Tania Li: Capitalist Ideology & The Torture Of Meritocracy

Tania Li: Capitalist Ideology & The Torture Of Meritocracy



LBW: But as you explore I mean there's other
costs that came in that were unanticipated I would imagine by most
people and so instead of say everybody doing very well in a very prosperous
year where the crop the yield was great and everybody's okay we're doing good
this year and then five years later there's a drought there's some
devastating something comes through and it causes all the crops to basically
fail and in a sense the whole I mean I could be wrong here but it seems to me
in that context the whole community would be maybe reeling and
maybe attempting at least in a collective sense trying to you know get
their way through that year so everybody's sort of suffering
collectively but if you have more of a capitalist relationship if you have this
idea we're growing this crop on this land and it's individualized certain
people are going to be doing very well and are going to increasingly do better
as other people fail right because you could come in and take their land and
say okay you're not using this well and yeah sell it to me so then it seems then
that people are still suffering but they're suffering in
a much more isolated and individualized way and I mean yeah TANIA LI: Yeah
I mean you're you know again you're a really astute Patrick you've got right
to the heart of it this is endemic in capitalism right I
mean we we tell these rags-to-riches stories you know the American Dream this
idea that you can make it if you try right we torture people with the idea
that through their own initiative and hard work they too could make it and if
they don't make it it's because they were not smart enough or hardworking
enough right and so this is the ideology of capitalism which
suggests you know for me I use the term ideology in a kind of a specific way
for me it's the it's the story you tell to justify
inequality so in capitalism the story we tell is this one right it's the story
of the meritocracy and it's the story it's not actually supported by the data
you know you if you look at transmission you know Piketty and others have
shown this dramatically right if you look at the data on intergenerational
transmission of wealth advantage etc that's the big story it has nothing to
do with meritocracy or rags to riches but we tell this story and we torture
people with it we teach it to them in schools like I think it's a catastrophe
you know schools are full of it they're full of everybody even their
seven year old is supposed to be an entrepreneur you know and they're
celebrated I think what are you doing telling children that they have to be
little capitalists and that's their future path to not just to
wealth but to being valued as a contributor to society I think it's
horrible but the world is absolutely full of it right now we've
got you know entrepreneurialism being taught to in kindergarten so we've
intensified this myth to such an extent that I mean there's really a problem so
you know I think these Highlanders you know they were you know going back to
that story like I said they didn't have the kind of
a worked out sort of customary ethic of egalitarianism you know one should share
everyone should be equal and that's because they lived on the land frontier
and so for them lazy people have small fields and you know really hard-working
dynamic people have big ones and they get more right so for them
it was very obvious and physical and embodied that the hard-working and
smart farmer would be more successful than the lazy one who made bad decisions
so they had a version of meritocracy but you could say that it
was actually supported by their environment because it is true in that
case that if you you know you work harder you get the rewards but it was
completely untrue after cocoa that way of thinking you know it's one of
those kind of morphings right they retained that way of thinking they would
say things like yeah well they could they the people my cousin's over there
who've ended up landless that's because they're lazy but you know you know
said cousins were dying to work needed to work but there was no work for them
right so it wasn't they were lazy right so that you so taken a a myth you
know which actually reflected a prior reality and applied it to a new set of
conditions in which by that stage I would say it was functioning as ideology
not as a description so you know I think those kinds of morphings went on there
it was fascinating to see and it wasn't hegemonic right there were some people
who had a counter-narrative who would say no it's not that you know I'm a
hardworking person I've worked hard all my life but you know I inherited very
little from my parents and this is my life it's a hard life you know people
were very had a good understanding of the structural conditions of
their own impoverishment but they were and not surprisingly it was more of the
successful people who had who told stories about laziness but
we do this too right you know there's this idea that you can make it if you
try is primarily an ideology repeated by rich people because it for
them it's the narrative which justifies and legitimates their own wealth as
being the outcome of their diligence and savvy etc
poor people are often tortured by this kind of idea and sometimes they repeat
it but they often have a pretty strong notion that there's something wrong with
that picture

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