The Triviality of Capital Ownership

Brett Knowlton brettk at
Wed Dec 16 10:16:56 PST 1998

Its not fair to criticize people for not being "good socialists" or "good Marxists" in their daily lives. In fact, you have to be almost masochistic to live that way. To get most of the things people want in life, e.g. money to buy things you want, admiration and respect from peers, etc. you have to play the capitalist game, at least to some extent.

Perhaps people should be criticized for not demonstrating or putting enough energy into the revolution, but even that is going too far in my view. Each individual has to live his or her life, and I believe you only go around once, with no afterlife to make up for things you missed in this one. Bucking the system can be very costly, financially and emotionally. Its a sacrifice people shouldn't be expected to make, even for individuals who are socialists/Marxists, because it makes life more difficult and unpleasant.

The fact is, in many ways our current institutions punish cooperation and reward competition and exploitation. Unless you want to be punished all your life, the temptations of the capitalist carrot are easy enough to succumb to. People respond to incentives.

Of course it would be great to achieve a socialist system in which solidarity and cooperation were rewarded, but we're not there yet. And its only natural for people to further their own goals within the system they find themselves living under.

I work for a small software company, and I don't feel the least bit guilty about it, even though I'd like to work under different conditions and I'd like to see the rules of the economic game changed drastically. In a certain sense, I've succummed to chasing the carrot, like a good little worker. But its been a fully informed decision - its what will make me, personally, the happiest in the long run. That's an important goal too.


>If you want to respond to me, at least bother to use my name.
>> "Another drone with stock"- Oh sure, we're all brothers with two
>>chickens in every pot and every man a king. The Great American
>>self-delusion lives on. What about drones without stock? Isn't their
>>position just a touch different?
>I meant what I wrote quite seriously. My stock ownership confers
>absolutely no privileges in the workplace for me, partly by my own
>choice (I could have gone into "management", but I did not). Aside
>from that, I own too little stock to have any real control. Also,
>most of the other workers at least have stock options --- in fact I
>know of none who have none, though I'm not familiar with the
>management, sales, and marketing side of things. I work as a
>programmer. I work very long hours just as the others do (I'm also
>"on call" 24 hours a day, 365 days a year should our software go wonky
>and need attention). I get no "extra" benefits, aside from the value
>I impart to any future sale of the stock. My solidarity, my
>identification, is with the other programmers. I sit in a communal
>"bull-pen", again by choice, and not in a fancy office. Many other
>workers with less "seniority" have much nicer working spaces than I
>At work, I proposed a plan to implement a democratic approach to
>management, against the desires of management, and most certainly
>against the desires of the large institutional investors.
>Unfortunately, my plan was not adopted, though I have been partly
>successful, if I do say so myself, in keeping management hierarchy
>largely out of the programming side of things.
>My point was that I was willing to sacrifice what Max seems to claim
>is the overriding human virtue, viz, the quest for money, in return
>for providing workers at our company the opportunity to have a real
>life outside of work. I've read Schor's *Overworked American* and
>take it seriously, you know, as it confirms my beliefs that we spend
>vastly too much time working and too little time creating real
>communities outside of work.
>In the future, before you ignorantly credit someone with
>"self-delusion", you should perhaps know the facts of the case.

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