Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The last laugh


As the late Joan Robinson, a Cambridge economist, once wrote, “the misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all”. Her quip, written in 1962, was inspired by underemployment in South-East Asia. Since then, capital has busily “exploited” workers in that region and its giant northern neighbour, much to their benefit. Now it is time for capital to invest in them.

It must be the running gag of every abusive relationship that the misery of being abused is nothing compared to the misery of not having an abuser. You know: hilarious!

Yes, the humor really shines when people have nowhere to turn. Women receive the same advice about husbands anytime they have no options available to them outside of marriage: Make the best of it, dear; that's just the way things are!

But notice how such cleverness becomes stupidity just as soon as other options arise -- precisely that moment when an abuse can no longer be summed up as "just the way things are."


Ethan said...

Do they really expect us to believe--or do they themselves believe--that before western capital moved in, southeast asians....what, weren't able to survive on their own? I don't get it.

Bruce said...

Thank you for your comments on this. I don't think I'd ever fully realized the clear similarity between capitalism and domestic violence.

fwoan said...

Ethan, you're asking an inconvenient question.

JRB said...


I think it's like the matriarchs who counsel their daughters on the importance of marriage anywhere men hold a monopoly of economic rights: they don't see any kind of life for women outside the relation, and they lack the imagination that those directly affected often show in their desire to change it.

Sitakali said...

Absolutely beautiful and succinct. I cannot believe that it never occurs to people to ask what these people in South-East Asia were doing before the exploiters came in. Were they all starving on the streets? How far back in history does that starvation go? What about the cause? Why doesn't anybody seem to care about cause and effect?