Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Passing of the Illusion of Conscious Capitalism? The Coop as Opiate of the Bourgeoisie

Recently I read an interesting article in the Guardian which argued that the economic troubles of Whole Foods Market was yet another nail in the coffin of the notion of conscious or conscience capitalism, the notion that capitalism can be tamed and can even be made humane. This article, of course, has not gone without challenge. A commentator in a publication I had never heard of NewCo Shift argued that the discontents of Whole Food actually proved the opposite, namely that conscious capitalism was alive and well and that Whole Foods had played a major and important role in the expansion of conscience capitalism.

Frankly, I don't see much in the way of conscious or conscience capitalism out there. Sure there is Mondragon. But Mondragon survives and thrives by playing the neoliberal game if only in part. Sure there are so-called cooperatives out there. But the term "cooperative" these days is a misnomer since most "cooperatives" these days are structured and run like the neoliberal corporations they mimic.

Let's take the Honest Weight Food Cooperative, aka, Honest Weight Food Corporation of Albany, New York, as an example of conscious or conscience capitalism. Here is what that passes for "conscience" capitalism these days:
1. The Corp doesn't pay workers a living wage.
2. The Corp doesn't provide all of its workers with health care and a pension.
3. The Corp's elite are characterised by a phobia about floor staff that rivals that of the Koch's and their KochSucker politician flunkies.
4. The Corp pays administrative armchair bureaucrats at the highest levels way too much, particularly relative to its floor staff. It justifies this by quoting that Capitalist maxim: if we don't we won't get the best and the brightest.
5. The Corp sells items made in that human rights and worker friendly nation of China.
6. The Corp sells junk food with little to no nutritional value.
7. The Corp sells capitalist snake oil in its "Wellness Department".
8. The Corp does business with the "whole foods" distributer version of Gilded Age Standard Oil.
9. The Corp does business with Paylocity and JPMorgan Chase Bank, that exemplar of "conscious capitalist" banking.
10. The Corp is run by devotees or groupies of a ludicrous and ahistorical ideology, neoliberalism. The Corp justifies all this with the same failed mantra other neo-liberals justify what they do: it is market forces man. All hail the power of the market's name.
11. The Corp sells fruit and vegetables from Chile and Argentina and from Dole and Del Monte, two huge corporations whose tactics across time and space have been questionable to say the least.
12. Only a fraction of the member workers actually vote regularly at membership meetings.

If all this is what is meant by conscious or conscience capitalism don't you know that you can count me out. Such an animal, conscious or conscience capitalist delusion aside, mirrors the neoliberal world that is its broader context. It will never and can never change bah humbug or kindler and gentler neoliberal capitalism to more humane and humaniatian forms. As a mirror of neoliberalism the coop movement as it has "evolved" is part of the problem not the solution to the problem of inhumane greed ridden narcissistic up yours capitalism.

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