destruction and exploitation

Image: Luiz Armando Bagolin


Reflections on the reason/humanization dilemma in the historical process of development of capitalism.


Why has reason still not been able to humanize our world? Neither Enlightenment or any other reason since then has been able to eliminate the need for struggle for existence among men. On the contrary, it served and serves only to sophisticate and disguise this struggle, so that our existence and reproduction is more associated with the relationships between living beings that exist in nature than with a genuine social process. In fact, the reason/humanization dilemma presents itself as a great enigma, for which the great systems of thought, elaborated from the Enlightenment to the present, seem not to have provided an adequate solution. For, we continue in a world of intense exploitation of man by man, of profound social inequalities, of social relations based on domination and dependence, at all social and spatial levels (local, regional, national and world), prejudices and discrimination of all the orders and tones.

Generally speaking, the role of the development of reason and science has been to provide instruments and means to perpetuate this struggle. The role of reason and science should move towards showing that man's fight is not against himself, against the other, but with, and for the other. For, if this were not the case, the meaning of reason would not be different from the meaning of the relationships between living beings that occur in nature. The only difference between society and nature would be that in the latter, survival takes place through the predator/prey relationship, where one is sacrificed for the existence of the other. In society, however, existence does not happen through the death of the prey, but through the exploitation of human labor. The ability of humans to work makes the benefit of exploiting labor much more advantageous for existence and social reproduction. So, humanizing should mean a way of overcoming the struggle for existence within society, that is, using reason to equalize the social and human condition, and not the opposite; as observed throughout human history. We believe that we already have enough knowledge, conditions and means necessary for such an undertaking, perhaps we just need to “think” a little more about it.

The idea of ​​reason as a principle of social organization, subtended throughout the period, ranging from the Enlightenment to the present day, is that the necessary consequences of reason and speech would lead us from darkness, represented by a feudal-type society, to light, represented by a “[...] enlightened and enlightened society of independent individuals who reason and discuss, barter and exchange, just and deliberate men who see through their own prejudices [...]” (ROTHSCHILD, 2003, p. 18). However, from this perspective we do not see the fundamentals of the process. It's like looking at a tree from afar. From a certain distance we cannot see what happens in its branches: destruction. In nature, life is at the same time destruction, it is a struggle for existence, as Darwin (2005, p. 125) observed: “[…] the birds that sing happily around us generally live on insects or seeds, and [… ] so they are constantly destroying life […]”. If we don't really understand the meaning of the struggle for existence in nature, if we don't manage to make the necessary analogy between that struggle and ours, of using our reason to overcome and not to justify such a struggle, we may never be able to give an answer. suited to the reason/humanization dilemma. Capitalism, the State, real socialism, have hitherto only represented particular forms of reason justifying the struggle for existence; not its use to overcome such a struggle within society, in favor of a genuinely human sociability. Darwin is where we all meet. It will only be from the understanding of the real meaning of the struggle for existence and its implications on human sociability that we will be able to revolutionize ourselves as humanity: our last revolution.

The incongruity of economic liberalism

It seemed that with the Enlightenment we had finally reached the heart of the civilizing process. The ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity, which emerged from the French Revolution and spread across Europe and the world, are the result of rationalized enlightenment. The result of this was the elaboration of an ethical doctrine for a new society. At first, this ethics is aimed at demonstrating that if man acts in a virtuous way, society will be guided towards the best of all worlds. Therefore, for this ethic, the struggle for existence ceases to be considered in its essence and, in its place, begins to figure, an inner struggle between virtuous feelings and vile feelings; between vices and virtues. Hence economic liberalism and the idea of ​​the invisible hand that justifies it as a principle of economic and social organization.

The invisible hand is based on the doctrine of interest: the idea of ​​self-interest as the key to understanding human action; the transformation of the vice of avarice into the virtue of social welfare. Doctrine that sought to explain a new society, based on a new reason, economic reason, and which had as an elementary rule of conduct for the individual, the limitless pursuit of economic value. Thus, it was with Smith's economic systematization that "in its limited and domesticated form, the idea of ​​harnessing [the mobilization of passions] was able to survive and prosper both as one of the tenets of nineteenth-century liberalism and as a construct foundation of economic theory” (HIRSCHMAN, 2002, p.40). For, he was able to establish a “[…] powerful economic justification for the unbridled pursuit of individual self-interest […]” (HIRSCHMAN, 2002, p.120).

In 1993, the eminent Professor Giannetti, published a book in which he tried to frame Economics in an ethical perspective. His thesis is that of “ethics as a productive factor”, determinant of economic performance, of the nation's wealth, and his central proposition is that:

[…] the presence of moral values ​​and adherence to norms of conduct are essential requirements for the market to establish itself as a rule of civilized coexistence and become, fueled by the desire of each individual to live better, a constructive interaction in the creation of wealth (GIANNETTI, 1993, p. 154).

Unfortunately, there seems to be no support for Professor Giannetti's argument. Simply because when we confront “ethics as a productive factor” with the “fetish of money” (mystification of money), it is the unbridled pursuit of individual self-interest that always seems to prevail. Well, money, in the hands of the owners of the means of production, has the magical power of transmuting itself into capital (a value that is incessantly valued). In this sense, money, in general, and capital, in particular, are above ethics and morals. Full proof of this statement is in the systemic pattern of wealth of contemporary capitalism, represented by financialization. As Braga explained, still in 1998, this new pattern, “[…] signals an unbalancing movement in the international division of labor and growing disparities in income, wealth and sociability; understood as access to employment, vital and cultural expansion, democratic and civilized connivance” (BRAGA, 1998, p. 238-239).

Capitalist dynamics elevate self-interest to a position far beyond the self-regulating principle envisaged for the invisible hand, far above ethical and moral behavior. For, money “as an existing and active concept of value”, as Marx, still very young, observed:

[…] it also presents itself against the individual and against the social ties etc., which intend to be, for themselves, essence. He turns fidelity into infidelity, love into hate, hate into love, virtue into vice, vice into virtue, servant into master, master into servant, stupidity into understanding, understanding into stupidity. , p. 2008).

The insufficiency of real socialism

For Marx, the realization of existence in history happens from the class struggle: “the history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles” (MARX and ENGELS, 2010, p. 40). He contested, thus, the realization of history by the opposition between subjective morality and objective morality, as Hegel thought. For Marx, quite the contrary, “[…] the mode of production of material life conditions the process of social, political and intellectual life […]” (MARX, 2008a, p.47).

[…] In the social production of their own existence, men enter into determined, necessary relationships, independent of their will; these production relations correspond to a certain degree of development of their material productive forces. The totality of these production relations constitutes the economic basis of society, the real basis on which a juridical and political superstructure rises and to which certain social forms of consciousness correspond […] (MARX, 2008a, p.47).

In capitalism, specifically, the struggle takes place between two large classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. In this context, the need for government and administration can no longer represent the embodiment of freedom. It becomes only a form of maintenance and reproduction of a determined social totality, with a specific economic structure, a form of ownership and accumulation, which are also specific and related to it. For Hegel (1997, p. 149), the State, the domain of law, is realized freedom, “[…] the end and reality in action of the universal substance and of the public life enshrined in it. […]”. For Marx, the state is just a bourgeois committee.

[…] the bourgeoisie, with the establishment of big industry and the world market, finally won exclusive political sovereignty in the modern representative state. The executive in the modern state is nothing but a committee to manage the common affairs of the entire bourgeois class (MARX and ENGELS, 2010, p. 42).

In item 7, of chapter XXIV, of “Capital”, entitled, “historical tendency of capitalist accumulation”, based on the historical context of his time, Marx, then announced “the last hour of capitalist private property”, in which the “expropriators will be expropriated”. This conclusion is unquestionably logical, given that, on the one hand, the process of concentration of wealth and, on the other, the constitution of a mass of proletarians, with conditions for political organization and formation of a class consciousness, made the process of unjustifiable exploitation.

However, as we know today, the dominance of one class over another, even with the best of intentions, may not be a sufficient condition to lead to a society without classes or without privileged groups. Twentieth-century real socialism allowed us to raise such a question. Well, not even the collectivization of the means of production that he carried out eliminated the existence of privileged groups within that society. On this point, the lucidity of Hobsbawm's analysis of the end of real socialism is very revealing. In the first place, for the author, the dominance of communism as an ideology proved to be superficial, because the “[…] acceptance of communism by the 'masses' depended not on ideological or other similar convictions, but on how they judged what life under regimes was like. communists would do for them, and how they compared their situation with that of others […]” (HOBSBAWM, 1995, p. 480). Secondly, the only possible form of governmental organization was a “[…] ruthless and brutal type of command socialism […]” (HOBSBAWM, 1995, p. 482); based on the internal struggle for power and command, and the privileges associated with them. And, thirdly,

[…] even where communist regimes have survived and succeeded, as in China, they have abandoned the original idea of ​​a single, centrally controlled, state-planned economy based on a fully collectivized state – or a collectively owned economy virtually operating without a market [ …] (HOBSBAWM, 1995, p. 481).

Therefore, the result of the socialist experiment in the 1995th century was realized “[…] at an enormous human cost […] a dead end economy and a political system in favor of which there was nothing to say […]” (HOBSBAWM, 481 , p. XNUMX).

The reason/humanization dilemma

We believed for a long time that reason would be the solution to the social question, for the humanization of man. Perhaps because reason itself is what differentiates us from other animals. But, until our days, the use of reason, even with all the scientific progress provided, had no other role than to sophisticate the domination and exploitation of man by man. We need to go a step further. Sometimes to take a step further we need to take two steps back. In this case, we need to go back to Darwin:

[…] I am convinced that all the facts related to the economy of nature, distribution, rarity, abundance, existence and variation will seem obscure to us, or will be completely misunderstood. When we contemplate nature, it appears to us bright and jubilant when in a situation of superabundance of food, but we do not see, or do not imagine, that the birds that sing merrily around us generally live on insects or seeds, and that in this way they are constantly destroying life; or we commonly forget how often these songbirds, and also their eggs and young, are destroyed by predators; nor do we bear in mind the memory that, though food is plentiful at the moment, it has not always been so during the seasons (DARWIN, 2005, p. 125).

Life is life only because it is destruction. This last term in our consciousness is associated with everything that is contrary to life. But in nature, and perhaps in our unconscious, it represents the foundation of existence and reproduction; as radiantly exposed by Darwin in the above quotation. In nature, existence and reproduction are of enormous violence. Violence that means, in many cases, tearing apart live prey, eating its flesh while it is still breathing. However, destruction of the prey ensures the existence and reproduction of the predator; the destruction of life ensures the existence of life.

In human society, existence and reproduction are not directly related to destruction as in nature. We don't need to kill each other and eat, although we are constantly destroying resources. Even because we are just varieties of the same species, and even in nature, the practice of cannibalism is more an exception than a rule. Although, among us, this can also happen in extreme situations, as reported in literature and cinema in the most varied ways.

Throughout the historical process of humanity's development, all societies were constituted in a dynamic much closer to the struggle for existence than we imagine. Until now, no society has managed to eliminate such struggle within its structure.

Under capitalism, the process of exploitation of the workforce is just one aspect of the exploitation of man by man. The total dimension of the process demands that we understand the process as a form of continuous expropriation, which starts from a type of social relations closely related to the struggle for existence, as observed in nature. The very emergence of capitalism expresses itself in this way.

In the history of primitive accumulation, what epochs are all the revolutions that serve as a lever for the capitalist class in formation, but, above all, the moments in which great human masses are suddenly and violently stripped of their means of subsistence and thrown into the labor market as absolutely free proletarians. The expropriation of the land that previously belonged to the rural producer, to the peasant, constitutes the basis of the whole process [...]. (MARX, 2017, p. 787)

The theft of church property, the fraudulent alienation of state domains, the theft of communal property, the usurpatory transformation, carried out with unscrupulous terrorism, of feudal and clan property into modern private property, were so many idyllic methods of primitive accumulation. Such methods conquered the countryside for capitalist agriculture, incorporated the soil to capital and created for urban industry the necessary supply of an entirely free proletariat (MARX, 2017, p. 804).

As Marx noted, “violence is an economic power” and “the midwife of every old society that is pregnant with a new society” (MARX, 2017, p. 821). The colonial system, for example, was one of the processes of most brutal violence in the trajectory of primitive accumulation. However, capitalism since its inception and continuously combines economic methods (market) and extra economic methods, in its process of reproduction and expansion. In this sense, primitive accumulation is both part of the prehistory of capitalism and of its own operating dynamics.

Wood (2014), in her book “The Empire of Capital”, discussed the relationship between economic and extra-economic strength in capitalism, both in the classical era of imperialism and in what she called the “new imperialism”. As the author explains, England was the first to create a form of imperialism driven by the logic of capitalism; the capitalist imperatives of competition, capital accumulation and increased productivity. A form of imperialism that goes beyond imperial rule or commercial supremacy to include “entirely new weapons in the ideological arsenal”, such as economic liberalism and “[…] the pseudo-biological conceptions of race, which excluded certain human beings not simply by law , but by nature, from the normal universe of freedom and equality” (WOOD, 2014, p. 83).

For Hobsbawm (2002), the classic era of imperialism belonged to the period between 1975 and 1914, and constituted a world where the “advanced” countries (the developed capitalist core) dominated the “backwards”. It was caused by the rivalry between industrial economies. The role of the dominated always presented itself as a continuous experience of dependence and exploitation. For his part, Galeano, in his classic book The Open Veins of Latin America, analyzed this process since the birth of the new world. For him "a mistake of great consequences".

Has not our history been a continual experience of mutilation and disintegration, disguised as development? Centuries ago, the conquest razed the soil to plant crops for export and annihilated the indigenous populations in the mine shafts and washes to satisfy the overseas demand for silver and gold. The diet of the pre-Columbian population that managed to survive the extermination got worse with the progress of others. Nowadays, the people of Peru produce fish meal, very rich in proteins, for cows in the United States and Europe, but proteins are conspicuously lacking in the diet of most Peruvians. The Volkswagen branch in Switzerland plants a tree for every car it sells, an ecological gesture, while the Volkswagen branch in Brazil clears hundreds of hectares of forests that it will dedicate to the intensive production of meat for export. The Brazilian people, who rarely eat meat, sell more and more meat abroad. Darcy Ribeiro told me that a republic volkswagen, is essentially no different from a banana republic. For every dollar produced by the export of bananas, only eleven cents remain in the producing country, and of these eleven cents an insignificant part corresponds to the workers on the plantations. Do proportions change when a Latin American country exports cars? (GALEANO, 2019, p. 387)

The 1929th century was perhaps the century of greatest and most extensive transformations ever recorded in human history. Whether through dramatic events such as the two world wars, the Russian Revolution, the Great Depression of 1970, or the Technical-Scientific-Informational Revolution in the XNUMXs. capital that, in turn, produced this “new imperialism”, with new forms of extra-economic expropriation (accumulation by dispossession and expulsions, for example), and a new race between countries for world hegemonic power.

When Marx wrote the chapter on machinery and large-scale industry, in Book I of Capital, he asserted that machinery in the capitalist mode of production was fundamentally nothing more than a means for the production of surplus value. A statement that remained extremely valid for the new sectors and new forms of accumulation derived from the Information Revolution. In this context, we remain closer to the struggle for existence, as in the animal world, than truly towards a more humane society.

In addition to reading, we can now see images, contexts, and hear testimonies about the results of this new world stage of capitalism. Some documentaries are amazing. We highlight the Austrian documentary “Darwin's Nightmare”, from 2005, by Director Hubert Sauper, which portrays a true process of primitive accumulation on the shores of Lake Victoria, the largest tropical lake in the world, located in Tanzania, in the 1960s. , in 2009, the famous director Michael Moore, released the documentary “Capitalism: a love story”, in which he portrays not only the economic and social repercussions of the 2008 crisis, but also the advance: of commodification (including juvenile delinquency) ; the privatization and precariousness of work; finally, how, for the author, capitalism defeated democracy. Finally, we highlight the series of streaming "Rotten”, especially the episodes of the second season: the “avocado war”; “troubled waters”; “sweet deal”; and “dark chocolate”. In the latter, for example, the misery behind the small producers who supply cocoa and the role of intermediaries were portrayed, in the face of a form of production that recalls the dynamics of the textile sector of the English Industrial Revolution. One of the most impressive dealt with the bottled water industry: the exploitation domain of large corporations that act to the detriment of human life itself.

Also in this century, some authors such as Saskia Sassen and David Harvey, returned to the theme of primitive accumulation in the current conditions of capitalism. Sassen, in her book “Expulsions”, from 2014, dealt with what she called “new logics of expulsion”. Its introductory title is already quite suggestive, “the wild selection”. For her, this new phase of advanced capitalism reinvented the mechanisms of primitive accumulation, whether through innovations that increased the capacity for extracting natural resources, resulting in ever-increasing extensions of land and dead water; whether through complex operations and a lot of specialized innovation, related, for example, to outsourcing logistics or to the finance algorithm, giving rise to extreme forms of poverty and social brutalization.

We face a terrible problem in our global political economy: the emergence of new logics of expulsion. In the last two decades, there has been a huge growth in the number of people, companies and places expelled from the central social and economic orders of our time. This turn towards radical expulsion was made possible by elementary decisions in some cases; in others, for some of our most advanced economic and technical achievements. The concept of evictions takes us beyond the familiar idea of ​​growing inequality as a way of understanding the pathologies of current global capitalism. It also brings to the fore the fact that some forms of knowledge and intelligence that we respect and admire are often at the origin of long chains of transactions that can end in simple evictions. (SASSEN, 2016, p. 9)

Harvey, in his book “The new imperialism”, from 2003, described what he calls “accumulation via dispossession”. The term dispossession was used by the author because, in his understanding, the characteristics of primitive accumulation, described by Marx, still constitute an ongoing process in the historical geography of capitalism. The following quote contains a few paragraphs from that book and accurately summarizes primitive accumulation in our time. But mainly, they portray the existing similarity, even with all technical developments that have occurred since the English Industrial Revolution, between the natural processes of the struggle for existence, as described by Darwin, and the social processes of existence and reproduction of man.

[…] The expulsion of peasant populations and the formation of a landless proletariat has accelerated in countries like Mexico and India in the last three decades; many previously shared resources, such as water, have been privatized (often at the World Bank's insistence) and inserted into the capitalist logic of accumulation; Alternative forms (indigenous and even, in the case of the United States, home-made goods) of production and consumption have been suppressed. National industries have been privatized. Agribusiness replaced family farming. And slavery has not disappeared (particularly in the sex trade). […]

The credit system and finance capital became, as Lenin, Hilferding and Luxemburg observed in the early twentieth century, great springboards of predation, fraud and theft. […]

Biopiracy is rampant and the plundering of the world's stock of genetic resources is well on its way to the benefit of a few large pharmaceutical companies. Escalating destruction of global environmental resources (land, air, water) and proliferating habitat degradation, which preclude all but capital-intensive forms of agricultural production, have also resulted in the wholesale commodification of nature in all its forms. The commodification of cultural, historical forms and intellectual creativity involves large-scale dispossession (the music industry is notorious for appropriating and exploiting communities' culture and creativity). The corporatization and privatization of hitherto public goods (such as universities), not to mention the wave of privatizations (of water and public utilities of all kinds) that has swept the world, indicate a new wave of 'expropriation of the commons'. […] The regression of regulatory statutes designed to protect work and the environment from degradation has involved the loss of rights. The devolution of common property rights gained through years of bitter class struggle (the right to a state-paid pension, social welfare, a national health care system) into the private domain has been one of the most flagrant policies of dispossession implemented in the name of neoliberal orthodoxy. (HARVEY, 2004, p. 121-123)

For Žižek (2011, p. 18), a new global class, resulting from the capitalist accumulation regime with financial dominance, has contributed to the establishment of new forms of apartheid.

In contemporary China, the nouveau riche built isolated communities according to the idealized model of a 'typical' Western city; near Shanghai, for example, there is a 'real' replica of a small English town, with a main street, pubs, an Anglican church, a Sainsbury's supermarket etc.; the entire area is isolated from the surroundings by an invisible, but no less real, dome. There is no longer a hierarchy of social groups within the same nation: the residents of this city live in a universe in which, in their ideological imaginary, the surrounding world of the “lower class” simply does not exist […] São Paulo […] boasts 250 helipads in its central area. To avoid the danger of mixing with the common people, the rich in São Paulo prefer to use helicopters, so that, looking at the city's sky, we really have the impression of being in a futuristic megalopolis of the type you see in films like Blade Runner ou The fifth Element: the common people swarming the dangerous streets below and the rich floating higher in the sky.

Economic revolution now: equal social needs, equal monetary returns, regardless of social role

In a society as dystopian as ours, morality is just another form of reification. In addition to the commodity fetish and the money fetish, there seems to be another fetish in which the fetishized object is man himself in his social relationships. To present our argument for we have phrased Marx's exposition in relation to what commodities would say if they could talk. Our presentation is as follows.

It is possible that our use value as men (attribute of being conscious and autonomous as a social being) is of some interest to capital. To us and among us, as men-things, the use value in itself does not concern us, because we accept that we are only a means to an end, of capital. What really concerns us is how much we can be exploited (generate more value); we do not complain about it, because somehow we are convinced of the dream of abstract wealth that awaits us at the end of the road. However, our own circulation, as commodity-things, distances us and condemns us to perpetual alienation, both vertically and horizontally. The first concerns the alienation of the capital/labor relationship. The second portrays the alienation between us, men-things, who relate to each other only as exchange values, as abstract individuals, increasingly individualized and bestialized by new technologies. We are only waiting for the orders of capital (symbolizing the man-man, the true, the way), issued to the few of us who will remain things, to those of us not called nor things we will be able to be anymore.

The fetishization of man happens when the social relations between them are mediated by man as not to be, as a thing, the man-thing, alienated, bestialized and objectified, both by the capital/work relationship and by the social relations in the world of work itself. This fetish is part of the human results of the Technical-Scientific-Informational Revolution. Specifically that of promoting an incessant process of fetishization of man by giving him a false sense of autonomy, freedom and self-knowledge. Marx's original text is as follows:

If commodities could talk, they would say: it is possible that our use value is of some interest to men. To us, as things, it does not concern us. What concerns us materially [dinglich] is our value. Our own circulation as things-commodities [Warendinge] is proof of that. We relate to each other only as exchange values ​​(MARX, 2017, p 128).

A new pattern of sociability that distances us from the struggle for existence and brings us closer to the idea of ​​humanity will only be possible based on a new principle: equal monetary income for equal social needs, regardless of social functions. For that, we need to form a new conscience, for a new paradigm, in which the ideas of meritocracy and plutocracy are eliminated. In the current stage of human knowledge, in which social functions are full of meaning, in which there is a great reach of education and intellectual formation, although in a very uneven way, this seems to be a possible idea.

We present, in very general terms, some suggestions for such an undertaking. The development and implementation of other forms of humanization will be the responsibility of readers, managers..., in short, the various social actors, as an exercise of imagination, change of consciousness and action, a lot of action.

Let's start with a practical example. We used information from the Ceará transparency portal referring to a specific Higher Education Institution (HEI). In December 2020, in terms of active employees, this HEI had 764 enrollments and a total of BRL 6.312.001,24 in salary payments. The distance between the lowest salary (R$ 1.066,04) and the highest salary (R$ 27.232,44) was 27 times. It means to say that the salary of 01 employee is equivalent to that of 27, or in terms of exchange value, 01 human is worth 27, according to the logic of ordinary economics. There are exponentially greater distances in modern financial industries. For example, the salary of a CEO, the highest hierarchical position in a large company, which includes the monthly salary and also bonuses and other benefits, can reach R$ 46,880 million per year. This was precisely the remuneration of the CEO of Itaú Unibanco, in 2018. Compared to the lowest salary at IES, even that of 2020, in monthly values, it simply represents a difference of 3.665 times. Considering now, the salary of an IES Doctor, associate professor at the last level of progression, the monthly salary of a CEO is equivalent to that of 216 doctors. We will hardly find acceptable justification for this moral reality of capitalism.

The current remuneration logic is that the professor, because he spent more time studying, should obtain a differentiated income; the meritocracy system. However, a general service assistant, the employee who has the lowest salary, from the social point of view, has the same needs as the teacher. Now, it seems plausible that what has to be different is the way in which both enter the public service, not the income; since both have equal social needs, which can only be met equally through equally equal monetary income. The discussion on the issue of incentives, that with equal wages no one will choose certain social functions, is a discussion that escapes us at the moment. What we can anticipate for the reader's reflection is that intellectual and physical differences can suit people and functions, instead of the difference in remuneration.

Let us now imagine that, based on meetings and discussions between the employees of the aforementioned HEI, there was a change of consciousness, and that there was a legal mechanism in which the superior administration, according to the established will, requested the government of the state of Ceará to equalize compensation for everyone. There are two ways to observe the result of this change. A pessimistic form, typical of orthodox economics, in which we would be worsening the situation of one to improve the situation of another, a situation that goes against the optimal allocation of resources (what an optimal situation, in which 01 person is worth 26 others). The other way of observing is understanding the process as the result of a new logic, a new reason, a truly human reason. Well, founded not only on the fiction of legal equality, but on economic equality. Thus, meaning a radical transformation in the economic structure of society, that is, in the social relations of production. In practical terms, if everyone's salary is equalized by dividing the total salary by the number of enrollments, the average value would be R$ 8.261,78. In general, the idea is not related to lower wages, but to the search for an adequate average level of remuneration to satisfy all our needs, whether coming from the stomach or the imagination, as Marx would say. Imagine now that all institutions of this type carried out the same procedure, since they are all meritocratically organized. And yet, that such an initiative be extended to all spheres of public administration, involving all institutions and bodies, from the executive, legislative and judiciary. There would also be different average salaries across different sectors, as well as the complexity of establishing average remuneration standards that reflect different living costs between large and small cities, for example.

The average mentioned above, calculated by institution, serves only to illustrate both an indicator of economic equality and a political action in pursuit of this equality. Therefore, it is much more appropriate to equalize remuneration by a more general measure. From this perspective, GDP per capita could work as an indicator of general average income, moving from a limited tool to measure the standard of living, to a measure of the distribution of wealth produced, to be achieved via its operationalization as income per capita (but that considers both aspects of social inequality and income concentration). By way of illustration, the GDP per capita in Brazil, in current values, was R$ 33.593,82 in 2018.

We take an HEI as an example, because as a knowledge-forming place, there is nothing more ideal to start a radical change in social relations. This change movement goes far beyond mere equal remuneration, as it advances towards the annulment of the fetishism of money and merchandise. We believe that this change may have a better chance of starting with the public service (universities, city halls, state and federal governments, supported by the struggles of social movements and organizations). However, when monetary remuneration is carried out by the private sector, a series of nuances of different orders are associated with such a change. We will need a lot of imagination and action to solve this problem, as we suggest later on. We advance that in this case what needs to be dismantled is the plutocracy.

We reached a level of technical and productive sophistication never imagined by any thinker. We really have a worldwide integrated production and communication system. We can now think of production and distribution on a planetary level. However, we live in a world dominated by plutocracy. Today, starting from the Information Revolution, we can truly think of a world community, in which the productive forces are in favor of humanization and not against humanity. It seems a rather naive thought, but perhaps this is our last chance, in the face of the disaster in which we are plunged. We need to rationalize about a new private property, a new process of accumulation, a new State (its configuration and role), and about the necessity, urgency and possibility of a world government.

The State, in this new stage of capitalism, is marked by “[…] the worldwide deepening of economic inequality, the global erosion of social well-being and the planetary penetration of financial industries […]” (APPADURAI, 2010, p. 29) . Regarding its role, for example, Bauman (2019, p. 48), speaks of a “[…] gradual but inexorable deactivation of the institutions of political power […]”, Appadurai (2019, p. 30), of “ democracy fatigue”, and Geiselberger (2019, p. 10), of “[…] 'securitization' (securitization) and post-democratic symbolic politics […]”. In general, for these authors, we now live in a context of political inability to deal with global problems (economic inequality, migration, terrorism, etc.). Context also associated with the transformation of culture into a stage of sovereignty that ends up producing authoritarian populist leaders, since economic sovereignty no longer fits within national sovereignty. These, in turn, “[...] promise the purification of national culture as a means of global political power [...]” (APPADURAI, 2019, p. 25). And yet, we are experiencing the transformation of the democratic political debate into a way out of democracy itself; however, keeping the configuration of State and power unaltered, thus creating a true simulacrum of democracy or a democracy in reverse. Who are the winners and who are the losers of such a process?

[…] The main winners are extraterritorial financiers, investment funds and commodity traders of all shades of legitimacy; the main losers are economic and social equality, the principles of intra- and inter-state justice, as well as a large part, probably a growing majority, of the world's population. (BAUMAN, 2019, p. 48)

The other side of the coin is the configuration of the State. The configuration problem is related to the concentration of power generated by it. Take presidential democracies as an example. The division of powers, between executive, legislative and judiciary, is a fundamental aspect of democracy, but not even it was able to avoid the dramatic situation described above. We urgently need a new configuration of the State that results in a new configuration of power in society at all levels of government, local, regional and national. In this regard, we will deal only with the executive branch, presidency and ministries, and the suggestions are for all levels of government.

Let's start with the president. Why should a single person run an entire country? Why should we subject ourselves to governments that do not represent social interests? Why are we still subject to electing and accepting rulers like Trump and Bolsonaro? Why not elect in their place a government council with seats for the representative sectors of society? What would your role be? Think and formulate policies for implementation by ministries, as well as meet ministerial demands. By what means? A permanent technical staff selected, via public tender, to transform political solutions into technical solutions. What is the role of ministries? Why do ministers and their teams change every four years? If we think about ministries, based on their activities and functions, we can conclude that the only valid answer to the last question is related to discretionary power (power bargains for high positions and all forms of corruption derived therefrom). Let us now imagine a different situation, in which the ministry is a body structured completely based on public tenders and in which, also, its direction is exercised by a council formed by career officials. The role of the ministries would remain the same: elaboration of plans, projects and their execution. Perhaps, if we managed to implant an executive in this perspective, we could also have some hope in democracy again: a true democratic revolution.

Against meritocracy and plutocracy

We have seen how private property generates incessant accumulation of capital and how this process amplifies and deepens private property. How the association between private property and accumulation represents the cement of the capitalist form of continuous generation of exploitation and inequality. And yet, how capitalist production represents a form of fetishized sociability. However, this incessant process of accumulation has raised us to such a degree of scientific development that through it we have the capacity and the chance to reinvent ourselves as humanity. Who could imagine the computer, algorithms, social networks, and everything else that makes the new world of information and computing possible. No aspect, whether of nature or society, was left out of the transformations triggered by these new technologies. So far, they have been used to reinforce, amplify and perpetuate the form of sociability and society that we have. In a word, they are the most powerful tools ever created for leveraging the process of capitalist accumulation. It is the most advanced reason ever produced by human reason. The climax of the productive forces as termed by Marx. And it is precisely at this climax of the productive forces that a new revolution can operate. Because only with this instrument it becomes possible to overcome dualistic behaviors, such as: domination/dependence, exploitation/inequality, wealth/poverty, exclusion/discrimination.

The foundations of this revolution are based on the extinction of private property and accumulation. Historically, this was the reason for the socialist revolution, and as history has shown, even this revolution was not able to generate another process of humanization. The new revolution demands a new dialectic, in which private property continues to exist, but at the same time private property does not exist. In which there is accumulation, but at the same time there is no accumulation. Private property is human individuality itself. It cannot cease to exist. At the same time, private property cannot serve as an instrument of domination and exploitation, so it must remain limited to human idiosyncrasy. Likewise, society cannot exist without accumulation, without surplus production, of large sums of capital for large investments, but accumulation cannot be private. Therefore, we need to create the means to ensure, at the same time, the existence and non-existence of private property, and the existence and non-existence of accumulation. Therefore, there must be a new relationship between man and money, mediated by new information technologies. Not to amplify capital and accumulation, quite the contrary, to level men in their social relations.

What we need to understand is that every historical reality experienced until today was based on the struggle for existence. The scope of the development of our reason seems not yet to have produced a reason for human reason. Perhaps we reached the material capacity for such a feat only at this stage of historical development. For, only in this historical period do we have the appropriate productive and technological tools, from the point of view of information, its processing, forms of administration, in all the domains that constitute the social totality. Finally, in this period we have the power to equalize men and, at the same time, maintain their differences. Eliminate the idea of ​​heroes and villains, make public administration social, give private enterprise a truly social character, contrary to the central idea of ​​accumulation for the sake of accumulation. The freedom that enables a man to concentrate wealth and power without measure, and to use them as he pleases, cannot be true freedom. This must necessarily come from overcoming the idea of ​​the struggle for existence, which has always been rooted in all historical societies. A truly social consciousness is not compatible with the struggle for existence as observed in nature. Either our nature becomes different or we don't really become human. In this way, human freedom will require a monumental sacrifice: the denial of our own origin, our first nature, our animal nature, founded on the struggle for existence. It seems paradoxical to talk about freedom and sacrifice at the same time. But, if by freedom we understand that all men are similar, they are brothers, they have the same needs, from the social point of view, the only form of freedom that we can conceive would be that of economic equivalence, between each one and between all. Therefore, any form of private property that promotes incessant accumulation is in itself incompatible with freedom. It is, in this sense, that freedom demands sacrifice and, in this sense as well, that the process of humanization demands a way of overcoming the struggle for existence within society and between all societies. Without this rationalization, all revolutions in capitalism or any other system may never allow for true human emancipation. Because this emancipation is not only of man in relation to nature, but mainly of man in his struggle for existence against other men. Therefore, it is essential to eliminate meritocracy and plutocracy from social existence, as previously stated. The idea is simple, but its development and application, at a social level, can be, to say the least, complex, and depending on the social disposition, it may never be put into practice: equal social needs, equal income. To account for this idea, we suggest the term econocracy, the basis and foundation of another idea, sociocracy.

The term econocracy is not new, but our interpretation is the complete opposite of its original idea. This refers to a world governed by an economic science of hermetic language, inaccessible to common people. In which political decisions and social policies are guided by the application of quantitative instruments, that is, people are only inputs for the system equations. According to the authors Earle, Cahal and Ward (2016), econocracy would be the political system that governs most countries today, reducing politics and the political system to the narrow limits of neoclassical economics. Quite the contrary, our idea of ​​econocracy is related to equal income for equal social needs, that is, the complete elimination of the meritocratic system in society. In turn, econocracy would be the foundation of sociocracy. This is not a new term either. Its use by the French philosopher Auguste Comte dates from the 1850s. However, its current meaning dates from the 1940s, as described by Koch-Gonzalez and Rau (2019). There are a range of variations of sociocracy, but in general they all refer to governance models. Our interpretation of sociocracy takes into account the configuration of the State, as described in the previous chapter. It also considers that any model of governance, whether for companies or governments, will only occur with justice and freedom, in the hypothesis of equal income, that is, in the hypothesis of econocracy.

If human needs, from a social point of view, are equal, why are personal or family incomes so unequal? Throughout human history, it took a lot of pioneering spirit, heroism and originality to give rise to modern agriculture, factories, schools, hospitals, etc. We highlight these systems for their references to production, education and health, as fundamental elements of social existence, representatives of a social totality. However, private property and capital accumulation, as foundations of this totality, bequeathed us a world of struggle for existence, as described above. For the econocracy to work we need to focus on the social functions of the aforementioned systems. Therefore, it is necessary to think of new legal forms to account for the nuances that involve the issue of equal income in the private sphere of the economy.

From an economic point of view, any company or entity that organizes itself as such constitutes an amount of revenue, expense, wear and tear, and the need for investment (renovation, expansion, modernization). The result that appears from this equation should be the performance of the participants, which should be the same, regardless of their level of education, position, function, time with the company, etc. We can now extend this reasoning to an economic sector and to the productive structure of a region, a country, and even the world.

In this new form, the individual becomes collective without ceasing to be individual, and the collective becomes individual without ceasing to be collective. The instrument of such a change is the same as that of incessant accumulation and the capital relation, and it could not be otherwise. What was separated by money only by money will return to unity. Econocracy as a social base and sociocracy as a form of political organization, according to the previous chapter, will make it possible to eliminate the fetish of merchandise, money and man himself. A summary of suggestions from this chapter and the previous one are highlighted below.

1) Equalization of income for all;

2) Accumulation for collective purposes and no longer as a goal of individuals or groups;

3) Limiting private property and favoring collective public goods;

4) Stocks, bonds, and other forms of participation in undertakings will have social functions and will not be objectives of accumulation and personal fortune;

5) Transition from the private organization of companies, the productive system, in short, the entire economic and business base of society, to sociocratic management;

6) Government administrations, in the case of executive power, will be exercised through democratically elected governing councils. Secretariats and ministries will be made up exclusively of technical staff selected via public tender. There will be no more political appointments. Its direction will be chosen from its professional staff;

7) formation of a world government to think, develop and implement forms of econocracy and sociocracy.

That said, considering capitalism's contempt for the existence of peoples, for the contents of life, for the destruction of nature and of being, we need to formulate a new approach to development, which has human life and its contents as its center and foundation, not as mere rhetoric, but as an ultimate sense.

To do so, human life needs to assume the dimension of a general equivalent, on a global level, with the strength to overcome another general equivalent, money, in a concrete way that makes the value of life common and equal for each and everyone, that is that is, in the production of space. Human life understood as the right to equal existence for all, the right to the result of social production, the distribution of labor productivity. Bearing in mind that each life has the same value. However, in order to follow this path, it is necessary to awaken a new global conscience. This awareness has as its starting point the idea that no man should subjugate another, whether by race, wealth or power, as such ideas tend to disappear. In this perspective, the limitation of large fortunes, of super wages, the imposition of social limits on private property, may represent the first step in this direction. In the direction of income equalization, as presented earlier.

Finally, we need to recognize that individual life and collective life are not different, as they derive from the same substance: being. We insist, in a first moment, on the institutionalization of norms and laws that limit wages and equalize income, income and equity, so that reproduction relations are shaped by social control and not by the laws of capitalist accumulation. From this awareness, a certain solidarity can be obtained against accumulation for the sake of accumulation, against social dismantling and against the destruction of the environment. Something like a decommodification of reproduction relations and, consequently, of the city, politics, culture, nature and being itself. Evidently, such a path cannot be of a region or nation, but has to be orchestrated globally. For Žižek (2012, p. 334),

[…] it is illusory to hope to actually change the situation by “extending” democracy to the economic sphere (say, reformulating the banks so that they are subject to popular control) […]. However radical our anti-capitalism may be, in “democratic” processes (which can play a positive role, of course), solutions are sought only through the democratic mechanisms that are part of the ideological apparatus of the “bourgeois” state that guarantees the reproduction undisturbed capital […], the acceptance of democratic mechanisms as if they constituted the only framework for all possible changes […] prevents the radical transformation of capitalist relations.

However, change has to start somewhere. In this context, as we stated earlier, the University seems to be a very promising place. It can, for example, animate and participate with social movements and organizations in the necessary democratic struggles, including challenging governments to implement instruments and adequate measures for a new social order.

When somewhere we lose our utopias, we also lose the sense of what “being human” is. It is urgent, therefore, to rescue this sense. As stated by Altvater (2010, p. 334), “[…] the concrete utopia is stuck with heavy anchors in the real background of capitalist society […]”, reified, fetishized in relations of reproduction. It is necessary to rescue utopia, to rescue a sense of humanity, a common foundation to fight for. So far, neither the theories of economic development, nor the deepening of the environmental issue and its partial solutions, have managed to reach the heart of this issue. Precisely because they did not touch on the fundamental point: the monstrosity of reproduction relations in contemporary capitalism. It is necessary to undo these and other myths towards an “achievable utopia”.

Can we establish this new utopia, based on the fact that the reproduction of social relations was not and is not “natural” or “normal”? Have we not yet realized the need to put such reproduction under social control, beyond market mechanisms? Will we let the 2011st century produce a global proletarianization, the destruction of being and nature? For Žižek (83, p. XNUMX), “we run the risk of losing everything: the threat is that we are reduced to abstract subjects empty of all substantial content, dispossessed of our symbolic substance, our genetic base heavily manipulated, vegetating in an inhospitable environment” . We are left with the hope of a new conscience, of a new politics, of a new State, of a new form of property, and of a new praxis Social; that at some point, make evident the equivalence of human life anywhere on the planet. It will be an awakening in the face of this great degeneration, of the apocalyptic zero point, of the possibility of the destruction of being and mother earth, it will be our last revolution.


The reason/humanization dilemma remains without an apparent solution. The doctrine of self-interest created an economic world that was completely averse to the precepts of such a doctrine: the ideals of equality and freedom that represented “political arguments in favor of capitalism before its triumph”. The solution pointed out by Hegel was contested very early on by Marx. Marx's solution, as it was put into practice, did not prove to be viable in the XNUMXth century either. Capitalism in its new configuration (financial dominance) is increasingly averse to the civilizing process and democracy. Hence the urgency and need for a new reason, for a new economy, a new politics and a new political economy: economic revolution now!

*José Micaelson Lacerda Morais é Professor at the Department of Economics at the Regional University of Cariri (URCA).



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