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Tuesday, December 19, 2006



If Hauerwas is right, then standing in any long-term relationship is an act of defiance against the monolithic force of capitalism.

But of course, Hauerwas is wrong.

If we look at how innovation works in organisations, look at the processes of R&D we see networks and relationships in them. At the consumer level innovation happens and is driven because of the relationships consumers form with brands.

The problem with the kind of anti-capitalist oversimplification from folks like Hauerwas is that it fails to take in account how people actually behave. Folks can build surprisingly long-term relationships with brands. Moreover, just as the drive to cheapness has kicked in, so has the rebirth of high-touch, artisanal and boutique products.

In my field of music, there has never, ever been a better time for the average, non-master-level musician to build a personal relationship with instrument and electronics builders.

It is only going to become moreso as we enter the era of personal fabrication.

I was once a huge fan of Hauerwas, but now I find a lot of his writing just too random and innatentive to changing patterns of human interaction.


Fernando - thanks for you thoughts. Your right in as much as Hauerwas presents an over simplification here, which is why I'd want to ask him so many question.

I'd want to ask him what he means by capitalism. Does he in fact mean neophilla, the love of novelty and new things for novelty and newness in and of itself rather than innovation or development?

While I agree that people can and do build long term relationships with brands I'm not so sure that brands reciprocate this fidelity. For example I like Merrell footwear. I'm no my third pair so I guess I've established some sort of brand loyalty. However, each time I go to buy a new pair I can't simply buy the same model as before because they have brought out new models. While there is some development in what has been done my experience has been that this is cosmetic rather than innovation in design, construction or fabric. Thus all three pairs of Merrell I have had failed in the same way, i.e. the sole comes away from the upper. So the innovation I'm looking for here is to solve this problem rather than play around with the novelty of how the shoe looks.

Hauerwas, I think, is also questioning how we view the past. Do we in our pursuit of the new discard more than just the manufacturing skills of the past? Have we also lost our important social, family and personal skills? Unlike Hauerwas I don't think I'd want to blame capitalism exclusively, rather I'd want to ask what part capitalism has played in this process.


MMMMM Seems that Hauerwas is getting a beating. I'm not at all sure that 'Capitalism thrives on short-term commitments' is wrong. I am also not convinced that with respect to 'products' that much that is 'new' is actually 'development' in the sense of making anything fairer or better or more just. I am also not sure that everyone economically has the same opportunity to benefit from 'artisal' products which it seems to me are much more of a 'luxury' item than the norm. Am I defending Hauerwas - who certainly does not need me to do so? Well in so far as 'capitalism' can be equated with the breakdown of long term relationships and I do think it has a part to play as an all encompassing 'spectacle' then I have sympathy that resistance can be offered through long term mutual relationships of self giving committment.


I'd question the causal link between "human relationships" that are "ephemeral" and capitalism (or vice versa). There has been a rise in both in the west in the last 100 years or so but I'm not convinced they're more than coincidence.
I'm also questioning the belief that capitalism is fundamentally wrong and must be resisted. We all know about the greed of corporations and their exploiitation of the poor, however I would argue that is not a true reflection of the ideals of capitalism any more than the old USSR or China are a true reflection of the ideals of marxism.
Come to think of it, it's no different to people dismissing Chritianity using the Church as an excuse.
Idealistically, capitalism is about the generation of wealth that will benefit all of society, alleviating poverty. I think that's a righteous, holy and truly Biblical goal.


Given Mt Talkrhubarb's comments above I've lent him a copy of the Hauerwas book from which I've quoted.

Little did Mr Talkrhubard realise that this was a subversive act as if I was sold out on Capitalism then I'd have only given him the information so he could go and buy his own copy!

I'm not saying everything about capitalism is wrong, but what I would want to say is that we need to think about, reflect upon and critque the systems under which we live. This is ofcourse difficult as our experiance of that system means we approach the subject with a bias.


And if I sell your book on ebay does that mean I'm sold out on Capitalism or just a thief?


Brodie, your example with Merrell shoes is a great one, because the brand's failure to meet your needs is straining the relationship. You are in a position to choose to end that relationship and you probably will if they fail to respond to your needs for a reliable product. A prolonged failure to do so and Merrell may have no business. Certainly businesses do hurt themselves at time by over-novelising their products and in so doing, failing to meet their customers needs.

We can fracture our relationship to the past and to social goods without capitalism, we have many examples of that in the former Soviet states, especially those east of the Caspian. During my years in India, I heard a lot about the corrosive effect of the socialist years on aspects of Indian culture.

Both these points are interesting, but only further underline the falsehood of the Hauerwas quote. The claims that innovation exists to make drive down labour by making bankrupt existing skills and that innovation produces scarcity simply can't be cashed out in reality.

I think we do need to make critical judgements about capitalism and human relationships, but the more I look at this quote, the more it just looks like a shallow swipe, rather than a deep critique.

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