Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Fear, Second Nature and Accumulation

"Accumulate, accumulate. That is Moses and the prophets! “Industry furnishes the material which saving accumulates.” Therefore, save, save, i.e, reconvert the greatest possible portion of surplus-value, or surplus-product into capital! Accumulation for accumulation’s sake, production for production’s sake".
- Karl Marx, Das Kapital.

Those who have a lot of capital have a lot more capital to lose and that is why they tend to be more conservative. And yet at the same time, because they have more, they have a greater fear that they could lose everything they have and this drives them to need to have more which then leads to a viscious cycle of fear and accumulation.

Even in the absence of competition, most especially in the context of multiple sources of vulnerability (economic, life cycle, social, political, etc.) fear drives those with capital to accumulate more.

There is a second, more potent dimension which explains accumulation by those who have a lot and this is their predisposition to accumulate. This is a more acceptable reason than to admit being afraid and yet these dispositions are at the same time not consciously transformed into action.

Maybe if they were to work out the numbers (especially if money can work for them), they would realize that they need not accumulate more and they even have sufficient hedge against catastrophic events. But they still accumulate because accumulation is “in their blood”.

Their entire environment is their conscience reminding them of the need to accumulate. Their family environment of course is a main influence. Either they grow up in a poor family that has become rich and thus they imbibe the need to avoid a return to poverty, to run away from it, as it were, as fast as they can, as far away (even geographically) as they can). Or they grow up in a rich environment and they fear the fact that they have to find ways to re-create that wealth on their own.

Then they encounter others situated in other families with similar environments directly through schools or indirectly through the media. All these influences, of course, affect us all and we find ourselves embedded in a culture of accumulation whose origins none of us can adequately trace. We then take for granted that the products of accumulation defines a good life, and that the process of accumulation defines a good way of living.

We, the rich more than others, would then consider ourselves less of a person (a loser, a failed man, a wasted life) and living less of a life if we did not accumulate.

Next post: Friday, August 31.


Omi said...

Can you make a value judgment of this second nature? Is it good or bad? Or is that out of the question? What can be done in lieu of this?

Did you read the three volumes of Capital?

Leland said...

Can you make a value judgment of accumulation as second nature? No. But we must recognize that it leads to exclusion and we can make a value judgment of that.

Did I read Das Kapital? No. But I think Dr. Venida and Dr. Beja have read the three volumes.