English socialism

What were the social conditions that led many English intellectuals in the 1930s to engage in fundamental critique of the society in which they lived? Why was social criticism so profound and sustained in Britain from the time of Carlyle and Engels to the surge of English socialism in the 1930s? The answer, of course, …

Carlyle’s critique of modernity

What is wrong with life in the modern world? The complaint that modern society represents a toxic reduction of the importance of community in the lives of individuals is a familiar one. One version of this critique is the idea is that modern society has replaced all personal bonds and relationships with a single "cash …

Alternative social systems and individual wellbeing

Communism ... or Capitalism? A joke from Poland in the 1970s: "In capitalism it is a question of man's exploitation by man. In communism it is the reverse." A modern social system is an environment where millions of people find opportunities, develop their talents, express their beliefs, and earn their livings within the context of …

Did Marx invent “class conflict”?

Marx offered several theories of the modern world that he observed around him in mid-nineteenth-century Britain that have influenced much of turmoil that ensued in the following century and a half -- theories about the "capitalist mode of production," about the role that class conflict plays in historical change, about the determinants of the actions …

Entertainment as a valuable thing

Quite a bit of the GDP of the United States goes into a broad category we can call "entertainment" -- television, video streaming services, books and newspapers, concerts, theatre, sports events (live and broadcast), and video games. The entertainment industry amounts to $717 billion in the US economy (link), and professional athletics adds another $73.5 …

The tempos of capitalism

I've been interested in the economic history of capitalism since the 1970s, and there are a few titles that stand out in my memory. There were the Marxist and neo-Marxist economic historians (Marx's Capital, E.P. Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm, Rodney Hilton, Robert Brenner, Charles Sabel); the debate over the nature of the industrial revolution (Deane and …

Worker-owned enterprises as a social solution

Consider some of the most intractable problems we face in contemporary society: rising inequalities between rich and poor, rapid degradation of the environment, loss of control of their lives by the majority of citizens. It might be observed that these problems are the result of a classic conundrum that Marx identified 150 years ago: the …

Is there a new capitalism?

An earlier post considered Dave Elder-Vass’s very interesting treatment of the contemporary digital economy. In Profit and Gift in the Digital Economy Elder-Vass argues that the vast economic significance of companies like Google, FaceBook, and Amazon in today's economy is difficult to assimilate within the conceptual framework of Marx’s foundational ideas about capitalism, constructed as they were around manufacturing, …

Capitalism as a heterogeneous set of practices

Image: O. Beauchesnes, "Map of the Geographical Structure of Wikipedia Links" (link) A key part of understanding society is making sense of the "economy" in which we live. But what is an economy? Existing economic theories attempt to answer this question with simple unified theories. The economy is a profit-driven market system of firms, workers, …

Capitalism 2.0?

  Capitalism is one particular configuration of the economic institutions that define production and consumption in a society. It involves private ownership of firms and resources, and a system of wage labor through which individuals compete for jobs within the context of a labor market. In its nature it creates positions of substantial power for …

%d bloggers like this: