There is one achievement the capitalist mode of production can count on making a good impression with, or at least commanding respect: unstoppable technological progress, seen in all kinds of consumer goods along with the means for producing them. It is popularly illustrated by sophisticated equipment in fashion at the moment. On suitable occasions it is measured in the few hours and minutes of working time required for producing a certain product nowadays as compared with the past. “Downsides” are not ignored: the oversized “footprint” left by the consumption of resources, destruction of the environment, loss of jobs due to “rationalization” — all this is recognized as problematic. But “rationalization” is still called by that name; and the solution of choice for the excessive load on “nature” is considered to be — alongside a personal willingness to do without things — more technological progress. Yet it is quite clear that neither free choice nor rationality is the reason for the unstoppable technological progress the capitalist mode of production impresses with. It is caused by a practical constraint that industrialists actually create for themselves.
The crisis of worldwide, capitalist business is entering its third year. It began in the summer of 2007 as a disruption of a specialized segment of the U.S. financial sector, when the devaluation of securities in which home mortgage and other debt had been used as speculative business items led to the insolvency of the special-purpose vehicles constructed for the purpose of creating and marketing these items. The crisis consequently spread further and further.
On the occasion of NATO opponents’ wrong criticism of the celebrations of NATO's sixty year anniversary, we published a leaflet criticizing their arguments. In response, we received the following letter.
If I correctly understand what I’ve read of yours so far, you reject any constructive criticism of society because it seeks to improve a system that needs to be abolished. In your articles, you offer evidence that society’s evils are due to the system and that the state, Keynesianism, the World Bank, the UN, etc. cannot remedy them.
Noam Chomsky is a rare bird indeed. On the one hand, he is an established intellectual, a member of the respected academic elite; on the other hand, he is a world-famous, radical leftist critic — especially of the U.S. On the one hand, he is a professed anarchist and socialist whose critical views lie far outside the mainstream, having nothing to do with the typically constructive proposals usually offered to business and the state. On the other hand, he insists that his anarchist and “libertarian socialist” views are anything but extreme, but rather merely express the natural desire of all mankind: the desire for freedom. Chomsky regards himself as part of an intellectual tradition that is as humanistic as Europe and as American as apple pie, a tradition that includes intellectual luminaries such as Humboldt, Schelling, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Jefferson, J.J. Rousseau or Michael Bakunin. For Chomsky, regardless of the theoretical and practical disputes between these thinkers, as ardent advocates of freedom they agree on the most important point of all: “‘Man is in his essence a free, searching, self-perfecting being…’ [whose] true end [consists in] the full harmonious development of human potential in its richest diversity.”
Intellectual property is a controversial matter. Many people don’t see why they should pay for text, software, music, or movies when they can be copied without effort or downloaded for free from the Net. And some people discover the ugly, unjust side of property in the ownership of “immaterial” goods, while the ownership of tangible, physical things they consider entirely proper. On the other side, it is not only the majority of artists who insist on the right to their works, from which they also have to be able to live. Politicians for their part find that especially intellectual property gets too little respect. They are willing to listen to the complaints of the media companies, which need a fully enforced copyright for their profits. The German government considers that already quite well realized within the country, but only inadequately put into practice outside it. The world abroad is rife with the “theft of ideas” and “product piracy,” by which not only the profits of multinationals are stolen, but also the “technical edge” of “our” economy in general. For the leading economic powers, it is a challenge to look after the protection of intellectual property abroad where foreign rulers decide how to deal with copyright, patent, and trademark complaints. Intellectual property has consequently become the object of a political struggle in global competition.
Lovers of culture generally know that it has been around for a while. It hasn’t gotten any better though. Nowadays, just about everything that is outside the realm of necessity indulges in a rather peculiar use of the freedom that comes into its own in cultural matters.
But first to the exciting question of when the business got started.