Thursday, January 28, 2016

Not Capitalism

Let's consider the following from Jerry Mander's The Capitalism Papers

In the popular movie Avatar. . .a gigantic mining corporation travels
to a fictional distant planet where the valuable mineral “unobtanium” has been discovered in large supply. Alas, however, the mineral is located on the traditional lands of the Na’vi people, who live in a magnificent, wild, ancient forest. The corporate armada arrives in spaceships and includes immense military forces, fully equipped to invade and overpower these innocent and remarkable people if they don’t agree to move off their lands and yield control of these resources to the corporation. In the real world today, this scenario is entirely routine and has been played out literally thousands of times on every continent, without big Hollywood movies to illuminate the struggles. (43)

It seems Mander believes this fiction depicts important aspects of capitalism. But why is this capitalism? The story here involves the use of force because the corporate armada includes "immense military forces." This story seems to be a story that fits the history of imperialism by countries like Great Britain, Holland, Belgium, and Spain. It seems like the typical story told in textbooks of world history by which our kids learn about conquests and more conquests. Capitalism is the opposite of conquest. It is not predation. If this were capitalism, the corporate armada would not threaten force but offers deals for "their" lands instead. 

Of course, I know there are some who include imperialism in capitalism, but I say this is mistaken because doing so does not aid understanding. We cannot understand social interactions if we decide to say that taking and dealing characterize the same system of political economy. Predation and cooperation as fundamental aspects of the same system of political economy makes no sense to me. The human actions and interactions are different when predatory and when they are cooperative. Capitalism is cooperative. It involves voluntary exchange and making deals.

Professor Davies has a short video on this point that I think is worth watching.