Assorted Articles IV

I’ve come back to my backlog of political articles to sift through them and share a few gems. This one has it all, from Marx to Meditation to Nintendo.

In “21st-century Marx” at Aeon, Terrell Carver takes readers through different popular interpretations of Karl Marx and pulls out some of the meaning that has come to be emphasized about him and his work in recent movements.

Style triumphs over content, and trope over proposition, making Marx’s very divergence from the dry logics of econometrics an advantage. Capital is now the book in which Marx portrays capitalists as vampires, sucking the blood of child labourers; as werewolves, howling and hungry for worker-prey; of ‘magic caps’ worn by economists to make the realities of capitalist exploitation disappear.

21st-century Marx” by Terrell Carver

Marx is arguing passionately that ‘mainstream’ economists, contrary to the self-serving claims that there is no alternative, have simply got the wrong principles. Or at least his writing is helping to generate economic principles that offer a more realistic ethics, a more developed commitment to democracy, and a more thorough exploration of the relationship between markets and freedoms.

21st-century Marx” by Terrell Carver

In New Socialist, David Camfield wrote about the need for theory in service of social change in the article “Do we need theory to fight for radical change?“, which acts as a lead in to his book We Can Do Better. He makes a short, compelling argument that sums up nicely as “a better understanding of what we’re up against helps people to stay in the struggle.”

I think the strongest social theory with the necessary qualities is one that fuses the best ideas of Karl Marx and some of the people who have worked with Marx’s concepts with the best ideas developed by thinkers whose foremost concerns have been sexism, racism, heterosexism and other kinds of oppression..

Do we need theory to fight for radical change?” by David Camfield

Here’s a silly, flimsy article that I get a kick out of because of my love for Marx and my love for Nintendo. I think Ryan Cooper is off the mark in this assessment, but “The Marxist case for the Nintendo Switch” has such a lovely title. I do believe Nintendo is a company that is better run than most and the games and hardware it produces are wonderful, but I don’t see a whole lot of Marx on display. Cooper sees it a little differently, though.

It’s remarkable both as a come-from-behind victory, and also as a way a corporation succeeded by breaking out of what Marxists call the capitalist dialectic — that is, by ignoring the received wisdom of the market and the ideology of capitalism itself.

The Marxist case for the Nintendo Switch” by Ryan Cooper

Through Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow so often surfaces fascinating articles and contextualizes them perfectly. In “Employees who practice mindfulness meditation are less motivated, having realized the futility of their jobs” he frames a New York Times article on meditation, “Hey Boss, You Don’t Want Your Employees to Meditate“, as part of a larger tension between capitalism’s benefit from suffering and people’s benefit from equanimity. Hey, even marketing experts and capitalists are basically underlining that enterprises want us to be miserable and anxious for their benefit.

People who had meditated were more focused, but they didn’t perform better than their less calm, more anxious colleagues, because “their lower levels of motivation…seemed to cancel out that benefit.

During the heyday of psychedelics, the prevailing conspiracy theory explaining the criminalization of “mind-expanding” substances was that the boss class realized that people who could perceive greater truths would be unshackled from meaningless materialism and the need to work to attain status goods. Whether or not that was why regulators acted to ban psychedelic substances (an act that former UK Drugs Czar David Nutt called “the worst case of scientific censorship since the Catholic Church banned the works of Copernicus and Galileo”), there certainly seems to be a correlation between discomfort and anxiety and your willingness to work hard for someone else’s enterprise.

Employees who practice mindfulness meditation are less motivated, having realized the futility of their jobs” by Cory Doctorow

Mindfulness might be unhelpful for dealing with difficult assignments at work, but it may be exactly what is called for in other contexts. There is no denying that mindfulness can be beneficial, bringing about calm and acceptance. Once you’ve reached a peak level of acceptance, however, you’re not going to be motivated to work harder.

Hey Boss, You Don’t Want Your Employees to Meditate” by Kathleen D. Vohs and Andrew C. Hafenbrack

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