The Rise of Social Class in Japan, Pt. 1.5

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I’ve been meaning to write about the best-seller Karyu Shakai, which I am reading, but I have been both busy and lazy. While eating kappa maki last night in front of the television (I tragically don’t eat fish), I watched a short news special about the “Downwardly Mobile Generation.” One guy lived in a house with no heat, read manga all day, and ate one meal daily from leftovers at his job at Mister Donuts. Another guy lived an equal boring life — but with a girlfriend! The main point of the story was that these kids have no dreams of upward mobility or money (although they all seem to want to become famous), but are extremely satisfied with living on $20K a year.

The happiness factor is the interesting twist to this rise in class consciousness. Middle-class kids are indeed dropping out of the rigid employment system, living a comfortable, inexpensive lifestyle, and identifying themselves as “lower class,” but they are far from angry about their diminished position. Maybe there’s a bit of low-rent chic, but the freeter class is much less angry at the system than those yellow-collar workers at the bottom levels of the system itself.

This puts most social commentators in a conundrum: There are practical implications for the freeters’ actions (no tax revenue, low birth rate, rise in income disparity), but they’re apparently happy — so it’s hard to really dig into them. Japan is no more superficial than the United States — Confucianism is as anti-money as the original Christianity. Often, the market becomes an ersatz measure for social propriety, but no one is going to yell at these kids for not going after the gold. And very few have the chutzpah to give them an extended lecture on familial responsibility in this day and age.

But here’s where my perverse sense of conspiratorial over-analysis kicks in: The future structure of global capitalism needs fewer and fewer people to actually man the posts at the white-collar firms, and this will result in an overwhelmingly large amount of people kicked out of the economic system. In the United States, the lower classes are angrier and angrier about their loss of stature and respectable employment, and while they may not be channeling their anger into the right places (Down with Gay Cowboys!), no one is actually happy to work at McDonalds to support their punk band. In Japan, they have found the perfect solution to the natural bifurcation of labor in 21st century capitalism. The trade offs for money are so high that you have a large section of population voluntarily dropping out and feeling relieved to be out of the rat race.

Perhaps this “happiness” of the lower classes is only a myth to protect the hegemony, but at the worm’s eye view, the story seems to check out. Everyone wins: The system no longer has to pay the masses decent wages, and the masses feel lucky to have so much free time.

W. David MARX (Marxy)
January 30, 2006

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

49 Responses

  1. marxy Says:

    A note: obviously the real lower classes are not happy freeters. This is a rich dropout phenomenon, and it has yet to be proven that the rural lower class families are not living in authentic poverty. This freeter group makes a good face for poverty in Japan – semi-voluntary, smiling, well-mannered.

  2. Carl Says:

    “Japan is no more superficial than the United States”

    I’m waiting with baited breath for Momus to challenge that, and prove that since the Momoyama Era, Japan has been like, totally superficial.

  3. Momus Says:

    the future structure of global capitalism needs fewer and fewer people to actually man the posts at the white-collar firms, and this will result in an overwhelmingly large amount of people kicked out of the economic system

    Isn’t this where Japan’s declining population (and this year is when it starts going down) shows its silver lining? And isn’t this how it should be happening in all societies? Our current population levels are environmentally and ecologically unsustainable. We need to cut them and concentrate on quality of life rather than endless economic growth and sheer quantity of production (food, cars, buildings, everything).

    And aren’t these freeters exhibiting what Inglehart calls “the shift towards postmaterialist values”? Check his charts in that link, starting with the map that shows Japan right at the top of the world’s “Secular / Rational Values” scale. The shift to postmaterialism starts here, if it starts anywhere.

  4. marxy Says:

    And isn’t this how it should be happening in all societies?

    As long as we abolish social security and all state support for old people, a lack of young people should go amazing well.

    The shift to postmaterialism starts here, if it starts anywhere.

    Let’s be honest: the world has been entertained by Japan’s consumer culture for the last couple decades (and by its consumer culture fronting as art). I’m not as convinced that postmaterialist values will be equally entertaining. The problem with the freeter – in contrast to the Bohemians – is that they are not productive. They’re environmentally friendly, they don’t get in your way, but they don’t add much to society.

  5. Sho Says:

    Hm. Interesting perspective but the numbers don’t add up. One of the reasons it’s possible to live more or less happily on such a low wage in a country like Japan is that the infrastructure is high quality, and highly tax-supported, meaning that “poor” people still have a pretty nice, and extremely cheap (at that instant), experience when they visit a hospital, or walk down their street, or rent a government-subsidised unit. This whole system is founded on the assumption that the vast majority of users will be taxpayers. Medicine is a good example – although Japan doesn’t have the utterly ludicrous systemic problems of the US setup, hospitals, pharmaceuticals and even just sterile examination tools are expensive by their very nature. The freeters are, in effect, parasites. Someone has to pay in the end. If this truly becomes a large-scale phenomenon, the reality will be that tax goes up or services go down – at least for the non-contributors.

    Combine this with the looming demographic timebomb, which has already begun its slow-motion detonation, and you have a recipe for disaster. I’ve heard estimates that Japan will have to increase its average per-person tax burden 1.75 times (in today’s money) by 2030, just to keep services (mostly, of course, pensions) where they are – and that assumes next to no unemployment, or underemployment, as the case may be. Paradoxically it may actually be cheaper to live in such a way – rent, for example, is most likely to go down when the population is decreasing. But tax will have to go up, or services will go down, or both. Mr part-time-at-a-donut-shop might find his attitude to happy freeter life evolves somewhat rapidly when he discovers he needs an operation which used to be free, and now costs $5000.

    My guess is that public opinion will turn rapidly against this phenomenon when it develops from a novelty, to tolerance, to anger at a whole class of able-bodied young who, for no reason other than choice, have decided not to pull their weight.

  6. Momus Says:

    The freeters are, in effect, parasites.

    Sure, in a narrow view which stops at the borders of conventional economics. But people who work hard to keep economies endlessly expanding are also parasites, parasites on the natural resources of the world. If ecological damage were factored into their economic behaviour it would become quite clear that they are parasites destroying their host.

  7. Carola Says:

    I guess in the longrun it wont really work out so happily ever after for everyone. Companies are starting to like their cheap workers a little too much – understandable, as they allow them flexible adjustment of their staff, unlike the workers protections laws in Japan. Projections about the increase of numbers in Freeters (done by the Research Institute of the NHK) showed that in the year 2010 over 50% of all employes will be non-regular, meaning Freeter. Also, comparing incomes between regular and non-regular employees, the real difference only sets in around the late twenties, early thirties. Most freeters are not able to save up, let alone pay their social security. For over 70% the parents pay health insurance (and they wont be able to do that forever) + around 60% do not pay into the kokumin nenkin (social security). Now – thinking of that projection again – in the future that will have a major influence not only on the – now still quite comfortable – social security system, but also on the amount of money the Japanese can spend on consumer goods = bad news for the Japanese economy.
    Also: not all Freeter are rich dropouts and happy to live that way – that used to be the case in the late 80s, around the end of the bubble, when the freeter-phenomen first arised. Now, the majority of them would like to work a regular job – but do not manage to get one, as companies prefer to employ new graduates who they can shape to their needs – if they employ at all. I am currently carrying out a freeter-survey, where I interview freeters to find out their motivations, aspirations and social values, and I have to say, my findings strongly emply: In the longrun, nobody wins in this.

  8. marxy Says:

    Good posts all around.

    Important points:

    1) Freeter are not actually self-sufficient economic beings, which means that things will not be so rosy when their parents go on their pensions. At least in the 90s, the cultural economy was doing well enough to pay for a lot of semi-Bohemian dropouts. That’s no longer the case.
    2) There’s no reason why a neconomically self-sufficient, pro-environment, anti-materialist class can’t arise, so we shouldn’t give the freeter that much credit.
    3) In the long run, this phenomenon is bad for the freeter themselves and government budgets, but I’m not convinced yet that this is bad for internationally competitive Japanese firms. They have overseas consumers and now have an easy time cutting labor costs.

    This freeter phenomenon is about the breaking of the original Japanese social contract, but what is insidiously genius is that even though the State and its Capitalist Apparatus can no longer provide its side of the bargain, it’s the masses who “appear” to be first weaseling out of the deal. As long as the freeter are “happy” to be cut out of white-collar employment, class tensions can be eased.

  9. Momus Says:

    2) There’s no reason why an economically self-sufficient, pro-environment, anti-materialist class can’t arise, so we shouldn’t give the freeter that much credit.

    To some extent this is happening, ie the Slow Life movement. The reason some people deride this as a yuppy fad, though, is precisely the reason this class may not be as pro-environment as we might wish, though. When people are making money it’s very, very difficult for them to constrain their spending and live within ecologically sound limits, however “pro-environment” and “post-materialist” their attitudes are. Human beings being what they are, poverty is the best way to make people live densely, ride bicycles, use public facilities instead of private ones, etc.

    Now, it seems perverse to argue for poverty, especially poverty which further enriches rich corporations (at least until the lack of consumer spending impoverishes them too), but it may be both an ameliorating factor for, and the end result of, our failure to implement the Kyoto Treaty effectively.

    Freeters, as your argument already admits, are going to have to become self-sufficient anyway, since their parents will not always be around to bail them out with their savings. And enviromental damage will make us all poor in the end, as sea levels rise and desertification takes hold. Here’s a Wired News story that sets the scene: “It can no longer be denied: A rapidly growing world population and the industrialization and economic growth that comes with it is setting the stage for an environmental catastrophe, a British scientific report concludes.”

  10. Chris_B Says:

    marxy say o one is happy to work at McDonalds to support their punk band

    most kids in punk bands aint old enough or skilled enough to work a good payin job anyways, if they are and they are still working a service job, they are probably anti-social loosers anyways. BTW no one in any of my bands worked at McDonalds, we all worked at local eateries.

    anyways, macdo dont hire punks here, they hire nice clean cut people who are service oriented.

    truth be told, I dont know any freeters, but working a white collar job I know plenty of economic parasites, I call them co-workers. I’ve seen things done here that would result in the person being escorted off the premises in the us of a and those people are still employed years later. “the system” is in large part setup to support everyone whether they can pull the same weight as the next guy or not. the question becomes to me, are these freeters really a problem or just the media flavor of the month?

    momus: This Wred News story tells me the sky is falling. should I be worried?

    marxy: the western news currently demonizes germany for its inflexible labor laws, how long you think till they notice that japan has essentially the same problems? probably as long as the current recover lasts, no one will notice.

  11. alin Says:

    (I tragically don’t eat fish)

    this might explain just about everything

  12. alin Says:

    chris (hi, long time no see)

    there might be apparently strong similarities between (the situation in) germany and japan but they are su-per-fi-cial. [am writing this in the san francisco coffee shop in münchen; after watching at the cinema Die Geischa dubbed in german]

  13. alin Says:

    Die Geischa – almost the entire audience was weeping

  14. alin Says:

    the rural lower class families are not living in authentic poverty.

    you know the scene in seven samurai where the toshiro mifune character, himself of peasant origin, points out that the peasants, poor as they are have loads of rice and sake stashed. same scene on tv (in japan) some 3 weeks ago just that they all had stacks, (and stacks) of 1万円 notes stashed under their floorboards. ( – another media conspiracy/construction you may say) Evidently not everyone but it would help to see some proof that the lower classes ARE living in poverty. surely7 a definition of poverty would be necessary before that (it’s been attempted a few blogentries back if i remember well) but there is a difference between academic discussions on poverty and the heart-breaking ‘living in poverty’.

  15. nate Says:

    全独が泣いた!

  16. check Says:

    More importantly, can Japan become mature enough to put aside centuries of ingrained isolationism and racism, to warmly accept migrant workers from Asia, to supplement their waning workforce?

    Or perhaps, actually form a legitimate working relationship with China?

  17. Momus Says:

    Everyone wins: the system no longer has to pay the masses decent wages, and the masses feel lucky to have so much free time.

    The thing about showing cynically how stuff like Slow Life or the Freeter movement helps the powerful is that the opposite scenario would also help the powerful, as More Companies Phasing out the Retirement Option (spoof story in The Onion) shows:

    “Under the new approach, our employees gain the advantage of lifelong job security,” Hewlett-Packard CEO and president Mark Hurd said. “Even though our workers will no longer be able to collect a pension, they will receive checks as long as they are able to be wheeled into work and punch the clock.”

    Everyone wins again; seniors stay active, and the system no longer has to pay the masses decent pensions. The elderly feel lucky to have so much work.

  18. marxy Says:

    Die Geischa – almost the entire audience was weeping

    this might explain just about everything

  19. marxy Says:

    same scene on tv (in japan) some 3 weeks ago just that they all had stacks, (and stacks) of 1万円 notes stashed under their floorboards

    I get it. They’re all secretly rich. They should change those poverty statistics then! When you get back to Japan, you’ve got some work to do!

  20. Chris_B Says:

    el momus was joking, but there is plenty of talk here of raising the retirement age and letting people work as long as they want to.

    alin: I was really making a bombardier’s eye view of labor laws here and in germany. both places are notoriously inflexible about the conditions under which staff may be let go and which thus creates ether inflexible hiring or underemployment of part of the workforce.

  21. guest Says:

    http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200601300318.html

    アルバイト情報!

    Always hiring: Rent-a-cops to evict homeless in advance of upcoming sporting event, world’s fair, flower show, etc.
    700yen/hr, no benefits. Please apply directly to Dept. of Brazilianization.

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  22. Chess Says:

    “They also serve who only stand and wait” (On His Blindness, Milton)

  23. James Versluys Says:

    “But here’s where my perverse sense of conspiratorial overanalysis kicks in: the future structure of global capitalism needs fewer and fewer people to actually man the posts at the white-collar firms, and this will result in an overwhelmingly large amount of people kicked out of the economic system”

    Ok, we non-marxians have to ask the question: when does the magical marginal profit share slide start kicking in so that the capitalists FINALLY start having to enslaving the masses and squeezing them so they all live in boxes between shifts by the millions? Ohhhh, so we’re trying to KILL them now.

    Uh, ok, so why is the place where captial growth rates is the lowest on earth (Europe) one of the only places where they’re losing new people so fast? Your “analysis” makes sense ONLY if you examine Japan alone while putting your hands over your ears shouting “Lalalalala I can’t hear you!” when someone mentions anyone else. But hey, when it’s just us Marxians you can say what you want and not be too sure someone will call you a damned twink, huh?

    Marx said the inevitable marginal profit squeeze was inevitable any day now what, 140 years ago and counting and it ain’t happened? Your theory is well is JUST ABOUT TO HAPPEN, which, as a former Marxian myself, I’ve been privy to the inside super soaker secret that Marxists have been saying this for over a frickin’ hundred years straight. Any day now! This ia getting fucking old, because even if I didn’t know history I know Marxians have been saying it since I’ve been alive.

    Your other fellow grad school genius pals are just as floofy as you are:

    “Hm. Interesting perspective but the numbers don’t add up. One of the reasons it’s possible to live more or less happily on such a low wage in a country like Japan is that the infrastructure is high quality, and highly tax-supported, meaning that “poor” people still have a pretty nice, and extremely cheap (at that instant), experience when they visit a hospital, or walk down their street, or rent a government-subsidised unit”

    Really! So I guess I’m not living the same rat-trap bohemian lifestyle he described here in America The Frivolously Under-Taxed, I just *think* I am, does that about cover it? Gosh, why, all in one fell swoop you’ve convinced me- social democracy is the way to go! Wait, no you didn’t! The social democracies are going to implode, unlike the US, in fact! In fact, your little “thank god for high taxes” theory is kinda bug-ass dumb upon slight reflection, isn’t it?

    But, no matter what I do, will I ever in my days find a grad-school hipster comment like…

    “Sure, in a narrow view which stops at the borders of conventional economics”.

    Truly, I am in awe. That is such weapons-grade, hip-sister, roman’ a cocaine bullsit you should be a professor of semiotics at Yale.

    But let’s go back to Marxy, one of the last generation of people who will think ANYthing of Marx before intelligent people quietly forget he ever graced the pen: “Freeter are not actually self-sufficient economic beings, which means that things will not be so rosy when their parents go on their pensions. At least in the 90s, the cultural economy was doing well enough to pay for a lot of semi-Bohemian dropouts. That’s no longer the case”

    Your assignment, should you chose to accept it, is to look up the Econ 101 definition “economics of scale”, and then maybe as a pupae you’ll realize it applies to region, areas, towns and individuals as well. THIS is the kind of mechanistic bullshit that made real economists laugh Marxians out of the Economics departments of a thousand universities. Hint- there’s a reason your kind congregates in the English Department.

    Oh my GOD, all I have to do to remind myself why I left the Left is to go back reading you guys when you think you’re being theoretical and clever… was I ever this young? Could I *really* ever have been part of this? Ahhhhh.

    Who wants to lay bets this post stays up even one hour? I give two to one odds. Who also wants to bet Marxy also has membership in a free speech organization?

    Way to go Marxy! You’re my favorite new blog. Keep up the good work, you lover of the People you.

  24. marxy Says:

    Oh, James. I almost thought you were serious for a minute.

    I also am going to see about changing my last name. I keep running into these kinds of problems…

  25. James Versluys Says:

    “Serious”?

    You take that back, you. Them’s fightin’ words. I have never been serious in my life. Seriously.

  26. marxy Says:

    James, why is your defunct paper the Texas Mercury being exhalted by the Stormfront White Nationalist Community?

    Can we get back to talking about freeter now?

  27. Momus Says:

    Aw, don’t chase him away! Okay, he may be a fascist, but he’s also secular, which is something. Also, I really like what he said about me:

    “grad-school hipster… hip-sister… you should be a professor of semiotics at Yale… was I ever this young?”

  28. James Versluys Says:

    Crap. Sorry about the empty post.

    “James, why is your defunct paper the Texas Mercury being exhalted by the Stormfront White Nationalist Community?”

    Ok, now that’s just mean. I can’t help it if some nutters made some comments (about one of the people I employed and hated, by the way. I had Trots and Lenninists in my mag too, pal. It sure as shit don’t make me one). If you’d googled a little longer, you’d learn we were suspect and denounced over at Freak Nazi Central for our mag’s Jewishness too (although I’m not one, every writer in my paper except a lone nip and that asshole Parnell was a Jew). Aw shit, you don’t even have to look to the bottom of the comments…see how the Nazi dude denounced by co-editor?

    Wait, what am I doing? You’re the type that thinks George Schultz was a fascist because he didn’t set himself on fire in front of the South African embassy in ’86, I’m sure I’ll qualify by the hack demi-educated standards of this blog. Ok, I’m a fascist. Boo. Actually, Mencken and Nietzsche are my intellectual forebears, and that should be close enough for Soviet nomenklatura work.

    Oh, and I thought I *was* talking about freeters when you did a dodge with the “he must be stalking me if he says something mean” logic train wreck. Very droll, I promise I didn’t notice you pussed out entirely. Remember? The fictional-yet-always-imminant Marxian marginal profit squeeze? The strange anti-reason of your populationally based conspiracy theory? The way you talk about “the ruling class” in that wierd fucked up reification like it was a living entity that actually had a will of its own? Any of this ringin’ a bell? Or do you only respond to polite people who buy into the Marx garbage?

    Although I do give you credit where it’s due- almost a day later and I still see my post. Who says you can’t shame a Marxist into first principles now and again? Hell, I bet you’d wait two whole DAYS before throwing me up against a wall with a blindfold if you got in power.

    I’m just kidding. I know Marxists don’t give blindfolds. You’re more “back of the skull” types.

    And momma? Or moma. Or Mumus. Whatever. When did I say I was a secularist? I am, but I didn’t say a damned thing about it. My theory is you know because you’re a witch.

  29. matt Says:

    anyways, macdo dont hire punks here, they hire nice clean cut people who are service oriented.

    Chris_B: you forgot the part about them being from China/Korea/Thailand/Philippines too.

    maybe that’s just at Wendy’s though.

  30. marxy Says:

    I’m not sure whether you actually think this is a real Leftist blog you are battling or whether people from Texas feel the need to yell on the Internet as loud as they do in real life, but take a breather from the namecalling, and go back and read the other posts on this site.

    I don’t think it’s a specifically Marxian argument that multinational firms need less full-time, upper-tier workers than they used to, or that they are getting rid of stable middle-class manufacturing jobs. I think history shows this has already happened – whether that’s on course with the eschatological collapse of capitalism or not.

    In Japan, the system used to be intentionally inefficient to keep employment high and wages equal, but that has been abandoned, and there’s no sign that it will be returning. All I am saying is that the kids who cannot find entry to the white-collar career track (and it’s an extremely narrow opening with the rigid recruiting system in Japan) could be extremely bummed about their sink into technically lower-class wages. But they’re not. And this diffuses a lot of blame from the companies who cut the (admittedly unsustainable) employment system that would have given them a more stable, status-preserving future. So, you’re not seeing a rise in “class consciousness” in the way it was originally denoted, but just a group who is resigned to see downward social mobility.

  31. marxy Says:

    maybe that’s just at Wendy’s though.

    I’ve noticed a massive rise in the number of foreign fast food workers very, very recently. I remember one Chinese woman working at Doutor last year, and now every single place I frequent seems to have some foreign employees. Even the fancy Glass Court buffet restaurant inside the Keio Plaza Hotel. It will definitely be interesting to see how this progresses.

    Anybody else think this is a very recent phenomenon or do I just have a weird observation set?

  32. James Versluys Says:

    “I’m not sure whether you actually think this is a real Leftist [blog]”

    Fair enough, I really don’t have any clue what it is because I’ve only read the name and the post, not bothering to read anything else. It just came here because I googled something completely unrelated. But then, finding out would entail looking, and I’m too lazy.

    As far as me being a meanie…meh. I understand you’re in a place that doesn’t “do” confrontation, but I don’t. I like it, it’s almost as fun as live debate. I believe in perfect politeness anywhere except debate, sorry. It’s a dogfight and it should be. And anyway, it’s all just a vehicle for my bad jokes.

    “Texas feel the need to yell on the Internet as loud as they do in real life”

    Get it? I’m a Texan! So I yee-haw! Don’t forget, we’re stupid and have hat’s, too. I would go into the “feeling free to randomly insult southerners but not, say, black people” and hold your hand through the simple logic of it, but it’s so tiring. Ok. Yee ha. Whatever.

    “I don’t think it’s a specifically Marxian argument that multinational firms need less full-time, upper-tier workers than they used to” etc etc.

    And if that was your argument, I wouldn’t have said anything. Your argument, which I can prove merely by pointing above, is that it was a CONSPIRACY. A conspiracy on part of an abstraction, namely a class of people. Oh you danced around it enough, but the meaning was clear. See how that works?

    “All I am saying is that the kids who cannot find entry to the white-collar career track (and it’s an extremely narrow opening with the rigid recruiting system in Japan) could be extremely bummed about their sink into technically lower-class wages”

    No you didn’t. You said, and I quote,

    “But here’s where my perverse sense of conspiratorial overanalysis kicks in: the future structure of global capitalism needs fewer and fewer people to actually man the posts at the white-collar firms, and this will result in an overwhelmingly large amount of people kicked out of the economic system.”

    You even accurately described your own analysis as conspiratorial. See, this is the same problem Marx tried and failed at: don’t say anything that can be falsified by the real world (which, by the by, I’m still waiting for your magical marginal profit squeeze theory). Conspiracy implies intention by its very definition. Else why would you use the word? Were you referring to a conspiracy by some terrifying space monkeys, maybe? Were there monkeys?

    That’s why your second explanation was a merely banal recitation of sociological facts- you’re retreating from what you’ve said and cleansing it of your opinion. And you should. Companies and classes don’t conspire to shrink populations.

    And while we’re at it, profit margins are not going to be squeezed because (and follow the logic closely here), people always make more stuff. Overcapacity will NEVER, EVER, EVER become a permenant problem because industries die when overproduction happens and the capital formed from it goes to some other widget. Simple as that. Capitalism is here to stay.

  33. marxy Says:

    I’m from the South. There’s places I like in the South. Texas – especially Houston – is all highways and mini-malls, flat, hot concrete. If Texas were a better place, no one would have to get all defensive with that “Don’t Mess with Texas” bravado.

    No you didn’t. You said, and I quote,

    “But here’s where my perverse sense of conspiratorial overanalysis kicks in: the future structure of global capitalism needs fewer and fewer people to actually man the posts at the white-collar firms, and this will result in an overwhelmingly large amount of people kicked out of the economic system.”

    Maybe my problem is that I’m writing for long-time readers who understand that I am grappling with a sense of paranoia. The reason I pointed it out explicitly in this post is that I only somewhat believe what I wrote. I am throwing this idea out there with the full knowledge that it is conspiratorial and therefore, probably wrong.

    This is the problem with Google: my site will get hits but the search engine does not give clues to the levels of sarcasm.

    Take the time to read the rest of the blog. You’ll get bored and realize energy is best spent elsewhere.

  34. nate Says:

    wow, it’s like the surreal flipside of the kids that wind up here to praise the monolith of j-pop.

    I think maybe you should reiterate that your name is marx.

  35. Chris_B Says:

    I’m a texan (by blood & residence) and I for one am highly amuzed, espcecially because I could give less of a rats ass about what people think of one place or another.

    This James guy is highly highly entertaining! Marxy I dont think you should take him so seriously though. Aside from our dear el momus, very few professional trolls (and I mean that with the utmost respect) stay around for very long or can manage to maintain the level of vitrol for more than a couple of threads.

    James: have you been a long time listener first time caller before?

  36. trevor at pliink Says:

    i like how “james” expects us to delete his posts. is that a normal occurrence for you [james] ?
    say’s allot about you don’t ya think?

  37. James Versluys Says:

    “I’m from the South. There’s places I like in the South. Texas – especially Houston”

    Oh Christ I couldn’t keep reading. Ok ok ok, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to start the inevitable “But I have many black friends!” part of this argument, so let me premtively ask you to forgive me bringing it up.

    Unfair of me. Dumb, just dumb of me and it was low. Sorry. You should be allowed any cracks you want -I’m not oppressed in the least and should learn a thicker hide- and what you was more understated than most yanks manage. I’ll respond to the rest later when I can stop cringing about reading further.

    I will respond one thing I saw in glancing: “i like how “james” expects us to delete his posts. is that a normal occurrence for you [james]?”

    Have you…ever been around leftists before? Oh son, you poor dear- the whole thing censors as a matter of course. I’ve seen righties do it too, I’m not defending the frothing anarcho-libertarians and such and forth, but there IS nothing else on the Left. Vastly more taboo at every step. I know. Been on both sides, I can compare and contrast, just like fourth grade english. It’s cute you’re trying to tell me so subtly that you think I’m too loud, but I kinda already understood that from ya. Got it. loudmouth. Right. I understand. But really, defending the sagacity of Left free speechers is not a job I’d want.

  38. Arnaud Says:

    You’re not too loud, you’re a moron.

  39. James Versluys Says:

    Aw, he likes me.

  40. Momus Says:

    Sorry to interrupt the argy-bargy, but I just wanted to relate the amusing fact (and it’s not unrelated to the theme of this entry) that LiveDoor’s news page today picked up my latest Wired column and syndicated it. It’s the first time they’ve done this (Wired News Japan runs them in Japanese and sends them to i-Modes) and I wonder if it’s because they like the theme, which is that we can benefit by embracing simplicity and that there’s an upside to poverty. It’s a theme Marxy tells us has been featured in magazines recently quite a bit.

    Now, why would this theme appeal to a company whose shares have plummeted from 600 yen each to less than 100? And whose president has traded luxury apartments for a simple police cell? And who are said to have wiped 6% off the Nikkei? Your guess is as good as mine.

  41. Chris_B Says:

    momuses: you make money for that?

  42. Momus Says:

    Yes, Chris, I make a ton of money recommending poverty. It’s not as evil as it sounds.

  43. James Versluys Says:

    “Maybe my problem is that I’m writing for long-time readers who understand that I am grappling with a sense of paranoia. The reason I pointed it out explicitly in this post is that I only somewhat believe what I wrote. I am throwing this idea out there with the full knowledge that it is conspiratorial and therefore, probably wrong”

    Well I…hmm. That’s actually a reasonable response. Reasonable and humble, even. Ok, you shut me up. [Arnaud, insert joke here ___________________ Thank you]

    I do have one slight problem. “You’ll get bored and realize energy is best spent elsewhere.”

    See, this is what I was trying to explain above: arguing is fun. Not to everyone I understand -girls and mormons don’t like conflict- but why would this be EXPENDING energy on my part instead of creating it? Why do you assume it’s a drain, because it is for you? (realize that is not a criticism, that could be perfectly legitemate). And, actually, I do like your site now that I pop around. It’s cute (I mean that non- condescendingly, if you can believe it). Speaking of which, you should write more about Robotech (I used to race home in a buddy’s crappy blue Chavelle to watch it after school every day). Damn I loved that show, although I oddly can’t recall a thing about it now. I mean not a thing.

    “…can manage to maintain the level of vitrol for more than a couple of threads.”

    Actually I can! I taught formal logic and teach rhetorical debate to smart US kids to prep for english schools (who do this rough and tumble as a matter of course), so I’ve literally been doing this daily for a decade. I love it! You are right about mainting levels though: argument thrives on opposition. Without it I fold. Like I said, it’s creation of energy. Hostile debate is a skill, but it’s also an art form. The only crime is being boring.

  44. Momus Says:

    Good lord, a friendly but feisty fascist has camped in our garden and is going to try and demonstrate his judo moves on us every time we open the door and attempt to walk between the house and the street.

  45. James Verluys Says:

    Hey, all you had to do was ask me to leave, I never stay where I’m not wanted. Ok. Go right back to agreeing with each other in ever tighter concentric circles. As you were, no need to get up.

  46. nate Says:

    there’s this surreal tension, like none of us wants to tell the gruff looking guy with a bunch a scars that he can’t smoke cigars in the library.

  47. Carl Says:

    “Go right back to agreeing with each other in ever tighter concentric circles.”

    One of the interesting parts of the site to me has been how over time, Momus has sort of realized that he and Marxy agree on the objective facts, but disagree about the subjective meaning of the facts. He calls it singing from the same hymnal to different Gods. I wouldn’t really call it agreeing in concentric circles though…

  48. guest Says:

    Are the freeter Lipovetsky’s “hypermodern” consumers, who “consume for their own pleasure rather than to enhance their social status” (and is this really such a new and notable phenomenon)?

    http://www.economist.com/business/displayStory.cfm?story_id=5323772

    Maybe Vuitton will bring Lipovetsky over for the social science stuff they’re sponsoring at Keio…

    The new Galbraith bio seems to be getting pretty prominent placement in Japanese bookstores, can we feel a little hopeful about that?

  49. marxy Says:

    Are the freeter Lipovetsky’s “hypermodern” consumers, who “consume for their own pleasure rather than to enhance their social status” (and is this really such a new and notable phenomenon)?

    Depends on what you mean by “consume.” They consume food and media and information, but they are not particularly interested in higher-level consumer goods. They are generally free-riding on primary consumers – buying used goods, borrowing, renting.

    Interesting article.

    The new Galbraith bio seems to be getting pretty prominent placement in Japanese bookstores, can we feel a little hopeful about that?

    Galbraith has always been pretty big in Japan. I’m not sure why. I know he’s always held passionately that the atomic bombings were unnecessary. (He had an analyst job during the war to look at the effects of strategic bombing.)