The following are Michael Parenti quotes which I took from his wonderful book, Contrary Notions. It is expensive, but so is organic produce and beef from free-range cattle. And that is how I think of Michael Parenti: the cream of the crop. An independent scholar, he is an inspiration to me. His writings are clear, compelling, and careful. He is a liberal luminary, and I’m proud to present to you a sampling of Michael Parenti quotes from Contrary Notions.
To the extent that the present economic order has anything humane and civil about it, it is because millions of people struggled to advance their living standard and their rights as citizens. It is somewhat ironic to credit capitalism with the genius of gradual reform when most reforms through history have been vehemently and sometimes violently resisted by the capitalist class and were won only after prolonged and bitter contest.
The secret to wealth usually is not to work hard but to have others work hard for you. This explains why workers who spend their lives toiling in factories or offices retire with little or no wealth to speak of, while owners who never set foot in the factory or firm can amass considerable fortunes. The ultimate purpose of a business is not to perform public services or produce goods as such, but to make as large a profit as possible for the investor.
The poor shall always be with us, says the Bible. Indeed, that will be so—as long as the superrich also are with us. For wealth and poverty do not exist in an unfortunate but innocent juxtaposition. They endure in a close dynamic interrelationship. Wealth creates poverty and relies on it for its own continued existence. Without slaves how could the slaveholder live in the lavish style to which he is accustomed? Without serfs or overworked peasants, how could the lord be to the manor born? Without the working poor, how could the leisurely rich make do?
The idea that all Americans experience good and bad times together should be put to rest. Even as the economy declines, rich investors grow richer by grabbing a still bigger slice of whatever exists. During recent recessions, corporate profits rose to record levels, as companies squeezed more output from each employee while paying less in wages and benefits.
There can be no slaveholders without slaves, no lords without serfs, no capitalists without workers. The crucial axis of the relationship, however, is not between the two classes as such but pertains to the relationship each class has to the means of production, to ownership (or nonownership) of the land, industry, and wealth of society, and to the exploitative nature of the process of production and capital accumulation.
While all things cannot and should not be reduced to class, class does penetrate so much of our social experience. An economically dominant class is able to hold sway over other social institutions and cultural forces in society—albeit not in all matters for all time. The capitalist class is dominant but not omnipotent. One of the prime conditions of that class’s hegemony is the ability to mute and blur class awareness. In this they have plenty of allies across the political spectrum.
Ida Wells-Barnett wrote in 1900, “It is now, even as it was in the days of slavery, an unpardonable sin for a Negro to resist a White man no matter how unjust or unprovoked the White man’s attack may be,” we might say that this still can be the case in certain situations and locales—especially if the White man is dressed in a blue uniform and wears a badge. Nowadays, too often the police commit the racist murders and beatings that the untrammeled mob used to perpetrate.
An estimated three million women are battered each year by their husbands or male partners, often repeatedly. Statistically, a woman’s home is her most dangerous place—if she has a man in it.
If matrimony really is such a sacred institution, why leave it entirely in the hands of heterosexuals? History gives us countless examples of how heterosexuals have defiled the sanctity of this purportedly God-given institution.
Here are some articles written by Dr. Parenti. Obviously a treasure-trove of Michael Parenti quotes.
Racism is a way of directing the anger of exploited Whites toward irrelevant enemies, making them feel victimized by African Americans who are supposedly expecting and getting special (equal) treatment. Racism blurs and buries economic grievances. Whites are less likely to act against their bosses, being themselves too busy trying to keep African Americans down. Thus the working populace is divided against itself, making it difficult for White and Black workers to act in unison against the moneyed class.
What I wanted to do was something creative, something that might help the world and make it a better place, although in 1950 I knew not what that might be. What I really lusted after was knowledge and understanding of the world. What had happened over the centuries? What was going on in the far reaches of this and other societies? What meaning, if any, did life have? Maybe that is why I became a social science professor and researcher.
If this makes me a “do-gooder,” I can only ask, why is “do-gooder” a pejorative term in the mouths of some? There are only two alternatives to doing good: (a) doing evil, usually by serving the commands of others who do evil, and (b) doing nothing, living only for oneself in a narrowly atomized hustling way, which also makes life easier for those who do evil.
We hear the reactionaries dilate about all the fine values for which they stand. Endlessly they go on about personal values, family values, religious values, patriotic values, old-fashioned values of honesty and clean living. Yet their ranks are plagued with illicit sexual scandals, unlawful scams, untrammeled mendacity, massive corruption, and corporate grand thefts. They plunder the public treasure while posing as holier-than-thou patriots.
What if, instead of defining money in that benign and neutral way, as a “medium of exchange,” we defined it as “an instrument for the mobility and accumulation of capital and the concentration of economic power”? That would give us a whole new slant on life.
Here you will find a podcast of an interview I did with the insightful scholar a while back, about his book Superpatriotism. Definitely can find a few original Michael Parenti quotes therein.
The “left,” as I would define it, encompass those individuals, organizations, and governments that advocate equitable redistributive policies benefiting the many and infringing upon the privileged interests of the wealthy few.
Everyone has values, but ours are much better than theirs, not only because our values stand for far, far better things, but also because we really try to live by them, as much as we can.
Conservative ideologies justify existing socio-economic inequities as inevitable outcomes of largely innate human proclivities. But if the very rich are just naturally superior to the rest of us, why must they be provided with so many artificial privileges under the law, so many government protections, services, bailouts, subsidies, and other special considerations—at our expense?
North American and European corporations have acquired control of more than three-fourths of the known mineral resources of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. But the pursuit of natural resources is not the only reason for capitalist overseas expansion. There is the additional need to cut production costs and maximize profits by investing in countries with cheaper labor markets.
As taxpayers, working people have had to shoulder an ever larger portion of the tax burden, while corporate America and the superrich pay less and less. Indeed, the dramatic decline in taxes on business and the superrich has been a major cause of growth in the federal debt.
As always, you can search for Michael Parenti quotes – or quotations about values and quotes about ethics by thousands of others – here in the Wisdom Archive. In addition to Michael Parenti quotes, you will find Noam Chomsky quotes, Howard Zinn quotes, Medea Benjamin quotes, David Korten quotes, Bernie Sanders quotes, Thomas Piketty quotes, and Robert Reich quotes.