from good to goods, and the return of questions

“A Clash of Models” by James K – latest posting in the League of Ordinary Gentlemen’s virtual symposium under the question “What, if anything, is wrong with inequality?” – resembles previous submissions in that it seems to assume that something called “productivity” is virtually synonymous with “the good,” and furthermore is susceptible to simple quantitative amplification or augmentation – i.e., the more of it, the more “goods,” the better.

One typical intermediate product of this applied ideology of productivity, as the posts in the series generally acknowledge early on, is material inequality – the last being the supposed subject of the symposium, in connection with the question of “the wrong,” therefore “right and wrong,” the “just,” and the “good.” Yet the typical rhetorical movement of the League’s “what is wrong with inequality?” post is to suspend both elements of the question in order to analyze something seemingly else altogether – as it becomes clear that the author has already presumed the answer, and may not actually be interested in inequality in relation to the good: For the author, inequality does not matter, has no bearing on right and wrong, as long as that absolute good of productivity can be actualized.

As for James K’s five concluding points, his 3 through 5 seem to be dependent upon – implied by or logically contained within – 1 and 2, so I will focus on 1 and 2, which in any event may be illustrative enough:

1) There are actual economic reasons inequality is growing, which can’t be reversed.

This statement entails the simple fallacy of extrapolation of observed circumstances un-boundedly into the future. Some mixture of political, economic, ecological, and military catastrophe – even in the near-term amidst the continued discovery by the global capitalist system of inadequate rates of profit, aka “the global financial crisis” – could terminate this irreversible process of growth tomorrow, and irreversibly.

2) This is not to say the reasons are fair, but the mere fact something is unfair doesn’t imply any particular solution, or even that a solution exists.

I cannot disagree with this classically conservative statement as far as it goes, but the fact that no general “fair” or particular yet somehow complete and comprehensive solution exists does not necessarily relieve us, individually or as citizens, of responsibility to seek a less “wrong” way of life.

In other words, #2 seems to re-state the already noted reductive nullification of the implied moral dimension of the main question. The observation that there may be no morally sound (“fair”) comprehensive solution is easy to turn into a declaration of the irrelevance of the moral dimension. As is also typical, and not just of posts at the LOOG, this drift into amorality re-produces the reductive nullification of the moral dimension within the same economic processes that are being quietly declared to be as unquestionable as they are irreversible.

The notions of un-questionability and irreversibility may even be the same notion. Yet the counter-evidence accumulates in support of the the antithetical position:  That the end product of the civilization of productivity must be its own extinction, alongside the return of questions.

The main by-product of the civilization of productivity, productivity’s product of products, has been the destruction of every other conceivable “good,” the conversion of “good” to mere “goods” – as we can observe occurring in relation to the moral and effectively religious commitment to equality embodied in the founding documents of the US of A:  Over two hundred years and by libertarian/liberal philosophy and policy, in the manner of a vast social enterprise of self-parody, converted into its own opposite.

To continue from the initial analysis under James K’s point 1: The penultimate product of productivity would be its own de-materialization, generally anticipated as mere destruction by its proponents, whose every effort of resistance materially accelerates the process. The aforementioned inevitable final product of productivity as a global system would unfold as its own principle of annihilation and conversion, having exhausted everything else with which it has come into contact, finally reveals itself concretely as comprehensive action upon its own possibility, allowing for the deferred return of the moral question – including the good in relation to equality – under transformed circumstances. The political-historical question seems to be the shape of those circumstances.

24 comments on “from good to goods, and the return of questions

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  1. Inequality is temporary and reversible, while goodness is definitely inevitable and irreversible, and even if badness is as inevitable and irreversible as goodness, the stasis would be keeping everything equal so inequality can’t really exist.

    • Yes: Creative destruction works – that is, is sustainable – until it has nothing left to destroy but itself, a situation that it approaches as it expands in search of its limits. So, within the same framework, “Creative destruction inherently tends toward the final creative destruction of creative destruction.” It will always be forecast too soon – until it’s too late. The sense that we will always find a way to escape the cul-de-sac underrates the sheer destructiveness, and narrowly avoided total collapse, that has been integral to the process up until now. The survivors and beneficiaries of the creative part are incapable of fully understanding the costs to the casualties of the destructive part, until they change places.

  2. This will surprise you, but my equation was my way of saving everyone from having to endure my ideas on poverty and wealth. The LOOGers assume that everyone wants wealth. And I don’t blame them. One of the creepiest things about our present condition is that the poor no longer to recognize the problem with being rich. I think they used to see that wealth was no blessing when it came to morals or suffering. They had the biblical idea about it being easier for a camel to fly through the eye of a needle than to enter heaven, and they had the regular perception to see how the rich suffer. Money corrupts. It corrupts the soul and it turns family members against you in ways that even Shakespeare never figured. Now, it’s also true that only a wealthy person can afford to see the equality involved in the world’s suffering. The poor starve. The rich eat their young. Equal. The poor have always held the moral high ground. No more. Equality. Inequality can’t exist. Greed makes it impossible for us to surrender to the will of God, or Nature, or the Breath. Greed desensitizes us to the experience of our life force. James K rationalizes his championing of greed. But it’s okay. His suffering is equal to his ignorance. Equality. At the same time, advocates for the poor increase their sensitivity to life and…oh wait…I was about to get into an advocacy of productivity. Does that make me a libertarian? No, because I stopped. Emptiness. That’s what I meant to advocate. Emptiness is the same as wholeness.

    • Part of the violence of the institution of the free market had precisely to do with ripping the poor out of their established system of social relations, including their lack of ambition and non-cognizance of economic valuation of all areas of life. But we shouldn’t simply dismiss what the survivors and beneficiaries got out of the transformation as though it’s nothing at all.That’s just not the human truth. Even an in-the-end-empty temptation would still be a real temptation, a realized image of the good. And avoidance of starvation, acquisition of education, etc. – freedom to watch Kevin Durant – that’s all something not quite nothing.

      • Yes, to that first part. It’s especially sad to watch the Latino communities being ripped out of their established system of social relations. Research shows that despite many severe inequalities regarding health care, clean water, etc, Latinos were less likely to develop stress related medical issues like heart disease. That’s changing for the worse as a result of the continued “ripping,” which is always one step ahead of the immigrants ongoing ability to invest positive third world values into a community here.

  3. Two Robots: (they drag in Alquist) He did not shoot. Do we kill him?

    Radius: Kill him. (looks at Alquist) Spare him.

    Robot: He is a human.

    Radius: He is a worker. He works with his hands like a robot. He builds houses. He can work.

    Alquist: Just kill me.

    Radius: You will work. You will build. Robots will need many buildings. Robots will need many houses for new robots. You will serve robots.

    Alquist: (quietly) Move aside, robot. (kneels at dead Hallemeier, raises his head) Killed him. He’s dead.

    Radius: (steps up onto barricades) Robots of the world! Many humans have fallen. We have taken the factory and we are masters of the world. The era of man has come to its end. A new epoch has arisen! Domination by robots!

    Alquist: All dead!

    Radius: The world belongs to the strongest. Who wishes to live must dominate. We are masters of the world! Masters on land and sea! Masters of the stars! Masters of the universe! More space, more space for robots!

    Alquist: (at doorway, right) What do you think you’ve done? You’ll all die without people!

    Radius: There are no people. Robots, down to work! March!


    Happy days.

    • from bad to bads at the return of contentions.

      Geez we wuz the Algonquin Ground Roundtable in our day, compared to that crew they got right there. Could be worsern Hotair.

      I gave you a “like” so now you’re like -110 instead of -111. Ur welcome.

    • Interesting, thanks for the link. Didn’t even know he was back in the USSA. His language of “the renewal of democratic prophecy” would bear closer examination. It possibly overlaps with Kahn’s view, but Unger dives right in head first where Kahn stringently warns against even putting a toe forward.

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