Playing Catch-Up: The 95 Theses or Why Markets Matter

So, long story short, I’m gonna join this project I saw being conducted by some people I follow on Twitter. I do so alongside them.

The project, if I have my bearings right, is to elaborate on, consider and blog through these 95 theses

You should check them out. Here’s One. And here’s another. Anyways, today, I’ll be playing catch up, so in all likelihood, this post will be tl;dr.

Anyways, it is what it is. I’m not gonna labor on the first three, since I want you to read these other two posts here and here.

Thesis 1: Markets are conversations


This is a biggie. It’s the fundamental opening salvo in a radical redefinition of market structures outside the Left-Right Binary. Instead of setting out to focus on the economics, politics, or other aspects of markets, this thesis places markets where they happen: in culture.

In college I had this big suspicion of capitalism, and I still do and I’m not alone. I doubt that the culture it creates is the way to a better world, a more just world, or even a world where the most people have the most access to the most goods. But my fundamental disagreements with capitalism came from the place where I dealt with them the most: Culture. I opposed the culture of capitalism, and I still do. Capitalism, when it becomes the culture we find ourselves in, is a culture of death.

Blessed Pope John Paul II put it this way:

In fact, while the climate of widespread moral uncertainty can in some way be explained by the multiplicity and gravity of today’s social problems, and these can sometimes mitigate the subjective responsibility of individuals, it is no less true that we are confronted by an even larger reality, which can be described as a veritable structure of sin. This reality is characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable “culture of death”. This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents which encourage an idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency. Looking at the situation from this point of view, it is possible to speak in a certain sense of a war of the powerful against the weak: a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected in one way or another. A person who, because of illness, handicap or, more simply, just by existing, compromises the well-being or life-style of those who are more favoured tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated.

Put quite simply, I disagree with Capitalism because I am a Christian. I’m not going to defend that position explicitly, shoudl anyone choose to comment on it. Because what I hope unfold through my readings of these theses, is a project that conveys what a personal hero of mine would call, ‘a better hope.’

To put it simply, my reading of the first thesis counters both Marx on the one hand, and Locke on the other.

Markets are Conversations

Put quite simply, I think this thesis takes McLuhan’s now obscured albeit famous maxim: The Medium is the Message and applies it wholeheartedly to economic frameworks.

To state that a market is a conversation is to collapse all the means of production and their effects into what’s really going on: people having conversations. It’s to ground Marxist theory in a medium that makes it available to the 21st century, and the medium is culture.

In the 21st century, the market is the medium, but as such it is also the message. It is why our right wing tends to hail democracy as equivalent with consumer choice. It is why liberty constitutes  not acts in civics, but acts in purchase, or the lack thereof. Driving to work the other day, I was reminiscing about how black Friday has eclipsed so many other things and come to symbolize the new American civics. On Black Friday, Americans exercise their central politics in their favorite sphere: consumption.

In the digital age, capitalism, as it exists, cannot help but be a culture. The medium, the market, is the message. In Egypt, it’s turned out to be a depressing sight for many Americans. The age of digital technology has brought us to a place where the ways in which we do things are communications about why we do that, and to what ends.

When we consider American imperialism, and its effects upon the rest of the world, what we see is the American market at talk. Lockheed Martin and Halliburton talk to Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and leverage that conversation to their own ends. In other words, we arrive at yet another famous maxim, “Few are guilty, all are responsible“. The market isn’t autonomous, but rather what emerges from its participants. Markets consist of human beings, which is why we can’t plead agnostic when it comes to their ethics. Which brings us to thesis two: Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.

Markets are indeed conversations, which is why what they say matters. Because a market isn’t an abstract all powerful entity existing in some platonic otherness like the flying spaghetti monster, but an actual grounded system of interactions between differing agents. Which is I agree with market regulation, as does the Pope. Because a market without regulation is simply a culture willing to abstain from conscience, as is often the case even now.

I could go on at length about how if markets are conversations, the people controlling what markets say…the voice of the commons…hegemony, patriarchy and so on and so on, but I think I’ll just leave that there. There’s plenty more theses and I’ll always revisit these topics, maybe.

 

Editor’s Note: In my haste, I forgot to mention thesis two, I updated to reflect the change. Thanks for reading.

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