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Pyramid of Capitalist System

[ 78 ] January 3, 2012 |

Suffering through the Republican clown show somehow makes me really want to post this 1911 image titled “Pyramid of Capitalist System.”


Comments (78)

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  1. bobbyp says:

    The poster is still available here.

  2. Murc says:

    This was in all of my history and social studies texts when I was in school.

    It made sense to me then too.

    • LeeEsq says:

      Well kind of. Regardless of whether the atheists are correct or not, I never really brought the religion is the opiate of the masses idea. Generally, I think that atheists faction of the left tends to dismiss the idea of religious people believing sincerely in their faiths to easily. The “we fool you” never makes sense because I don’t think that most clergy are secret atheists working at the hands of capitalists. Most clergy really believe in their religions.

      • LeeEsq says:

        But at least the “we fool you” panel doesn’t include any Rabbis. At least the IWW knew that Rabbis aren’t in service of the ruling classes.

      • wiley says:

        I think there’s an important difference between disallowing rule and decision-making by religion, and trying to convert people to atheism, or telling people of faith that they’re stupid or brainwashed.

        By not jumping to conclusions, and by asking people questions about their “faith” or spiritual beliefs, a lot of atheists and believers in other religions not their own might find that secular humanism and many brands of faith actually have a lot in common, and that there is no problem working with a person who has a professed religious or spiritual (or both) philosophy on common cause, at all.

        I just applied to join the IWW, because I have been aligned with their core principles most of my adult life. I see no conflict at all between those principles and my spiritual life, in fact, they are nearly inseparable.

        • wiley says:

          I also love it that they include UNPAID laborers. There is a class of people who really need advocates.

        • Lee says:

          If I’m remembering correctly, one of the founders of IWW was a Catholic priest. He wasn’t in the best standing of the church but he did consider himself to be doing priestly work.

          I’m a pretty secular person but don’t really see religion as being a problem in itself. Historically or presently, I can’t think of any time or place where religion effectively kept the social order in place. That is when it really acted as an opiate When a class of people felt disgusted with the social order, they either rejected religion and rebelled or turned to a radicalized form of religion like Catholic liberation theogolgy, Political Islam, or Religious Zionism and fought for their own interests. As they perceived them at least.

          Nor do I see much evidence that mass atheism would have any sort of positive effect on society. Many libertarians and radical capitalists are just as militant in their atheism as many people on the left are. Mass atheism does not necessarily lead to a more left-leaning society.

      • witless chum says:

        I think it still works so long as you understand that opiates make suffering people feel better.

        • jafd says:

          One should remember that when Marx wrote “opium of the people”, opium had a significantly more positive connotation – it was one of the few drugs available that actually did what the doctors thought it did, and that had a positive (relieving pain, inducing sleep) effect on patients.

      • You don’t have to be aware that you’re fooling people to accomplish the feat.

      • Murc says:

        I’ve always interpreted the ‘We Fool You’ layer in the context of the centuries-long incestuous couplings between religions of various stripes and states of various stripes, as well as religious endorsements of social stratification. “These people rule you because God has anointed them do so. You labor in squalor because God has found you unworthy of worldly riches, which are a sign of his favor. Pray harder and tithe more.”

        It isn’t the worship itself that’s the con. It’s religious faith being leverages as an extension of the existing anti-worker status quo. THAT’S the con, the ‘fool you’ part.

  3. wengler says:

    This is pretty awesome.

    There should be an updated version.

  4. Philip Eagle says:

    Steve Bell did a memorable UK update as the Guardian’s single-panel comments page cartoon the day after the Tories won the 1992 general election, which unfortunately doesn’t seem to be online.

    • waverby says:

      The Steve Bell version went something like


    • c u n d gulag says:


      The only things missing from the Americans on their couches watching TV were bucket’s of fried chicken, nacho’s, popcorn, and big gulps.

      • Lee says:

        I think this was implied by the people on coaches watching TVs with ballot boxes inbetween them below the line of police officers and cops in riot gere. The entertainment industry is a much more effective opiate than religion because the desire for luxury, pleasure, and vicarious adventure does more to keep people from questioning the established order than fear of damnation.

        Seriously, I think this is one of the most important discoveries that rightists made during the 20th century. As mentioned to Wiley above, you are going to be really hard pressed to find a situation where religion effectively acted as an opiate. On the other hand, movies with its dazzling and spectacular images does a very good job of getting people to accept capitalism. People see the lifestyles of the wealthy and ultra-wealthy and want the beauty and glamour of it for themselves. There were always many working and middle class peoples who accepted the established order because they had the dim fantasy of becoming gentry or a captain of industry. Since entertainment can propagandize that “its good to be the king” well, more working and middle class people hold these beliefs.

        What I don’t like about both pictures is that they are way too fatalist about electroral politics, especially the more recent one. However, the most effective leftist movements, the European Social Democratic movements, engaged in electoral politics.

  5. HonorableBob says:

    This is pretty awesome.

    Ummmmm…yeah…if you’re a socialist, I’m sure it positively speaks to you.

    Seems to speak to a lot of the commenters.

    • Malaclypse says:

      We plan on strangling the last troll with the entrails of the last capitalist, Comrade.

      • wiley says:

        Commands assimilated, comrade.

        I load coordinates now.

        You no hear me— dinner with Che. Arugula. Spicy mustard.

      • Lee says:

        And the last capitalist will gladly sell you his or her entails to strangle the last troll.

        Yet, (Dis)HonorableBob does have point. We find the picture at least partly convincing because most of at least partly already believe in the message of the poster. Others, sincerely do not. We might find their beliefs bothersome at best and vilely evil at worst but many people sincerely believe in capitalism or whatever and won’t find this poster moving or convincing at all.

      • witless chum says:

        What are we going to do with the entrails of Mitt Romney? Augury, then the do the opposite?

      • comrade wengler says:

        You’ve stumbled upon our plot HonorableBob. You could report back to your TrollHive but it is already too late.

    • Murc says:

      I’m not sure how many people here are straight-up socialist. DrDick is a syndicalist, which is some species of socialist I guess although not what you’d call classically state-oriented socialism.

      And if you don’t want people being sympathetic to non-capitalist economic systems, maybe capitalism should do a better fuckin’ job than its been doing.

      • wiley says:

        I would not say that I’m “socialist”, just like I would not say that I’m “Christian”— it’s not because I don’t agree with the ideals, but because I don’t agree with many who have called themselves these things and I don’t want to be associated with them.

        If you’re talking “socialist” like Sweden or Norway, then HELL YEAH I’M SOCIALIST!. That the right-wing carries on as if the Soviet Union and (I can hardly keep a straight face as I type this) the Third Reich were “socialist” while the are fighting tooth and nail to prevent us from learning anything of value from contemporary Europe—

        Stupid? Evil? Who gives a shit? I’m sick of listening to the froth of their fevered little minds. They have got to be some of the most moronic and mean-spirited minions of the rich and powerful to EVER walk this planet.

        If a god like the one they all claim to worship so much were really up there, I think he would stick a sock in their collective mouth and tell them to just shut the fuck up already! What god would have time for this shit?

        • Murc says:

          If you’re talking “socialist” like Sweden or Norway, then HELL YEAH I’M SOCIALIST!.

          I believe that’s called being a social democrat, which, like Lee, is how I self-identify.

          • LeeEsq says:

            To be fair, the terminology tends to differ based on the country your in. In the Scandinavian countries and Germany, the parties with these beliefs are Social Democratic. Elsewhere, social democratic parties call themselves simply Socialist or refer to themselves as Labour parties.

      • Lee says:

        I consider myself to be a Social Democrat. I believe that key services like education, healthcare, transportation, housing, and parks should be provided by the state or at least regulated/subsidized by the state. Other industries should be regulated enough to avoid exploitaiton and protect the environment and other harm but otherwise in private hands since government provided consumer goods and services tend to suck. There should be absolutely no privatization of the justice and police powers of the state. Charter schools are a bad idea. Cultural institutions like parks

  6. BradP says:

    That pyramid has been built up in almost all sedentary agriculturally based society since human beings made that leap.

    Haven’t solved it yet, and forays away from capitalism haven’t exactly shifted the weight for the better.

    • Malaclypse says:

      That pyramid has been built up in almost all sedentary agriculturally based society since human beings made that leap.

      This is certainly true.

      Haven’t solved it yet, and forays away from capitalism haven’t exactly shifted the weight for the better.

      Except other countries do have weight distributed in ways that are flatter. “Better” is a value judgment left to the reader, but “flatter” can be measured.

      • BKP says:

        Agreed completely, but I have to note that my political philosophy is an example of even the most liberal not always believing flatter is better.

        • Holden Pattern says:

          Because (again) most of us don’t believe that your philosophy will RESULT in flatter. Because humans aren’t hobbits, and in order to maintain the flatness you think you want, you will have to have a very aggressive set of laws to prevent humans from exploiting other humans and creating massive disparities in power and wealth. Because, y’know, that’s basically what’s happened in every agrarian society in actual history.

          • DrDick says:

            This! And it has the backing of over a century of anthropological research.

          • BKP says:

            Perhaps, but it is also because I oppose those state laws that have the mutual effects of overcoming the transaction costs that limits a societies economic growth and giving individuals and small groups of individuals easy access to huge chunks of capital.

            • Malaclypse says:

              I defy you to write a sentence that makes any less sense than this. Seriously, try and diagram that out and see where it gets you. What on earth are

              the mutual effects of [1]overcoming the transaction costs that limits a societies [sic?]economic growth and [2]giving individuals and small groups of individuals easy access to huge chunks of capital

              If any laws did have those effects (presuming I understand that part of the sentence), then I would think those laws would be encouraged, not opposed. That said, I can’t think of any law that does these two things.

          • BKP says:

            and in order to maintain the flatness you think you want, you will have to have a very aggressive set of laws to prevent humans from exploiting other humans and creating massive disparities in power and wealth.

            You say that as if laws weren’t the handywork of the same people who seek to exploit other humans.

            • DrDick says:

              No, the efforts to abolish those laws are the handywork of the same people who seek to exploit other humans. See the Kochs, Scaifes, Coors, Waltons, etc. and their handiwork, like CATO, AEI, and the rest of the conservative/libertarian propaganda mills.

              • Malaclypse says:

                See, you are thinking rationally. But Brad will come back with an example of the regulation being gamed (and yes, I am willing to concede in advance that all regulations will get gamed to some extent), and decide that that PROVES to any reasonable person that the best solution is to remove all rules.

                • DrDick says:

                  And the rules get gamed by the same people trying to eliminate them when they do not succeed in their primary objective. In Brad’s defense, it must be difficult to admit that you are just a useful idiot who is doing the work of the forces you think you oppose.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Well, “BP gamed the safety rules, and that went badly, so if we simply eliminate all safety rules, everybody gets a pony” only makes sense if you forget that nobody wants a pony dying of petroleum poisoning.

  7. cafl says:

    I have that poster on the wall in my house. Still true.

  8. I love this poster. It’s one of my favorites.

  9. […] Pyramid of Capitalist System: Erik Loomis This entry was posted in Potpourri. Bookmark the permalink. ← Reader Feeder Bits for (Tue. 3-Jan-12 1630) […]

  10. mehdi says:

    this picture implies the substance of capitalism method of production.

  11. Cover Photo says:

    Cover Photo

    Pyramid of Capitalist System – Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money

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