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Philosophy, Capitalism, and Society

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Philosophy, Capitalism, and Society

This is an open group for those with thoughts about capitalism's distinctive philosophical assumptions and social effects. 

Location: Scranton, PA
Members: 19
Latest Activity: Sep 25

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Comment by Johann Klaassen on December 27, 2011 at 1:57pm

Amy -

Sorry for the delay in my response: I hope you had as lovely a holiday as I did!

The idea of human employees as "human capital" is indeed disturbing to me. Naturally enough, some folks in our industry aren't that concerned about that trend; others are. There was a recent study (by Alex Edmans, - a summary is available here) which found that the publicly-traded companies on the Fortune Magazine "Best Companies to Work For" list outperformed similar companies and relevant indexes. This hasn't yet been turned into a mutual fund, or something else in which we could invest, as far as I know -- but I do know that most of the socially-conscious managers and funds with whom we work do take workforce issues very seriously as investment criteria. And the "community investment" movement puts capital into the hands of those who can't get access to it otherwise, in an effort to nurture small businesses ... which are (probably, I think) less likely to have those same problems.

As for labor unions: Many, if not most, of those have large investment pools, as you note -- and many of them place their investments in socially-aware investment vehicles. Some of them follow the advice of their more-conservative lawyers, and don't use "screened" managers, but pursue aggressive shareowner advocacy strategies instead. And an unfortunately large number take their lawyers' advice to mean that they can't do anything of the sort, and just use basic market portfolios. The lawyers who argue against socially-conscious investing are demonstrably wrong, but in the majority ... so their advice tends to be what people follow.

Is that helpful?

- Johann

Comment by Amy Donahue on December 19, 2011 at 1:39am

Thanks a lot for joining, Johann! I found your powerpoint well polished and designed, and, from my perspective, concerning and somewhat promising. On the concerning side -- I've worked in finance, and I've come to think that the industry has less to do with making money than with making kinds of people -- exchangeable, fungible, trade'able people. To what extent do "socially aware" capitalist practices such as yours treat capitalism's bad symptoms while abetting the standardization and surveillance of a capitalist workforce? On the somewhat promising side -- how might labor unions, many of which are sitting on clods of cash, invest their members dues in ways that honor their obligations to workers' retirements while also honoring their obligations to workers? I look forward to getting to know you!

Comment by Johann Klaassen on December 13, 2011 at 2:41pm

Here's a presentation I put together recently, for a guest lecture to a class on Sustainable Development / Environmental Economics:

"Introduction to Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing"

I would appreciate any comments / concerns / questions that you might have!

 -- Johann

Comment by Amy Donahue on October 1, 2011 at 11:30am

Here's a "classical" Buddhist critique of capitalist conceptions of value that draws on the work of Diñnāga, Butler, Warner, Spivak, and Marx: http://scranton.academia.edu/AmyDonahue/Papers/1007569/Suffering_Fr...

 

Feedback, comments, criticism, etc. are of course welcome.

 

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