Klaus-Jürgen Grün
Friday November 28th, 2008

Nuclear Melting

It is not even 20 years since real socialism has disappeared through its own nuclear melting. However, the designers of the change were as far from imagining that the fantastic capitalism might just barely avoid bankruptcy as the functionaries of the Sowjet nomenclatura had earlier imagined their own GAU. By now, capitalism has grown just as rampant beyond its borders as planned economy did before.

Some people have been heard to wish the security line for capitalism had never been installed. It is expected to support more and more artists and financial jugglers who fell from spectacular heights. Why not let them drop and fall hard on the floor of reality? – Because we are afraid they might cling to us during their downfall, and because we cannot let go of prosperity. This makes us all receptive towards federal bribes.

If you want to end capitalism, you have to be aware of the fact that there are at least two kinds of capitalism. You should decide which of them you want to support towards a position of power while voting for the abolition of the other one. The one kind of capitalism is characterized by limitless accumulation of capital in the hands of a few who take the liberty to do or not do with it whatever is in their power or helps against their boredom. Perhaps this kind of capitalism is the lesser evil.

The other kind of capitalism is administration organized by law and order down to the smallest detail of work and private life. These legal structures have to calculate and minimize all risks by means of bureaucracy and systematic concepts of world-wide production and service organization. Special methods, innovations, and the courage to take a risk are dangerous to this kind of capitalism. It is the kind of capitalism that means intra-world ascetics and the rationalisation of work. Max Weber saw the final result of it in a grotesque totally rationalized world. He saw an “ascetic rationalism” in the making which “would now also be responsible for the content of social-political ethics, i.e. for the organization and functions of societies from convent to state “ (Weber).

This capitalism is a result of the individual fear of meaninglessness. By subjecting everything down to the smallest detail to the reign of his organization through methodical planning, not letting a single worker unsupervised and leaving nothing to chance, we make sure that we belong to a non-destructible entity. In this capitalism, the peculiarly pale and anaemic system agent whose greatest interest lies in transforming living organisms into dead, bureaucratic systems unexpectedly gains power.

Max Weber was not happy with this vision. He tried to get a grip on it with words from Nietzsche’s Zarathustra: “Then, however, the word might become reality for the ‘last people’ of this cultural development. ‘Technocrats without brains, hedonists without heart: this nonentity believes to have reached a height of human existence that never existed before.’“

Without having to copy Max Weber, Herbert Marcuse called for resistance against this totally bureaucratic administration half a century ago. Later, he hoped that a future youth would be able to liberate itself from the social repression of “systematic control”. For him, capitalism of “suppressed instincts”, against which the “revolt” was to grow, was a weave of “manipulation in the interest of certain enterprises, political orientations and interests”, for which it is “the common and objective superior aim to appease the individual with the style of living he is forced to endure in society”.

Nowadays, by letting our focus be directed towards the capitalism of social injustice and there sacrificing culprits, we – as the diagnosis of Marcuse unveiled – are getting “more ready for compromise and more obedient, because we submit ourselves to a society which, by its prosperity and power administers and satisfies our deepest instincts.”

I am sure the advice of Marcuses to counter the repressive power of the puritanical duty ethics with an “aesthetical moral” which would improve our happiness to work productively and innovatively – not exploited – by taking advantage of the natural human instinct to play, rather than by suppression of instincts, would more easily lead us out of the swamps of rotten credits than the moral reprimands of those who, by patching their guidelines and standards, want to correct a prior mistake by making a new one.

KJG (translated by Evelyn Gemkow)

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