Sunday, January 4, 2009

Books in Brief: Tony Benn (Various Texts)

Take-aways: The various writings and speeches of British democratic socialist Tony Benn provide a compelling argument for Democratic Socialism based on the teachings of Jesus.

Tony Benn decries market-based capitalism for its failure to serve the needs of the human person, placing instead (monetary) profit ahead of the needs of human beings. To paraphrase one of his many aphorisms, he shames capitalist ideology for being concerned with the price of everything and the value of nothing. "Price" in this context equates to the Aristotelian concept of exchange-value; "value" thereby signifying the Aristotelian understanding of use-value (see Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics" Book V.v).

In a portion of an interview included in the Michael Moore film "Sicko," Tony Benn offers a simple formula for how persons in a group context can be controlled and manipulated to do what those in power want them to do. (This formula is applicable to any context with a hierarchy of differential power amongst a group of persons.) To paraphrase, Tony Benn states that people are most easily manipulated when they have no hope. Hope is diminished or removed by 1) instilling fear and 2) demoralizing / dehumanizing people. Fearful, demoralized / dehumanized people will have a reduced sense of hope and positive outlook for the future, thereby making them more willing to just do whatever those in power desire them to do.

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