The liberal state — the birth of the people, of "freedom," of fraternity — came with the beheading of the king. And who did this beheading? The bourgeoisie: they wanted a piece of the pie. So the end of hierarchy which kept wealth for itself came at the hands of the bourgeoisie who wanted some of that wealth. The liberal revolutions of the 18th century, then, were essentially capitalist revolutions.
Liberalism and capitalism have always been the same thing. Consider all the so-called liberation movements. What are they about? They are about creating consumers.
The most devastating fact that I learned in the documentary, The Corporation, was that the rise of corporation came out of the 14th Amendment, which nominally granted citizenship and property rights to blacks. But the overwhelming majority of cases heard under this 14th Amendment were corporations — previously recognized as persons — arguing for the right to do business, to own property.
Do you understand what I'm saying? The exact moment of the so-called liberation of slaves is the exact moment of the rise of a new kind of economic slavery. The Civil War was not about the inhumanity of slavery. It was about the inefficiency of slavery. Because a slave, besides costing money to house and feed, is not a consumer.
Now, I do not mean to downplay the cruelty of slavery. I am, by no means, arguing for slavery. I am just pointing out that the language of the "humane" happens to coincide, one to one, with the demands of capitalism.
Take feminism. I know it is a word that means a lot of different things. But I think we can agree: something called feminism argued for, and won, the right for women to work. Again: the liberal cause of liberation coincides, one to one, with the demands of capitalism — not just for labor but for empowered consumers. Which is to say, women may always have been consumers but now they have their own money to spend even more, consume even more.
Why is it that both sides of the American political spectrum — which is actually quite narrow — celebrated the so-called Arab Spring? Doesn't that make anyone suspicious? It's because the liberal cause of liberation and the capitalist demand for more labor and, even more, consumers are exactly the same demands.
Am I saying that I am against such liberation — of slaves, of women, of the Arabic states? Of course not. But I am saying: What is liberation? What do we mean? What do we actually want from this life? What we call freedom actually means the freedom to consume. But consumption, today, has come to demand a kind of slavery.
I see all the folks lined up every morning to get on their bus to Google, to Genentech, to Apple, to Yahoo. They are bussed in, fed, then bussed home to a condo or apartment that eats up most of their salary. The rest of their earnings go towards buying cars and and shopping at Whole Foods. And then their paychecks run out so they use credit cards. Which now means they are indebted and must work just to pay off the thugs at Chase. (When the mob does this, it's criminal.)
What makes this new kind of labor so great for capitalism is this infinitely fast circuit of production and consumption: we pay you to buy our shit. Which means we make all our money back and then some.
And you think you're free.