Nassim Talib & Franz Kafka & Karl Marx: Ideas and Strategies

Nassim Talib’s Fooled By Randomness is about the idea of probability, he amazingly provides some interesting facts about how we attempt to approach things. He also suggests that people should be able to avoid harmful randomness and think of it in a way that it won’t disturb your enjoyment of life. Most of his reading is to help us improve our lives with randomness. It basically makes a reader feel better about life and random things which happen in everyday life, and to use these randoms to improve daily life. On the other hand, Kafka’s idea in The Trial was to show disappointment, fear, injustice and meaningless life. However, in Das Capital, Karl Marx is trying to explain the value of money and labour. He mainly talks about commodity and two values, use value and exchange value, and how these values are contributed to labour in a capitalist society. With these three authors, it is not crucial to one who wants to make a comparison between their ideas, the societies they live in and societies they wanted to describe in their arguments.

In Das Capital, Carl Marx illustrates commodity and labour power. Let’s first discuss what commodity is. Based on Marx’s idea, commodity is an object outside of us. They are things which satisfy human; people’s interest in a form or another. He wants to connect commodity with two values, use value and exchange value. First, he insists on use value. On Marx’s point of view, every useful object can be looked from two points of view of quantity and quality. As long as an object used to fulfil human interest and uses, it can be considered as a use value since it is independent from exchange and profit. In Marx’s idea, all equipment has a use value if it’s traded as commodity in market, and every object has a different value from another. Corn, as an example, has a special use value differing it from the value of cotton, iron, etc. according to Karl Marx “The utility of a thing makes it a use value.4 But this utility is not a thing of air. Being limited by the physical properties of the commodity […] Use values become a reality only by use or consumption: they also constitute the substance of all wealth” (Karl Marx). Exchange value on the other hand, is principally associated with quantitative terms. It is one of the major attributes of a commodity. Exchange value is also connected with use value and we can also describe it as core which makes the use value a reality. Exchange value concept is based on price of an object, and also not identical to the money price of a commodity. Carl Marx claims that exchange value is way different from use value “when commodities are exchanged, their exchange value manifests itself as something totally independent of their use value. But if we abstract from their use value, there remains their Value” (Karl Marx). This explains that the value of commodity as they are exchanged from one to another or when it is considered as terms of price are quite different from their use value. Marx also tries to connect commodity with labor. Marx argues that it is labor power which creates all commodities. He claims that a commodity’s value would stay constant if the labor-time also stayed constant. In other means, “The value of one commodity is to the value of any other, as the labour time necessary for the production of the one is to that necessary for the production of the other. “As values, all commodities are only definite masses of congealed labour time”” (Marx). All these commodities are depended on labour power as Marx claims. He relied on a point that “the value of a commodity is determined by the quantity of labour spent on it” (Karl Marx). Based on that explanation we can say that a community’s economy infrastructure is based on labour work in Marx’s society, and that is why he always blamed capitalists to offer better livings for the minimum wage labours. There is a coorelation between labour and value. Based on Marx’s theory of value greater labour time will result in a higher value. Marx gave an example of his idea “the greater is the labour time required for the production of an article, and the greater is its value” (Karl Marx).

Contrary to Carl Marx, Nassim Talib’s Fooled By Randomness is about probability and the existence of random. Based on Talib’s idea, nowadays people are often unaware of the existence of random, and they tend to treat random as non-random. Taleb’s point of view was that probability can be considered a good thing if we believe it. He argues that people tend to believe things in life which they are hard to believe if they truly think about them. People have their own explanation of daily actions, or to things they encounter and see. They rely on believing what they want to believe rather that what should they believe. In his novel, Nassim Taleb focuses on probability on a large scale. Taleb claims that people often underestimate the role of randomness in their lives, moreover randomness has a great role in our everyday life. Randomness plays a large role in daily life but not all things which happens around us are random. It is more random than we think, not it is all random. Without randomness there will be no joy in life. The author tries to illustrate the importance of randomness. Imagine a life in which people have the ability to foreshadow their lives. In other meaning, they are able to know what are they doing in future e.g. in 5 years from now. There will be no joy in life, no expectation just a routine boring life. Randomness can make people’s lives joyful, full of surprise, expectations. This is a fact that “the idea of probability blindness gave rise to an entire discipline dedicated to the study of the effect these biases carry on our behavior” (Taleb). Randomness can be bad too. Taleb has a suggestion for that too and it is called stoic attitude or stoicism in general. Stoicism is the ability to endure bad things; having patience in hardship. Stoicism can help with bad randomness. People can think differently about events that happens in their lives or in their societies, they can create a different thought in their minds even though it is not real. We can have a better thought about things which happen in our lives. What the auther is trying to tell us is that we have to be optimistic in life and live our lives with pleasure and allow random to have a part in our lives. Nassim Taleb wants to show the idea of a life covered of randomness in which people leave some of their decisions to chance and create their own probability. In some cases, logic does not solve the issues, but leaving it to random will make hard decisions easier.

Kafka’s story is opposite to Taleb’s idea. In his novel The Trial, Kafka shows a meaningless life in his society. His main Character Joseph K was a victim of totalitarianism and dictatorship form of ruling. In his novel, Kafka shows injustice and supervision of the governments to the people. In this novel, Kafka’s main character is Josef K who is a worker at a bank. He was charged with a murder which he had mothing to do with it. At the first moment that the authorities came to his house, they told him that there is a charge against him, but they don’t know what the charge is; they are just following orders! Kafka illustrated the idea of totalitarianism here. The concept in which there is one authority that people must obey and respect, there is no error in the judgment in this type of system and everyone must satisfy with the outcomes. The main idea of what Kafka is trying to say in his novel the trial is the struggle between justice and law. In this novel, laws are unjust for people like Josef K. they have no right to object to the law nor they have the right to defend themselves against the system. System has control in every aspects of life in the society that Kafka illustrates. In this society, people will be punished just by mere assumptions just like Josef K’s situation “Someone must have been telling tales about Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything wrong, he was arrested” (Kafka). The only concern of the authority is to maintenance its laws and regulation regardless of justice. In this novel Kafka shows the struggle of an individual (Josef K) against a vague law, the Law. The court represents the Law and humans represent the court, but the court corrupts the law unavoidably. Law and court should serve all people equally, but here it is unjust because it is oblivious to an individual’s case. Like Kafka describes in his novel. The Law is on top of everything and there is no running away from it. This is what happened on Josef’s case. He could not escape the law despite the fact that he struggled a lot to escape the law. Josef that life is meaningless since the Law is controlling everything without leaving any privacy to the community. Josef could not understand why he was arrested or what he was charged with even until his death. Kafka’s idea of a society which individuals control the society and do not take any responsibilities of the people’s life and the society.

In conclusion. All these authors had their own perspectives and idea of life. They lived in different societies, favored different topics of life based on their expertise and their area of work.

07 July 2022
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