Posted tagged ‘Theodore Adorno’


September 26, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good afternoon from Manila!

The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippines’ most brilliant and deviously cunning chief executive, was so elated one day during his tyrannical incumbency. The reason for the unusual elation was this: his soldiers captured Bernabe Buscayno, the first national head of the Maoist insurgent group New People’s Army or NPA, who was a prized catch for the strong man. After some military interrogation, Buscayno was directed to be brought to the presidential palace to face Marcos, who at one point in the encounter, asked Buscayno for a remark. Obliging like a school boy, Buscayno replied that “no matter how evil a person can be, s/he can still be transformed into a good person.”

The enormously witty man Marcos was dumbfounded by the witty remark from the Maoist rebel, for that comment made its mark so clear: Marcos is evil, yet he can still be reformed. Probably pissed off by the stubborn rebel, who never the least conceded to defeat so as to bow in obeisance in recognition of the chief executive, Marcos made sure that Buscayno will suffer miserably inside the prison cell.

You see, I cited that story of Buscayno, as a matter of reflecting on the rationale behind Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR. Buscayno, who has been active in the cooperative movement in the Philippines after his release from prison in 1986 (the year Marcos was overthrown), could very well repeat his witty line when asked about CSR, with a curt reply that “CSR, no matter what evil may be behind it, can be reformed.”

Asians put greater stress on ‘becoming’ as a category more than ‘being’ (Westerner’s granite category), that is why we Asians are inclined to see positive reformations of things or beings whose evils may be irredeemable. And this I can say of CSR: it is an ideological deodorant for Big Business greed, but somehow it can be reformed. To use Organization Development language, it can be ‘re-engineered’.

CSR is already a re-engineering of philanthropy in fact, and belongs squarely to ‘late’ capitalism. Old fogey philanthropy operated with a Victorian underpinning: I possess the money, and you recipient are a Beggar who came to me. You are lucky enough because I am giving you part of my purse, for I have none reserved for you folks save for the theatres, performers and socialite circles thay may the better be served by my extra monies for posterity’s sake. …

Well, Big Business was able to re-engineer its image precisely by reformatting old-fogey philanthropy (which was a reformatted version of medieval charity of the pretentious church Orders or ‘corporations’). CSR appropriated the ‘social development’ practices (social technologies) of NGOs and peoples’ organizations or POs, stressed the supposedly core element of ‘compassion’, and voila! CSR was born! How effable, how sweet, how infinitely Angelic and Godly is this ‘new way’ of helping people by the Gods of Corporate World! Hail capitalism! Hail beneficent Gods!

Deodorant, pure deodorant! Take a look at Lucio Tan, who at one time was the top landlord-capitalist oligarch in the Philippines. A one-time Marcos croney, Tan made enormous fortunes from Marcos’ time to the present, probably with start-up capital coming from the dictator’s purse (but which Tan refuses to admit in public). Tan’s fortunes made him land in the Fortune 500 (world’s richest), yet he was also found wanting in the manner of paying taxes. His unpaid taxes may be worth P80 Billion (almost $2 Billion) today, and is still growing, yet not a single cent was paid to the state by this notorious oligarch for those ‘tax evasion’ cases…Yet Tan has captured the eyes of fund recipients from his CSR give-away items, even as he is fondly regarded as an angelic patron by the same armies of beggar recipients. (Beggar here means not the literal beggar, but the condescending image of oligarchs on recipients: filthy Eaters, ‘useless eaters’).

Capitalism is a system that is founded on greed and hoarding, and no sagely or wise personage, or the most evolved beings could ever rationalize capitalism as a system that will sustain the drive towards Nirvana or represents the final liberation of humans from their subhumanizing hovels of dense life. Besides, this current phase of capitalism—‘late’ capitalism—is now DEAD, and the dead system is rapidly crashing down. Only those materialistic ‘eaters’ whose perceptions are as delimited as their own astigmatic perceptions of reality principles can ever justify that capitalism is still working, for the reality we have today is that of ‘virtual economy’ of the most perverted, evil greed of all.

If CSR would have to survive the times, as ‘late’ capitalism is now DEAD, then now is the time to refurbish its image. Because its life is deeply embedded in the corporate purses, this image-change is hard to imagine at all. But being of the Asian-yogic way of life, being a mystic and development expert at the same time (though now in the twilight of social development engagements), I wish to give CSR a chance and see it grow along the trajectory of the hereafter that was declared by Buscayno: transformed from ‘evil’ to ‘good’.

I’d end this piece by clarifying to you a reality we know among mystics: demons can also return to the Path of Light. Yes, Fellows, those Belzeebub abominations, those Asuras or Demonyos, those Diaboli, or whatever term you may use for the same species of evil demented beings, many of those abominations have already returned to the state-of-balance and are now taking the Path of Light back to the Almighty I Am Presence (God)! Yes! CSR can!

[28 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]


September 12, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good afternoon!

At this moment, I’m sipping coffee contained in a pack that is sold for worth P130, or $3.00. The pack is one of the domestic brands of brewed coffee blends, ready for the drip coffee maker, of the Arabica and/or Robusta varieties. In economic parlance, this coffee is a commodity because (a) it was intended for exchange and not for the coffee producer’s consumption alone, and (b) money was used to acquire (purchase) it.

I have such deep fondness for coffee, as I acquired my coffee-drinking behavior as a childhood habit yet. In my hometown of Tuguegarao (city), Cagayan province (North Philippines), coffee beans were grounded into powder form and sold right inside the ‘wet’ market, was brewed using the local decoction techniques, and was consumed by people of all ages from pre-school to senior’s age. That was then, and that was how I learned to drink this beverage at age 5 more or less. I was hooked to the habit since then, even as I continued to drink milk that I still do till now. Both coffee and milk are among my health formulas, and both are commodities.

The question I’m asking now is, will commodity-based economics survive the times ahead? Both coffee and milk will survive for sure, but will the money economy that underpins them survive as well? As to the broader world system of capitalism, will it survive too or is it in fact on its death knell today?

Capitalism was the last of the world systems that embodied the ‘money economy’ to which it properly belongs. With the opening of the 20th century, the socialist world system appeared on the social landscape and attempted to serve as an alternative to capitalism, but this experienced its early demise as its implementers found out that it cannot be sustained after all. Both capitalism and socialism are embodiments of the ‘money economy’ as it later turned out to be, they are just but two sides of the same coin: the ‘money economy’.

Socialism is gone, and no matter what attempts there may arrive to survive it in some other forms, this variant of the ‘money economy’ is gone. Now capitalism is all alone, and it is getting more real than virtual that it too is bound to crash a catastrophic end, and with its demise, the “last of the (economic) Mojicans” is bound to disappear (my apologies to Mojicans if my note sounds ethnically incorrect). And with capitalism’s demise, the whole of the ‘money economy’ folds up like unto a book that had reached its last chapter, and deserves more to be consigned to the archives of history.

The Frankfurt school thinkers, notably Jurgen Habermas, cogitated that capitalism’s life span was extended somehow, and was dubbed as ‘late’ capitalism in this last phase of the world system. In this phase, state planning and interventionism were infused into the system to extend its life. Before ‘late’ capital came the mercantile, free enterprise, and monopoly phases of this world system. Will there be another phase to capitalism after ‘late’ capital?

Before I answer that extension of life span, let me stress that ‘late’ capitalism shall end in the following process and manner:

·        The re-introduction of liberalization—of free market and free trade principles—into ‘late’ capital shifted engagements away from production, the real foundation of the economy, to the sphere of predatory finance, thus producing the gargantuan ‘bubble economy’. The ‘physical economy’ of production transmogrified into the ‘virtual economy’ that produces no real value other than imaginary or delusional values. It is ‘mad economics’ in operation, no longer the ‘rational economics’ of mercantilists, classicists and neo-classicists.


·        The ‘mad economics’ led to the yawning gap between actually produced values and the aggregates of financial derivatives and debts combined, to the extent that the former shrinks at a rapid rate relative to the latter. As bubbles burst from one commodity sector to another, leading eventually to a crisis of gargantuan proportion, all the more will production shrink, unable to produce values that can input into the demand functions for fresh money to pay for aggregate credits, primary debts, secondary debt obligations, and so on.


·        The crisis will then move on to the further shrinking of production, tightening of credit sources, and hyperinflationary situation in utilities (notably gas & power), food, base metals and other vital commodities. Total economic collapse results from the foregoing.


·        The economic then leads to social unrests, turmoil, upheavals, civil wars, food wars, water wars, and possibly intercontinental wars such as another 3rd world war. The clash of world powers and their surrogate emerging markets will become the flames of a possible long war akin to the 30 Years War (c.1618-48).  

Let me now end at that instance. Suffice me to proclaim that the death knell of ‘late’ capitalism and the whole of the ‘money economy’ of the last 2000 years or so are ending. The ‘non-cognitive economics’ of the Roman to feudal era, the ‘rational economics’ of the Renaissance to monopoly capital era, and the ‘mad economics’ of ‘late’ capital were markedly the underpinning mediation processes of that entire 2000-year epoch. The epoch and its last phase of capitalism is rapidly drawing to a close.

[Writ 22 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila.]