My colleague, Peter Dorman wonders:
And where is the left? They rail against the bailout and the evils of finance capital, but when it comes time for them to put forward a constructive, functional alternative they change the subject.To answer Peter's question requires a brief detour to consider the images of the elephant in the room, the emperor's new clothes and the three monkeys: see-no-evil, hear-no-evil and speak-no-evil. In short, what is not said is no coincidence. There is a conspiracy of silence. One has to learn to listen very carefully for the conspicuous absences.
Here is what the elephant looks like (I paraphrase from an abstract of Moishe Postone's Time, Labor and Social Domination): the core of the capitalist system is an impersonal form of social domination generated by labor itself and not simply by market mechanisms and private property. The industrial production process itself is an expression of this social domination and therefore cannot be a means of human emancipation.
Social domination in capitalism is something that largely occurs impersonally in the labor process. One sells one's time to make a living. That is to say, the employee accepts payment in return for agreeing to do what he or she is told to do during those hours of the day that one is employed.
Reducing the hours of work simply reduces the proportion of time during which individuals are under this impersonal form of domination. However, substantially reducing the hours of work not only reduces this period of domination proportionately, it also diminishes it's importance and displaces it from the center of life. That is what Herbert Marcuse meant when he said, "Civilization has to defend itself against the specter of a world which could be free. If society cannot use its growing productivity for reducing repression (because such usage would upset the status quo), productivity must be turned against the individuals; it becomes itself an instrument of universal control."
Has anyone other than the Sandwichman noticed that, aside from the Sandwichman's unrelenting obsession with the issue, NO ONE talks about reducing the hours of work as part of a policy response to the financial crisis. IT'S NOT IN THE CONVERSATION, FOLKS! It's what we've somehow tacitly agreed not to talk about. Why? Because it's the elephant in the room.
It's the unspeakable solution to "the unsolved riddle of social justice." It's the unmentionable "ultimate solution" to the problem of full employment. It's the unutterable "preliminary condition without which all further attempts at improvement and emancipation must prove abortive."
Rather than just passing on to some other topic without acknowledging what I'm trying to say here, can someone please explain to me why I'm wrong? Is there no elephant in the room? Is the emperor clothed in robes woven from silver and gold thread?