Tag Archives: Matt Bruenig

Matt Bruenig – How Did Private Property Start?

Link to an article by Matt Bruenig:

“How Did Private Property Start?”


Bonus quotes:

“The first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took it into his head to say this is mine and found people simple enough to believe him was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, wars, murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared, had some one pulled up the stakes or filled in the ditch and cried out to his fellow men: ‘Do not listen to this imposter. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to all and the earth to no one!’”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men” (1755)

“The illegitimate violence by which law sustains itself must be concealed at any price, because this concealment is the positive condition of the functioning of law.  Law functions only insofar as its subjects are fooled, insofar as they experience the authority of law as ‘authentic and eternal’ and do not realize ‘the truth about the usurpation’.  That is why Kant is forced, in his Metaphysics of Morals, to forbid any question concerning the origins of legal power: it is by means of precisely such questioning that the stain of this illegitimate violence appears which always soils, like original sin, the purity of the reign of law.”

Slavoj Žižek, “The Limits of the Semiotic Approach to Psychoanalysis,” from Psychoanalysis and… (Feldstein and Sussman, eds., Routledge 1990).

Matt Bruenig & Ryan Cooper – How Obama Destroyed Black Wealth

Link to an article by Matt Bruenig & Ryan Cooper:

“How Obama Destroyed Black Wealth”


As is typical for writing in Jacobin, this article includes a section at the end that draws conclusions unsupported by the body of the article.  For example, the authors state, “No political obstacle stood between President Obama and a better housing policy.”  The article does not address political factors at all, so this is a bald assertion without support.  It also is questionable.  While certain other studies have established how the Democrats during Obama’s era have courted Wall Street and other banking/finance donors, if you follow (for example) Thomas Ferguson‘s “Golden Rule” theory about “investment” in elections, which holds (in greatly simplified form) that politicians are vetted by moneyed interests and masses are too poor to be able to influence the choices offered in an election, then the authors would need to establish that Obama could have raised the same or more money elsewhere (Bernie Sanders’ small donor approach seems like the closest and easiest comparison point).  This also requires an assumption that Obama and the Democrats care/cared about long-term consequences, rather than limiting themselves to short-term thinking (e.g., sacrificing the future for a near-term win) — which is normative.  That criticism aside, the linked article does do a good job illustrating how the problem discussed is fundamentally political in character.

Matt Bruenig – Libertarianism’s Battle With History

Link to an article by Matt Bruenig:

“Libertarianism’s Battle With History”

Selected Quote:

“as much as market fanatics tried, they never could succeed in casting the economy as something separate from or above social order. Instead, what we saw (and what we see in developing countries today) is a constant rhythm of a double movement. In the first move, market mechanisms expand into new areas of social life, and in the second move, people fight to check this movement insofar as it is utterly ruinous to the functioning of a human society.”

Polanyi offers a much less robust (and more academic) analysis than Veblen or Bourdieu.