By Ellie Schuckman
When many people hear the words ‘capitalism’ and ‘socialism,’ the two are often pitted against each other. They simply both cannot exist within the same dimension. For Jason Brennan, though, the two are merely intertwined.
Brennan, an author and assistant professor of philosophy at Georgetown University, took part in the Exploring Economic Justice Series on Wednesday, Oct. 1 in the library auditorium, addressing the ever-changing struggle to reach a utopia while living in a capitalist society.
“Capitalism provides you with an opportunity to live in your own utopia,” Brennan said.
Noting the work of famed Marxist political philosopher Gerald Cohen, Brennan tackled the debate on whether socialism is feasible and the fascination seen in having a world where everything is seemingly perfect.
“The problem with socialism is that we just don’t work very hard,” said Brennan, referencing “Why Not Capitalism?,” his recently published book. “Whether something is desirable in itself doesn’t matter if we can’t get there.”
Often citing the “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” Brennan discussed the socialist society the characters live in and the efforts it would take for their world to become reality.
“They live in mutual respect and unity,” Brennan said. “They’re proud to be the type of person who makes what others need … (and) they’re always willing to come together.”
In comparing both capitalism and socialism environments, many agreed with Brennan’s views that the two can be interconnected in a capitalist society.
“Pluralism is certainly possible in blending these two,” junior history and philosophy double major Steven Rodriguez said.
According to Brennan, the five principles which he believes are necessary to form an ideal utopian society include voluntary community, mutual respect, reciprocity, social-justice and beneficence — all of which are not easy to obtain.
“One of the things it means to have a good life is to (have goals),” Brennan said. “(We need) sustained access to certain goods over a period of time.”
He noted how in a socialist community where work is done collaboratively, problems develop when individuals desire to be independent.
“We want to have community, yet retreat at times to our own space,” Brennan said.
Juxtaposed with the socialist paradox, he also discussed how people living in a capitalist environment are more “privatized to the outside world but communal within.”
Having written several published books, Brennan also engaged others’ concerns that the utopia he speaks of simply cannot exist. The key to either society’s success, he believes, would be the work people put into making something a reality and acknowledging the individual in terms of those around him or her.
“There’s an active happiness in seeing the differences others have,” Brennan said.
Both faculty and students seemed impressed with Brennan’s deft responses to questions and criticisms.
“He has a distinct prowess,” said James Taylor, an associate professor of philosophy, religion and classical studies at the College. “He is also someone willing to engage others’ (views).”
Regardless of debate, Brennan remains optimistic that both capitalism and socialism can exist in a single society.
“Capitalism doesn’t make you choose,” Brennan said. “Capitalism lets you have both.”