About Me

Find out more about me here.

10 November 2011

Football and Capitalism

One of my students recently told me about how a stranger approached her on campus as she was reading her copy of Marx and Engel's Communist Manifesto and asked her what she thought of it. She told him that she had read it previously and generally agreed with the authors' depiction of capitalism. He told her that he thought many of Marx' ideas were untenable because human beings required motivation to work, that is they need wage inequality and the threat of poverty to keep them from being lazy. It's a common argument leveled against not just communism but also the comparatively neoliberal social safety net programs currently used here in the US.

Thinking about this, I arrived at what I think is a useful analogy. It's like arguing that, in (American) football, it is necessary to reward teams with six points for crossing the goal line in order to give them an incentive to drive down the field and not sit idly on the sidelines. What this neglects is that it's the game of football itself--the rules of the game that we created--that establish that driving down the field toward the opponent's end zone is the goal. Now, imagine one of the participants arguing that there are other sports that we could be playing, baseball for example, with a new set of rules. Another player might complain, "But, if we allow each player a chance in the batter's box, what motivation will he have to score a touchdown?" Just like crying, there are no touchdowns in baseball.

Capitalism has given us a set of rules that create the very "problems" that its proponents lament and, when presented with alternatives to these rules, its proponents irrationally argue within the paradigm created by capitalism itself. Workers need the motivation of a wage to do work in capitalism because capitalism has robbed the worker of any alternative source of motivation to work, such as the direct profit from a product or the intrinsic rewards of creativity itself. The argument is tautological. Moreover, by insisting on its own incontestability, capitalism becomes normative and hegemonic.

No comments:

Post a Comment