« Goodwin's pension: Labour's failure | Main | Cuts & innovation in public services »

March 01, 2009



I think you are on to something here. If we fill the airwaves with crime shows then this will result in the de-skilling of criminals.


"How can capitalism have achieved this?"

It sounds to me like you are deciding to blame "capitalism" for something, and then looking for an excuse to make the charge stick.

If it becomes possible for someone else to do something for me, the chances that I will decide to do that thing for myself can only go down. It does not really matter what relationship this person has with "capitalism".


it's not deskilling - it's specialisation. People with exceptional abilities (and sometimes their exceptional ability is only a hugely misguided confidence in non-existent talents) can now entertain us, and make a living from it.

Are you suggesting that we once all could sing like Aretha Franklin, but have been 'deskilled' somehow? I'd say that was ... nonsense, but I may be misunderstanding you.

Improvements in technology mean we can marvel at Aretha Franklin's Columbia years - and they also mean that we can have karaoke get togethers. The one hasn't displaced the other, in my experience.


"Marx’s gripe with capitalism was that ...": and then you follow that with an allusion to a process observed by Smith. Did Marx say anything original?


Or maybe optimistic people watch less TV, volunteer more, work for themselves more and are happier. Maybe pessimistic people are less unhappy being able to watch TV, keeping themselves to themselves, and letting someone else organise a living for them.

Luis Enrique

Nobody knows how to use logarithm tables any more because we have calculators. This dreadful deskilling wouldn't have happened in a socialist economy?

I think you are correct that people do not produce their own entertainment so much, because there's so much easy to consume entertainment. And it is a shame, in some respects. But then again, I'd rather be able to watch The Wire than have to go morris dancing for entertainment. Lord knows why you attribute this to capitalist ideology - unless, I suppose, you're saying TV would be dreadful in socialist utopia.

You and Bruno might also be correct that if people did more things for themselves and consumed a bit less, they'd be happier. Like you, I've certainly found that to be true in my life. However this is the sort of "people don't know what's good for them" argument that I thought you were leary of. If people don't know what's good for them, who does? Will some enlightened elite use the tools of the state to encourage "doing things for their own sake?" Or rather, who will bring about a change in "ideology" so that people doing more things for their own sake?


Luis, in a Socialist economy people would first have to calculate their own logarithm tables.

Mr Eugenides

Shurely in a Socialist economy the State would provide every household with logarithm tables (inaccurate ones, naturally)?

Phil tayolor

You say:

Marx’s gripe with capitalism was that it transformed work from a means of expressing one’s nature into a force for oppressing and demeaning people. So great has been capitalism’s triumph that many of us don’t even appreciate the possibility that Marx could have been right. It’s just taken for granted that work must be alienated drudgery.

But it was capitalism that produced the technological development that meant machines could do factory work more cheaply and more effectively than humans, thus freeing them to do more fulfilling tasks.


isn't this down to mass media, not capitalism?


So you blame Capitalism for encouraging television watching while discouraging self-employment and volunteering? What, how?

And haven't recent studies also shown that richer countries (presumably western captitalist) are happier countries.


Though I've never understood how you can calculate happiness.

Tom Addison

Robot, the amount of studies and explanations they've come up with to explain happiness is a bit silly. Some say it's about being better off than your neighbours, in which case a countries overall wealth would do nothing for happiness because you'd all still be competing with each other, and whilst in real terms you'd be richer, comparatively you wouldn't be.

Standard micro theory would just say utility is happiness, it's derived from consumption, they are positively related, so if you wanna watch TV and you do, your happiness increases.

Another explanation provided is by the bbc (www.bbc.co.uk/happinessformula). It raises the point that we adapt to pleasure and go for things that provide short bursts, which quickly wears off due to comparison and envy. It claims that happiness is a state, with pleasure being a fleeting moment in that state. The question shouldn’t be what makes us happy but what makes us stay happy.

Richard Layard, in one of his studies, showed that as GDP per head has risen over he years, the % describing themselves as very happy has fallen. As he explains, “We have two mechanisms which help to explain why our efforts to become richer are so largely self-defeating in terms of the overall happiness of society”, implying people are working too hard merely to obtain material objects that only revert them to an original level of happiness, not an increased one as is hoped. His suggestion is some type of taxation on spending may be necessary to because of this natural self-defeating human behaviour by reducing the incentive to work more.

Kevin Carson

In many cases, the fact that people believe it takes less time to earn the wages to buy something than to make it yourself, itself, reflects a successful act of brainwashing. Ralph Borsodi showed that a majority of light consumer goods (food, clothing, simple furniture) could be produced most efficiently (in terms of unit costs) in the informal and household sector.

In many cases, the claim that factory production makes things cheaper is simply false. The adoption of power machinery, by itself, largely leveled the playing field between large- and small-scale production. The modest reductions in unit cost in large-scale production are more than offset by the increased costs of push-distribution, shipping, and marketing.


in the world according to the Chicago school we get a choice between competing logarithmic tables, some of which may be accurate. Capitalism and science don't really work together, experts actually have some uses. It is not just either/or, there are actually other institutions (than government or the market) that are part of what makes thing work.

P.S. Luis Enrique as is often the case, good comment.


Capitalism as a word needs defining, in this context, it is a culture which exists based on the basic State Centered and managed economic system where a small set 'owns' Capital and a larger set only has labour to sell in a highly tilted labour market.

In such a culture labour gets exhausted/tired, always paying taxes, interest, debts, working and never becoming self-sufficient is exhauSting. So labour becomes too tired and vegetative, I think the analysis in this peice is right in 'blaming' the culture of capitalism, which depends on creating 'dependency' to create consumer culture which consumes the products of capitalism (which are largely expensive and bad quality because the State has created these psudo un-competitive markets).

Ugg london

Never frown, when you are sad, because you never know who is falling in love with your smile.

chi flat iron

CHI flat iron by Farouk system. Direct from the manufacturer, this genuine Chi ceramic iron comes with valid, one year warranty!

supra youth

For this statement, Jochen Zeitz argued that a considerable part of the product had being through wind and rain to counter the trend of fail for decades

The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Blog powered by Typepad