We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Opening our eyes to how capitalism began

Click here to access article by Pete Dolack from Systemic Disorder.
All systems of inequality and exploitation require violence. When we peer into the past, such a statement is not controversial; it is only when we turn our attention to the present that selectivity is applied.
Capitalism, however, has weaved a vast web of mythology about itself.
In this extract from his forthcoming book, Dolack gives us a glimpse of the historical roots of capitalism which included the use of force in the form of violence or the threat of violence against working people. 

From anthropologists we have learned that the division of societies into classes occurred after humans started creating permanent agricultural settlements. Permanency in place based on agriculture permitted the accumulation of goods beyond the needs necessary for survival, which in turn encouraged the development of trade with adjacent societies. But, the surplus wealth also attracted the attention of members of society who, because of physical strength and/or superior weapons and a weak social consciousness, sought to obtain this wealth for themselves through violence rather than through their own productive labor. 

The violence used to obtain wealth was likely first perpetrated against neighboring peoples which could more easily be de-humanized, and thus, the violence justified. But after a time, the rewards of taking surplus wealth from members of their own society was too tempting to resist for these early sociopaths. To accomplish this, the latter always needed to create belief systems that would justify their crimes. Soon there appeared religious myths and organized religious casts and priests which promoted myths that justified exploitation backed by violence in its various early forms: slavery, serfdom, usury, tribute, etc. 

In a nutshell, I think that this is the origin of class-structured societies. Dolack enters this history where a new class called capitalists started taking control of societies through the use of violence, and this article provides an introduction to explain how they accomplished it.