>>> Wojtek Sokolowski <sokol at jhu.edu> 04/05/00 12:12PM >>>
In all likelihood "capitalism" i.e. the economic principle of profit-maximization through expropriation of labour-power, commmodity exchange and monopoly power is but one of many social forces that shape modern organization of the economy. Maintaining that it is the only or dominant force is tantamount to reductionism that ignores a plethora of other forces, such as social institutions, traditions, strategic location, or simply accident.
CB: I get your whole drift here. Cultural anthropology has basically made the same discovery as you articultate here, and calls everything you are referring to "culture".
The principle of profit-maximization does not determine all the conduct in capitalism, but it is dominant logic. The test it puts on the other logics you are talking about is do they interfere with profit-maximization. If no, they are cultivated or tolerated. If yes, they are attacked. Not every logic in the overall culture follows strictly this dominate rule, but as Marx put it for something else, there is a law of a tendency of all the cultural logics to conform to the capitalist main logic. The ruling ( but not absolutely ruling) ideas of any epoch are the ideas of its ruling classes.
On "rationality" in general, these cultural logics are rational within their own logic in many ways. But all logics fall into contradiction, especially when they are practiced and come into contradiction with actuality. These contradictions do not always demolish them though, as you say.
In a word, fetishes are not confined to non-Western socieities. A big fetish here is commodity fetishism.
But I like the way you are pulling your long term list reasoning together in this post of yours. It makes clearer what you have been saying all along. This is a point of agreement you have with semiotics.
I think we had that debate before in connection with Brenner's position advocating the importance of social institutions in capitalist development in Europe - which some more "orthodox" marxist-leninists view as a reactionary heresy.
In sum, it makes little sense to me to look for "contradictions" within the "system" - let alone hoping that such contradictions will somehow bring the social organization of the econonomy down. Contradictions belong to the realm of thought, not reality. Everyday life is full of contradictions embedded in multiple social institutions, which nonetheless exist. Studying those instiutions is more fruitful that searching for contradictions that will destroy the rule of capital (which is tantamount to magic or prayer - they are all based on a belief that the realm of the mind affects the material world).