Wednesday, February 2, 2011

G.A. Cohen BBC Video: "Against Capitalism"

Sure, the tone and presentation is a bit ridiculous... and the bit about "shmoo" is sort of hilarious in an embarrassing way. But I think this is on the whole really quite good. This aired on the BBC in the 80s, I'm told, as a sort of response to Milton Friedman's 1980 pro-capitalist "Free to Choose" TV series.

The second part is much better than the first, not that the first part is bad. The points about productivity, unemployment and leisure time are particularly poignant right now (e.g. "The same system that overworks people in the interests of profit, also deprives them entirely of work when it's not profitable to employ them.") Such arguments are almost never made in the licit, consensus media. The reasons why not are obvious: this forms the basis of the one of most intuitive, simple arguments for socialism. The questions we must ask are: why not use the highly developed productive forces to shorten toil and maximize human potential? Why squander such productive potential by putting it all in the service of enriching the ruling class?


Alfredo Lucero-Montaño said...

I am wondering if there is a transcript of Cohen' videos Against Capitalism. They ar worth to reas carefully. If the case, ope you can post the transcript her. Thanks in advance. Alfredo

t said...

I don't believe there is a transcript at present, but I agree- it would certainly be worth reading if there were.

Some of the arguments he makes here are made elsewhere in his work, e.g. the argument about the creation of private property as a "usurpation of what was held in common" appeared in an article in New Left Review titled "Nozick on Appropriation". The arguments about how workers are forced to sell their labor are given in more depth in an article titled "The Structure of Proletarian Unfreedom".