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55

Capital in the Twenty-First Century--What to Make of It?

1
terms
6
notes

Stutzle, I. and Kaufmann, S. (2017). Capital in the Twenty-First Century--What to Make of It?. In Stutzle, I. and Kaufmann, S. Thomas Piketty's 'Capital in the Twenty First Century': An Introduction. Verso, pp. 55-111

58

Piketty regards the dominant economic system completely positively. All of his criticisms of conditions and their development are not intended as a principled objection to the capitalist mode of production and distribution. The ideal condition he strives for is a prosperous capitalism characterized by economic growth. Critique of growth as such is foreign to Piketty. And he only criticizes inequality to the extent that it could damage growth and the legitimacy of capitalism. In this sense, he is both progressive and conservative: he wants to change something in order to maintain social relations as they are. He wants to protect capitalism from the poor – not the other way around. That’s not anything that one has to ‘uncover’, but rather it is his openly formulated ‘programme’: ‘I admire capitalism; I admire private property, and I admire the market economy. Of course I recognize that economic growth occurs principally in capitalism. Of course I cling to private property, because it is the foundation of our freedom. There was never as much capital as today. I was 18 years old, when the Berlin Wall fell. I belong to a generation that never had sympathy for Communism.’

—p.58 by Ingo Stutzle, Stephen Kaufmann 1 year, 10 months ago

Piketty regards the dominant economic system completely positively. All of his criticisms of conditions and their development are not intended as a principled objection to the capitalist mode of production and distribution. The ideal condition he strives for is a prosperous capitalism characterized by economic growth. Critique of growth as such is foreign to Piketty. And he only criticizes inequality to the extent that it could damage growth and the legitimacy of capitalism. In this sense, he is both progressive and conservative: he wants to change something in order to maintain social relations as they are. He wants to protect capitalism from the poor – not the other way around. That’s not anything that one has to ‘uncover’, but rather it is his openly formulated ‘programme’: ‘I admire capitalism; I admire private property, and I admire the market economy. Of course I recognize that economic growth occurs principally in capitalism. Of course I cling to private property, because it is the foundation of our freedom. There was never as much capital as today. I was 18 years old, when the Berlin Wall fell. I belong to a generation that never had sympathy for Communism.’

—p.58 by Ingo Stutzle, Stephen Kaufmann 1 year, 10 months ago

(noun) unpaid labor (as toward constructing roads) due from a feudal vassal to his lord / (noun) labor exacted in lieu of taxes by public authorities especially for highway construction or repair

60

serfs, on the other hand, had disposal over their own means of production and the land, but had to yield part of the fruits of their labour in the form of goods in kind to their lords (or perform corvée)

—p.60 by Ingo Stutzle, Stephen Kaufmann
uncertain
1 year, 10 months ago

serfs, on the other hand, had disposal over their own means of production and the land, but had to yield part of the fruits of their labour in the form of goods in kind to their lords (or perform corvée)

—p.60 by Ingo Stutzle, Stephen Kaufmann
uncertain
1 year, 10 months ago
62

[...] On the one hand, inequality appears to be only explainable in terms of different levels of labour performance and therefore only legitimate in terms of labour performance; on the other hand, reality shows that this is not the case. That is the background as to why Piketty moves in circles. He thus ends up arguing that inequality is growing because inequality exists. He argues in a circular fashion, without explaining how ‘original’ inequality came into the world at all, and which socially specific inequality characterizes capitalism: the separation of direct producers from the objective possibilities of production. Piketty thus has noticeably little to say about the manner in which inequality arises and persists in capitalism. That has consequences.

—p.62 by Ingo Stutzle, Stephen Kaufmann 1 year, 10 months ago

[...] On the one hand, inequality appears to be only explainable in terms of different levels of labour performance and therefore only legitimate in terms of labour performance; on the other hand, reality shows that this is not the case. That is the background as to why Piketty moves in circles. He thus ends up arguing that inequality is growing because inequality exists. He argues in a circular fashion, without explaining how ‘original’ inequality came into the world at all, and which socially specific inequality characterizes capitalism: the separation of direct producers from the objective possibilities of production. Piketty thus has noticeably little to say about the manner in which inequality arises and persists in capitalism. That has consequences.

—p.62 by Ingo Stutzle, Stephen Kaufmann 1 year, 10 months ago
63

Concerning risk: it is true that whoever lends money takes the risk that he or she might not see that money ever again. And the greater this risk is, the greater the interest demanded will tend to be. That does not mean, however, that interest is the ‘just wage’ for risk. In fact, the reverse is the case: capitalists want to increase their money, make a return on it. That is their goal. To do that, however, they have to take a risk. Their profit is not compensation for a risk. On the contrary: the risk is the condition for the profit. The profit motive comes first. A car company also does not want to produce and distribute cars, thus taking on a risk and receiving profits as ‘compensation’ for the risk. The risk is, by the way, not something natural, but rather socially conditioned: in capitalism, an investment is risky because all competitors want to make profits and struggle with each other for market share, but not all are able to succeed. To state things more generally: in a society in which production is not regulated in a cooperative and political manner, but rather commodities are produced for an anonymous market, it is only revealed in retrospect whether the investment was worth it, whether the product produced is actually sold. The entrepreneurial risk thus arises not solely through the profit orientation, but already due to production for an anonymous market.

—p.63 by Ingo Stutzle, Stephen Kaufmann 1 year, 10 months ago

Concerning risk: it is true that whoever lends money takes the risk that he or she might not see that money ever again. And the greater this risk is, the greater the interest demanded will tend to be. That does not mean, however, that interest is the ‘just wage’ for risk. In fact, the reverse is the case: capitalists want to increase their money, make a return on it. That is their goal. To do that, however, they have to take a risk. Their profit is not compensation for a risk. On the contrary: the risk is the condition for the profit. The profit motive comes first. A car company also does not want to produce and distribute cars, thus taking on a risk and receiving profits as ‘compensation’ for the risk. The risk is, by the way, not something natural, but rather socially conditioned: in capitalism, an investment is risky because all competitors want to make profits and struggle with each other for market share, but not all are able to succeed. To state things more generally: in a society in which production is not regulated in a cooperative and political manner, but rather commodities are produced for an anonymous market, it is only revealed in retrospect whether the investment was worth it, whether the product produced is actually sold. The entrepreneurial risk thus arises not solely through the profit orientation, but already due to production for an anonymous market.

—p.63 by Ingo Stutzle, Stephen Kaufmann 1 year, 10 months ago
65

[...] The wage does not pay for labour, but rather for the disposal of labour-power for a specific period of time. During working time, the enterprise applies labour in order to make a profit – that is to say, to extract output from the workers that has a monetary value greater than that which they receive as a wage. That is possible because only the disposal over the ability to perform labour (labour-power) is paid, and the workers do not receive a wage corresponding to the value product produced by their labour. That is how it is possible in the first place that the success of the business can be measured in terms of profits – in terms of that which the workers precisely do not receive: surplus-labour. The struggle for shares of social income occurs permanently, its foundation is a negative dependence: capital and labour need each other, but at the same time stand in opposition to each other.

this is preceded by a pretty savagely presented quote from Piketty about Marx's Capital being too complicated

—p.65 by Ingo Stutzle, Stephen Kaufmann 1 year, 10 months ago

[...] The wage does not pay for labour, but rather for the disposal of labour-power for a specific period of time. During working time, the enterprise applies labour in order to make a profit – that is to say, to extract output from the workers that has a monetary value greater than that which they receive as a wage. That is possible because only the disposal over the ability to perform labour (labour-power) is paid, and the workers do not receive a wage corresponding to the value product produced by their labour. That is how it is possible in the first place that the success of the business can be measured in terms of profits – in terms of that which the workers precisely do not receive: surplus-labour. The struggle for shares of social income occurs permanently, its foundation is a negative dependence: capital and labour need each other, but at the same time stand in opposition to each other.

this is preceded by a pretty savagely presented quote from Piketty about Marx's Capital being too complicated

—p.65 by Ingo Stutzle, Stephen Kaufmann 1 year, 10 months ago
66

There is never a ‘meritocracy’ – a ‘just’ correspondence between performance and income – in capitalism. However, the idea of a just income is useful: it justifies conditions in which a discussion about just wages occurs, but not one about the relations of disposition and power that actually underlie and regulate income. This legitimizing function is what Piketty has in mind when he warns against growing inequality. What does he see as the central problem of growing inequality and the concentration of wealth? The fact that wealth is increasingly distributed through inheritances and not through performance. With that – and only with that – inequality becomes injustice and thus a problem for Piketty, since inheritance is a way of transmitting wealth that is not mediated by the market, which he regards as scandalous. His demand is that only the market should decide the distribution of income. The market is for him the central entity of justice: market results are fair results.

this. is. so. good.

—p.66 by Ingo Stutzle, Stephen Kaufmann 1 year, 10 months ago

There is never a ‘meritocracy’ – a ‘just’ correspondence between performance and income – in capitalism. However, the idea of a just income is useful: it justifies conditions in which a discussion about just wages occurs, but not one about the relations of disposition and power that actually underlie and regulate income. This legitimizing function is what Piketty has in mind when he warns against growing inequality. What does he see as the central problem of growing inequality and the concentration of wealth? The fact that wealth is increasingly distributed through inheritances and not through performance. With that – and only with that – inequality becomes injustice and thus a problem for Piketty, since inheritance is a way of transmitting wealth that is not mediated by the market, which he regards as scandalous. His demand is that only the market should decide the distribution of income. The market is for him the central entity of justice: market results are fair results.

this. is. so. good.

—p.66 by Ingo Stutzle, Stephen Kaufmann 1 year, 10 months ago
68

The performance ideology that Piketty promotes moves – particularly in Germany – within a dangerous context. Performance ideology goes hand in hand with a chauvinism of affluence, which is expressed in Europe through racism and a hatred for supposedly ‘unproductive’ people, for example ‘lazy Greeks’.

The idea of a performance-linked income also has a flipside: if the market is recognized as an entity for evaluating performance, then economic failure can consistently be explained by a lack of potential and willingness to perform. Greece is in crisis? Then the Greeks surely have not worked hard enough. Somebody is unemployed? Then he or she obviously did not make enough of an effort. Somebody earns very little? Then he or she is not worth more. Somebody earns a lot of money? Then he or she is an excellent character who possesses saleable ‘skills’: the ability to perform, assertiveness, the capacity for teamwork, in short: the ability to succeed. Every result of the market can thus be explained by quasi-natural, personal qualities of individuals, and is therefore justified. Success and failure thus become a question of character.

With that, every critique of the economic system is rendered toothless. Those who succeed can be proud of themselves and look down upon those who fail. Those who fail can admire the winners of the competition and be ashamed – which is to say, turn the critique towards themselves.

A+++

—p.68 by Ingo Stutzle, Stephen Kaufmann 1 year, 10 months ago

The performance ideology that Piketty promotes moves – particularly in Germany – within a dangerous context. Performance ideology goes hand in hand with a chauvinism of affluence, which is expressed in Europe through racism and a hatred for supposedly ‘unproductive’ people, for example ‘lazy Greeks’.

The idea of a performance-linked income also has a flipside: if the market is recognized as an entity for evaluating performance, then economic failure can consistently be explained by a lack of potential and willingness to perform. Greece is in crisis? Then the Greeks surely have not worked hard enough. Somebody is unemployed? Then he or she obviously did not make enough of an effort. Somebody earns very little? Then he or she is not worth more. Somebody earns a lot of money? Then he or she is an excellent character who possesses saleable ‘skills’: the ability to perform, assertiveness, the capacity for teamwork, in short: the ability to succeed. Every result of the market can thus be explained by quasi-natural, personal qualities of individuals, and is therefore justified. Success and failure thus become a question of character.

With that, every critique of the economic system is rendered toothless. Those who succeed can be proud of themselves and look down upon those who fail. Those who fail can admire the winners of the competition and be ashamed – which is to say, turn the critique towards themselves.

A+++

—p.68 by Ingo Stutzle, Stephen Kaufmann 1 year, 10 months ago