Definitions

One of the issues at stake in my general aim of declaring my assumptions is, inevitably, semantic. The meaning of words is more flexible than people tend to like; but for clarity of communication, a consensus is necessary. I’m therefore planning to make a practice of defining terms as one would in an academic survey piece, each time I run into one of the ones that I use with a more specific, more general, or more functional meaning than is typical in common usage. In some cases, I will list a definition and link to others: in cases where the definition I use has a detailed case to be made, it will typically have been argued in a post to which the definition will link. Definitions may at some point be alphabetised but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Wealth: Tangible or financial assets administered by a single authority.

– A concept which is much debated. When people speak of the haves and the have-nots, wealth is that which one has or doesn’t. Instances of wealth which can be traded, or exchanged, form the basis of a market economy.

Capital: Accumulations of unused, exchangeable wealth

– In order to analyse the origins of capital accumulation I needed a functional definition of capital that was not financial, in order to include early, non-monetarised societies in the survey. Functionally, capital is what can be employed to generate more wealth. In order to create capital in a subsistence economy, someone must accumulate wealth and then employ it to get more.

Capitalism: Any socio-economic system which permits and rewards the accumulation and inheritance of capital.

– Depending from the definition of capital. “Permits and rewards” signifies that not only may one accumulate and inherit capital wealth, but society will confer significant tangible and intangible rewards on those who do so, beyond the functional fact of their wealth. There are many variants on the theme, including market capitalism, statist capitalism, free-market capitalism and any number of cocktails thereof. To date, one type has dominated the historical period, being statist/hierarchical monetarised capitalism.

Racism: racial prejudice + privileged power

– Shorthand: racism = prejudice + power. Racial prejudice alone (the pre-judging of an individual based on preconceptions about their skin colour and its implications) is not, in modern political philosophy, racism. To become racism, it requires that prejudice to be coupled with social privilege and actual power. As a result, in Northern Europe or North America, a person of colour cannot enact racism against a white person. They can, however, display a personal racial prejudice. Keeping these distinctions clear is very significant, as it burns the straw man of claiming, say, Affirmative Action as a ‘racist’ political doctrine. See also sexism, JCI-ism, classism and so on.

Sexism: sexual prejudice + political and economic power.

– Sexual prejudice is common throughout both the Western sexes. It is only sexism when it is coupled with one sex owning most of the wealth, nearly all the political power and a mortal lock on the language of discourse derived from a 2000-year old desert religion or three.

One True Way-ism: the belief that your revealed wisdom trumps all others.

– This one crops up everywhere. The most common (and lethal) instances are Judeo-Christo-Islamic (JCI) monotheistic dogma, political Communism in the 20th Century, the unexamined belief in “the market” and masculine primogeniture as near-universal inheritance law. My personal gripes are mostly with monogamy fetishism and antiquity fetishism (my belief has been outdated and irrelevant longer than yours has existed so my way is better … wut?)

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