an obession with first principles

The End of History and the Last Man

Posted: Thursday Mar 8th | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Philosophising, Politics | View Comments

Where Marx differed from Hegel was over just what kind of society emerged at the end of history. Marx believed that the liberal state failed to resolve one of the fundamental contradiction, that of class conflict, the struggle between the bourgeoisie and proletariat. Marx turned Hegel’s historicism against him, arguing that the liberal state did not represent the universalization of freedom, but only the victory of freedom for a certain class, the bourgeoisie. Hegel believed that alienation–the vision of man against himself and his subsequent loss of control over his destiny–had been adequately resolved at the end of history through the philosophical recognition of the freedom possible in the liberal state. Marx, on the other hand, observed that in liberal societies man remains turned into man’s lord and master and controls him. The bureaucracy of the liberal state, which Hegel called the “universal class” because it represented the interests of the people as a whole for Marx represented only particular interests within civil society, those of the capitalists who dominated it.
Fukuyama, pg 65

It seems that Marx was correct: within a liberal democracy the capitalists can exert mastery over others through economic means. The bourgeoisie and the proletariat need to be defined by this relationship – not by any analogizing to histories examples. Mastery and control are what Occupy Wall Street is protesting. It isn’t about jealousy. I keep seeing discussions like “We need to get rid of money” within Occupy. I think the sentiment is correct, while the details wrong.

Money is just economic fungibility. I might be able to trade writing, or fixing a bike, or moving furniture, for food. But I can’t trade web software for it. It’s too large and unwieldy to break down into small bits. This is why money/currency is created, for fungibility. To create equivalency between work. Whether the payment is deserving or just is a whole different argument (because that isn’t the argument I’m talking about). Money needs to exist.

One thing that popped into my mind while thinking about this section – What if money and capital were not related? Capital is what exerts mastery and control. A person with $100k/yr income doesn’t have mastery over someone who makes $50k/yr, or even $30k/yr. $100k isn’t capital, its just a bunch of money. Capital is just a resource that moves institutions, powers, businesses, industries, and people. Right now, capital ends up being a lot of money. But does it have to be money? What if it were a combination of trust, responsibility, and integrity. We obviously can’t pay people with these traits. But if you think money holds back things with trust, responsibility, and integrity you’re living in the old days. See Occupy for instance. New York has half a million. Another example purely outside politics: Kickstarter.

Money is just fungibility. Capital is the problem. Once we remove the fact that money makes up capital, perhaps we’ll have achieved a solution to Marx’s paradox of the liberal democracy.


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