Ruthless criticism of inequality

Posted: 24 October 2012 in Uncategorized
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Boone Shear and Stephen Healy’s discussion [ht: gh] of Joseph Stiglitz’s call to regulate and reform the existing economy is, in fact, a ruthless criticism of capitalist inequality.

Against the right’s framing of economic inequality as the “natural” and “inevitable” consequence of people’s individual choices, Stiglitz argues we can make social choices that restore or extend more opportunity to all. Stiglitz wants to reminds us that anyone’s ability to “move up” depends upon a society that helps allow this to happen. A progressive politics then, wedded to a Keynesian economic platform of regulation and reform, will benefit all stakeholders – the poor and the wealthy; financial investors and the unemployed; owners, managers and workers. From his perspective, this allows the capitalist economy to work for everyone because we’re all in it together.

On a certain level, we agree with Stiglitz. We are all in this together; we are all part of the social body, of society. The capacity for individual achievement and individual responsibility rests on the quality of connections that individuals have with other people. . .

In our heartfelt and noble efforts to fight against inequality and for more opportunity for all, aren’t we also fighting – just as hard as those coming from the right – for the continuation of the same relationship between workers and owners that creates inequality in the first place? Aren’t we, just as unwittingly, joining with the radical right in a project of self- flagellation, of pleading for continued abuse – “Thank you sir, may I have another!”

As I was reading through their critique, and their call for a “new politics of possibility,” I was reminded of an earlier version of ruthless criticism, penned 169 years ago:

nothing prevents us from making criticism of politics, participation in politics, and therefore real struggles, the starting point of our criticism, and from identifying our criticism with them. In that case we do not confront the world in a doctrinaire way with a new principle: Here is the truth, kneel down before it! We develop new principles for the world out of the world’s own principles. We do not say to the world: Cease your struggles, they are foolish; we will give you the true slogan of struggle. We merely show the world what it is really fighting for, and consciousness is something that it has to acquire, even if it does not want to.


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