Economic Models...的討論逐字稿

This is a partial transcript of our discusssion of Economic Models are the Foundation of Social Relations

—The second passage is about how we produce the culture we live in everyday through the way we live.
—The culture creates our way of living, and by living it we create the culture.
—So the culture is perpetuated.
—To survive, we have to eat food, so we do work. So what does that have to do with culture? If a poor person, they don't care about culture. If they can live, if they can survive, how he does so has nothing to do with culture.
—I think the culture here doesn't mean, for example, music, or painting. That's not the culture that we're talking about. Culture is the abstract, or the physical thing.
—Okay, i'll say it a different way. In Taiwan, not a lot of people can understand what you mean, when you talk about culture like music...
—'Culture', what the article is saying, is like an overall picture. In the past, we are in a culture that we eat what we produce, or we wear clothes that we made ourselves. It's more like 'lifestyle'.
—But I think culture as a word is very okay for this kind of issue.
—It’s like this, the chopsticks they use in Japan are not the same as the Chinese chopsticks we use in Taiwan, and Koreans have their own style of chopsticks. In the west we use forks and knives, but they use forks and spoons in Indonesia and Thailand, and they use them differently than us. This is what culture is. It’s not just the big stuff, it’s all the details of our lives.

—Okay, so since some more people have come in, let’s recap what we’ve talked about so far. There are like three steps in the points under discussion today, the first step is, libraries and bookstores. If an alien came down to Taiwan and stepped into Eslite, and then was taken to visit Taida’s library, they might not see the difference. They’re both a big building filled with books on shelves, and with people all around, and some people take books to the counter, make some sort of exchange, and walk out with books. But what is the big difference between the two, besides the fact that Eslite is such a beautiful place that everyone loves going to, and Taida’s library is perhaps less comfortable inside? The difference is that the basic principle of access to books in the library is “to each according to need” or interest, while the principle in the bookstore is “to each according to ability to pay.” Meaning, if you want a book in the library, you just go get it, or maybe you have to wait a bit and then you can read it. At Eslite, you have to think about if the book is worth 600NT or 1500NT to you or not, and maybe you can’t afford it. And if you’re poor, that’s all the difference in the world.

—So in step one, it's seems there a trend from public to a kind of capitalism, and this trend of culture will create people in the world, and then may improve the development of capitalism, because culture creates people creates culture
—I think there are different aspects, or one aspect of the topic.
—I think I agree with him, because the public library still exists, even though Eslite is really popular, and even though there's the Taida library, the public library still exists, because it serves the students or the public. Because we all give some of our income into the government, so we are expecting the government to offer some public services to us. Even if we're not that happy with it!
—The government offers this service, and we all pay into it, that's why its not capitalism.
—The cost is shared, in Eslite, you give the money directly to them for that book. But when you go to the library, it's indirect, everyone's paid for that book, it's shared, it's public goods, the cost is shared by everyone in society.

A public good = something that's good for society
Public goods = the property owned collectively by society = the commons
The Word is Public --Confucius
But Confucius would probably not support public libraries, I’m just saying
The Commonwealth of Great Unity
The Commons
= Resources collectively owned by society

—Okay and then the second step is, okay, think about Taipei city. The culture of Taipei City is a certain way, and that influences how we live in the city. And every day how we live in the city builds the culture of Taipei city. Like, there in Taipei is a group of cars painted yellow and they will pick up passengers and leave them off in other places. The people who drive these cars, every day they create and re-create this system of picking people up and dropping them off. The taxi drivers don’t drive taxis in the same way that bees make honey. You can argue that honey-making is the point of bees, but can you argue that taxi-driving is the point of humans? Humans can do a lot of things, why drive taxis? But a lot of the people driving taxis are people who used to work in factories, and they are getting older, it’s hard to find other jobs, and all the factories have moved to china, so driving a taxi is these men’s specific social response to the material and historical conditions they’re living in: they have very few other choices for work.

So step 3.0 is, and this gets really tricky now, but what it’s saying is, under capitalism all creative activity, everything we do to create the world as people, has to take the form of things to be sold. All practical activity, everything we do to live has to be sellable. Everything we make has to be in the form of sellable goods, you can only get them for money. And you can only get money through having some sellable good to offer, something to sell. So if everybody accepts these terms as ‘how life is’, that you have to buy things , food, clothes, house, to survive, and the only way to buy things is to have money, and the only way to have money is to sell things, then the only way to have things to sell for money is to see yourself, or parts of yourself, as something to sell. So this is the solution for living in this particular system. We exchange the creative content of our lives, our daily activities, the products of our hearts minds and souls, for money.
And so as soon as life = money, or what you do for a living, or what you sell of yourself to live, that means life is exchanged for survival. Creating and making things all must mean ‘sold activity’. You are only productive when you have sold your activity. An artist whose paintings do not sell is a failed artist. You are only a success when you successfully sell the things you do on a daily basis.
—I feel like because I’m not in school, I’m missing something of what the rest of you are understanding.
—Oh! But who is paying for your food, and for your housing, it’s your parents, so in a way your parents own you, you’re responsible to them for your actions. If you were arrested for a crime they would point to your parents first, because you’re not an ‘adult’ yet, you are not ‘producing’ anything yet.
—When you are not productive by this article point of view, then you are owned by others. So some wives, they don't earn money, they live on their husband's money, it's like children living on their parents' money, so no wonder husbands think of wives as their property!

Okay, and so this is like step 3.3, we’re getting to the worst part here, which is that when you sell your labor, it becomes the property of someone else. It becomes alien to you, which is to say, it has nothing to do with you, it’s not even from you. Like this is the definition of being professional here: Your work, your mind, your cleverness are all in service of the client, it has nothing to do with your own beliefs and values, if they are different than the client’s you have to forget about it during the time you are working for the client! “Thus one's life, the accomplishments of an individual in the world, the difference which his life makes in the life of humanity, are not only transformed into labor, a painful condition for survival; they are transformed into alien activity, activity performed by the buyer of that labor. In capitalist society, the architects, the engineers, the laborers, are not builders; the man who buys their labor is the builder; their projects, calculations and motions are alien to them; their living activity, their accomplishments, are his.” What this is saying is, we say Andrew Carnegie built all the public libraries in the US! But it was Andrew Carnegie providing the idea and the money, and the architects designing it, and the builders building it and the librarians choosing which books to fill it with and all of those people were involved, but all of their work, it goes to Andrew Carnegie! It’s not even just the credit, it’s just that all those other people, they were paid, so their work means nothing, not to them, not to us. Their labor accrues to Andrew Carnegie.

—You know, in the company accounting, people are soulless, you are just a part of the goods, or property, or resources. And they count your value, like the computer, the factories, the goods produced
—So this is why I feel sad when I read this!
—Yes, this is so very hard to read, it’s hard to hear it laid out so clearly!
—If a boss read this, wouldn't they be very hurt?
—The boss is also part of the game!
—This is not about separation between levels in the hierarchy. Its just the structure we're living in. I can relate it to my personal experience. I'm a consultant, I work on a project basis, proposing a solution for the client. But some part of the proposal, I may not agree with it, but I still have to fulfill it
—Like some kind of sub-role, you have to do it
—Or perhaps my manager decided to do it. But they decided this not necessarily out of their own will. They may be limited by the project size, the project money, and so they have to fulfill their goal, the CEO's goal, but if you ask the CEO, why do you want to make more money, we are so tired. They will tell you, I am not greedy! I just have to push our company to grow, or we will fall behind the whole industry. So its not an individual game, it's the whole society's game. —I don't think bosses are evil, or that greedy, but that’s just how the game operates.
—But in my factory, I think of my factory workers are like bosses, every one, because they don't have to have a certain time to start or get off work.
—You will not check their working time
—Yes, and they always can decide what they do.
—But they can't decide not to do.
—That's autonomy. They have some sort of autonomy. But still, the goal is defined by others.
—It's not me, it's the clients!
—Right! Exactly.

—It's not about the conditions of the labor, it's about the fact that labor is a thing, that we have to actually sell our creative activity. Like, we could work in your lovely company, or we could work in a sweatshop in Bangaladesh. It’s not about how lovely your conditions are or not, it’s the fact of your having to sell your labor to begin with.
—We talk about life is a game, so I’m not in the game of an office worker. We don't enjoy it that much.
—If you accept that you're in a game, like a role in the chess game.
—Won't you be irritated by this?
—Yeah, sometimes, you will.
—Won't you want to change it?
—It's really hard to change
—Unless if you're the boss
—No, even if you're the president of the united states. Look at all the things Obama tries to do and fails at
—Like if the boss wants to change, but the environment is bad, and the industry becomes competitive, then its hard for the company to survive.
—Lack of freedom exists everywhere, no matter if it's capitalism or ancient society, people have to work for survival. We all work under some sort of limitation. Like you're studying college, and you still need to follow some kind of rule, you feel too tired to go to class, but you still need to go.
—If we try to let ourselves, if you believe when you work or do something, you trust yourself——if you want to survive, you must do something, but if you also trust yourself, you must believe you are irreplaceable.
—But in the face of capitalism, saying you as a laborer are replaceable, it's hard!
—You still have to believe in the value of your uniqueness as a human being, that you are irreplaceable.
—We all live under some sort of limitation, in sort of being a part of the capitalistic society , we all live with some sort of limitation, but the way to alleviate that kind of pain, is to gain some degree of freedom by our mind.
—So, my solution is to work for money as little as possible, and work for my own projects as much as possible.
—My solution is to think, I'm not working for my boss or company, I'm working for helping my clients. So sometimes I'm working overtime, it's not for my boss, I think they are doing everything for their own good, but what really matters for me is to fulfill my clients.
—The point is to not let others define your work or your life, you need to create meaning, and find the meaning of your own work and life. So even we sell our activity to survive, but we still can define the meaning in the process. So just like those two, they find a solution or find the meaning, so all of us can also find why we're sitting here, and why you spend our time here.
—I’ll use my daughter as an example, she works in a noodle shop, and she is part-time employee, she also said that, if anyone worker don't want to work, and there is my opportunity, and also encourage herself, and trust herself, because she's not a good student, she tries to do it well, and her colleagues told her, please do my part, and she's like "Okay!" and her boss said, why are you so happy when people are taking advantage of you? And she said, because I like working, and when I'm resting, I'm not happy. When I'm working, I'm so happy!"
—So that’s her way of surviving.

—I want to say that although I'm still a student, I also feel a great pressure of the condition of society or culture, the way people react to each other. Because this kind of culture is trying to modify everyone into some kind of really productive person, so everybody must have to work really hard to survive, because if you don't work hard, others will work hard, and you will be flushed off, you’ll be replaced. So talking about the characteristic of everyone, that humans can have, there must be some people that are more peaceful or kind or in other word, 'weak'...
—Maybe 'not that ambitions'
—But it's really about weak, or soft, with less ambition. Because I’m that kind of person. I feel...because NTU students may not have their own goal for life, but they will just do what kind of life the parents' expectation, or the professor expects of them...
—But what my daughter's working for is just being a manager. But what I want to say is that even though they seem to be weaker, they might have their passion, or their patience, or it might not matter that much to them.
—She's trying to say that actually you are ambitious, you have your goals
—Let me continue...what I'm trying to say is: why can't we embrace our human nature? That we didn't want to be mean in life, we want to live an easy life! Because I am kind of a person, an idealist, thinking that people can think of each other. So be less aggressive. So that the human beings will be not a kind of virus creature.
—That's really well said!
—You bring us a hope for the future!
—We don't have to live like viruses!

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