110. The universal market
Just as a magnifying glass focused on the letter of a word enlarges it out of all proportion and makes it impossible to see what precedes and follows it, detracting from its logical meaning, so the liberal fixes his attention on mutual agreements, interpreting them as no more than a meeting of simple economic forces, without restraint, without subordination, without moral reserve, without human face, without family, without nation, without religion.
1. Such is “ the market ” in the eyes of a liberal – and in this matter the whole world has become liberal. The first consequence of this is that everything comes to be seen as merchandise. Everything can be bought and sold. The interest of human life is to buy and sell. Progress consists in producing more in order to sell and earn more, in buying in order to consume. The result of this is a prodigious acceleration and increase of exchanges, and a consequent increase in the production of goods, the mobilisation of savings, the commercialisation of everything including even cultural and religious goods, and a fantastic growth in consumption and waste, ending in a burning up and annihilation of the world’s natural resources.
Through the magic of the “ market economy ”, the whole man, or every man, is at last able to satisfy his every need and desire in universal abundance. Liberal progress is fundamentally philanthropic.
2. It is to attain this ideal, which exclusively flatters the interests and passions of the human individual, his greed, envy and pride, that liberal capitalism has broken every barrier restraining its expansion, has overturned every obstacle and quashed every attempt at reaction.
Rural communal life was the first to be sacrificed to the demands of industrial progress. In England this involved the violent suppression of rural family smallholdings along with its system of enclosures. In France it involved the revolutionary abolition of common goods. Everywhere in the world it involved an exodus from the country and an urban concentration that immensely widened the labour market to the detriment of family ecology and its domestic prudence. Man as well becomes merchandise.
Later, liberal capitalism prevented the formation of new social cadres, such as working men’s unions and peoples’ friendly societies, but even more it prevented any national or religious re-awakening in the measure that they threatened to hamper the full liberty of the market, the absolute condition for general progress.
3. The price to be paid for the abundance of industrial goods and unlimited growth in consumption is only beginning to be felt by the majority. It is the loss of all freedom, the mutilation of any other life but that of the market, the impossibility of breaking out of this passion for having which, more than any other, strips and debases being. It is the alienation of the subject from objects, about which one discovers in the end that it is not just an innocent theory, but a system for plutocratic domination.