Capitalizing Obesity

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Re: Capitalizing Obesity

Postby leedoran » Sun Apr 17, 2016 5:19 am

But if the quest for differential capitalization forces them to amplify these processes, what difference does it make what they think?


Exact Jonathan. In other words, those who play the capitalist 'game' - that is, those who operate by the rules of the game as set by the financier/corporate domains at the very top of the capitalist hierarchy of hierarchies (and as repeatedly revealed by CasP analysis, btw) - end up monetizing whatever they can within their sector's scope or span of control by the rules of politico-economic play set by those dominants, and arguably, the law. Capital is power no matter what its route to the winner's circle.

No one individual changes those rules as set at the top by the dominant capitalists and (arguably, when they exist) their regulators. You be capitalist w/i dominant capitalist organization, you play by those rules. You don't, you leave, or are shown the door in short order.

By contrast, those organizations that do not play by the dominant capitalists' rules - or those who modify the rules to their own or their group's ends so that money rewards are not their only criterion for success - do NOT have to play by those dominant capitalist rules only. For they can mix and match amongst the rules they choose to live by. Some are money and profit oriented, but others may not be. So you then could have Benefit (B-) Corporations where environmental (e.g., fossil fuel divestment) or social (gendsex balance in the Board room) goals become corporate goals written into the B-corps letters patent. At which point all the typical hierarchical organizational rules of procedure kick in: responsibility is assigned. budgets are set, goals are determined, progress is tracked against those goals, people are hired or fired and compensated as a result of their success in meeting those goals, regular reporting tracks and reports on B-corps success at achieving those goals etc etc. The world changes but WITHOUT capital as the only route to power then. And capitalism morphs...

We even have some good examples, now, of cases where those who thought they were anti-capitalist (NGOs, say) have drunk the corporate kool-aid in order to acquire the money they needed to advance their NGO agenda and then discovered down the road that yes, it works, money flows. But also, yes, so does power and to the extent they buy the capitalist schtick with their accepted money to that extent have they BECOME capitalists themselves. Naomi Klein in This Changes Everything documents how a handful of US environmental NGOs set out in the '90's to acquire the big corporate bucks in their support -- and ended up buying the whole package when it worked. I attended a book launch at the Spur festival held at Hart House (UofT) last weekend where a US author had documented the same process and outcome for a US gay rights organization (Vincent Doyle: Making Out in the Mainstream). I am sure there are lots more examples.

Bottom line: choose your groups carefully. By their rules shall you be known - and judged.

best to all,

L.

PS My Morphing Capitalism into an Economy for Humanity? talks a lot more about all of this.
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Re: Capitalizing Obesity

Postby Scott » Mon Apr 18, 2016 7:39 pm

I agree that it is not really relevant what capitalists think about obesity, nor any other topic.

Re blairfix's point on calorie expenditure -- I have always assumed that point, that lives are much more stationary now. Am not convinced by either study. I would bet that there are many more occupations now that require sitting for long hours. But societies prior to this - I would bet that very few of the occupations required much more kcal expenditure than walking. I would also bet that humans get very good at practicing caloric conservation when the norm is potential scarcity any given season. A decent gym workout is likely far more active than a daily lifestyle 100s or 1000s of years ago.

I thought humans require higher caloric intake, relative to body size, than other mammals because of the brain's demands for energy. Does that study take that into account?

Excellent read re NYT article. A ray of hope would seem to lie in the precedence set with the tobacco industry's agenda to create addicts and drawing real comparisons with food industry strategies. Highlight - Coke executive discovers he may have a soul after all. Well God bless him.

Here is a review that seems to answer my question re why processed foods may be consumed by lower income dwellers.
http://frac.org/initiatives/hunger-and- ... o-obesity/
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Re: Capitalizing Obesity

Postby DT Cochrane » Mon Apr 25, 2016 2:09 pm

I would suggest that the relationship between obesity and accumulation is - of course - more complex than a dialectical flip from poverty to gluttony as a mechanism for capitalist power. N&B note that in parts of the world food deprivation remains palpable and identify parts of the Global South as so deprived. However, there remain significant parts of the First World that experience hunger. Food in Canada's North is notoriously expensive - especially fresh food. Throughout the U.S. there are so-called 'food deserts' where there is little to no access to fresh food. Obesity can actually emerge from these paradoxical situations of want.

Additionally, these statistics, in their aggregation, overlook how the dynamics of dieting contribute to obesity. It is well established that long-term calorie restriction has a negative effect on an individual's metabolism and some people are more negatively affected than others. Specifically, studies have found that some people's resting metabolic rate drastically drops off when they are put into a caloric deficit.* Obesity often emerges, and worsens, through a cycle of self-imposed deprivation and bingeing.

Although the caricature of the obese person is someone who simply lacks willpower - which Cameron is exploiting in the UK, and described in the Monbiot piece Justin posted - the reality is that people's willpower is a limited resource. Obese individuals can actually subject themselves to unbelievable levels of deprivation in the pursuit of weight loss. However, everyone has a breaking point and when they break the diet, they indulge in high energy food sources with a reduced metabolism.

Of course, capital not only feeds the indulgence, it also offers products to assist with the dieting. There are programs and supplements, low calorie foods, books and exercise regimens that are all supposed to help people lose weight. Further, it is not only the obese who fall prey to these cycles. Many people of 'healthy'** BMI's also participate in this heavily capitalized process.

It was suggested that obesity is a byproduct of the accumulatory effort, rather than an intended consequence. I'd actually suggest that good health is contrary to accumulation. The moderation, the movement practices, the eating practices that constitute a healthy lifestyle are likely of little accumulatory potential. Unhealthy lifestyles, on the other hand, offer much possibility for gain. The actual topology of how ill-health contributes to the power (re)distribution among capital is ripe for exploration and the hunger-obesity dialectic are just the starting point.


*Unfortunately, the article is behind a pay wall.
**BMI is a problematic measure of health that labels heavily muscled people as obese.
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Re: Capitalizing Obesity

Postby DT Cochrane » Mon May 02, 2016 6:58 am

Here's an interesting article from the NYT about the damage done to one's resting metabolism from dieting. This biological process would seem to be conspiring with capital! We diet, buying all the low fat, low sugar, low gluten, low salt, etc. 'health' foods, signing up for gym memberships, buying self-help dieting books, buying dieting supplements.... But, eventually, we can't keep up the deprivation. So, we fall prey to the gluttonous goods, packed with all the stuff we were denying ourselves. Only, now our dieting has damaged our metabolisms and we soar back heavier than before. Guilt-ridden at our lack of willpower, we make another push. Refute the fatty, sugary, salty processed foods and begin the dieting cycle again.

And, should we be in the rarefied domain of morbidly obese and American, we can even make a spectacle of our fat loss via The Biggest Loser.
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Re: Capitalizing Obesity

Postby PhilHoward » Wed May 04, 2016 12:29 pm

Here's a new website called Food & Power, sponsored by New America
http://www.foodandpower.net/

One of the first posts is about Big Soda, and is a critical review of Marion Nestle's recent book Soda Politics
http://www.foodandpower.net/2016/02/10/ ... on-a-diet/

By the way, I suggest it does make a difference what capitalists think, if the goal is to understand capitalism from the point of view of capitalists. With Big Tobacco, industry documents make it clear that the goal was increased smoking and even addiction, but NOT lung cancer or other negative health outcomes that shortened the lives of their best customers (they did of course try to cover up the association between smoking and cancer). Similarly, with food, I'm not convinced overnourishment/obesity is a goal - craveability and food addiction are goals, but the consequences are collateral damage. Coca-Cola would be satisfied with everyone purchasing "diet" beverages, even if this actually succeeded in keeping people thin (although research suggests heavy consumption ultimately leads to weight gain due to overcompensation with other foods). This is important because dominant food firms will certainly make changes that have the potential reduce obesity (and even undernourishment) if they do not threaten their power. This is why reformist, policy-oriented prescriptions (e.g. labeling trans fats, international food aid) may lead to short term positive outcomes, but in the long-term will reinforce the differential power of the largest firms, and lead to other, potentially worse outcomes.
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Re: Capitalizing Obesity

Postby DT Cochrane » Wed May 04, 2016 1:38 pm

PhilHoward wrote:I suggest it does make a difference what capitalists think, if the goal is to understand capitalism from the point of view of capitalists.


I agree Phil. In fact, I think it is an important aspect of understanding the qualitative differences among capitalists. Certain capitalists will view obesity as a welcome trend, since it is likely beneficial for their bottom line. Others will view it negatively. Others will have more nuanced, complicated or null feelings toward it. Navigating that topology is important for understanding the qualities that are translated into the quantities of accumulation.
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Re: Capitalizing Obesity

Postby leedoran » Thu May 05, 2016 6:55 am

On the business case narrowly defined most pure capitalists in the limit are agnostic on things like obesity or lung cancer ... as long as their actions deliver the financial outcomes they seek in the short timelines they attend to, all the rest is peripheral ... They have only one single goal and obligation after all a la Milton Friedman. Delivering 'shareholder value' is what they're up to and in the short term only. All the rest is fluff... for after all by the time these larger scale longer term events develop definitively "IBGYBG" - I'll be gone you'll be gone - having captured the financial rewards we have 'earned' through our/their determined focus on the one factor of importance: shareholder value...

best to all,

L.
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Re: Capitalizing Obesity

Postby DT Cochrane » Thu May 05, 2016 3:31 pm

leedoran wrote:All the rest is fluff...


1. We shouldn't mimic this universal bottom line concern with our analysis, which then becomes a tautology. Capitalists did it? Then it must serve the bottom line.

2. The qualitative consequences of differential decisions are vital. Although we agree the bottom line is a universal, beyond that there is no given qualitative decision to achieve that end. Coca-Cola can try to cut wage costs, introduce a new line of products, take over another cola company, branch out into other food products, devise a new marketing campaign, create a new executive position, speculate in the futures market..... Whatever choice they make will be, tautologically, based in an expectation that it will ultimately result in differential gain. But, a) there is no given they will succeed, which will bring its own consequences; b) even if they do succeed the consequences will be indeterminate.

3. And, it's not just fluff to the capitalists either. They anticipate how decisions will have qualitative consequences because that is part of anticipating the calculative outcomes that will determine whether they are quantitatively successful or not.

Capitalists likely didn't set out to make people fat. But, now that obesity is rising, there are new differential opportunities. The choices capitalists make have incredibly transformative effects and we cannot content ourselves with the insight that they pursue differential gain. That insight is just the flashlight that allows us to highlight the causal trajectories that cascade from capitalist decision making.
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Re: Capitalizing Obesity

Postby leedoran » Thu May 05, 2016 5:18 pm

I don't think I can disagree - at least not violently nor with any hard data - to any of these points... but all the qualitative angst and uncertainties that the pure capitalist encounters are seen through the lens of shareholder value ultimately ... and only. It is not about human happiness or human development or family life or values or freedom, even, and quite certainly not about ethics or morality ... it is about profit... the bottom line, the numbers ... and doing it 'legally' ... ahem.

We know now with pretty good hard-ish science that economic or cost benefit decision-making is fundamentally different from moral or right vs wrong decision-making, both in the brain and in life as in how terrorists make their decisions (Scott Atran). I'm thinking increasingly that this distinction is of much greater significance that it appears on first blush.

If you think about it, virtually NONE of life's big important significant decisions are fundamentally economic and yet economics and the economic mind-set attempts to force all decisions and their decision-making to the forefront of life and living forever. The whole point of the capitalist schtick is to convince you that the cheapest soap is the most important thing - and not whether you need soap at all, say. Or perhaps whether you need to buy soap b/c presumably you could and would have a century ago, made your own.

I'm not v comfortable going much further with this kind of reasoning atm but it feels increasingly convincing and of larger scale and perhaps greater significance than I first thought when reading Atran, for example. The assumed predominance of economics and economists in so much of contemporary econo/political life reflects a similar mindset with its parallel disconnect from 'real' life as lived.

best to all,

L.
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Re: Capitalizing Obesity

Postby DT Cochrane » Thu May 05, 2016 7:46 pm

leedoran wrote: all the qualitative angst and uncertainties that the pure capitalist encounters are seen through the lens of shareholder value ultimately ...


This I agree with. It is the literal bottom line. That said, there are temporal and spatial lags between qualitative decision-making and quantitative assessment. In those lags, much occurs. However, they must always pass through capitalization as the 'obligatory passage point' of capitalism.

leedoran wrote:and only.


This I quasi-disagree with. There are other operative logics and decision-makers can be in their thrall. Of course, to remain consistent with my previous point, those logics must resonate - or at least not conflict - with the logic of capital and accumulation. Elon Musk appears to be a truly devoted technophile. He believes technology will deliver humanity to salvation. He's also a capitalist. He must realize a return. Over a certain time frame, he must realize a differential return. But, he wants to make his technologies resonant with capitalist gain. And, it appears he's being given a fairly sizeable window to actualize this differential return. In the meantime, he wants to take us to the Heavens.

In my dissertation, I wrote about the logic of family as it operated among the Oppenheimers, who controlled the De Beers cartel for about a century. The family were hardcore capitalists. They realized substantial gains through their properties. However, they also appeared more loyal to the family than they did to gain. This manifest itself in myriad ways, some of which resonated with the logic of accumulation, others that diverged. However, divergence can never deviate too far, or for too long, or else all manner of financial punishment awaits.

My point, ultimately, is that the enfolding and intersection of these logics into and across the logic of capital are incredibly important and need to be better understood as they have important differential consequences.
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