Category Archives: Political economy

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Utilitarian

John Stuart Mill “Utilitarianism is a theory in normative ethics holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes utility, usually defined as maximizing happiness and reducing suffering. Classic utilitarianism’s two most influential contributors are Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.” (English Wikipedia)

From Williams’ Keywords: “Utilitarian has one complication: that it is a description of a particular philosophical system, which in practice has been widely adopted, though usually without reference to the formal name. It is also a description of a limited class of qualities or interests, practical or material. Many would say that this double sense has a single root; that it is the inevitable consequence of a particular kind of materialist philosophy. But utilitarian is very much like materialist in that it has been loaded with the aspersions of its enemies just as much as with the consequences of its own assumptions… Utilitarian, as a conscious description, was first used in English by Jeremy Bentham: to express an emphasis, in 1781, and to name, with a capital letter, the ‘professors of a new religion’ (1802). An action was ‘conformable to the principle of utility… when the tendency it has to augment the happiness of the community is greater than any it has to diminish it’. Happiness, in fact, was the key word of the system, as again in John Stuart Mill (Utilitarianism, 1861): ‘happiness… the only thing describable as an end’… Moreover, within the specific utilitarian system, characteristically limited definitions of usefulness – both its characteristic specialisation to the individual and the brisk but limited practicality which Mill described as adequate only for ‘regulating the merely business part of the social arrangements’ – came to predominate, and to limit the concept of both pleasure and happiness. It became, ironically, the working philosophy  of a bureaucratic and industrial capitalist society.”

See also:

Wikipedia article on Jeremy Bentham

The History of Utilitarianism at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Utilitarian Philosophers

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Organic

Alive The term Organic may refer to an organism, or living entity, or to an organ. Wikipedia lists Organic references in: Chemistry (carbon-based chemistry, chemistry of carbon-based compounds), Agriculture and Farming (organic agriculture “conducted according to certain standards, especially the use of methods of fertilisation and pest control”, organic horticulture, organic food), Computing (organic computer built form neurones, computer systems with properties of self-configuration), Economics (organic growth “as opposed to mergers, acquisitions and take-overs”, flat structure businesses), Military (organic unit, “a permanent part of a larger unit that provides some specialised capability”), Law (organic or fundamental law), Music (several albums under that name, e.g. Freak Kitchen, 2005, and Joe Cocker, 1996) and a few others.

From Keywords: “Organic has a specific meaning in modern English, to refer to the processes or products of life, in human beings, animals or plants. It has also an important applied or metaphorical meaning, to indicate certain kinds of relationship and thence kinds of society…

The source of its common specific modern meaning is the major development of natural history and biology in C18, when it acquired a dominate reference to things living and growing.”

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Monopoly

James Christensen 1) Monopoly is a popular board game invented by Parker Brothers and made by the Hasbro toy and game company, dating back from the 30’s, although its origin goes back to 1900’.

2) According to Wikipedia, “a monopoly exists when a single person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity.”

From Williams: “Monopoly can be difficult because it has a common literal meaning but also a rather wider meaning which has been historically important. It came into English in C16 from monopolium (Latin), monopolion (Greek) (from monos: alone, single, and polein: sell). Two senses appear in the early English examples: (i) the exclusive possession of trade in some article, (ii) the exclusive privilege granted by license of selling some commodity…

… The modern phrase monopoly capitalism (describes) a phase of Capitalism in which the market (is) either (a) organised by cartels and the like or (b) dominated by increasingly large corporations. Either use can be criticised form the literal sense of monopoly, which would suggest that large corporations with or without formal cartels do not compete in selling: i.e., that there is only one seller.”

See also:

State Monopoly Capitalism

The Age of Monopoly-Finance Capital

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Liberal

Women's march on Versailles From Wiktionary: “adjective: either

Of or relating to the Liberal party, its membership, or its platform, policy, or viewpoint

Or

Generous, in great amount, a large proportion.

Noun: (politics) a member or supporter of a liberal party

UK (historically) Whig

In Raymond Williams: “Liberal has, at first sight, so clear a political meaning that some of its further associations are puzzling. Yet the political meaning is comparatively modern, and much of the interesting history of the word is earlier.

It began in a specific social distinction, to refer to a class of free men as distinct from others who were not free… In its use in liberal arts - ‘artis liberalis’ (1375) - it was predominantly a class term: the skills and pursuits appropriate, as we should now say, to men of independent means and assured social position, as distinct from other skills and pursuits appropriate to a lower class…

The most serious sense of the socialist use… is the accurate observation that liberalism is a doctrine based on individualist theories of man and society and is thus  in fundamental conflict not only with socialist but with most strictly social theories. The further observation, that liberalism is the highest form of thought  developed within bourgeois society and in terms of capitalism, is also relevant,  for when liberal is not being used as a loose swear-word, it is to this mixture of liberating and limiting ideas that it is intended to refer. Liberalism is then the doctrine of certain necessary kinds of freedom but also, and essentially, a doctrine of possessive individualism.”

See also article on Liberalism and Neoliberalism in Wikipedia.

To my US readers: this post has a definite British flavour, and I do acknowledge that the words liberal, liberalism, Whig etc. have a somewhat different notation in American history and language.

#AtoZAprilChallenge: -isms

Ism Williams says: “There have been isms, and for that matter ists,  as far back as we have records. Ism and ist are Greek suffixes. Ism was used in English to form a noun of action (baptism); of a kind of action (heroism); and of actions and beliefs characteristic of some group (Atticism, Judaism) or tendency (Protestantism, Socialism) or school (Platonism). Ist was used to form various agent-nouns (psalmist) and also nouns to indicate an adherent of some system or teacher (altruist, Thomist)…

Isms and ists are still used, wittily or contemptuously (often with a sense of rapturous originality) but usually from orthodox or conservative positions, and even by scientists, economists and those professing patriotism.”

See also the Ism Book, a Field Guide to Philosophy, by Peter Saint-Andre

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Hegemony

Yalta summit, 1945 “Hegemony was probably taken directly into English from Greek, egemonia, (derived from) egemon – leader, ruler, often in the sense of a state other than his own. Its sense of political predominance, usually of one state over another, is not common before C19, but has since persisted and is now fairly common, together with hegemonic, to describe a policy expressing or aimed at political predominance. More recently hegemonism has been used to describe specifically  ‘great power’ or ’superpower’ politics, intended to dominate others, indeed hegemonism has some currency as an alternative to Imperialism.” (Keywords)

For a balanced view of the world-historical perspective, from Chaos and Governance in the Modern World System (Giovanni Arrighi & Beverly J. Silver): “Whereas domination rests primarily on coercion, the leadership that defines hegemony rests on the capacity of the dominate group to present itself, and be perceived, as the bearer of general interest.”

See also: Hidden Persuaders