Wednesday, April 11, 2007


My students and I were reading an excerpt from Marx on alienated labor. It led to a conversation about capitalism and American life. This picture of me captures much of the goodness in American life.

Behind me is my home, mortgaged by Wells Fargo. Those double-paned windows you see were financed by Midwest Savings. That shirt was purchased in 2003 at REI. The glass of wine is from a box in my Sears-bought refigerator. The chair I'm resting in was purchased from the Frys just a few streets from my house. The stones making up the planter are from the Home Depot not too far in the opposite direction. In my lap there is a book from the local library - a publicly funded institution open to middle-class me as well as the sweaty poor of Phoenix.

This is my life. I like my life. I want to keep it.

Marx looks at the division between worker and owner and sees problems. For him, the ideas inherent in capitalism make it a bad system. For me, it is bad - but not bad in the way that Marx thinks it is. He think it is totally bad; I think it's partially bad.

With capitalism we have sweaty poor - that's not good. With capitalism I have an air-conditioner and cheap, chilled wine - that is good. I am not alone in this; many people have these good things and much more. In my mind the bad does not negate the good. The bad does not necessitate a revolution, a totally new way of doing things. Perhaps my mind is limited by capitalism; perhaps it isn't.

Of this I am certain: I abhor any attempt to remove all problems. Life is problematic. No idea, plan, or goal is so good that it does not involve difficulties in the doing. Any ideal requires good solutions as it is lived. If the ideas of worker and owner are problematic, that doesn't mean they are impractical. It means we must be careful.

Let me sip my wine, read about Reagan, and keep living this way of life. Thank you, capitalism.


faithsalutes said...

Here, here.

Alishia said...

Actually, those windows were a gift from your father-in-law who now enjoys many of the fruits of capitalism though he used to be sweaty and somewhat poor.

Hansonius said...

Petite Bete:

If we're going to talk about nerdy equivalents, let's not forget your post!

The Reagan bio was being discussed by the author during an interview with George Will (an old idol of yours, if I'm not mistaken). The author's contention is that Reagan is a figure appropriated by the conservatives. The real Reagan was more liberal than they recognize or admit.

"Conservative" and "liberal" are grab-bag concepts. I feel more comfortable walking under the banner marked "conservative" but there is much that I respect that might be called "liberal."

Your blog about being raised "conservative" makes me mindful about how to raise a conservative daughter. I don't find it worrisome, though. I'm sure Condoleeza went through something similar when she was 18.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I shouldn't blog when tired. I tend to write what is best kept in my little, odd brain.

Anyway- George F. Will is cool, even if I find Reagan trite. And, in fact, I am currently considering enrolling in UD's music program, much as Condie did 30-odd years ago.

Still, though. Marx is a bore to discuss in class because he's ridiculously polemical, and it seems that everyone just gives the knee-jerk "commie bad! money good!" reaction. I need college. I need real live crazy liberals to cotrast to my conservative peers...

Hansonius said...

Nothing brings out the conservative in me like the wacky liberal nonsense of the university. I didn't realize how conservative I was until I was faced with utter inanity in grad school. I was called "hegemonic" by a large Native American who brought peyote to a class party at our prof's house.

I prefer hegemony to idiocy.

Anonymous said...

[Peyote? Ewwwwwwww. No offense, Native Americans, but ewww....]

It's funny that you bring up "the wacky liberal nonsense of the university."

It's funny, because the last four years have exposed me to the complete opposite- and I've come to realize I'm much more liberal than I had ever previously thought. While I've loved the curriculum and have generally had very good teachers, I've suffered more than my fair share of wacky conservative idiocy from the student body. Gay people should be sent away to camps? Students have said that in all seriousness. Terms like "Jew you over?" Widely accepted by our student body. Homeschooling your family of seven is both normal and healthy for women? The earth is 6,000 yeas old to the day and scientists are atheist liars, and the public schools ought to teach creationism? Sin Ciy is a morally acceptable movie but Brokeback is not? I don't even want to begin going into it...

Anyway, wacky idiocy is a two way street. At his point I'm weirdly looking forward to crazy liberals in college. I need a new breed of crazy or I'll pop.

Anonymous said...

Wait, how does "hegemonic" even make sense?