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January 26, 2017



Does 'self-actualisation' mean give me money because I think I'm worth it?

If so, where's mine?


Does Laurie Penny really become more independent by crowdfunding her work?

Isn't she just more reliant on playing to her audience?


I hope you are not neglecting your day job... you must try to keep your independence too.
How does -8 for the CBI Distributive Trades Survey (Jan) pan out for your "Sales' warning" post........?
just "noise"?

Luis Enrique

until we are living in The Culture, post-scarcity, with magic machines to do anything we might not want to, no plausible economic system can deliver self-actualization for all, if that means everybody gets to be want they want to be, because any economic system involves implicit trades. If opera singers want to eat, there has to be enough farmers willing to trade food for operas (to simplify a much more complicated system). That's a constraint which rules out self-actualization for the vast majority, unless it turns out lots of people really like looking after the elderly.

so, what economic system maximizes some weighted sum, which is how many people get how close to self-actualization? I am not going to come over all Panglossian about capitalism, but I don't think it makes sense to write that capitalism *thwarts* X when you could write, with equal justification, that among the set of possible economic systems capitalism gets the closest of all to maximising X. Or do you have a good reason to think that if Paul Mason was running things, the rate of self-actualization would rise?

Matthew Moore

' In one sense, she faces a longstanding problem most of us have had – that capitalism thwarts self-actualization. Most of us have had to compromise our ideals and aspirations to some extent to earn a living. '

Who exactly should pay you to uncompromisingly do whatever you feel like?

In the UK, you can by in the top 10% of the world's population by income working about 25 hours a week in a low-skilled job. That leaves plenty of time for knitting museli or whatever.

No non-capitalist economy has ever come close to that. The real problem here is that Ms. Penny thinks she deserves the lifestyle of, say, a consultant surgeon, but without producing something that people value so highly.

If she wanted to do her writing, she could fund it via a normal job with short hours. What she really wants is for her writing to be be given a high market value, for the status.


"capitalism thwarts self-actualization"

Translation: I want someone else to work and be heavily taxed so I can have life's necessities (and luxuries too of course, because I'm worth it) for free, and under capitalism I am finding it difficult to make this happen.

And they say the Right are the selfish ones.


I note nobody's arguing that capitalism *doesn't* thwart self-actualisation.

I'm just amazed Penny's managed to make it pay for as long as she has. I remember how I felt when I got a book review in the New Statesman - my first step into paid journalism! And then how I felt when I got the cheque; they paid £90 per 1000 words in those days. And that was in the good times, i.e. Before Internet. Between 1999 and 2004 I scraped a living as a freelance hack, but it was mainly in the trade press. Three years after that, my new career looked like going belly-up, so I put out feelers to all my old contacts and some new ones I'd managed to make in the interim. The silence was deafening. I did get a few offers and near-offers, to be fair, but the rates were terrible - and most of the outlets I had been working for just weren't there any more. And that was ten years ago.

gastro george

I'd sympathise with Cohen if he didn't write the same column every week in the Obs, and actually did some journalism.


Yes, even good jobs are not what they used to be but that is not the kind of equality (of misery) we were hoping for.

You can't use the characters from Coronation street to support your argument, that factory would have been outsourced/offshored decades ago. Most of the rag trade in the North was, to be replaced with distribution centres.

Call Centres are hell on earth, with sub-contracted employees on piece work.

You can't even get self-actualisation on the dole as the government is constantly requiring attendance/job search. People have died with hours of been declared fit to work.

Personally I want the computers/robots to do the work so we don't have to (computers don't mind not having achieved self-awareness) yet.

Matthew Moore
10% of 7 Billion or 0.7 Billion or a very large number. Then there is the cost of living in the UK. Rent etc.

25 hrs or 5 x 5 hrs on Min Wage of 7.50 is 7.34 net per hour. About 9,547 p.a
Travel and other costs?


"Graeber believes that since the 1970s there has been a shift from technologies based on realising alternative futures to investment technologies that favoured labour discipline and social control. Hence the internet. "The control is so ubiquitous that we don’t see it." We don’t see, either, how the threat of violence underpins society, he claims. "The rarity with which the truncheons appear just helps to make violence harder to see," he writes."


"I note nobody's arguing that capitalism *doesn't* thwart self-actualisation."

Human existence thwarts self-actualisation. We all need to eat, be clothed and warmed, and have somewhere to live, and those resources need to be provided somehow or we die. We can either make provision via our own labour, or we can force another person to labour for us. Those are the two options until someone creates the robot slave that can work autonomously without human input, which one doubts will be any time soon.


«Ms Penny’s claim that “journalism is an industry in trouble” echoes Nick Cohen: “Jobs are disappearing everywhere, and every journalist views the future with alarm.”»

As another journalist put it:

«journalists/columnists of a certain age (meaning ones not much older than me and younger) are coming around to the realization that the economy is screwing them, too. There was a moment when a lot of them (we’re talking ones at elite outlets, not your random small town paper) thought they’d done everything right, would become celebrities, and get Tom Friedman’s speaking fees. The economy sure was working for them, and screw everybody else.»

«Academics are struggling with casualisation and oppressive managerialism,»

Not something new, at least in the USA, from "Doonesbury" 1996:



«"capitalism thwarts self-actualization"

Translation: I want someone else to work and be heavily taxed so I can have life's necessities (and luxuries too of course, because I'm worth it) for free, and under capitalism I am finding it difficult to make this happen.»

The usual "scroungers" argument.
Perhaps reading "This is London" by B Judah would help understand a different view of "capitalism thwarts self-actualization", the one that applies to very many workers.


It seems like the classic Artists dilemma: to live in poverty or to pander?

The good news is that the reduction in work hours we've enjoyed this last century in combination with the availableness of modern resources generally enable anyone to self-realize outside of their day-job. I think this, ironically, is one of the sources of modern innovation: think YouTube, Wikipedia, or even JK. Rowling.

I do think monopoly capitalism, if we could call it that, does frustrate many peoples entrepreneurial dreams, which is indeed unfortunate, and just another reason I support a degree of anti-trust and fewer regulations for small business.

Maybe one day, and hopefully, our productive capabilities will better align with the material economy and lead to the realization of our particular human, rather than strictly animal, nature. And there's a good chance that that won't require socialism.


«Artists dilemma: to live in poverty or to pander?»

Ordinary workers added some time ago a third option: to organize in trade unions to neither live in poverty nor to pander; thanks to a more balanced power relationship with employers.

Than many ordinary workers discovered the fourth option: to vote for parties that promised to double their property prices every 7-10 years, and they stopped supporting trade unions.


I don't have a problem with what she is doing, if anything it could act as a reality check on the commercial value of her work. I think Matthew Moore above hits the nail, she seems to value her work at the level of the sort of highly skilled specialist whose expertise is such that people will fund a globe trotting lifestyle.

It could be much worse, the sleazy end of this spectrum are those children of the upper classes who take careers in the international aid/NGO/charity sector. They get well paid to indulge in pourism and feel smug about themselves spunking other peoples money regardless of actual efficacy. They also get fake a sense of hardship, determination and noble sacrifice to their cause whilst wailing about how others are not giving enough resources to fund their heroic struggles.

Luis Enrique

come on people, if (with current levels of technology) all possible economic systems thwart self actualisation, "does capital thward self actualisation" is the wrong question to ask.

Christ MJW yes how loathsome people from well off backgrounds having the temerity to attempt to help those less fortunate. And yes you are right to assume they do no good and do not care. well done.


Some stupid, nasty comments on here, particularly from Matthew Moore and MJW. Where does Laura Penny say she values herself at the level of a "consultant surgeon" or a "highly skilled specialist" with "a globe-trotting lifestyle"?

She's a young journalist posting her work on a crowd-funding site so people can pay for it or not as is their desire. Good luck to her.

What's the problem?


And Blissex, give it a rest with the house price stuff FFS.

No political party has ever "promised to double property prices every 7-10 years".


«No political party has ever "promised to double property prices every 7-10 years".»

That's an amazingly futile observation: some things are just well understood between voters and politicians, based on decades of precedent.

Politicians use euphemisms like "aspiration", "conservatory building classes", to indicate their attitude to 100% yearly tax-free effort-free profits on cash "invested".

Voters have not missed that southern house prices have been doubling every 7-10 years, and understand that is manifestly the result of government policy, who keep working hard to push house prices up; voters have also fired every government that let house prices stall, and re-elected every government that pushed house prices up, regardless of little details like PFI, Iraq, austerity, ... (I think that a commenter here brought up this "coincidence").

Politicians have also not promised to zoom up immigration by eastern european countries, or to keep pushing down low-income wages and pensions and job security either, yet they have adopted for decades policies for that, describing them too with euphemism, and voters are not stupid and know very well what they are going to get from the Conservatives, or New Labour, or Labour.

Ask around any middle/upper middle class voters you know: which party would you vote to help property prices go up? Which party would you vote if you were a renter? You may utterly surprised by the answers :-).


"Christ MJW yes how loathsome people from well off backgrounds having the temerity to attempt to help those less fortunate…"

Did you actually read the post? MJW wrote "regardless of actual efficacy." Your reaction highlights just the problem MJW is hinting at: virtue-signalling.


It makes sense that the growth of companies into vast multinational bodies would lead to the proletariatisation of the middle class. Beneath an infinite chain of management, there is no autonomy and little unionisation.

The economic shift towards services helped capital to overcome the legal barriers erected by worker rights. With the possibility of working remotely, unrealistic targets can be imposed on employees, who then, through insecurity and guilt, willingly work beyond the hours they're paid to work. The exploited labour of exhaustion becomes the slave labour of stress.

Though paid holidays and maximum hours are necessary, in a service economy they are not sufficient for a good life. Laws are required to make employer demands commensurate with paid working hours. There needs to be a regulation of expectation.

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