The Hegemony of the Economic

Sao Paulo Stock Exchange

Photo: Rafael Matsunaga (CCO

James W. Jones writing in Psychology Today, from September of last year:

I recently returned from Europe. I was at a European wide Forum that brought together people from a variety of fields: politics, economics, social science, technology as well as the arts and philosophy. They were there to discuss a variety of issues confronting Europe (and the world) today. Most focused on politics and economics.

In addition, of course, I spent a lot of time on airplanes and in airports reading the newspapers and magazines one finds there. These discussions, plus the newspapers and magazines I read there and on the plane, suggested to me that the vast majority of people in the West are convinced that the all the problems of the world are really economic. That economic “progress” is the only solution to the world’s problems and that anything that hinders the “progress” of the economy is to be immediately rejected without further consideration. I do wonder if that’s really true. Of course I recognize that I am in a slightly privileged position: I have a fairly secure job and I am paid quite well by university standards. The issue would look different if I was unemployed or trying to support a family working in a small convenience store. On the other hand, I am watching the public education system of the USA being dismantled around me. Still the single hegemony of the economic is very striking to me.

Economists, I gather, work from a model that assumes that everyone is “rational,” that is that everyone will act according to their “self-interest.” What sort of definition of rationality is that which equates the rational with self-interest? Self-interest is a value. Like any value it may be “rational” (in some sense) in some circumstances. But it is still a value; not a result of formal logic like the Pythagorean Theorem. It also seems quite clear that people don’t always act in an economically self-interested way…

More: Psychology Today

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8 Responses to The Hegemony of the Economic

  1. Anarchy Pony November 5, 2011 at 2:21 am #

    Now you can feel the lamentations of ecologists everywhere. The economy is really about consolidation of power and control of capital and resources by an ever tightening class of plutocrats, by controlling the world’s capital, they control all the people. Because people do not have free access to the land, they are dependent on they employment/income paradigm, werein people must have income in order to aquire everything. They must either exploit land and capital they posess, or sell their time and labor to another. This has arguably good effects, but at least in my sight far worse side effects. The capitalist upper classes like to use the argument of the tragedy of the commons in order to perpetuate this paradigm.
    To do all that it demands exploitation of the land and therefore the destruction of the natural world and the subjugation of all peoples, and essentially the total elimination of any true freedom. As Bakunin said, “There is a Devil in history, and it is the power principle.”
    When it comes to the rational self interest theory, the economists seem to take the ridiculous notion that the market is a somehow eternal and fundamental aspect of the universe and that the ability to operate in it is a fundamental aspect of human relations, like courtship and the like, when it in reality is a relatively recent construct that only crops up in complex mass societies. People aren’t really hard wired to behave in an economically based rational way. The management of capital assets and investment didn’t come up much on the serengeti a million years ago, or even prior to about ten thousand years ago.

  2. Anti-Citizen1 November 5, 2011 at 6:21 am #

    Now you can feel the lamentations of ecologists everywhere. The economy is really about consolidation of power and control of capital and resources by an ever tightening class of plutocrats, by controlling the world’s capital, they control all the people. Because people do not have free access to the land, they are dependent on they employment/income paradigm, werein people must have income in order to aquire everything. They must either exploit land and capital they posess, or sell their time and labor to another. This has arguably good effects, but at least in my sight far worse side effects. The capitalist upper classes like to use the argument of the tragedy of the commons in order to perpetuate this paradigm.
    To do all that it demands exploitation of the land and therefore the destruction of the natural world and the subjugation of all peoples, and essentially the total elimination of any true freedom. As Bakunin said, “There is a Devil in history, and it is the power principle.”
    When it comes to the rational self interest theory, the economists seem to take the ridiculous notion that the market is a somehow eternal and fundamental aspect of the universe and that the ability to operate in it is a fundamental aspect of human relations, like courtship and the like, when it in reality is a relatively recent construct that only crops up in complex mass societies. People aren’t really hard wired to behave in an economically based rational way. The management of capital assets and investment didn’t come up much on the serengeti a million years ago, or even prior to about ten thousand years ago.

  3. haroldheck November 5, 2011 at 3:30 am #

    unfortunately, the content of this article has a few facts that are incorrect: i’m talking about how the article easily dismisses the perception that the source of our problems is economical.  the author’s focus is only one-sided, as the author advances only one conception of “economy,” and that is from the vantage point of capital.  the problems of the world ARE economical, as THE PROBLEM IS ECONOMICS.  we are not readily able to see past the rationalism and formalism; we are constrained into thinking about things in terms of quantity, instead of quality.  back to the original premise of my statement, the problem is economics, and can only be solved by altering the structure and practice of economics.  capitalism does not work, because its practice limits progress, development, and technological innovation.  basing things on monetary cost does nothing to satisfy needs.  there is no way supply and demand can function if there exists (an artificial) quantifying measurement used to asses the variables associated with either “supply” or “demand.”  capitalism was the solution to the economic problems of feudalism; socialism (or something like it) provides a solution to the restrictions we face, by relying on an archaic economic system.

  4. Anonymous November 5, 2011 at 7:30 am #

    unfortunately, the content of this article has a few facts that are incorrect: i’m talking about how the article easily dismisses the perception that the source of our problems is economical.  the author’s focus is only one-sided, as the author advances only one conception of “economy,” and that is from the vantage point of capital.  the problems of the world ARE economical, as THE PROBLEM IS ECONOMICS.  we are not readily able to see past the rationalism and formalism; we are constrained into thinking about things in terms of quantity, instead of quality.  back to the original premise of my statement, the problem is economics, and can only be solved by altering the structure and practice of economics.  capitalism does not work, because its practice limits progress, development, and technological innovation.  basing things on monetary cost does nothing to satisfy needs.  there is no way supply and demand can function if there exists (an artificial) quantifying measurement used to asses the variables associated with either “supply” or “demand.”  capitalism was the solution to the economic problems of feudalism; socialism (or something like it) provides a solution to the restrictions we face, by relying on an archaic economic system.

  5. Louis Fleischauer November 5, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    Economy has replaced god. We follow a religion that promises safety in profits. Like
    most religions the Economy worship has become the new way to control
    the masses and introduce fear into the collective subconscious. We can
    not see it, but it’s all around us, it does not promise us a life after
    dead, but it threatens us with a hell that is imminent unless we obey.
    The Economy worship is based on our primal hunger instinct, which has
    mutated into an uncontrollable greed. Economy is sacred, untouchable.
    It’s priesthood communicates its’ orders directly to the kings and
    ministers of the world. Following the example of previous
    religions the Economy worship defies common sense, the earth, the
    organism we are all part of, gets desecrated and destroyed in order to
    make as much profit as possible, so we can spend this profit on things
    that are produced by destroying even more of this organism in order to
    make more profit. This behavior can only be compared with a chain
    smoking cancer patient. Money is the flesh on the new Lord, oil his
    blood. We worship this body and sacrifice everything for it. All flesh
    is destined to decay, our sacrifice was for nothing.

    you can find an Altar to the new and dying god here:
    http://louisfleischauer.com/News/Entries/2011/10/29_Here_an_update_from_my_booth_at_the_art_fair.html

  6. Louis Fleischauer November 5, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

    Economy has replaced god. We follow a religion that promises safety in profits. Like
    most religions the Economy worship has become the new way to control
    the masses and introduce fear into the collective subconscious. We can
    not see it, but it’s all around us, it does not promise us a life after
    dead, but it threatens us with a hell that is imminent unless we obey.
    The Economy worship is based on our primal hunger instinct, which has
    mutated into an uncontrollable greed. Economy is sacred, untouchable.
    It’s priesthood communicates its’ orders directly to the kings and
    ministers of the world. Following the example of previous
    religions the Economy worship defies common sense, the earth, the
    organism we are all part of, gets desecrated and destroyed in order to
    make as much profit as possible, so we can spend this profit on things
    that are produced by destroying even more of this organism in order to
    make more profit. This behavior can only be compared with a chain
    smoking cancer patient. Money is the flesh on the new Lord, oil his
    blood. We worship this body and sacrifice everything for it. All flesh
    is destined to decay, our sacrifice was for nothing.

    you can find an Altar to the new and dying god here:
    http://louisfleischauer.com/News/Entries/2011/10/29_Here_an_update_from_my_booth_at_the_art_fair.html

  7. Mr Willow November 5, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    Self-interest is a value.

    True, in so far as it is my self-interest to live to see tomorrow, to have a house, to have a lover, to have a town/city/country/planet not tainted by putrid swamps formed by nuclear waste and air not reeking of the noxious fumes of industry, to have some grass, some trees, and something to occupy myself with that does not crush my spirit because of its tedium and mindlessness. To work toward all of these things is in my self-interest, and I would imagine that is in the self-interest of the majority of people.

    Presently, however, none of it may be achieved because in order to possess any of those things, you either have to get power to change how things presently operate, or you need to have power already. And what does one equate with power? Money. Sure, if you have money, you have independence, because then you may purchase the house, the spot of land nowhere near the nuclear run-off, nor the suffocating air, with the grass and the trees. If you have a lot of money, you can pay others to be saddled with the mind-numbing stolidity of the factory job, the office job, the cashier’s position, and may spend your time doing what truly fulfills you. Of course, if you’ve gotten this far, then the only thing that fills your life is making more money. 

    And then your only self-interest is in keeping your power. 

    And how does one procure money? Generally by either being a lying, cheating, narcissistic domineer, or the mindless drone (read as slave) of one. Society, civilisation, cannot survive if this is the ultimate goal of every member of it, where this sort of disposition is not only tolerated but encouraged, where you can’t be ‘successful’ unless you follow such a standard. I choose failure first.

    The great irony is that is exactly where civilisation is headed, with the current system of relations.

  8. Mr Willow November 5, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

    Self-interest is a value.

    True, in so far as it is my self-interest to live to see tomorrow, to have a house, to have a lover, to have a town/city/country/planet not tainted by putrid swamps formed by nuclear waste and air not reeking of the noxious fumes of industry, to have some grass, some trees, and something to occupy myself with that does not crush my spirit because of its tedium and mindlessness. To work toward all of these things is in my self-interest, and I would imagine that is in the self-interest of the majority of people.

    Presently, however, none of it may be achieved because in order to possess any of those things, you either have to get power to change how things presently operate, or you need to have power already. And what does one equate with power? Money. Sure, if you have money, you have independence, because then you may purchase the house, the spot of land nowhere near the nuclear run-off, nor the suffocating air, with the grass and the trees. If you have a lot of money, you can pay others to be saddled with the mind-numbing stolidity of the factory job, the office job, the cashier’s position, and may spend your time doing what truly fulfills you. Of course, if you’ve gotten this far, then the only thing that fills your life is making more money. 

    And then your only self-interest is in keeping your power. 

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