Monday, March 8, 2010

you want it you got it

Man, this feels a bit intimidating. I mean submitting a collection of words to a group trained in dissecting them, shizer. I am also under the assumption that because you are making us post to a blog, I can use an emo-ish confessional tone (maybe that’s just livejournal). OK, now that that’s settled. The chapter I will be focusing on is IX (aka 9), The Paramount Position of Production. I chose this chapter for a couple reasons, first I posses a particular affinity for alliteration. Second another one of my shticks is to, well, criticize the paramount position of production [or more specifically (or maybe actually less specifically) growth] in contemporary society.

Right, so the bit I enjoyed the most in this chapter is right at the beginning, and I’m sure there is some term that best encapsulates this rhetorical maneuver, but I don’t know what it is. What I speak of is where he allegorically delineates the point that everybody from the Commies to the US Chamber of Commerce sees the main “measure of achievement” of society as production or economic growth. The interesting thing for me here is that he does not denigrate this position as an example of the conventional wisdom he explicated in chapter 2, because to do so would mean that he would be attacking the fact that production should have a paramount position, a limb that he seems unwilling to go on. Which even becomes more curious later on with all his talk of balance, yet nary a peep about the notion of the steady-state heralded my J.S. Mills, but I digress.

So instead he approaches (un-)said conventional wisdom from the flank, saying our preoccupation with production is half-hearted at best (well actually 3/10ths hearted.) “It is not a goal we pursue either comprehensively or even very thoughtfully…Our efforts to increase production are stylized”(131-132). He goes on to telegraph his later point that we specifically emphasize private production and public production as bad and how this is a remnant of society’s past incarnation, mired in scarcity.

I just started doin this Sunday Salon thingy at my house. Its fun, we eat food and drink wine and discuss about a particular topic. Anyway, this week’s topic was ‘Time Is Money’, and throughout the event I came back to this text. The thing that I kept stumbling upon was that he seems to have some so close to unearthing the main problem but he fumbles just short on many points. Like how in section 2 of chapter 9 he briefly mentions the vacuum of societal aim that would occur should we undermine the position of production, giving voice to that primal societal existential quandary “What else is there”(119), promising to answer that question later on.

Only I never feel he does, instead falling back on theories of a redistribution of productive aims. But, if time is money (or the position of production as paramount) is an anachronism of scarcity, than in a (hopefully) coming age of post-scarcity, what the fuck is time (or what becomes paramount ofr the individual). As in, if I don’t have to work, what do I do with myself? Where is the easy meaning for the intellectually lazy? I mean some people (very reasonably) don’t want to think about this kind of shit, what are they supposed to do? The hippies will say “Love”, the burners “Art”, but to me these have proven inadequate because (perhaps ironically) of their immateriality.

But I can totally buy the balance thing Galbraith is trying to sell, yet he falls short of expanding that balance to all sectors of interaction, inexplicably not even contemplating the merits of a steady-state, which in my humble opinion is his greatest sin. Though perhaps his kowtowing to that particular conventional wisdom (combined with his obvious rhetorical talents cause let’s face it, dude is funny, like chortle to yourself in the coffee shop funny) is what allowed his book to have the great success it did (cause let’s face it people don’t like to read economic tomes, and if they do it has to come in form of a bodice ripping mystery that makes them feel ok for being a self-absorbed dick.)

Alex Weinstein

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