A matter of perspective

Yes, I know the column is called Capital. And yes, this rhetorical style is so commpnplace in the Wall Street Journal, it’s virtually invisible. But in the waning dayd of my subscription, I wanted to point it out again, one last time, because it really does encapsulate everything you need to know about capitalism. Consider this sentence: “U.S. companies are enjoying the profits that come from a productivity surge and unusually slow wage growth, but they still are recovering from the hangover of the burst 1990s bubble and are averse to to risk.” The content, abhorrent as it is (hooray for corporations! workers are making less than they would have expected to make!), only mirrors the more repellant diction, which implies that companies have feelings, companies are the things whose emotions we shoould be concerned with, while workers, the actual people who constitute the company, are abstracted into a statistic. This truly is dead capital vampiristically sucking the life away from human beings. And this linguistic construction, where companies are given human attributes while the humanity is stripped away from actual individuals, is repeated over and over again to naturalize and reinforce what is in fact an extremely unnatural condition. (Not that I’m innocent of this, either. I routinely ascribe agency to corporations and make abstract generalizations about the “people.” It’s just hard not to ascribe subjectivity where you detect power, and vice versa.)

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