Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A feature, not a bug

From Hirschman's "The Passions and the Interests" (italics in the original).
In one of the most attractive and influential of these critiques, the stress is on the repressive and alienating feature of capitalism, on the way it inhibits the development of the "full human personality". From the vantage point of the present essay, this accusation seems a bit unfair, for capitalism was precisely expected and supposed to repress certain human drives and proclivities and to fashion a less multifaceted, less unpredictable, and more "one-dimensional" human personality. This position, which seems so strange today, arose from extreme anguish over the clear and present dangers of a certain historical period, from concern over the destructive forces unleashed by the human passions with the only exception, so it seemed at the time, of "innocuous" avarice. In sum, capitalism was supposed to accomplish exactly what was soon to be denounced as its worst feature.


Though an eloquent critic of private property- he is, after all, best known for the dictum "Property is theft"- Proudhon was also fearful of the enormous power of the state. And in his later writings he conceived of the idea of opposing to this power a similar "absolutist" power- that of private poperty.

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