Thursday, August 20, 2009

Capitalism is an ideology - and there's nothing wrong with that

I'm glad to see that there has been an ongoing discussion - in the letters section of the Oklahoma Gazette - of the issues raised in a story about 'urban foraging' in the Gazette's July 8th issue ("Foragers and 'freegans'" by Heide Brandes). My own contribution to this discussion appeared in the July 22nd edition.

There's an excellent letter in this week's Gazette by Scott A. Eden of Oklahoma City. Unfortunately, the Gazette does not post letters online, so you'll have to pick up a paper copy to read it.

The letter refers to the 'freeganism' espoused by Matt Zitterkob in the original July 8th story - specifically Zitterkob's condemnation of Capitalism (which Zitterkob reiterated in a letter in the July 29th issue).

Eden largely concerns his letter with the issue of how much actual Capitalism actually exists in this country (not nerely enough) and whether Capitalism is actually to blame for the ills Zitterkob ascribes to it (No).

Eden goes on to correctly identify the government as the true cause of the ills cited by Zitterkob.

Here's the last paragraph of Eden's letter:
Fancy yourself a hero for the oppressed if you wish, but when karma comes calling, don't say capitalism was to blame.
Great stuff, as far as it goes. Unfortunately, the letter is not perfect - earlier it seems to veer into pragmatism by disparaging ideology:
Capitalism is not a political philosophy, unlike a half-baked, coffee house notion of Marxism.
If Capitalism is not a political philosophy, what is it? Eden does not answer this question, and further on asserts that Zitterkob's condemnation of Capitalism is
. . . nothing more than ideology masquerading as serious theory.
Why is ideology a bad thing? Eden doesn't say: he simply uses the word as a smear.

Any system of ideas may be referred to as an ideology - there is nothing inherently wrong with that. Some ideologies actually are, in fact, serious theories. But attacking your opponents for having an ideology is attacking them for taking the trouble to think about their ideas enough to see how they relate to each other and interact with each other to form a system. This is a swipe at systems, at intellectual effort - and ultimately at philosophy itself.

To attack your opponents for having an ideology is to attack them for taking ideas seriously - and to suggest that you do not.

It's a shame such a thing has to mar such an otherwise excellent letter.

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