The violence he is talking about there is institutional violence - Authoritative violence, violence by the higher towards the lower.
(not necessarily physical violence)
So are you saying that physical violence did not accompany Authoritative violence?
Modern industrial civilization has developed within a certain system of convenient myths. The driving force of modern industrial civilization has been individual material gain, which is accepted as legitimate, even praiseworthy, on the grounds that private vices yield public benefits, in the classic formulation
. Now, it has long been understood, very well, that a society that is based on this principle will destroy itself in time. It can only persist, with whatever suffering and injustice that it entails, as long as it is possible to pretend that the destructive forces that humans create are limited, that the world is an infinite resource, and that the world is an infinite garbage can. At this stage of history either one of two things is possible. Either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community interests, guided by values of solidarity, sympathy and concern for others, or alternatively there will be no destiny for anyone to control. As long as some specialized class is in a position of authority, it is going to set policy in the special interests that it serves. But the conditions of survival, let alone justice, require rational social planning in the interests of the community as a whole, and by now that means the global community. The question is whether privileged elite should dominate mass communication and should use this power as they tell us they must -- namely to impose necessary illusions, to manipulate and deceive the stupid majority and remove them from the public arena. The question in brief, is whether democracy and freedom are values to be preserved or threats to be avoided. In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured; they may well be essential to survival.
During the early stages of the industrial revolution, as England was coming out of a feudal-type of society and into what's basically a state-capitalist system, the rising bourgeoisie there had a problem. In a traditional society like the feudal system, people had a certain place, and they had certain rights - in fact, they had what was called at the time a "right to live." I mean, under feudalism it may have been a lousy
right, but nevertheless people were assumed to have some natural entitlement for survival. But with the rise of what we call capitalism, that right had to be destroyed: people had to have it knocked out of their heads that they had any automatic "right to live" beyond what they could win for themselves on the labor market. And that was the main point of classical economics. Remember the context in which all of this was taking place: classical economics developed after a period in which a large part of the English population had been forcibly driven off the land they had been farming for centuries - that was by force
, it wasn't a pretty picture. In fact, very likely one of the main reasons why England led the industrial revolution was just that they had been more violent in driving people off the land than in other places. For instance, in France a lot of people were able to remain on the land, and therefore they resisted industrialization more. But even after the rising bourgeoisie in England had driven millions of peasants off the land, there was a period when the population's "right to live" still was preserved by what we would today call "welfare." There was a set of laws in England which gave people rights, called the "Poor Laws" - which essentially kept you alive if you couldn't survive otherwise; they provided sort of a minimum level of subsistence, like subsidies on food and so on. And there was something called the "Corn Laws", which gave landlords certain rights beyond those they could get on the market - they raised the price of corn, that sort of thing. And together, these laws were considered among the main impediments to the new rising British industrial class - so therefore they just had to go. Well, those people needed an ideology to support their effort to knock out of people's heads the idea that they had this basic right to live, and that's what classical economics was about - classical economics said: no one has any right to live, you only have a right to what you gain for yourself on the labor market. And the founders of classical economics in fact said they'd developed a "scientific theory" of it, with - as they put it - "the certainty of the principle of gravitation." Alright, by the 1830s, political conditions in England had changed enough so that the rising bourgeoisie were able to kill the Poor Laws, and then later they managed to do away with the Corn Laws. And by around 1840 or 1845, they won the elections and took over the government. Then at that point, a very interesting thing happened. They gave up the theory, and Political Economy changed. It changed for a number of reasons. For one thing, these guys had won, so they didn't need it so much as an ideological weapon anymore. For another, they recognized that they themselves needed a powerful interventionist state to defend industry from the hardships of competition in the open market - as they always had
in fact. And beyond that, eliminating people's "right to live" was starting to have some negative side-effects. First of all, it was causing riots all over the place: for a long period, the British army was mostly preoccupied with putting down riots across England. Then something even worse happened - the population started to organize: you got the beginnings of an organized labor movement, and later the Chartist movement
, and then a socialist movement developed. And at that point, the elites in England recognized that the game just had to be called off, or else they really
would be in trouble - so by the time you get to the second half of the nineteenth century, things like John Stuart Mill's Principles of Political Economy
, which gives kind of a social-democratic line, were becoming the reigning ideology. See, the "science" happens to be a very flexible one: you can change it to do whatever you feel like, it's that kind of "science." So by the middle of the nineteenth century, the "science" had changed, and now it turned out that laissez-faire was a bad thing after all - and what you got instead were the intellectual foundations for what's called the "welfare state." And in fact, for a century afterwards, "laissez faire" was basically a dirty word - nobody talked about it anymore. And what the "science" now said was that you had better give the population some way of surviving, or else they're going to challenge your right to rule. You can take away their right to live, but then they're going to take away your right to rule - and that's no good, so ways have to be found to accommodate them. Well, it wasn't until recent years that laissez-faire ideology was revived again - and again, it was a weapon of class warfare. As far as I can see, the principles of classical economics in effect are still taught: I don't think what's taught in the University of Chicago Economics Department today is all that different, what's called "neo-liberalism". And it doesn't have any more validity than it had in the early nineteenth century - in fact, it has even less
. At least in the early nineteenth century, Ricardo's and Malthus' assumptions had some
relation to reality. Today those assumptions have no
relation to reality. Look: the basic assumption of the classical economists was that labor is highly mobile and capital is relatively immobile - that's required, that's crucial to proving all their nice theorems. That was the reason they could say, "If you can't get enough to survive on the labor market, go someplace else" - because you could
go someplace else: after the native populations of places like the United States and Australia and Tasmania were exterminated or driven away, then yeah, poor Europeans could go someplace else. So in the early nineteenth century, labor was indeed mobile. And back then, capital was indeed immobile
- first because "capital" primarily meant land, and you can't move land, and also because the extent that there was investment, it was very local: like, you didn't have communications systems that allowed for easy transfers of money all around the world, like we do today. So in the early nineteenth century, the assumption that labor is mobile and capital is immobile was more or less realistic - and on the basis of that assumption, you could try to prove things about comparative advantage
and all this stuff you learn in school about Portugal and wine and so on. Incidentally, if you want to know how well those theorems actually work, just compare Portugal and England after a hundred years of trying them out - growing wine versus industrializing as possible modes of development. But let's put that aside... Well, by now the assumptions underpinning these theories are not only false
- they're the opposite
of the truth. By now labor is immobile
, through immigration restrictions and so on, and capital is highly mobile
, primarily because of technological changes. So none of the results work anymore. But you're still taught them, you're still taught the theories exactly as before - even though the reality today is the exact opposite of what we assumed in the early nineteenth century. I mean, if you look at some of the fancier economists, Paul Krugman and so on, they've got all kinds of little tricks here and there to make the results not quite so grotesquely ridiculous as they'd otherwise be. But fundamentally, it all just is pretty ridiculous. If capital is mobile and labor is immobile, there's no reason why mobile capital shouldn't seek absolute
advantage and play one national workforce against another, go wherever the labor is cheapest and thereby drive everybody's
standard of living down. In fact, that's exactly what we're doing in NAFTA and all these other international trade agreements which are being instituted right now. Nothing in these abstract economic models actually works
in the real world. It doesn't matter how many footnotes they put in, or how many ways they tinker around the edges. The whole enterprise is totally rotten at the core: it has no relation to reality anymore - and furthermore, it never did.
In fact, just take a look at the history of "trucking and bartering" itself; look at the history of modern capitalism, about which we know a lot. The first thing you'll notice is, peasants had to be driven by force and violence into a wage-labor system they did not want; then major efforts were undertaken - conscious efforts - to create wants. In fact, if you look back, there's a whole interesting literature of conscious discussion of the need to manifacture wants in the general population. It's happened over the whole long stretch of capitalism of course, but one place where you can see it very nicely encapsulated is around the time when slavery was terminated. It's very dramatic too at cases like these. For example, in 1831 there was a big slave revolt in Jamaica - which was one of the things that led the British to decide to give up slavery in their colonies: after some slave revolts, they basically said, "It's not paying anymore." So within a couple of years the British wanted to move from a slave economy to a so-called "free" economy, but they still wanted the basic structure to remain exactly the same - and if you take a look back at the parliamentary debates in England at the time, they were talking very consciously about all this. They were saying: look, we've got to keep it the way it is, the masters have to become the owners, the slave have to become the happy workers - somehow we've got to work it all out. Well, there was a little problem in Jamaica: since there was a lot of open land there, when the British let the slaves go free they just wanted to move out onto the land and be perfectly happy, they didn't want to work for the British sugar plantations anymore. So what everyone was asking in Parliament in London was, "How can we force them to keep working for us, even when they're no longer enslaved into it?" Alright, two things were decided upon: first, they would use state force to close off the open land and prevent people from going and surviving on their own. And secondly, they realized that since all these workers didn't really want
a lot of things - they just wanted to satisfy their basic needs, which they could easily do in that tropical climate - the British capitalists would have to start creating a whole set of wants for them, and make them start desiring things they didn't then desire, so then the only way they'd be able to satisfy their new material desires would be by working for wages in the British sugar plantations. There was very conscious discussion of the need to create wants - and in fact, extensive efforts were then undertaken to do exactly what they do on T.V. today: to create wants, to make you want the latest pair of sneakers you don't really need, so then people will be driven into a wage-labor society. And that pattern has been repeated over and over again through the whole entire history of capitalism. In fact, what the whole history of capitalism shows is that people have had to be driven
into situations which are then claimed to be their nature. But if the history of capitalism shows anything, it shows it's not
their nature, that they've had to be forced into it, and that that effort has had to be maintained right until this day.
- In Understanding Power (pp. 203-204), 2002