Archive for December, 2011

It’s the End of a Year

December 31st, 2011  |  Published in Uncategorized

I didn’t really stop to think about it until the last few weeks, but this has really been a hell of a year, for me personally and for the world in general. A lot of things were really different on January 1, 2011, and a lot of things didn’t go at all as I expected. So pardon me if I get a little verklempt. A year ago…

Mubarak and Ben Ali and Gaddafi were in power, and nobody believed that the protests then underway in Tunisia were going to lead anywhere.

The Wisconsin anti-Walker protests and Occupy Wall Street were unimaginable, nobody was talking about inequality, and political debate revolved around congressional obstructionism and deficit fearmongering.

I didn’t know what the rest of my graduate education was going to look like or whether I was going to have funding; now I’m just back from 3 months in Luxembourg thanks to the support of the Fondation National de la Recherche Luxembourg.

Jacobin was just a quixotic little magazine project that my friend Bhaskar started and that I agreed to write for; now I’m a co-editor, we’ve seen faster growth than I could possibly imagine, and the latest issue has better content, better design, and better attention from people I respect than I ever hoped for.

And this blog was just a place for me to vent my thoughts and practice my writing, with no particular expectation that anybody would read it (except John, of course). Thanks to everyone who’s read and commented here—I get more from you than from most anonymous academic peer reviewers.

In keeping with what appears to be a new Internet tradition, these were the five most-read posts on this site (this doesn’t include traffic to my cross-posts at the Jacobin blog, which would probably change the rankings):

The Partisan and the Political. One link from Talking Points Memo was all it took to get 11,000 people reading this one in a day. It was an argument I’d been meaning to write down for years, but I guess I’m glad I waited.

Anti-Star Trek. The gift that keeps on giving. This post wasn’t even written in 2011, but nobody read it until it got launched into the blogosphere in July. My vision of a rentier dystopia led to countless posts on artificial scarcity, as well as what I think is my most complex and original contribution to Jacobin thus far.

Cheap Labor and the Great Stagnation. This is the great thing about the Internet. I raise a critique of blog-star Tyler Cowen’s book, and the next thing you know Cowen himself is linking to it. This was one of those that I thought almost too obvious to bother writing down, but I guess it really needed to be said.

Capitalism Without Capitalists One of the first posts of mine that ever got attention from a noteworthy blogger, laying out a sort of tricky argument that I still go back to now and then.

The Basic Income and the Helicopter Drop. In this one I got to bang the drum for the Basic Income and pretend I understand the finer points of Federal Reserve monetary policy. And I don’t think I even made too much of an ass of myself!

This year, my ideas and arguments have spread to a wider audience than I ever expected, and I’ve encountered lots of interesting people along the way. If you had told me that Charles Stross would tweet a link to my essay, and that one of my faulty arguments would get corrected by Cosma Shalizi, dayenu. But in addition:

  • Bhaskar Sunkara, Seth Ackerman, Mike Beggs, and the whole Jacobin crew are awesome and helped create something I’m really proud of.
  • Mike Konczal gave me way more exposure than I deserve, and he’s that rare liberal who takes Marxists seriously. And I even got to make friends with him IRL!
  • Aaron Bady is another guy who gave me undue props, and he impresses me by thinking way harder about the role and responsibility of small, non-institutional bloggers than I ever did.
  • Henry Farrell has been a thoughtful interlocutor and a consistent promoter of Peter Frase/Jacobin content.
  • Rob Horning is always fun to argue with, even if he’ll never be able to abide my relentlessly optimistic techno-futurism.
  • Matt Yglesias, whatever my disagreements with him, deserves credit for being the first person to link to both “Capitalism Without Capitalists” and “Anti-Star Trek”, starting me on the path to whatever small amount of Internet attention I now enjoy.
  • On a similar note, I’m grateful to Reihan Salam if only because now I can say that my ideas were denounced by the website of the National Review. It’s kind of like in college when all I wanted was to be personally denounced by the right-wing campus paper.

I could go on like this forever, so apologies to all those I’ve omitted.

Back when I didn’t have readers, I didn’t worry too much about letting the blog lapse for weeks or months when I didn’t feel the urge to write. Now I feel a little more pressure to produce, but the discipline of posting regularly is good for me…so I’ll be back for more in 2012. Resolutions include: more statistical graphics, more engagement with female writers, and more veiled references to unspeakably nerdy topics.

It’s the end of a fucked up year, there’s another one coming:

The Market As Plan

December 29th, 2011  |  Published in Cities, Political Economy, Socialism

There’s a good article in LA Magazine about UCLA parking theorist Donald Shoup. Shoup has made a name for himself (among urban planning nerds) by showing how urban land use practices systematically over-produce free and cheap parking, leading to all sorts of undesirable consequences for everyday life.

As Matt Yglesias says, Shoup’s views on parking can be reduced to two themes. First, “that governments should not force real estate developers, store owners, and other businessmen to build more parking than their own calculation of what the market balance of supply and demand is.” This is just the straightforward point that the state shouldn’t force the creation of things that have negative externalities and disproportionately benefit the already well-off. More interesting is the second theme, “that governments shouldn’t underprice street parking in a way that leads to Soviet-style shortages of available spaces and elaborate rationing rules about how long you’re allowed to stay in a given spot.” Yglesias, and Shoup, portray their position as a free-market alternative to the evils of central planning, surely a canny move for liberal audiences. But there’s something else going on here; consider this experiment in LA, as described in the LA Magazine article:

This spring the DOT plans to introduce an $18.5 million smart wireless meter system based on Shoup’s theories. Called ExpressPark, the 6,000-meter array will be installed on downtown streets and lots, along with sensors buried in the pavement of every parking spot to detect the presence of cars and price accordingly, from as little as 50 cents an hour to $6. Street parking, like pork bellies, will be open to market forces. As blocks fill, prices will rise; when occupancy drops, so will rates. In an area like downtown, ideal for Shoup’s progressive pricing, people will park based on how much they’re willing to pay versus how far they are willing to walk to a destination.

There are two points I want to make about the two bolded phrases, one directed to my left and one to my right. (See? I’m an even-handed centrist.) To Leftists, this talk of subjecting parking to “market forces” sounds like the usual neo-liberal claptrap, in which public services are thrown open to private avarice. And it’s understandable that we’re all wary of talk of the market, which has become a kind of universal solvent for putative reformers looking to batter down the welfare state; as Tom Frank remarks, faith in the market has a utopian fervor on the right, as the free play of capitalism is presented as the magical solution to all problems.

But rather than accept the ideological representation of The Market as all that is competitive and efficient and bounteous and true about capitalism, it’s worth reflecting on just what the Leftist objections to the market traditionally were, and whether they fit the case described here. There are two that I think are most important. The first is a narrowly economic argument, to the effect that under the “anarchy” of capitalist competition, the pursuit of private profit leads to unjust and irrational results: luxury goods are produced while the poor starve, inventories pile up that no-one can afford to buy, factories lie idle while thousands are looking for work, the environment is despoiled, and so on. In Trotsky’s Transitional Program, there are repeated references to this kind of market anarchy, which will inevitably be superseded by a superior form of rational, conscious, worker-controlled planning. Indeed, says Trotsky, “The necessity of ‘controlling’ economy, of placing state ‘guidance’ over industry and of ‘planning’ is today recognized – at least in words – by almost all current bourgeois and petty bourgeois tendencies, from fascist to Social Democratic.”

But is someone like Donald Shoup trying to introduce the anarchy of the market, or suppress it? Consider:

Parking had never crossed Shoup’s mind when he left Yale for L.A. in 1968—his focus was public finance and land-value theory. In 1975, he stumbled onto a master’s thesis by two USC students who had worked their way through school parking cars for a man named Rex Link. “Link,” says Shoup, “was annoyed that county workers were offered free parking downtown when federal workers had to pay. ” Link’s student employees proposed a study. “They found that 72 percent of county workers drove to work alone,” says Shoup, “but 60 percent of federal employees carpooled, took public transportation, or even walked. These were workers in the same professions, driving to the same location.” When forced to pay a practical value for their parking, drivers were twice as likely to carpool—traffic congestion was halved, carbon emissions were halved. “The more I thought of that,” says Shoup, “the more I thought there was a perfect storm here. No one can tell you why parking prices are set as they are. But when people pay comparatively little for something that’s expensive to produce, the result is collective irrational behavior.”

The Market has been so mystified by its apologists that we no longer recognize a planned economy when we see it. It’s true that that last sentence is, in some ways, redolent of old pro-market critiques of Soviet planning: when prices are arbitrarily decreed by the state rather than equilibrated in competitive markets, irrational and suboptimal outcomes are the result. But Shoup’s alternative is not merely to unleash the anarchy of the market, in which private firms somehow compete to offer parking at the lowest price. The ExpressPark experiment, as described in the first quote, is an exemplary case of central planning. The city begins by decreeing a production target, which in this case is maintaining one empty parking space on each street. The complex system of sensors and pricing algorithms is then used to create price signals that will meet the target. The key point here is that the capitalist market’s causal arrow has been reversed: rather than market price fluctuations leading to an unpredictable level of production, it is the production target that comes first, and the prices are dictated by the quota. What this reminds me of, more than anything, is some of the abortive experiments in economic planning that happened in the USSR under Kruschev, as fictionalized in Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty. Mathematicians and economists, including the Nobel prize winner Leonid Kantorovich, attempted to use the mechanism of prices, not to restore capitalism, but to make central planning work better. Consider this exchange, which Spufford invents between Kantorovich and his academic critics:

‘But what about the evident similarity between your “valuations” and the market prices of a capitalist economy?’ asked Boyarskii, who was sounding rather strained.

‘It’s true that there is a formal resemblance,’ said Leonid Vitalevich. ‘But they have a completely different origin, and therefore a completely different meaning. Whereas market prices are formed spontaneously, objective valuations – shadow prices – must be computed on the basis of an optimal plan. As the plan targets change, the valuations change. They are subordinate to the very different production relationships of a socialist society. Yet, yet, the scope for their use is actually bigger under socialism. The capitalists actually agree with you, Dr Boyarskii, that the mathematical methods we’re talking about should only be applied on the small scale, on the level of the individual firm. They have no choice: there is no larger structure, in the economy of West Germany or the United States, in which they can be set to work. They have had some success, I believe. I’m sorry to say that, since George Danzig and Tjalling Koopmans made their discoveries of “linear programming” in America during the war, the techniques have been adopted there far more eagerly, far more quickly, than in the Soviet Union. Linear programmers in the USA calculate routes for airlines, and devise the investment policies of Wall Street corporations. But we still have an opportunity before us which is closed to the capitalists. Capitalism cannot calculate an optimum for a whole economy at once. We can. There is a fundamental harmony between optimal planning and the nature of socialist society.

This seems much closer to what Donald Shoup is doing than the traditional liberal conception of the free market. The same might be said of various “market based” solutions to climate change, which begin by setting price on carbon or a limit on total carbon emissions and then allow the rights to emit to be traded. Once again, the plan targets come first and the prices come second.

There is a second line of argument against markets, however; that they are not merely anarchic and inefficient, but also induce ideological mystifications that perpetuate capitalism and exploitation. Bertell Ollman puts the point as follows in his criticism of market socialism:

One major virtue of centrally planned societies, then, even undemocratic ones, even ones that don’t work very well, is that it is easy to see who is responsible for what goes wrong. It is those who made the plan. The same cannot be said of market economies which have as one of their main functions to befuddle the understanding of those who live in them. This is essential if people are to misdirect whatever frustration and anger they feel about the social and economic inequality, unemployment, idle machines and factories, ecological destruction, widespread corruption and exaggerated forms of greed that are the inevitable byproducts of market economies. But to the extent this is so, only a critique of market mystification will enable us to put the blame where it belongs, which is to say—on the capitalist market as such and the class that rules over it, in order to open people up to the need for creating a new way of organizing the production and distribution of social wealth.

This attack, too, fails to land a blow against the LA parking experiment. Despite the presence of price signals, and a market, it is no mystery who is responsible for the new regime of fluctuating meter prices: the city of Los Angeles, urged on by its academic homunculus Donald Shoup. Indeed, it is the very visibility of the planners that makes projects like this so controversial among those who take their right to free parking for granted, and who oppose policies like congestion pricing that would mitigate traffic by charging drivers for entering busy areas. This is also part of what makes cap-and-trade climate policy vulnerable to right-wing attack; whatever its “market based” costume, everyone knows that the policy begins with government lawmakers and bureaucrats.

Which is not to say that all opposition to these schemes is unfounded. There’s a blind spot that characterizes many proponents of things like the re-pricing of parking, particularly those who we learned to call “left neo-liberals” this summer. It’s captured in the second phrase I bolded in that first passage: “people will park based on how much they’re willing to pay versus how far they are willing to walk to a destination.” In just three words, “willing to pay”, we have swept away the inequality of wealth and power that any attempt to turn market mechanisms toward planned ends must confront. Willingness to pay, of course, is also a function of ability to pay, and a market mechanism implicitly attributes worth to a person’s desires in proportion to the money they have to spend.

Thoughtful neoclassical economists know this, but they usually choose to ignore it, presumably because the consequences of confronting it would be too politically uncomfortable. Their own theories tell them that, due to the decreasing marginal utility of money, an extra dollar is worth more to the poor than to the rich. It follows that asking an extra dollar for parking hurts the well-being of the poor far more than the rich, and systematically privileges those who don’t need to think twice about paying six dollars for a parking space. To which a good left neo-liberal would no doubt reply that the issues of rational pricing and wealth redistribution are logically distinct and should be thought separately. But politically, this means that redistribution is the lonely last instance that never comes.

All of which is enough to make a good progressive recoil from such a thing as “the market price for street parking”. But this position is not nearly audacious enough. Rather than a rejection of market relations, this is merely a rejection of a novel form of planning, in favor of the older, more obscure, more unfair and more inefficient methods of planning the use of public space. We could say instead that what’s needed is a direct assault on the inequalities of wealth and income that subvert the functioning of prices, and thereby impede the realization of the plan.

The Peer-to-Peer Future

December 22nd, 2011  |  Published in anti-Star Trek, Political Economy, Politics, Socialism

Now that the new Jacobin is live, I can point out the essay I’ve been teasing for a while in my posts. It builds on the thought experiment I carried out in my “Anti-Star Trek” post, in which I imagined a fully automated economy where class and profit was based entirely on intellectual property. In the new piece, that hypothetical is just one of four possible futures—two egalitarian utopias and two class-divided dystopias. It’s an attempt to think more systematically about the interaction between automation, ecological and resource limits, and class, and it’s available to read online.

A side issue in the essay, as well as a number of my blog posts, is that I often gesture at things like open source software and other kinds of peer-to-peer (P2P) production, as prefigurations of what labor might look like when freed from its oppressive form as capitalist wage labor. But there are others on the left who see P2P as a negative development, or at least one without much liberatory potential. Take the anonymous Mr. Teacup, whose archives I’ve recently been reading through with great interest. He (I’ll use that pronoun since the alias is male whether or not the blogger is) recently put up a two-part post on “The Peer-Production Illusion”.

The first post argues that “in practice, the open source software movement is compatible with and influenced by capitalism”, which “casts doubt on overly optimistic claims that peer production is intrinsically anti-capitalist.” Teacup shows that much of what looks like voluntary non-waged peer production really isn’t, because most of the work is done by employees of private firms which pay them to work on open source projects. He compares things like the Apache web server software to physical infrastructure: just as capitalists pay taxes that go to build things like roads and sewer systems through the medium of the state, so too firms will collectively fund the development of software that they all use, but from which none of them derives a comparative advantage.

I find little here to disagree with—clearly, P2P isn’t inherently anti-capitalist, and the analogy with physical infrastructure is an astute one. But the second post in the series goes on to to criticize a slightly different view:

The establishment of gift economies, even if they grow profits right now, might contain the seeds of eliminating capitalist production altogether. I’m going to call this the Beachhead Hypothesis: in the vast territory controlled by capitalism, P2P creates autonomous spaces free from exploitative wage labor that can be expanded to encroach further on enemy territory.

I disagree with this hypothesis because I don’t think we took this territory, I think it was created by capitalism.

I believe something quite close to the “Beachhead Hypothesis”, even though I also agree that the P2P space was in many ways created by capitalism. I don’t think this is a contradiction: capitalist relations first arose within a feudal context, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t ultimately point beyond feudalism. The crucial point is that the same set of relations can have a very different meaning depending on the larger social context in which it’s embedded.

While the first “Peer Production Illusion” post argued that much apparently P2P labor was really just capitalist wage labor organized at a supra-firm level, the second post employs a very different line of argument against the Beachhead Hypothesis. Teacup claims that even where “real” peer-production is done by people who aren’t paid for it, it still isn’t promising or liberating. Rather, peer production is actually an integral part of the ideology and practice of neoliberalism, which is built on a “civil society” in which unpaid acts become a source of private profits. Just as the ethic of charity can obscure the need to change structural inequalities, “the altruism of individuals participating in P2P gift economies obscures their role as free labor for capitalism.”

The implication here is that anyone who embraces the P2P ethic is kind of a sap, tricked into doing free labor for the man when they should be demanding a wage for it. Which in a way is true, because the problem with P2P as it exists now is that it is embedded in a society that’s still organized around wage labor. Everyone is still expected to support themselves by working for pay, but capitalists who profit from the work of the P2P economy are evading the fundamental bargain between capital and labor: I, the worker, will do work from which I am alienated and from which someone else profits, and in return you, the capitalist, must pay me a wage.

One response to this is to denounce P2P and other forms of free labor, in an attempt to shore up the wage. This is the direction in which Mr. Teacup seems to tilt. But another answer to this untenable situation is that the problem is not with P2P but with the institution of wage labor itself. If we are all, more and more, producing economic value even when we aren’t at work, this strengthens the case for a “social wage” paid to everyone—i.e., something like my perpetual hobbyhorse, the Unconditional Basic Income. This, indeed, is the direction that post-Autonomists like Hardt and Negri ultimately went. Another way to put this is that the rich need to pay a tax in order to support a piece of social infrastructure that they depend upon: the P2P economy.

But you obviously can’t take that position if you think P2P production is an inseparable part of a neoliberal capitalism that’s even worse than the order that preceded it. The alternative that remains is basically to go back to mid-20th Century social democracy, and to try to restore a real, pure capitalism in which all value-creating labor is rewarded with a wage (although as David Graeber points out, actually-existing capitalism has always depended on lots of labor that doesn’t fit the archetype of contractual wage labor).

A better strategy, I think, would be to learn from those moments when the working class responded to new forms of exploitation not by shoring up the old status quo, but by making a counter-move that advanced the economy forward to yet another new stage. When industrialization threatened traditional craft skills, one response of the labor movement was a craft unionism that tried to preserve the privileges of a small subset of skilled workers. But it was the more radical industrial unions that ultimately helped make possible the social democratic compromise that neoliberalism later undermined—a compromise based on accepting certain kinds of productivity-enhancing, deskilling technological changes in return for a share of the resulting rise in output. Just as craft unions were inadequate to an industrial age, the logic of class struggle in the factory is unlikely to be adequate to a post-industrial context. The question then, isn’t whether P2P is or isn’t capitalist, but whether we can get its capitalist integument to burst asunder.

Return of Friday Links

December 9th, 2011  |  Published in Uncategorized

Back by popular demand:

  • The big Occupy news this week is the kickoff of Occupy Our Homes. I can’t describe how stoked I am about this, and I hope it continues and gets much bigger.

  • Other, head-exploding Occupy news: Occupy Wall Street occupies “Occupy Wall Street”.

  • Voting for the 3 Quarks Daily semifinalists ends tomorrow. I’m quite pleased that among the top vote-getters are me, Corey Robin, Aaron Bady, and Lili Loofbourow, whose excellent essay on Occupy Oakland I neglected to highlight earlier.

  • The renewed attention to my “Anti-Star Trek” post comes at a good time, because that post was sort of a preparatory sketch for my essay in the forthcoming Jacobin, in which I extend the argument and embed it in a larger theoretical framework.

  • In Anti-Star Trek Watch-related news, the Supreme Court is threatening to legalize some truly insane patents on medical knowledge. Elena Kagan, in particular, is revealing herself to be a really awful appointment.

  • Newt Gingrich, Whining electron orgy.

  • Sam McPheeters wrote a novel. It will probably be really funny.

  • One of the big problems with earnest policy-wonk liberalism is that it insists on treating every right-wing claim as though it were an empirical proposition to be taken seriously. Case in point, the argument that raising taxes on capitalist “job creators” will cost lots of jobs when they start slacking off and hiring fewer people. This is transparently ridiculous when CEOs don’t even know how much they pay in taxes and even the business lobby itself can’t come up with any of these rich people who will stop hiring if their taxes go up

  • Is it finally time for Euro-doom? I’m concerned, if only because I’m about to return to the US. I missed the Occupy explosion while I was in Luxembourg, so surely I’ll miss all the Euro-insanity when I’m back in America.

  • Steelworkers are striking against Luxembourg’s biggest company.

  • Daniel Little discusses some interesting historical evidence for my previously-discussed belief that cheap labor can cause technological stagnation.

  • This is sort of an odd essay about modern feminism, but there’s a lot of interesting stuff in it, particularly the parts about Selma James.

  • No big deal, just a Reuters business columnist calling for debt jubilees and handing out free money.

  • I’ve posted a lot of Ice Cube videos in these link roundups, but this one is something different:

An Honor Just to be Nominated

December 5th, 2011  |  Published in Shameless self-promotion

The folks over at 3 Quarks Daily are awarding their third annual prize for “the best blog writing in politics & social science”, and someone was nice enough to nominate my musings on Anti-Star Trek. A first round of voting is underway here, which will narrow the selections down to twenty semi-finalists; the winners will then be picked by celebrity guest judge Stephen Walt.

If you’d prefer not to inflate my ego any further, two other especially deserving choices were written by friends of this blog: Corey Robin on conservative radicalism and Aaron Bady on power and Occupy Cal. Just whatever you do, please don’t vote for that Ezra Klein post.

Are CEOs workers, and should we care?

December 2nd, 2011  |  Published in Political Economy

It’s been pretty dead around here, I know—I’ve been pulled away by other obligations, including the new issue of Jacobin, which will feature not one but two of my contributions. Look for that, coming soon!

Just a quick (or, well, now I guess it’s not so quick) note in the meantime on today’s topic of discussion in the part of the lefty Internet where I hang out: Matt Yglesias’s post arguing that it doesn’t make sense to talk about a conflict between corporate fat-cats and workers, since CEOs are in some sense “workers” too. Seth and Doug obviously think that this is a kind of obtuse way of putting things, politically and morally. And I agree—but I don’t think they quite get at the real problem with the argument.

Doug says that “the point isn’t how hard you work, it’s what you take home”, and he goes on to note that the average big company CEO makes about $3,800 dollars an hour. But he implicitly concedes Yglesias’s point that this is all about inequalities among workers, one group of whom happen to be obscenely well-compensated. That gives Yglesias the opening to zing back: “I’m the one insisting on an orthodox Marxist account of exploitation.” That, in turn, touched off some Twitter banter about what share of top-1% income comes from wages versus investments, and so on.

This seems a bit irrelevant to me. I’d counter that the point isn’t just “what you take home”, nor is it even how your income is classified for accounting purposes; rather, it’s where you’re positioned in the system of capital accumulation. In the circuit of M-C-M’, most workers are just another commodity: the labor-power that is bought as part of the “C” step, the production and sale of commodities. CEOs, on the other hand, are actually in a position to control the entire process of production, and their income is best thought of as a share of the resulting profit, whether or not that share is officially coded as salary or as stock options.

It would be possible to set things up so that the CEO was paid more like a normal worker, and all the profit went to the shareholders, but that’s pretty clearly not what’s going on now. (Though you’re welcome to go see Tyler Cowen if you’d like some silly arguments to that effect.) In practice, managers at American corporations are able to behave as though they are the owners of the enterprise rather than the shareholders, and thus are entitled to appropriate profits themselves—there is a large literature on this, showing how executives manipulate boards and compensation committees. This may not make them identical to the traditional conception of a capitalist who is the juridical owner of the firm, and it may put their interests in conflict with those of shareholders, but it certainly makes them quite different from ordinary wage laborers. (See here for a similar rendition of this argument.)

So that’s one criticism of what Yglesias wrote: it’s not just that he underplays the significance of income inequality, he also fails to really reckon with the role top management plays in actually existing capitalism. The fact that European and Japanese CEOs make so much less than their American counterparts, which Yglesias mentioned in a tweet, actually gives the game away—this is an indication that these non-American executives have been less successful at grabbing a share of profits for themselves.

However, there’s an important kernel of truth to what he’s saying. It is possible, at least in principle, to have a society that is just as capitalist as ours, but where everyone is really a “worker” in a meaningful sense. I wrote about that in the spring, in a post that I know Yglesias has read, because he linked to it. Probably he views the argument differently than I do—I meant to show that it’s not enough to just get rid of the capitalist class if you want to challenge the deep structure of capital, whereas Yglesias might think that “capitalism without capitalists” is a state of affairs we should aspire to. And when he says that “the concept of a class struggle between workers and capitalists was at the time it was created grounded in a specific contrast between workers and owners”, he seems to imply that we’ve already reached a fully depersonalized capitalism, which I think is wrong. But even if it were right, that wouldn’t mean the current state of affairs was somehow OK.

So to reiterate what I said in my earlier post: the opposition between capital and labor is not the same as the opposition between capitalists and workers, and you can’t always cleanly align the two relations on top of each other.