ‘solidarity’ it can be quite disablist (yes, that is a word).
    I’ve worked with a lot of people who are unlikely ever to begin or re-enter paid employment, and the SWP don’t really seem to have a place for that in their theories, although it’s often such people who are right at the bottom of any ‘class structure’.

    Reply
  • 4. Graham Martin  |  Monday, 23rd June 2008 at 15:55 UTC

    Really good point; whilst I’ve heard of disablism before, it hadn’t occured to me how it might come into the argument I was making. I guess in a way they become a sort of “under-class” that is simply over-looked, or perhaps they think of them much like farmers and the self-employed, i.e. not really part of the equation they want to focus on.

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