Obviously, Capitalism is a memetic system. It might be interesting to look at what it "accomplishes," and how it does it. We hear that it's all about "optimizing prices" and "efficient production," but it's interesting to see when it appears to completely disregard these objectives.
What things are decried in the capitalist memetic universe? For one thing, the "part-time job" is deprecated. You could quibble about whether the "talk" is against it, but in the US a part-time job does not qualify one for benefits, and many companies simply will not hire people on a part-time basis -- it's 40 hours a week or nothing.
There are many other examples. One obvious one is "motherhood." In the "Feminist" pseudo-dialectic, "stay-at-home moms" are somehow "lazy" or "wasting their abilities" or what-have-you. The "single working mother" or the "working mother" (there is no such thing as the "working father" -- men are assumed to be working, or something is seriously wrong with them).
Why should anybody care who is "working," or more importantly, how they are working, under what terms?
The fact that in the US, full-time work is the only way to get health care and other benefits is quite odd, when you think about it. This is no doubt a situation which has evolved over a century or more, and that evolution is probably quite interesting (1). I was angered when Hilary Clinton said in a speech, "In this country, health care is based upon employment..." and failed to go on to say, "...and we want to change that." (2)
It seems that anybody, a mother of small children, whoever, who wanted to work even a few hours per day or per week should be able to, allowed to, if the objective were to maximize production. Not the case. You could say that if one works only a couple of hours per day, or a day or two a week (7), then one still has plenty of time to think about unsavory ideas (3), and to organize, and still worse yet, if one is working with full-time people, one can make contacts and spread these nasty memes among them! Horrors!
Making Useless Crap
It's an undeniable fact that a huge proportion of the output of the economy (5) is useless crap. Goods that serve little or no purpose, services which are spurious, unneeded variety, unneeded excess and so-called "luxury." Plastic dreck, doohickeys which are handed out for free and thrown away, and goods that are made but never even shipped or sold. Not to mention the gigantic amount of waste of things like containers and packaging materials or leftover or wasted materials from the manufacturing process. Fashion clothing that might not even be bought, is not practical, and yet people spend their lives in factories, or in planning and design and shipping offices, seeing that it gets made.
Those people are occupied, full-time, and if nothing else are prevented from organizing or helping one another, except in terms of showing up to work and doing things that don't really do anybody any good.
Okay, we see that the stated "objectives" of the capitalist economic system, i.e., maximizing efficiency, may well be bogus, certainly not implemented in some very telling ways. There are "decisions" about which goods to produce which are highly questionable (6). People are expected to work "full-time" or (usually) not at all. One thing we can be sure of, is that full-time people are not so much engaged in "full-time work" as full-time not doing anything else.
Keeping People Busy
So, we need useless crap in that we need to keep the people who make it busy. This is a long-running argument I had with my dad, by the way. Why do we need all this useless crap? Wouldn't it be better for the landfills and the environment not to have it? Well, then the people who make it wouldn't have jobs.
But couldn't those people do something else? Or (yikes!) just not work at all? (8)
But no, it seems that the reason that capitalism produces so much negative output is that its primary objective is to keep lots of people busy, and to make them bully each other into staying busy. There may be some "useful" things that come out of this fracas, but much that is not, and much damage done to human beings (9) and the environment in the process.
To avoid revolution, it's critical to keep the poor people, the working people, the wage-earning people, from organizing, either on their own or under the influence and guidance of the inteligentia. Police and "royal guards" and such are very expensive, and unreliable. They are subject to corruption, blackmail, they prioritize arrests or oppressions that get them the most visibility and approval vis-à-vis their paymasters and/or the public, which could include racism, which might not be so effective in terms of keeping things in line.
An internalized oppression, a memetic system that provides bullying opportunities within the group to be controlled, a sort of self-run propaganda system if you will, that allows people to attack those, and get guaranteed rewards from within the group for doing so, people who bring up certain disruptive ideas (3) can be much more effective than any police force, for many other reasons in addition to that it also invades even into people's private homes and relationships (4).
The memetic systems associated with earning a living, and participating in the economy are responsible, obviously, for the fact of all of the working class and middle class (engineers, corporate managers, et al) being busy all day long every day. And if one is out of work, then one spends even more of one's time trying to get back into it (or one is expected to, or one is also "lazy").
In short, if you are willing to set aside the idea that whatever people who are "working" are actually doing may be of little value, or not always of the stated value, then we can entertain the idea that a primary objective is to, working or not working, simple keep them busy. If the underlying objective is to maintain the status quo, avoid revolution, then this is a very good thing to do, indeed.
Memetic systems are, obviously, ultimately conservative. This is classic behavior, by the way. Have a stated objective (10) which is partly or entirely spurious which protects a stable system of behaviors, in this case, capitalism. Capitalism is a very virulent memeplex, so it's ability to coëxist with other memeplexes (11) is highly questionable. One good question is whether it's able to meld with other memetic systems and change, or evolve into something different, something which better meets our needs as human beings.
Perhaps a topic for a future essay...
(1) I have read that in the 20s or the 40s or some period when skilled labor was at a premium, companies offered free or compensated health care insurance as a perk to draw in employees. It became more and more common, rather like the "company car," until now it is assumed to be a kind of "norm."
(2) I read that sometime in the 80s, I believe, the Supreme Soviet, again, as I recall, voted to change the Soviet Constitution from the classic communist ideal of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" to "from each according to his ability, to each according to his work." References welcome on this one. From my Soviet friends, and of course from the US propaganda machine, laziness was rampant in the USSR. A Soviet friend of mine recounted how when he went to the doctor with a problem with his nose, it was assumed that he just wanted a note from the doctor so he could get off work, the doctor immediately began writing out said note, and my friend had to insist quite strongly and repeatedly that no, he actually wanted medical attention and to please examine his nose.
(3) such as free health care, part-time work, help for women with basic
reproductive care, unionization, re-legalization of cannabis and other
plants and processes to help cost-free independent living, public
(4) The police start to look very bad when they start doing this sort of thing, i.e., violating basic rights of privacy and property. In the US this is usually done very subtly, in conjunction with the oppressive memetic system. The "drug war" for instance is quite invasive, even by Iranian or Soviet standards, but is buttressed by this "drugs are bad" guilt which has been studiously built up over more than a century. US racism and its implementation by the police is justified by memes supporting the idea that the police are professional, the laws and courts are fair, they could all be changed if need by, and sometimes mistakes are made but hey, we're all human, right? The idea that the government is out to get us (or black people, oh, and the working poor, and...) and must be resisted is outside the scope of the discussion.
(5) The US economy, the Chinese economy, etc.
(6) let's make crap that helps no one rather than only make what is needed
(7) Oh, and somewhat depending upon the field of endeavor, it's widely
known that there are people who are as much as 10,000 times (that's a million
percent) more effective than others. For example, writing computer code
and designing computer systems (lines of working code per time). One such person working one day a month
could conceptually be more effective than dozens of others working full
time. Yet we don't see these people working less time.
(8) I had the idea that hooking everybody (who's not working) up to a video game system (kind of what we have now...World of Warcraft and Steam and such) and have them do "useful" things there, e.g., crowd-computing, and so on. But this wouldn't even need to be useful, This is the question: could you set up a computer "game" system, or suchlike, in which people bullied each other to participate ("What?! You're not to level 70 yet?!" or "What?! You've only graded 700 scanned fifth grader essays/math homeworks yet?"). I don't know if it would work.
(9) War, for one. Are things like war a by-product of capitalism, or an integral part of how it functions and indeed exhibits control over people? This is interesting, because war may actually serve a purpose such as a "relief valve" on dissent, i.e., if the system starts to get out of control, war may bring it back into line. It may have the opposite effect, however, i.e., shaking things up. This might be a topic for a later essay.
(10) in the form of surface memes, again, usually bogus, which are rigorously supported by a system of immunomemes which provide ample bullying opportunities to broad swaths of cohort members to support the surface memes.
(11) the Soviets didn't do so well
模倣子 Memetic essay