Pure Theory, economic thought…

The social dimension is universal. It doesn’t suddenly exit when it comes to economics. Because individuals do not function outside of some context, the context of economics is always social. The idea that it is primarily “private” or “individual” is just daft. Yes. There are individuals in the economic system. That is true. And economics, on the individual level or the level of the individual, may be interesting sometimes. But there is no reason to believe that the social dimension is not present in economics. Better to say, as I do above, that it is universal. It’s always there. If you think I put it too strongly, fine. But the point is that it tends to intrude everywhere. Certainly economics could not be some kind of special exception, so the notion of “the individual” is just daft. It is social propaganda that is useful for creating a certain type of society. We have to always consider this matter or we get a mock economics, by which I refer of course to the study of economics, or economics as a study field, not the “phenomena” (Boldizzoni) which are real or physical. But that’s “philsophy of science” stuff. Now, I will further propose this:

The economic dimension of social life is the sum total of what economics means subjectively, to the different persons involved. That is what economics is, and not the isolated adventures of an individual.

Individuals impact each other, and when economics happens that is what they are doing. An individual impacts the others. In the specific economics application that happens in a social context, not an individual context. We have responsibilities to one another.

The possibilities for capitalism arise when a large group of persons (who do have social feelings and do sometimes care about one another) interacts. The system does not arise from only believing one single interpretation of capitalism, however. So we can say the basis on which capitalism arises is, among all the other things, is this. It arises based on the fact that economics means different things to different persons. Today capitalism has become perverse. Not that it was ever perfect. But today even less so. Capitalism has become perverse. This is because of what is called “privatization,” which involves forcing others to stick to one strict interpretation. So, we are basing ourselves on one interpretation. Our policies are based on an interpretation that says economics is just one thing. We are wrong to think this way. Economics is not a stable universal thing, it has to move and change and grow.

So, this is something very basic. If economics means different things to different people, it also means that not everyone is after getting rich. That is one goal, and not a universal desire. This is an example. There is not only one interpretation, subjectively, in the sense of what the population sees when they see the society and the economy. Only a few persons are precisely interested in a given, specific interpretation (“you gotta pull yourself up by the bootstraps”). How many persons, seeing they had a hundred million, just pulled back and started foundations, or became artists or filmmakers? Lots did. They own bed-and-breakfasts, or they are artists, I guess so. Do-gooders. But economics is the sum total of everyone in the society. That is what I am suggesting here. It is all these diverse views. Now let’s get into more details.

What are these differences we talking about? These two have different views on economics. (or I could have used worker vs. owner, a different discussion)


To give an example of how economics can mean different things to different people, I use two kinds of participants. It is possible to use worker and the business owner. However it is also possible to use consumer, or purchaser, on one hand, and on the other the business owner, or proprietor. The owner, meaning proprietor: he wakes up & comes to work with one attitude, which is his attitude. It is (not unlike the other view) an attitude towards an economic system in which he (in this case the businessman) is a member, a system-member. The “consumer” (funny term, according to Graeber?) is also a member. The consumer or buyer also eats breakfast! She too is a person, a homo sapiens. She not only possesses an identity as the universal “human,” with humanity built in, but is also a participant in one specific kind society. And that society is capitalist, capitalist~ic. It is a society in movement (that is the ~ic), in which this person in particular has his (her) own distinct operational definition of economic life.

Let’s illustrate by giving a characteristic example, and the thing I am going to point you to is the rather curious attitude we have about the prices we have to pay. The attitudes are different. The owner has a cagey, strategic attitude. The consumer: “Wow. Look how cheap the thing is!” What kind of differences are these? We talking about differences of subjective interpretation of the system the individual finds his or herself living within. The interpretation is different. These two (or worker and owner, a different discussion) have different views on economics.

In my work, I take a look at a particular American intellectual formulation, a view that says capitalism is “private,” as if there were no public/social aspects