Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Capitalism

A Platonist Critique of Rawls

One of the things that has always bothered me about Rawlsian liberalism is its emphasis on consensus. The Rawlsians want a state which ‘all reasonable people can accept’ or which ‘no reasonable person can reject’. To accomplish this consensus, Rawlsians have to hollow out the good until it contains only uncontroversial values. Controversial principles are not, by definition, accepted by all reasonable people. The Rawlsians therefore have a tendency to depoliticise the controversial. This results in a political theory which is committed to conflict avoidance. Families that avoid conflict tend to have conflict blow up in their faces, and the same is true for states.

But beyond this, Rawlsian liberalism produces a state which is based on lowest common denominators. This is where Plato comes in.

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Cotton is Not What Made the United States Rich

Lately, everyone is arguing that the United States got rich off of cotton. The New York Times recently put out a story arguing that American capitalism “begins on the plantation”. This completely misunderstands the relationship between slave and serf-based agriculture and industrial capitalism. A dominant agricultural industry is not the foundation for industrial success–it is an impediment. Let me show you why…

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How Zizek Should Have Responded to Jordan Peterson

If you had the misfortune of suffering through the “debate” between Jordan Peterson and Slavoj Zizek, I offer you my solidarity. Peterson and Zizek put on one of the most pathetic displays in the history of intellectuals arguing with each other in public. This was not Foucault versus Chomsky or even Hitchens versus Hitchens. It almost makes the Bill Nye versus Ken Ham debate look good, and that’s really saying something. Peterson and Zizek began with long, 30-minute speeches, ostensibly on the subject of which system is more conducive to human happiness—capitalism or socialism. The two speeches had virtually nothing to do with each other and very little to do with the topic.

You can read the rest of my piece on the Peterson/Zizek debate over at Current Affairs:

https://www.currentaffairs.org/2019/04/how-zizek-should-have-replied-to-jordan-peterson

How and Why Slavery Got Abolished

One of the things I find odd about the American discourse about slavery is how rarely Americans think about slavery as an institution which existed outside America. Not only did slavery exist in the ancient world in a pre-racialised way–in which many slaves were white, and many masters were people of colour–but it also existed in many other places during the period in which it existed in America. In many of these places, slavery was abolished not by violence but by ordinary politics. Yet this is rarely acknowledged or discussed, and it is increasingly common for Americans to frame our history largely in terms of the slavery question. We don’t often ask why slavery was more contentious in the United States than in other places. That’s what I want to think about with you today.

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Marx and Gandhi in the Spooky Forest

Once upon a time, Karl Marx and Mahatma Gandhi were driving a car through a spooky forest. It was spooky, in the sense that it was dark and mysterious and full of who knows what. Marx was behind the wheel, and Gandhi was in the passenger’s seat. Gandhi was looking nervous.

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