Cynical Tolerance

It would be surprising, then, if the magnificent ‘tolerance’ on which the ‘open society’ is always supposed to be founded (and which gives its privileged members their characteristic good conscience at a low cost) genuinely corresponded to what Erasmus or Montaigne would have understood by such terms.  Nothing allows us to equate it with the long and complex work that each person has to effect on themselves in order to undo their egoism and learn to regard the world with the eyes of others.  In actual fact, for most of the time it denotes no more than a minimal fashion of coexisting with one’s contemporaries, such as prevails, Adam Ferguson tells us, ‘once affective ties have been broken’.  Once again, it is precisely Milton Friedman who has described most precisely (or cynically) the real nature of this liberal tolerance, when he celebrates the Market as the magic mechanism enabling ‘millions of individuals to come together on a daily basis without any need to love one another, or even to speak to one another’.  And there is sadly every reason to fear that what the public Spectacle invites us constantly to applaud today, under the seductive term of ‘multiculturalism’, is simply another name for this merely juridical and commercial unification of humanity.  A world of total uniformity, in which the Other is seen far less as a possible partner in an always singular encounter, than as a pure object of tourist consumption and various kinds of instrumentalization. (53-54)

Jean-Claude Michéa | The Realm of Lesser Evil


The Fundamental Difference

Socialism, as a mode of production, does not grow “automatically” in the way that capitalism grew in response to blind and organic market forces; it must be brought into being, on the basis of an adequate technology, by the conscious and purposive activity of collective humanity.  And this activity must overcome not just the customary conditions of the previous mode of production, but those of the many millennia during which class societies of all sorts have existed, since with the decline of capitalism we come to the end not merely of a single form of society but of the “last antagonistic form of the social process of production,” in Marx’s words, the “closing chapter of the prehistoric stage of human society.” (23)

Harry Braverman | Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century

Capitalism as Historical Moment

As the reader will have already understood, it will be argued here that the “mode of production” we see around us, the manner in which the labor processes are organized and carried out, is the “product” of the social relations we know as capitalist.  But the shape of our society, the shape of any given society, is not an instantaneous creation of “laws” which generate that society on the spot and before our eyes.  Every society is a moment in the historical process, and can be grasped only as part of that process.  Capitalism, a social form, when it exists in time, space, population, and history, weaves a web of myriad threads; the conditions of its existence form a complex network each of which presupposes many others.  It is because of this solid and tangible existence, this concrete form produced by history, no part of which may be changed by artificial suppositions without doing violence to its true mode of existence — it is precisely because of this that it appears to us as “natural,” “inevitable,” and “eternal.”  And it is only in this sense, as a fabric woven over centuries, that we may say that capitalism “produced” the present capitalist mode of production.  This is a far cry from a ready-made formula which enables us to “deduce” from a given state of technology a given mode of social organization. (21-22)

Harry Braverman | Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century

Soviet Taylorism

We need only recall that Lenin himself repeatedly urged the study of Frederick W. Taylor’s “scientific management,” with an eye toward utilizing it in Soviet industry.  The Taylor system, he said, “like all capitalist progress, is a combination of the refined brutality of bourgeois exploitation and a number of the greatest scientific achievements in the field of analysing mechanical motions during work, the elimination of superfluous and awkward motions, the elaboration of correct methods of work, the introduction of the best system of accounting and control, etc.  The Soviet Republic must at all costs adopt all that is valuable in the achievements of science and technology in this field.  The possibility of building socialism depends exactly upon our success in combining the Soviet power and the Soviet organisation of administration with the up-to-date achievements of capitalism.  We must organise in Russia the study and teaching of the Taylor system and systematically try it out and adapt it to our ends.”  In practice, Soviet industrialization imitated the capitalist model; and as industrialization advanced the structure lost its provisional character and the Soviet Union settled down to an organization of labor differing only in details from that of the capitalist countries, so that the Soviet working population bears all the stigmata of the Western working classes.  In the process, the ideological effect was felt throughout world Marxism: the technology of capitalism, which Marx had treated with cautious reserve, and the organization and administration of labor, which he had treated with passionate hostility, became relatively acceptable.  Now the revolution against capitalism was increasingly conceived as a matter of stripping from the highly productive capitalist mechanism certain “excrescences,” improving the conditions of work, adding to the factory organization a formal structure of “workers’ control,” and replacing the capitalist mechanisms of accumulation and distribution with socialist planning. (12)

Harry Braverman | Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century


Nature in Revelation

We say that man’s rebellion has not succeeded in destroying the natural order to which he belongs; but that is something which we could not say with theological authority except on the basis of God’s revelation in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We say that this, that or the other cultural demand or prohibition (the prohibition of incest, for example, or of racial discrimination) reflects the created order of God faithfully, but that too is something which we can know only by taking our place within the revelation of that order afforded us in Christ.  It is not, as the sceptics and relativists correctly remind us, self-evident what is nature and what is convention.  How can we be sure that the prohibition of incest is not yet another primitive superstition?  How can we assert confidently that Bantu and Caucasian races belong equally to one human kind that renders cultural and biological differentiation between them morally irrelevant?  The epistemological programme for an ethic that is ‘natural’, in the sense that its contents are simply known to all, has to face dauntingly high barriers.  But we are not to concluded from this that there is no ontological ground for an ‘ethic of nature’, no objective order to which the moral life can respond.  We may only conclude that any certainty we may have about the order which God has made depends upon God’s own disclosure of himself and of his works.

Creation and redemption each has its ontological and its epistemological aspect.  There is the created order and there is natural knowledge; there is the new creation and there is revelation in Christ.  This has encouraged a confusion of the ontological and the epistemological in much modern theology, so that we are constantly presented with the unacceptably polarized choice between an ethic that is revealed and has no ontological grounding and an ethic that is based on creation and so is naturally known.  This polarization deprives redemption and revelation of their proper theological meaning as the divine reaffirmation of created order.  If, on the other hand, it is the gospel of the resurrection that assures us of the stability and permanence of the world which God has made, then neither of the polarized options is right.  In the sphere of revelation, we will concluded, and only there, can we see the natural order as it really is and overcome the epistemological barriers to an ethic that conforms to nature.  This nature involves all men, and indeed, as we shall see later, does not exclude a certain ‘natural knowledge’ which is also a part of man’s created endowment.  And yet only in Christ do we apprehend that order in which we stand and that knowledge of it with which we have been endowed. (19-20)

Oliver O’Donovan | Resurrection and Moral Order: An Outline of Evangelical Ethics