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Submitted by Milan Brahmbhatt on
Juergen, by prosperity I mean a high level of social productivity that allows individuals more choices in their (much longer and healthier) lives. To that extent I think we agree. Your experience of doing volunteer work "without income" is a good example of the choices made possible by advanced capitalism. After all, by one means or another, society generated and channelled the resources to keep you well fed, clothed, housed and generally looked-after while you did your volunteering, and then gave you more choices for other things to do with your life later on. Certainly, money alone may not bring much extra happiness beyond a certain point. But then no one forces you to be obsessed with money, do they? You can find another job that pays less but is more satisfying or gives you more time for other things. You have those choices because of the amazingly complex division of labor under capitalism, freedom of contract in the labor market and the social productivity to which these things gives rise. The standard neo-marxist counter-argument about people being enslaved by 'false-consciousness' induced by mass-advertising etc., while containing a kernel of truth, is both condescending and overstated. You're lucky if all that you're oppressed by is television!! It's certainly possible with a certain strength of mind and independence of character to resist advertising and the culture of "keeping up with the Joneses". I sometimes think those characteristics are the only necessary pre-requisites for happiness under capitalism. So perhaps all we need is better character training for effective citizenship under capitalism? Then why so much strenuous moaning and grumbling about the problems of capitalism? I don't think the 'dimensions of happiness' argument can explain it. Or at least we might need to specify it in a different way. Let us continue to ponder ...