Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The D.E.N.N.I.S. System of Capitalism

I'm a pretty big fan of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia being a 20-minutes-outside-of-Philly boy myself. The show itself centers around five sociopaths who run an Irish bar in the only city where it's worth getting a cheese steak.

One of the characters, Dennis, is an incredibly narcissistic womanizer. Throughout the course of the series, it is revealed that he has multiple bench warrants for sexual misconduct and keeps duct tape, a Maglight, and a bundle of zip ties in a hidden compartment in his car.

In one episode, he reveals that he has a systematized his pattern of abusive and manipulative behavior into a mnemonic eponymous acronym. Oddly enough, this system also works quite well to explain how the capitalist system conditions the working class into accepting their conditions of poverty.

D - Demonstrate Value

Perhaps one of the more insidious features of capitalism is the way in which it presents itself as the sum of the value it creates. To quote Karl Marx in the beginning of Das Kapital:

The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as “an immense accumulation of commodities,” its unit being a single commodity.
Miles of store shelves

However, this demonstration of value, much like that of Dennis in Always Sunny, is largely farcical. The value that capitalism produces as conditioned upon its existence is actually the result of labor putting into motion the means of production (the various tools used in the process of making stuff).

E - Engage Physically

By presenting themselves as the primary purveyor of value, capitalists as a class coerce workers as a class to provide their labor to them. Capitalists, in turn, sell the labor-produced goods at a premium in excess of the amount which they compensate their workers and upstream suppliers.

As with Dennis, the condition of employment is largely without the consent of the worker. Dennis plans to take his date to a closed restaurant in order to save his "time and money," offering a prearranged austerity package of pizza and a movie at his apartment.

This is also where Mac, the bar's bodyguard and Dennis' roommate comes in. Although capitalism presents itself as a voluntary system of contractual engagements, it guards the boundaries of the commodities it has engaged as value. As Robert Hale explained in "Coercion and Distribution in a Supposedly Non-Coercive State,"

What is the government doing when it "protects a property right"? Passively, it is abstaining from interference with the owner when he deals with the thing owned; actively, it is forcing the non-owner to desist from handling it, unless the owner consents.
Like Mac, the state enforces the terms most favorable to capitalists - isolating the worker from any means of material resistance to further immiseration.

N - Nurture Dependence

Having created this power imbalance, capitalism exploits this dependence of the worker by creating crises. Like Dennis, these crises are largely the result of the system itself rather than the system's purveyor actually proving itself to be useful.

Like Dennis' plan to get his date's car towed, capitalists come to the rescue on their own terms. In order to create an urgency for employment under the capitalist, the capitalist also actively creates unemployment. As MichaƂ Kalecki wrote in "Political Aspects of Full Employment,"

Indeed, under a regime of permanent full employment, the 'sack' would cease to play its role as a 'disciplinary measure.' The social position of the boss would be undermined, and the self-assurance and class-consciousness of the working class would grow.
By virtue of a short-term drive for increased profits, capitalists will continually decrease hours and compensation while increasing prices where possible. This leads to an eventual collapse as the great majority of people are no longer to afford their basic necessities, long after taking on massive amounts of personal debt.

Like Dennis' diabolical ruse of disguising his voice in a threatening phone call to his date, capitalism creates periodic panics within the market, from which the "captains of industry" can emerge as the heroes of the worker by offering a meager subsistence in grueling conditions.

N - Neglect Emotionally

Once Dennis has gotten his victims to feel dependent on him, however nefariously this is accomplished, he advocates pulling away. So too does the capitalist pull away the more that workers demonstrate their dependence upon the capitalist.

Calls for betters hours and better pay are met with a wall of radio silence. Capitalists engage in lockouts, leveraging the power of the system of capitalism itself against the worker.

Capitalists view workers as not much more than a machine - a cost in an accounting book - and encourage workers to do the same. Like Dennis' claim to provide safety, the capitalist's claim to own the means of production is a construction of her own arbitrary perpetration.

I - Inspire Hope

Despite the cruel rack of wage labor the capitalist system enforces, it nevertheless holds out the opportunity for instant satisfaction of bountiful material comforts. Through state-run lotteries and private casinos, there remains the inkling of hope that the worker can shortcut the capitalist system which makes so rigid the social relations of labor to value.

Like Dennis, the bulk of this hope is false and in many cases fraudulent. Largely, it results in only further anguish. Both Dennis and the capitalist exploit their victim's body for their own benefit. Both have no problem shutting out or drawing in their victim at their own discretion.

S - Separate Entirely

As previously mentioned, the process of accumulation on the part of capitalists leads to the eventual collapse of the system, beginning with the financial system that props it up. The timing of this is largely unpredictable because the availability of credit as well as state subsidy are largely due to economic confidence and political will.

As the rich become richer, they will have less material incentive to adjust the system towards its own stability - largely at the expense of a fraction of their amassed wealth. The economic collapse, they may argue, is merely the hygiene of the capitalist system itself - shaking itself free of the under-wealthed petit bourgeoisie as well as their attendant employees.

Rather than direct jobs programs or income subsidies, the media and their select group of Expert EconomistsTM advocate for public service cuts, implying that only private savings are morally exempt from confiscation. As this attitude is spread - largely due to the fact that mass media, too, is owned by the capitalist class - any support for state intervention on behalf of the economically disenfranchised withers away.

And Dennis slinks away into the night, never to call her again.