Just a general comment based on reading quite a few of Umair’s inspired rants. I notice that inevitably someone accuses him of cheerleading for Communism, or invites him to live in Moscow, etc.

This is what we in the reality-based community call a “false binary” — the glib assumption that the only alternative to Chicago School Capitalism is Stalin’s Communism. And Stalin’s Communism is arguably worse, so shut up and watch the rich grow richer, eh?

People who offer a stark binary as the only choice are usually propagandising rather than problem solving. Capitalism as we know it, and Communism as Stalin knew it, actually have a lot in common. Both assumed that “the environment” was an infinite source and infinite sink, i.e. that raw materials can be treated as unlimited and toxic byproducts of industry can be treated as insignificant. Neither of those assumptions is even close to realistic. Hence, both capitalism and communism have lousy track records in terms of preserving the real wealth of the world (which is the biosphere: sine qua non).

Both industrial capitalism and industrial communism share an ideology that is imho more fundamental: industrialism. Good ol’ C19, mechanistic, biophobic, Taylorist industrialism. The industrialist mindset is an ideology in its own right (which can also be Left).

Industrialism focuses on “efficiency” while externalising all inconvenient costs of operation. (Marx was only just beginning, at the end of his writing life, to consider the depletion of the soil that mechanised farming was starting to inflict. If he had lived longer, he might have started to examine externalised costs) .“Efficiency” in this ideology is measured, in the end, in money. If de-braining jobs so that widgets can be assembled faster by breaking up assembly into the smallest simplest rapidly-repeatable steps, that means less time (wages) per widget and that means Efficiency. Even if the labour force suffers in the process, it’s considered a win.

Well, you all know this story. We use the term Luddite today to mean “backward and stupid,” but if you research the old Luddites they were neither. They were resisting early Taylorism, the same Taylorism that today uses computer algorithms to surveil employee “performance” — that uses standardised testing to measure something that passes for academic success in children only because we now redefine learning as “what we can measure by standardised machine-gradable testing.”

Industrialism is the application of Taylorism to all human enterprise. And that is what has given us the factory farm, the CAFO, the industrial slaughterhouse, the megamall, the factory trawler, the 40+ class size in schools, the chain store, the unmanageably huge centralised hospital, the cookie-cutter carburb, the “housing project tower,” the Big Mac you can buy anywhere on the planet, and… yup, Amazon.com. Again I suggest Alf Hornborg’s The Power of the Machine. It’s a thought-provoking read.

Aside from alternatives to capitalism, if we want a world recognisable as human in which humans can live happily, we need to start thinking very hard about Taylorism, and where it is and is not appropriate to apply it. Capitalism and Communism have failed. They failed to provide justice and they failed to preserve real wealth, instead stripmining resources recklessly and impoverishing the future. We can do better.

Retired; ex-software engineer. Paleo-feminist. Sailor. Arduino tinkerer. Enviro. Libertarian Socialist (Anarcho-Syndicalist, kinda). Writer. Altermondialiste.

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