Akbar’s Meditations #1 – Profit See

What is Profit?

Akbar’s Meditations:  Take the question above and think about it, but take the first instinctual response and dig deeper.  What is profit?  What is it?  What is a real world example?  How does it work?  What is it grounded in?  Is it good?  Is it bad?  Is it real?  What is its historical origin?  Is there profit in the natural world, ancient forms of ecology?  If you were selling something to your best friend, would you profit?  Go as far as your mind will take you, and if you feel like sharing your results, well even better!

“Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 2:11



  1. Logocentric
    January 7, 2010

    i like this idea. thanks for posting it.

    my earliest memory of the word “profit” is from the movie, “The Jerk.” it is the scene at the carnival where Navin Johnson realizes, “ah, it’s a profit deal!” i was very young the first time i saw the movie, so it took me a while to realize what exactly about that line was, well, jerky. that profit is the universal motive in business, that individual self-interest is accepted as the guide to modern Western (and non-Western) relationships makes the discovery of their ubiquity a naive moment.

    profit is the pervasive and perpetual goal of modern interaction which is never fully realized. to the first point–its pervasiveness–it is the most salient form taken in the pragmatic, solution-oriented search for knowledge and answers in modern life. whereas knowledge is always elusive and of uncertain usefulness, material profit enables a comparatively concrete and satisfying reward for a person’s mental exercises. to the second point–its perpetual nature–it is decidedly different from knowledge because it is more like a runaway train. because in order to take part in the “profit deal,” one must commit to continual reinvestment of profit and to material growth, expansion, cost-saving, etc.; to do otherwise is to risk losing the experience of enjoying profit. it is always an immediate and perpetual concern. it is the main engine of anxiety in modern life.

  2. Akbar Lightning
    January 7, 2010

    yes, i agree that ‘profit’ is an idea utilized to fuel anxiety, but i am wondering if ‘profit’ is something that actually exists. i would love to talk about it in its simplest form, as to how it would exist in an exchange of objects between two people…

    in other words, if i had a horse, and you wanted to buy it from me, would there be profit? the answer seems to me that if both people were truly self-interested, that all effort would be made to make an equal exchange. in other words, there would simply be an exchange of equal values, no profit. however, if one person lacked sufficient knowledge concerning the value, it would be possible for the other to obscure this information and thereby make an exchange that unequally benefited himself, but this would be sin against the assumptions of the exchange. of course, the self-interest free-market model makes it clear that self-interested people would be more likely to withhold the true value of things, but only if dishonesty was accepted as ok, so its not necessarily self-interest on trial, it is the virtue of honesty, and whether or not we are responsible to one another to reveal values. given the presence of so much virtual capital, the transparency of value seems to be the only mechanism for lubricating exchange.

    however, such theories are still all analytical and do not bring us anything clear about the idea of profit. in what capacity can we draw a picture where such a concept makes sense. we know that some people gain the advantage in the market of exchange, but what is the mechanism of such returns, on a basic level, on a level that can be brought down to an individual example, because once we get this roaming electron called ‘profit’ defined, then and only then, can we ask the question ‘Is profit morally justified?’ and this question depends upon its existence. if it does not exist, like the higgs boson particle, then we are forced to change the entire model of economics.


  3. globatron
    January 8, 2010

    profit is a by product of the ego. the larger the ego the larger the profit. with little ego little profit. lack of ego and you are living up on a hill in a tent.

    that’s on a monetary scale.

    on a spiritual level one can gain profit but then we are just talking semantics at that point.

    example being: I have profited in by meditation practice and feel at more peace.

    so I believe profit does not only deal in the world of money and objects. But the ego does not only exist in the world of money and objects as well.

    i don’t think one can define profit unless one defines oneself and what ones goals are. the definition will be different for each person.

    interesting to think about though. I need to ask myself what I believe a profit in my life would be. this goes all the way down to the core of ones value system.

  4. Akbar Lightning
    January 8, 2010

    i love the first few ideas about profit and ego, that’s powerful…

    i think inherent in the discussion is the question ‘is there anything extra to be gained by our efforts?’ i mean socrates hints at this, that effort is its own reward, good is its own reward…

    but economically, does not the wealth of some people have a direct relationship with the lack thereof for others?

    and why do we ever need extra, why do we ever need more than what is necessary, unless we are afraid of something?

    these thoughts are a comfort for me today as i await the estimate from my plumber for the leak in my pump pipes, which i will most likely have enough to fix, but it take me all the way back to zero once again. it flows in, it flows out…i could spend my whole life and still struggle with being the middle man in the exchange of my life

  5. Logocentric
    January 18, 2010

    after much thought, i have come to the notion that there is no simple answer to your question. profit is the result of a convergence of diverse interests and of a complex history of labor, exploitation, war, culture, and ideas. and i think that we are all, to varying degrees, complicit in its tenacious hold on our lives.

    i’d like to recommend a film, which helps to explain some of this complexity. it’s called ‘the corporation.’ you can see it for free at http://www.hulu.com/watch/118169/the-corporation.


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