13 votes

Capitalism’s favorite drug: The dark history of how coffee took over the world

2 comments

  1. dubteedub
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    This was a really interesting article. I had no idea about the history of brutal capitalism surrounding coffee agriculture in El Salvador. Thank you for sharing it. I think there is a great...

    This was a really interesting article. I had no idea about the history of brutal capitalism surrounding coffee agriculture in El Salvador. Thank you for sharing it.

    I think there is a great discussion in here about how our society revolves around caffeine/coffee, how it is used by capitalists to ensure its workers are productive, and how it is part of a global exploitation of of the poor, who provide significant value for their work in producing coffee and see a fraction of that value themselves.

    Coffee has helped create exactly the kind of world that coffee needs to thrive: a world driven by consumer capitalism, ringed by global trade, and dominated by a species that can now barely get out of bed without its help.

    ...

    Near the end of Coffeeland, Sedgewick attempts to quantify exactly how much value a pound of coffee gives an employer (or, put another way, extracts from an employee), using Los Wigwam and Hill’s plantation as examples. He estimates that it takes 1.5 hours of Salvadoran labor to produce a pound of coffee. That’s enough to make 40 cups of coffee, or supply two coffee breaks for Wigwam’s 20 employees, which Greinetz calculated yielded the equivalent of 30 additional hours of labor. In other words, the six cents that Hill’s plantation paid for an hour and a half of labor in 1954 was transformed into $22.50 worth of value for Phil Greinetz, an alchemy that reflects both the remarkable properties of caffeine and the brute facts of exploitation.

    4 votes
  2. NaraVara
    (edited )
    Link
    Out of curiosity, I checked to see if the USSR had any culture around coffee drinking. But apparently, since most supply only comes out of Africa and Latin America (and a little bit out of India...

    used by capitalists to ensure its workers are productive

    Out of curiosity, I checked to see if the USSR had any culture around coffee drinking. But apparently, since most supply only comes out of Africa and Latin America (and a little bit out of India and SE Asia), they had basically no access to it except as a rare luxury commodity. Seems like they just referred to any hot, brown drink that wasn't tea as coffee.

    But I suppose Russia was always a bit more of a tea drinking culture, even in the pre-Soviet days. Speaking as an Indian--which has a local tea culture, an imported British tea culture, AND a domestic coffee culture--and as an American--which has a strong coffee culture--it honestly strikes me as weird that there are cultures out there that don't have a social tradition around drinking hot, stimulating drinks together. It feels to me almost like a fundamental part of being human.

    3 votes