How can I hate your success when I was born a success?
How can I hate your success when I was born a success? Amelia Bonow

Shout Your Abortion's Amelia Bonow found the sticker pictured above near Victrola Coffee on Beacon Ave. In other words, the artist claims my economic thinking has been shaped by a species of hate.

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Now, recall the Waterboys tune "The Whole of the Moon." It's about a man who hates another man simply because he has always been very good at things. (The hater/singer has always been mediocre, one gathers.) This is not the species of hate represented by the sticker on Beacon Hill.

This other kind of hate concerns what many at the top understand as the real source of social grievances: envy. This view has been around since capitalism and its historically specific class structure emerged in the 17th century. The poor hate the rich because the rich have things that the poor do not have. This raw feeling of unfairness is identified as the root of class conflict, and the God of that feeling is none other than Karl Marx, whose defining work of political economy, Das Capital, is filled with lines and pages that express moral outrage at the terrible lot of the have-nots.

The thing that can't be denied is that I'm a Marxist. I have read all three volumes of Das Capital, and the collection of notes gathered in The Grundrisse der Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie. But the reason I call myself a Marxist has nothing to do with moral outrage or hating. I'm completely of the opinion that no other thinker of the 19th century examined capitalism with Marx's depth, with his eye for hidden or obscure connections, and with his structural sophistication. I do not read him because I think he has solutions to obvious "market failures." Indeed, I really do not know how one extracts a defined and applicable socialist program from his key writings on economics.

And, furthermore, my alignment with socialist politics is complicated by the fact that my capitalist genealogy (inspired by the work of Noam Yuran) begins with Bernard Mandeville's The Fable of the Bees, and so stresses the centrality of luxury, extravagance, and waste in the capitalist mode of production and distribution, rather than Adam Smith and his sober and hardworking butchers, bakers, and brewers.

Marxian economics branches from Smith and also, because Marx was a part of the movement that followed Smith, Ricardian Socialism, which was named after David Ricardo, who ranks, in the timeline of the classic period, as the second great figure of 19th century political economy. Marx's partner in crime, Friedrich Engels, was very close to this movement, which was mature by the 1830s and, as with Ricardo (and to a lesser extent Smith), identified labor as the sole source of value. We are still in the shadow of Ricardian Socialism. It is expressed in our times by the Fight for $15 movement that launched Kshama Sawant's career.

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But socialism has always lacked a proper critique of labor outside of the context of exploitation. Meaning: What is it that labor produces in capitalism, and can we define it as, for the most part, actually useful?

An interrogation of this kind is exemplified by the post-Marxism launched in 1973 by Jean Baudrillard in the book Mirror of Production. What is needed to break with capitalism is the disenchantment of the use-value spell and the dissolution of the use-value/exchange-value dialectic. The post-Marxist position also requires an escape from the trap of Ricardo's labor-value theory—this is by no means an easy thing to do, since it forms the bedrock of socialism in its dominate political forms in North America, Europe/Scandinavia, and parts of Asia. The details of this radical economic redirection from a socialism based on a labor value theory is found in Moishe Postone's 1993 masterpiece Time, Labor and Social Domination.

So, I'm not much of a socialist in the traditional Sawant sense. I also do not hate the rich because they are rich. The fact of this is made evident by my upbringing. My childhood was always very far from poverty, particularly in Zimbabwe, a very poor country. Indeed, I attended private schools and had my needs taken care of by a maid. I can also honestly say that the big capital events in my life, which has reached the middle of the middle years, did not result from my film work or my work as a writer but from inheritance. If I hate success, it is because I'm well aware that much of it is given rather than self-created.