Drawing on some observations of Keith I want to propose an interesting way to understand capitalist societies. I think that it is a defining feature of capitalism that it is an economy where women and wives cannot be bought. While in non-capitalist societies there are typically ways to legitimately pronounce marriage as an exchange of persons and goods, in capitalist societies implicit indications that such is the case are rendered obscene. Customs of marriage as an exchange survive as traditional vestiges of pre-capitalist realities, not to be taken seriously (in Jewish weddings in Israel, for example, grooms tend to note in the religious marriage contract astronomical figures, such 18 millions, as the payment to the bride's father - of course, in order to empty any monetary meaning of the act, making it into a purely symbolic one).

 

This idea goes against the common tendency to view capitalism as a social reality where everything can be sold and bought. However, this view provides us with one more way to understand capitalism as a social reality, and furthermore, it provides a way to put capitalism in a historical sequence with pre-capitalist societies (history being related here to repression: capitalism carries traces of its pasts not in the form of "traditions" but in the form of a type of social relation that survives only as a disavowed, obscene reality).

 

I don't know if such an idea to define capitalism has already been proposed, but I would very much like to hear your opinions of it.

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Thanks for the reference Keith, Of course there is the side of the coin where corporations are legal persons too, I had forgotten this when I posted. It's good to have a way to reconcile the anecdotal material about the Freeman stuff- which was new to me until about 18 months ago- with an easier to grasp example. Also, the academic rationale which often escapes me. I have become thoroughly intrigued by how quickly the freeman movement is developing here but have struggled to achieve a balanced take on it. In fact, I was hoping that there would be a thread on personhood and its various forms on OAC, which was why I posted here in response to Steve- I'm not usually in the business of defining Capitalism! Perhaps I should start a thread if there really isn't one?

Sounds like interesting research Elaine. So do the freemen draw upon the kind of 'natural rights of freeborn Englishmen' rhetorical tradition charted in detail by E P Thompson (eg. in 'Customs in Common'), Christopher Hill, and other social historians? Are the rights claimed by this group explicitly anchored in precedent and tradition-- 'things have been done this way since time immemorial, so capitalism ought not to do things differently' (of course, as social historians such as Tim Stretton have shown, in the early modern period 'since time immemorial' in practice meant about twenty years!), or in the more axiomatic conception of natural rights--- or some complicated combination of the two?

Quick methodological note to Keith re. dialectical versus idealism. I take a dialectical approach to be, in practice, a feature of social discourse (dynamic and dialogical) and associated action, rather than a property of individual positions (properly seen as 'moves' within a dialectical process). Talking and thinking dialectically involves putting forward positions in a provisional spirit, then seeing what responses they get, and what possible actions might be entailed. In this sense dialectical method is more a matter of attitude, a spirit of procedure, than anything else. Positions are advanced provisionally, and the dialectic subsists in the movement of thought and talk and action that follows (you may of course reverse the order of the sequence between doing and thinking-- it depends where in the process you choose to begin, although, 'in the last instance', I would tend to side with Marx on this matter). So in trying to put forward a definition of something, one is not necessarily committing oneself to a reification of social process, even though the definition, seen 'in itself', might appear to 'freeze' social reality, reduce it to something like a static cultural form, or set of ideas, and dissect its parts in a very undialectical fashion. Rather, it can just be a way of constructively pushing forward the conversation. Ironically, I've found the that theoretically most resolutely dialectical attempts to capture 'the movement of the whole' tend to be the least dialectical in practice, since they very often devolve into monologic stands (not infrequently motivated by attempts to assume guru status on the part of the speaker!), resistant to the sort of open-minded back and forth that the dialectical spirit, for me, involves.

All this might be quite idiosyncratic.

Hi everyone,

 

In answer to Steve's question, mainly the movement is concerned with reclaiming individual sovereignety, and particpants use precedent in order to legitimise their actions- mainly common law as per Magna Carta. The process is called lawful rebellion, since the majority of statute law only applies under the sovereignety of the state. I have noticed a vague hint of royalism and flag waving which I was surprised about (making a lawful rebellion involves pledging loyalty to the queen as well as a "no confidence" vote on her government). However, the over-riding reference is to the fraud committed by the state's apparatus rather than natural rights or tradition.

 

I am not sure about thinking dialectically though? Maybe at a collective level, but individually maybe not- isn't the point of the dialectic process to advance a reasoned POV from each side and let the process decide?

 

I am in favour of interpreting philosophy by thinking through peoples' everyday actions- how ideologies are enacted (or not) at a real level, where idealism and materialism negotiate. This is why I offered the Freeman as an example of how people are commodified, which encompasses Keith's example of how corporations (which are easier to accept as commodified) become personified. That is not to say there is no room for dialectics as it is a particularly appropriate method for such a forum as this!

 

All the best, Elaine

 

Steve Rosenberg said:

Sounds like interesting research Elaine. So do the freemen draw upon the kind of 'natural rights of freeborn Englishmen' rhetorical tradition charted in detail by E P Thompson (eg. in 'Customs in Common'), Christopher Hill, and other social historians? Are the rights claimed by this group explicitly anchored in precedent and tradition-- 'things have been done this way since time immemorial, so capitalism ought not to do things differently' (of course, as social historians such as Tim Stretton have shown, in the early modern period 'since time immemorial' in practice meant about twenty years!), or in the more axiomatic conception of natural rights--- or some complicated combination of the two?

Quick methodological note to Keith re. dialectical versus idealism. I take a dialectical approach to be, in practice, a feature of social discourse (dynamic and dialogical) and associated action, rather than a property of individual positions (properly seen as 'moves' within a dialectical process). Talking and thinking dialectically involves putting forward positions in a provisional spirit, then seeing what responses they get, and what possible actions might be entailed. In this sense dialectical method is more a matter of attitude, a spirit of procedure, than anything else. Positions are advanced provisionally, and the dialectic subsists in the movement of thought and talk and action that follows (you may of course reverse the order of the sequence between doing and thinking-- it depends where in the process you choose to begin, although, 'in the last instance', I would tend to side with Marx on this matter). So in trying to put forward a definition of something, one is not necessarily committing oneself to a reification of social process, even though the definition, seen 'in itself', might appear to 'freeze' social reality, reduce it to something like a static cultural form, or set of ideas, and dissect its parts in a very undialectical fashion. Rather, it can just be a way of constructively pushing forward the conversation. Ironically, I've found the that theoretically most resolutely dialectical attempts to capture 'the movement of the whole' tend to be the least dialectical in practice, since they very often devolve into monologic stands (not infrequently motivated by attempts to assume guru status on the part of the speaker!), resistant to the sort of open-minded back and forth that the dialectical spirit, for me, involves.

All this might be quite idiosyncratic.

As far as I know, there are two ways of expressing the movement of thought: dialectic/dialogue and narrative/story. Both have been marginalized by analytical reason in public culture, although they each have their roots in very common human practices. I don't think it is useful to insist on one meaning of dialectic, Steve, in this case on action as a necessary intermediary of two thought positions. I am quite happy to acknowledge Socrates/Plato, Kant, Hegel and Marx as all part of the dialectical tradition. At some level, it is dialectical to admit to having two thoughts in ones head at once rather than the one that is normal or that there are two sides to every question. In this case, I would argue against using a term like capitalism as a monolithic description of any social reality, taking from Hegel a phase in the process of dialectic when an idea is confronted by what it is not. But it would be scholastic to insist on this or any other as the only proper usage of the term. It also diverts us from the substance of Elaine's very interesting intervention which I believe is worth pursuing further.

agreed Keith, that the dialectic is a complex enough idea (and tradition of thought) to accommodate many interpretations-- I would only add, in defense of the project of defining capitalism, that what I think at least I, and possibly Noam also, had in mind in our contributions was not so much a monolithic description of social reality, a reduction of all there is to some model of capitalism,  as how we might best think about what is capitalist about society at a certain point in its history (note this leaves open the possibility that there is much that remains not capitalist)-- or, putting it differently, trying to answer the question: insofar as the term 'capitalism' has any traction at all on a particular phase of history, by virtue of what might it have that traction? (I would take this latter question to be pragmatically motivated-- the term itself, at least in the critical tradition, in the first instance more or less loosely names a problem-- the work then becomes trying to figure out, through talk and analysis and social action, what exactly that problem is).

Elaine, do you think it might be useful to compare the Freemen to other, perhaps similar libertarian movements?-- I'm thinking of the Tea Party movement ...might be a useful way to get at what is particular about them...

Thanks for the clarification, Steve. I agree also that you and Noam are pursuing a line of inquiry that does not come easily to me, while I recognize its originality and interest.

The comparison with the Tea Party movement is a bit naughty, but reasonable, I think. What this points to is the difficulty of drawing a line between legitimate uses of liberal ideas and their abuse. Trying to update some classical liberal ideas has been my project for some time and it led me to become quite fond of the likes of Jefferson and Paine, even as the American revolution could be said to be the inspiration of contemporary libertarians like the Tea Party fundamentalists.

Picking up on parts of each of these responses, I'd like to come back to the freemen if it's worth keeping the thread of this example. When Keith mentioned the notion that as part of the dialectic process, an idea can be defined as that which it is not, it resonates with what I have been trying to convey about the freemen- in their dialogue with the other/ the state they simply define themselves as not part of that, and not necessarily as something else, which was something that I have been thinking about since Steve's earlier question about the fremens' philosophical heritage and discourse on natural rights. It also brings to mind something that I have read recently in Graeber's value book, which was about structuralist Dumont's attempts to define a theory of value. Ideas, or values, were structured in pairs so that the "superior" term (which I take to mean the member of the pair which was relevant to what it was one was saying/ doing/ thinking) always encompassed the inferior term, or, that which it was not. I think this is relevant to both discussions as unless I do a more rigorous research with the freemen I can't get beyond simply saying that they are definitely what they are because they're not with the state, and therefore such an identity encompasses that which it is, emphatically, not.

 

Also, this gets me out of having to compare the freemen with the tea party movement (I think!). I know a lot less about the tea party movement, whereas I may have heard a bit more. I think the crucial difference is that the freemen enter into a dialogue with the idea of the state, not as a monolithic entity which is a given but can be altered, but as an option. They certainly critique the current plutocracy and it's legitimacy through imposed contractual law, and thereby offer a visible- if not yet proven viable- alternative. This happens to seem antiquated because the current system harks back to around the time that the private central bank model, and the debt system it relies on was conceived (17th century I think). The two movements must be comparable because the tea party lot certainly identify themselves with protests about taxation, and that seems to be a main concern, however perhaps if you know more about the TPM, Steve, you could venture a comparison? As an aside, there is a redemption movement specific to the US which may be a more appropriate comparison here.

 

But to recapitulate a bit more fully I think what I was getting at originally, in relation to Noam's origina line of discussion, even if it is possible to define Capitalism so simply, I disagree that saying "Capitsalism is a system where it is not appropriate to buy women- at least with money"- is the way to do it. I think this is the wrong way to look at things because, and I hope my example backs me up here, it is possible to "buy" women, and people, as "persons". Of course, there is no formal "purchase", and other elements of transaction that we see in different cultures, such as prestation or wrapping as in Japan do not happen- in fact this process happens almost invisibly-  but certainly, through admiralty law there exist mechanisms through which people become commodfifed as persons, or at least understood as persons. Keith's point that in the same system, corporate entities can be understood as persons too, so it is not a great leap of the imagination to see how commodification can occur. I am unsure whether I would go so far as to say that the redmeption of so-called birth bonds is possible, or whether these bonds are created, let alone speculated with, however the existing structure contains this possibility. 

 

In trying to analytically place the freemen in historical/ political/ philosophical terms, it might be worth metioning that one of the first freemen that I met was involved with a group who were collectively engaging with the idea of redemption, and were based in Nottingham-  and it may also be worth noting that freemen mention that registering births was first proposed by Cromwell in 1650!

On June 10, Noam wrote:

 

“The Ghanaian student is already part of a capitalist system due to the simple fact that he uses modern money, yet for him it is still a sort of a foreign presence.”

 

Do you have specific information from which you can draw this conclusion? By the way, are we talking about a Ghanaian man or woman? Please excuse if I am blatantly missing something here! Also, I’m not clear why you are asserting that the Ghanaian student is, at heart, “not yet” embedded in capitalism. That claim seems to suggest a simplifying either/or scenario in which the more detailed intricacies of the social, economic and cultural arrangements of the present are obscured. Here, I’m not sure I fully agree with you and Keith, concerning your approach to historicity.

 

The “not yet” approach seems to suggest that there is only one direction, or two alternatives (yes and no). We can, with sound logic, say not yet (and it’s implied positive), of course. However, what happens if there are conditions which apply to the Ghanaian student that overlap with the positive, yet also with the negative (the “not yet”)? Further, what if one of these hypothetical conditions is the fruition of this person’s life, or the endpoint condition in which he or she ends life? Perhaps “is” or “is not” would be more empirically sound as historical delimiters, less loaded with an evolutionary schema?

 

On June 6, Keith wrote:

 

“To return to my starting point, economy was once identified with the house and against the market (Aristotle). It is now usually identified with the market and domestic economy makes an appearance mainly through spending money.”

 

On June 6, Nikos wrote:

 

“I just find this distiction between market= production paid with money and home= consumption of goods by spending the money aquired , as very generalised even for the western ethical model. “

 

Regarding Noam’s original discussion point, perhaps the relevant point is not selves as subjects, but rather selves as objects. How is it that we view self and person in capitalism? Beside the questions of how self and person is acted upon within capitalism (how it is a subject), maybe we should be asking what the background assumptions are that order selfhood and personhood within capitalism to begin with. After all, action upon a thing cannot be divorced from understandings of what that thing is in the first place. I would like to suggest as well that, contrary to Steve’s approach, and perhaps in line with Keith’s, maybe we should be looking at the self as consumer and purchaser, rather than as laborer.

 

Also, perhaps approaching this topic from the direction of exchange and gift-giving can lead to misleading discourse.

 

Of course, exploring the economics of capitalism is unavoidable. However, what must be broached here are considerations of the cultural knowledge of selfhood and personhood, as they relate to the discursive formations of capitalism.

 

It is my contention that personhood is composed of at least these elements in capitalist societies:

 

1. personhood is atomized – it forms a discrete and separable entity in its own rights (and manifest in the customer, not the worker).

 

2. personhood involves option – in order for capitalism to work, the person must be free to choose; choice and option are fundamental principles of personhood (again, manifested in the customer).

 

3. personhood involves rights – because a person is separable from larger social formations, and because personhood involves option and choice as inalienable qualities within capitalism, freedom is a paramount and foundational ideal.

 

The outright commoditization of human beings violates these basic principles, that a person is inalienably separable, and that the separable person is marked by choice and freedom. At its foundation, on a cultural-ideological level, ownership of a person is thusly at odds with the basic precepts of capitalism.

 

Capitalism is founded not upon labor and production (though perhaps on specific modes of labor relations and modes of production). Indeed, labor and production predate capitalism. What is perhaps unique to capitalism is the culture of consumption and the social arrangements of purchasing (capital/revenue flow) that are its lifeblood. Capitalism could not work without a consuming, purchasing population base.

 

As a result, the stark commoditization of personhood may be ideologically inimical to the hegemonic workings of capitalism. Put more simply, the more people who are possessions, the fewer people there are with choice. The fewer people with choice, the fewer potential customers there are out there.

I am trying to catch up with the discussion, after being away for some time. I am not sure I can address all the important issues that were raised, but I want to add one more perspective to the central question of the person. What can complement the discussion is Marx's notion "personification", that is to say the manner people function as economic categories. In the typical use of this term the capitalist is a "personification" of capital. In this use of it, the term points to a gesture of distancing that is essential to economic behavior: a distancing of an individual from himself when it comes to economic action (its pure manifestation is the basic scene in the Reality-TV show "Survivor": I am actually a good guy, but in the game I am an asshole).

 

I think that this adds an essential dimension to Elaine's comment about the person, in Capitalism (the ideology), being primarily a legal entity. Marx would say that the person is primarily an economic entity, but there is no real contradiction here. Actually one can argue that the person as a legal entity is the ideological mask for the person as an economic entity. That is to say, the "legal" view of the person is one way to maintain the distance between an individual and his own economic persona – it is one way to wear the mask required for economic action, to behave as if according to some formal game. Other means to maintain this distance is what Keith mentioned, the corporation as a person.

 

This suggestion has the advantage of not seeing Capitalism (the ideology) as a floating entity, but as a component of the real process of capitalism – the ideal of Marx's conception of ideology.

 

This leads to another point regarding Elaine's comment. Accepting the idea that we should see ideology as a component of social reality, we should be careful not to underestimate the importance of mystifications. Even mystifications can have their place in social reality, and thus should not always be dismissed as "mere mystifications". If capitalism obscures the fact that persons are already commodities (although I am not sure this is true), then maybe we should take seriously this mystification, and try to conceive of it as part of the social an economic reality of capitalism. This pertains directly to the issue that started this thread: there are ways to still conceive of some marriages in association with the purchase of women; however, a thick social reality emerges as means to obscure this fact.

 

 



Elaine Forde said:

Picking up on parts of each of these responses, I'd like to come back to the freemen if it's worth keeping the thread of this example. When Keith mentioned the notion that as part of the dialectic process, an idea can be defined as that which it is not, it resonates with what I have been trying to convey about the freemen- in their dialogue with the other/ the state they simply define themselves as not part of that, and not necessarily as something else, which was something that I have been thinking about since Steve's earlier question about the fremens' philosophical heritage and discourse on natural rights. It also brings to mind something that I have read recently in Graeber's value book, which was about structuralist Dumont's attempts to define a theory of value. Ideas, or values, were structured in pairs so that the "superior" term (which I take to mean the member of the pair which was relevant to what it was one was saying/ doing/ thinking) always encompassed the inferior term, or, that which it was not. I think this is relevant to both discussions as unless I do a more rigorous research with the freemen I can't get beyond simply saying that they are definitely what they are because they're not with the state, and therefore such an identity encompasses that which it is, emphatically, not.

 

Also, this gets me out of having to compare the freemen with the tea party movement (I think!). I know a lot less about the tea party movement, whereas I may have heard a bit more. I think the crucial difference is that the freemen enter into a dialogue with the idea of the state, not as a monolithic entity which is a given but can be altered, but as an option. They certainly critique the current plutocracy and it's legitimacy through imposed contractual law, and thereby offer a visible- if not yet proven viable- alternative. This happens to seem antiquated because the current system harks back to around the time that the private central bank model, and the debt system it relies on was conceived (17th century I think). The two movements must be comparable because the tea party lot certainly identify themselves with protests about taxation, and that seems to be a main concern, however perhaps if you know more about the TPM, Steve, you could venture a comparison? As an aside, there is a redemption movement specific to the US which may be a more appropriate comparison here.

 

But to recapitulate a bit more fully I think what I was getting at originally, in relation to Noam's origina line of discussion, even if it is possible to define Capitalism so simply, I disagree that saying "Capitsalism is a system where it is not appropriate to buy women- at least with money"- is the way to do it. I think this is the wrong way to look at things because, and I hope my example backs me up here, it is possible to "buy" women, and people, as "persons". Of course, there is no formal "purchase", and other elements of transaction that we see in different cultures, such as prestation or wrapping as in Japan do not happen- in fact this process happens almost invisibly-  but certainly, through admiralty law there exist mechanisms through which people become commodfifed as persons, or at least understood as persons. Keith's point that in the same system, corporate entities can be understood as persons too, so it is not a great leap of the imagination to see how commodification can occur. I am unsure whether I would go so far as to say that the redmeption of so-called birth bonds is possible, or whether these bonds are created, let alone speculated with, however the existing structure contains this possibility. 

 

In trying to analytically place the freemen in historical/ political/ philosophical terms, it might be worth metioning that one of the first freemen that I met was involved with a group who were collectively engaging with the idea of redemption, and were based in Nottingham-  and it may also be worth noting that freemen mention that registering births was first proposed by Cromwell in 1650!

My point is that by describing a historical reality solely in terms of "is" and "is not", as Joel suggests, we lose the essential element of historical view. A minimal condition for such a view is a "before" and an "after": a sense in which X predates Y, and moreover, a sense in which this predation says something about X and Y. limiting ourselves to "is" and "is not" we will lose the possibility to show how X come before Y and not vice versa, and how this ordering is present in both X and Y.

I believe that using adjectives as "already", "still", "not yet" is a minimal condition to maintain such historical view. Of course, the very term "not yet" immediately arouses our suspicion of an evolutionary, determinist conception of history. The point is to try an separate the two: to see X as "not yet" Y without commiting to a necessary development from X to Y. I think this is required in order to hold a real historical view (not limited to the fashionable identification of the historical with the contingent), without commiting to determinism. It is a way to hold a concept of historicity without a conception of hitorical necessity.

Also, far from limiting the richness of hitorical description, I believe that this approach affords a multilayered view, in which in every present we can see various time modalities coexisting simultaneously: remnants of the past aside seeds of a future.


Joel M. Wright said:

 

The “not yet” approach seems to suggest that there is only one direction, or two alternatives (yes and no). We can, with sound logic, say not yet (and it’s implied positive), of course. However, what happens if there are conditions which apply to the Ghanaian student that overlap with the positive, yet also with the negative (the “not yet”)? Further, what if one of these hypothetical conditions is the fruition of this person’s life, or the endpoint condition in which he or she ends life? Perhaps “is” or “is not” would be more empirically sound as historical delimiters, less loaded with an evolutionary schema?

 

 

I feel the same as Noam, as quite a lot of extra points have been raised which I am ruminating on, but I want to quickly respond to keep things fresh.

 

I find this Marxist perspective enthralling: Of course there would be no contradiction between the person as either a legal or economic actor since in most modern capitalist systems (or at least UK, US and Canada which I am more familiar with) most of the statutes- based on admiralty law-  exist to protect capital, ownership and property! I am beginning to think that for the purposes of this context "economic" and "legal" are one and the same thing.

 

In defining Persons (legal Persons) as commodities, my intention isn't to really say that "we" are, but that certainly our legal persona represents this. In so far as a legal/ economic Person is regarded in the larger processes of capital, a lot of importance is given to the idea of their eventual accumulation of wealth (e.g. mortgages) and in this fact at least Persons are surely comparable to an investment or a share or a savings account. It is certainly quite an abstract step - and reductionist- to frame a Person in the same terms as a financial product but I think we can arrive at this as a logical (ouch!) step from the contention that- in the particular context we have outlined- a legal and economic Person are the same thing.

 

Also, I took the "not yet" comment more as a cynical aside, levied at the almost inevitable character of global capitalism, at least of the sort we seem to be experiencing these days. It's good to clarify the position, though, thankyou Joel and Noam.


Noam Yuran said:

I am trying to catch up with the discussion, after being away for some time. I am not sure I can address all the important issues that were raised, but I want to add one more perspective to the central question of the person. What can complement the discussion is Marx's notion "personification", that is to say the manner people function as economic categories. In the typical use of this term the capitalist is a "personification" of capital. In this use of it, the term points to a gesture of distancing that is essential to economic behavior: a distancing of an individual from himself when it comes to economic action (its pure manifestation is the basic scene in the Reality-TV show "Survivor": I am actually a good guy, but in the game I am an asshole).

 

I think that this adds an essential dimension to Elaine's comment about the person, in Capitalism (the ideology), being primarily a legal entity. Marx would say that the person is primarily an economic entity, but there is no real contradiction here. Actually one can argue that the person as a legal entity is the ideological mask for the person as an economic entity. That is to say, the "legal" view of the person is one way to maintain the distance between an individual and his own economic persona – it is one way to wear the mask required for economic action, to behave as if according to some formal game. Other means to maintain this distance is what Keith mentioned, the corporation as a person.

 

This suggestion has the advantage of not seeing Capitalism (the ideology) as a floating entity, but as a component of the real process of capitalism – the ideal of Marx's conception of ideology.

 

This leads to another point regarding Elaine's comment. Accepting the idea that we should see ideology as a component of social reality, we should be careful not to underestimate the importance of mystifications. Even mystifications can have their place in social reality, and thus should not always be dismissed as "mere mystifications". If capitalism obscures the fact that persons are already commodities (although I am not sure this is true), then maybe we should take seriously this mystification, and try to conceive of it as part of the social an economic reality of capitalism. This pertains directly to the issue that started this thread: there are ways to still conceive of some marriages in association with the purchase of women; however, a thick social reality emerges as means to obscure this fact.

On July 28, 2011, Noam wrote:

 

“Also, far from limiting the richness of hitorical description, I believe that this approach affords a multilayered view, in which in every present we can see various time modalities coexisting simultaneously: remnants of the past aside seeds of a future.”

 

Allow me to differ here. The idea of “various time modalities coexisting simultaneously” sounds quite provocative on the surface, yet it seems to me that this approach actually obscures something important, especially when it comes to considerations of historicity and historiography.

 

I suppose that the point behind this approach is to appeal to the cardinal rule of cultural relativism; and indeed, I would not argue that, both cognitively and in terms of historical awareness, there is no such cultural diversity when it comes to time modalities. Such a viewpoint would obviously fly in the face of over 150 years of anthropology.

 

However, there is a basic, one might say empirical, factor that gets effaced when we treat people living in the same span of time as historically separable.

 

Noam also wrote:

 

“limiting ourselves to "is" and "is not" we will lose the possibility to show how X come before Y and not vice versa, and how this ordering is present in both X and Y.”

 

Herein lays the problem to which I am trying to point. In the case of our object of consideration (our Ghanaian friend), can we say that his historical/cultural understandings of money and economic systems come before our understandings of such? Mind you, the understandings of the Ghanaian student are of someone (presumably still) alive at this very moment. Also, and save for a very few very isolated pockets of humanity, everybody on the planet has come into contact with industrial capitalism. A quick Google search (search term: ghana industry) brings up the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the Ghana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, and the Ministry of Trade & Industry for the Republic of Ghana, among other interesting sites and news postings. Today, I’ve even netted a news piece on the banking industry in Ghana.

 

There are even data on Ghana in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank web sites.

 

Instead of a historiography organized around rank-ordered progressions, perhaps we should be developing an understanding of historically situated conditions and awarenesses within temporal covalence.

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